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.

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Does it Really Take a Disaster?

volunteersThis may be the one part of human nature that baffles me the most, even though I have many instances of the same thinking and behavior running throughout my life.

Until Harvey, and now with Irma and Maria, wildfires in the western US, an earthquake in Mexico, and other major disasters that I am probably overlooking my news feed had been completely dominated by politicians calling each other names, riots based on race, and debates on every possible position that someone can take.

It’s like we are wired to thrive on this idea of “us” and “them.” The mentality is an ever-present theme throughout human history. When the Europeans overran the American continent, the Native Americans were branded as savages and treated as being far less than human. Very few people in that day took the time to get to know their neighbors who were so different from them. They were different, they were to be shunned, and wars broke out between “us” and them.” It makes me very hesitant to ever celebrate cultural progress.

Enter the natural disasters.

Suddenly, we forget that we have been calling each other names and trying to find ways to use the government to put the other side in its place. We stop rioting and threatening. Suddenly, there are real people — not all that different from you and me — whose lives have been destroyed. Real people with whom I have a connection need help. It’s like we are collectively pulled up short by the cliche “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

We roll up our sleeves and work side-by-side with people that we were disparaging just weeks before. We do our good deeds, go home talking about how awesome the experience was and how we need to be more like this every day, and then return to our former pursuits of bashing those who don’t fit our personal definition of acceptability.

What is it about us humans that we can be so blind to our failings? Why is it so easy to turn people who hold other views into objects to be destroyed? Why is it so scary to sit down and have rational discussions? Why aren’t we trying to at least get a glimpse of other points of view to see what validity is there?

When those few American settlers bothered to understand Native American culture and traditions, they didn’t necessarily embrace this lifestyle that was so new and foreign to them, but they did find much that was good in these people who were so different from themselves. They found families and traditions and knowledge. They found real people.

So, is there anything stopping you from listening, considering, and responding rationally?

Hear Me Out.

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I have held onto an article for a few weeks because it emphasizes a problem that has been troubling me for much longer. Recent natural disasters may seem to have solved the problem, but it won’t be long until we feel like we have “pulled together” and “done some good” and go back to our status quo.

The article is “I’m a White Man. Hear Me Out.” I hope that you will take the time to read it. Although it is long, it is a thorough look at what I’m going to briefly cover.

Especially in the United States, we seem to have this idea that “You aren’t like me, you can’t understand.” (Of course, many of these same people and groups are shouting for people to listen and understand and correct injustices real and imagined.) The problem with this attitude is that it divides us, and it makes people feel like they are being diminished and dismissed for things like skin color, gender, and moral conscience.

I recently had an experience where I took a long ride with an old friend. I was “reverting” into a victim and filled with distrust. She wanted to help. As we were driving, she had a lot to say. Even though it was spoken in love, there were things I didn’t really want to hear. I could have easily told her “You don’t understand. You’ve never been divorced. You’ve never felt the effects of psychological abuse. You’ve never had someone actively work to turn your children against you.” I could have dismissed everything she said because of her lack of shared experiences.

Instead, I recognized her love and her long history of experience with me. I honored that fact that, because she lacked my experiences, she could talk to me from a fresh perspective. I decided to value what she had to say and evaluate it for truth. I took action on her words because I decided she was right.

And I snapped out of it.

Which leads me to ask some tough questions:

  • Are blame and marginalization of others the kinds of attitudes we want to instill in our children? They learn from our example. If we don’t model and teach rational thought and empathetic listening, our kids aren’t going to figure it out on their own!
  • Are these attitudes helping or hurting us? And, in reference to “us,” I mean every sense of the word: individual, family, community, and nation.
  • How am I, personally, working to turn the tide of blame and playing the victim? Do we examine our thoughts and behaviors to make sure that we are not adding to the problem? Do we choose self-empowerment and accountability?
  • Am I willing to listen to opposing views for the ideas and the truth, without dismissing thoughts because of some category to which the speaker belongs?
  • Am I willing to speak up and tactfully challenge others who are blaming, marginalizing, and playing the victim?

 

Questions of Religion

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I often run across news articles that cause me to seriously reflect on what I believe to be the state of the world. Recently, I paused over an article, “Christian Slapped with $12,000 ‘Shariah Fine’ for not Removing Shoes.”

It’s a short article, and it was written with some fairly obvious Christian bias. That’s my first pause. I suppose that if the publication is by Christians for Christians, I could cut the journalist a little bit of slack. Even so, I have a hard time understanding how to justify what appears to be an attempt to stir hard feelings against another religious group and/or the government. Sure, I believe that Christian rights should be honored with equal protection under the law (yes, I’m very American), but fear mongering isn’t helping the cause.

I am concerned about a system (and yes, I know this happened in Canada), that financially supports the side making the claim without providing an even opportunity for the party who has to be defended against the claim. Having only the article for information, it does look like the government is siding with minority groups without reasonable checks in place, putting a heavy burden on those who are accused — and opening the door to outrageous abuses of the system.

I am concerned that there was a breakdown in communication that became a legal incident. From the article, there is no telling if one side or both sides behaved badly as they communicated. But, it seems like adults should be able to be civil and transmit information to each other. How simple would it have been to remind your landlord of your beliefs and request that he and other visitors please remove their shoes when they enter your home? Shouldn’t a good Christian honor that request as a show of respect and Christian love?

Finally, my biggest concern is how touchy we all seem to be lately. Can a Christian say, “God bless you” without someone of another faith (or no faith) crying to social media that Christians are trying to force them to adopt their beliefs? Shouldn’t a Muslim woman be able to wear a hijab without fear of being called a terrorist? How can governments help ensure that all citizens have equal rights without getting into the business of religion?

Is there a way to make room for us all?

Easter Thoughts

easterheadWhen I was as kid, I would have never believed that I would have felt any sense of worry or nervousness when writing about Easter. I grew up in a time when sacred and secular practices blended together to make a fun, chocolate-filled holiday for kids.

But, as I grew up, the world changed. Everywhere I turn, it seems like we have tension, distrust, and even hatred. Something as simple as saying “Happy Easter” is now preceded by thoughts of — will this person be offended because they aren’t Christian?

The actual celebration of Easter can be even more charged — should it just be a spiritual holiday, do you mix in secular traditions, do you try to separate ancient pagan influences and have a “pure” holiday, or do you put religion aside and just celebrate it in the spirit of welcoming spring?

I don’t have all the answers. If I could write a magic sentence that would bring world peace, it would be written in a heartbeat.

What I do know is that we somehow have to learn to accept and love people in spite of (or maybe even because of) our differences. We have to learn to disagree agreeably. We have to stop being so ready to assume that someone’s words or actions are calculated attacks against us and our values. We have to change inside before we can influence any change around us.

So, without any ill-intent, but speaking from the goodness and well-wishes of the culture in which I was raised,

“Happy Easter.”

Election Reflections: “Hate Won”?

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In the United States, the election is over, but the rhetoric, the ugliness, and the bad behavior continues. Social media is still filled with barbed comments, and citizens are still protesting. It doesn’t help that, for the first time that I know of, the president-elect called his opponent so that she could congratulate him or that the runner-up gave a concession speech filled with code words to encourage her supporters to continue the fight because “America” had made a bad choice.

To me, it’s a no-brainer that we had an extremely low voitng turnout: this is not the way most Americans want their leaders to behave.

However, in the aftermath of such an spiteful election, I think it is the attitudes that I have seen reflected on social mediia that disturb me the most. Especially when I read someone telling the world, “Today, I had to tell my children that hate won.”

Really?

Who said you had to tell you children that? Did hate really win, and is it fair to paint fellow citizens who disagree with your world view in that matter? Have you polled people who voted for Mr. Trump to find out why they voted that way?

Perhaps you could have told your children that, even when things don’t go the way we think they should, the American election system still works. The people have a voice in who governs them.

You might also have told your children that, whether or not we disagree with those who are elected, we have a duty as citizens to work to build and maintain a country where everyone is encouraged and has an opportunity to be their best.

You could have said that a lot of the issues over which we have been divided are deep and complex, but that we adults are doing our best to solve them using the laws and processes provided by our country.

Understand, I am NOT denying that Mr. Trump said some extremely disturbing things throughout the duration of his campaign. I admit that I have misgivings about anyone leading that has to keep going back and “explaining away” what he or she has said previously.

But I think the larger issue is not who is running the big show, but what we are swallowing as truth and then regurgitating to others. The people still hold the power — each person has a lot of power to influence others. How we behave ourselves makes a huge impact on the world in which we live.

Do we really have to buy the black-and-white thinking that has been crammed down our throats? Is it really true that someone who disagrees with my point of view must disagree becuase they are vile and hateful?

Do we have to run around claiming that it’s all over and there’s nothing left for us to do because the government has to solve all of our problems? Do we have the fortitude to join volunteer groups that are making a difference and actually be involved in change?

Personally, my choice is to bury the hatchets we have wielded throughout the campaigns reach across the divide, and extend a hand of friendship and brotherhood/sisterhood that has defined our nations ideals from the beginning.

Politics, Elections, and Common Sense

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Even as a music teacher in an elementary school, politics sometimes try to creep into class time. Because my job is to teach music, I will discuss anything relevant to the current day’s lesson, and then move on. I highly respect my position in training young children, and the boundaries I must keep.

What has hurt my heart most deeply is the ugliness or nastiness that my students tend to mirror when the conversation begins. The oldest children in my class are about 10 years old. They haven’t pondered the issues or made choices for themselves — by and large, they are mirroring what they have observed in the adults in their lives.

Personally, I don’t have a lot of regard for either party’s candidate — or for the two leading minor candidates and the antics that I see broadcast in the news. What I see are adults behaving badly. Sure, the stress of the campaign will eventually get to anyone. An occaisional outburst might be explainable. In my mind, however, the constant mud slinging of American politics is completely inexcusable. Our country is more divided than it has been in my memory — and we are more likely to very our countrymen (and women) as enemies than ever before.

What does it say about us, the everyday citizens, when we embrace a news media that earns its keep by finding the darkest, most salacious, and most disgusting details and publishing them until they become normal fare?

Why are we so content to let media give us the details and not do research ourselves?

When did it become ok to champion leaders who behave like children in the public and who are of such questionable character that they are under investigation or on trial for crimes?

When did we forget that we have young, impressionable future leaders watching all of this and framing their thoughts and opinions on the words and actions of the adults in our lives?

What are we supposed to think when gun sales are soaring immediately preceding an election? Are the people buying them terrified of an unwarrranted government seizure of civil liberties, or are they being purchased by those who are planning to overthrow any leader elected that they don’t like? Should be we terrified of riots?

As Americans, who  are we and what has happened to us?

The people still hold the power in this country. The question to me is, are we still responsible and mature enough as citizens to be equal to the duties, loyalty, and dependability such power requires?

I hope, as Americans, that whatever happens on election day, we will pull together, take care of each other, and seek the COMMON good. (Yes, I mean that we just might put the needs of our neighbors and communities ahead of our wants!)

I hope that we remember the younger citizens of this country who don’t have a voice yet but who are watching and imitating us as their examples of adulthood. I hope that we will remember our commitiments to them.

I hope that we will remember what “allegiance” and “one nation” really mean and that we will embrace the ideals that thousands of good men and women have died to protect and give to us.

I hope that, whatever the outcome of this election, we will embrace being Americans as being of the highest honor, and not settle for anything less from ourselves.