Racism: A Nearly Meaningless Term?

This started out as a post about racism because I am angry about how lightly the term is tossed around today. After I passed 1000 words, I split it in two. Then again. And again. Right now, I’m up to five posts on the subject, so it looks like it’s going to be a series.

This is something that has been bothering me. There is a lot of talk about racism in our country, and after many years – decades – of decreasing, it has done nothing but get worse over the last few years. People “play the race card” over the stupidest things! A few years ago, a black actor on the show Gray’s Anatomy said his firing was racially motivated. By Shonda Rhimes. A black woman. When his bad behavior on set and toward other cast members was common knowledge. It was ridiculous. It has reached the point that it seems to be…

A Nearly Meaningless Term.

Please note that I most certainly do NOT mean that racism does not exist. It does. My point is that the way in which the word “racism” is being used is rendering it nearly meaningless because people are quick to insist that anything referencing skin color, in any way, is racism. That is not racism. Saying a woman with ebony skin will look better in a crisp white shirt than someone pasty white skin isn’t racism. It’s reality. Some colors and shades just look better or worse depending on your skin color / tone. Our DNA and ethnicity render some of us more likely to succumb to certain diseases. That’s just cold, hard science. Neither is racism, although if you bring up either topic you run a good chance of being accused of being a racist. I heard one middle school kid say calling a white chocolate Kit-Kat bar “white” is racist, and another one who is black accused other kids of being racist for using the word “monkey” in a way even he admitted, when asked point-blank, was not intended as racist. (It was used in reference to an actual, literal monkey.) In many areas, racism has seemingly receded to the point that many, if not most, younger people truly do not understand what actual racism is, no matter what their skin color is. They truly do not understand the kind of racism where using a fire hose on someone was considered OK simply based on the color of their skin. Sure, they have heard about slavery and understand in an academic kind of way some of the evils associated with it. Many have heard about the Civil Rights Era and past discrimination from family members. But, no matter what their color, most of them simply have not ever seen that kind of racism in their lives and hearing stories isn’t the same.

What is racism?

Racism is making assumptions about people based on the color of their skin and on stereotypes, yes, but it is more than that. Racism, actual racism, is when a person believes that a person’s skin color or ancestry – their race – somehow makes them inferior to people of another race. Usually, the racist believes their race is the superior one and has a God-given right to dominate those races they believe to be inferior.

Racism, the kind that causes problems, includes actions. And yes, those actions include speech.

I was told that an older woman I knew didn’t like blacks. Since she lived near me and I saw her often as a child, she could have passed on some of that hate, but she didn’t. I never knew. And really, I don’t think she fits the definition of a racist. Her dislike was based on being beaten up regularly in high school by black teens. It seems like she was smart enough to know that not all blacks were like that, although it couldn’t make her comfortable around them because of the violence in her own past. I don’t think she qualified as a racist because she didn’t seem to think they were inferior to her, although I could be wrong since we never discussed it. The point is that even if she, herself, was racist, she didn’t act on it – not even by talking in a racist manner and passing on those horrible ideas. His dislike of, and discomfort around, black people ultimately did no harm because there were no actions, not even spoken words, that accompanied it.

Stereotypes aren’t the same as racism. Really.

Is it racist to assume that an Italian family will probably be noisier and more animated than a Japanese one? Based on the current usage of the term, absolutely. It’s a stereotype, and those are always assumed to be bad and racist. But while they are related, that isn’t really what racism is. Stereotypes aren’t meant to tell us how an individual will act. Stereotypes are about how members of a group might be expected to act. Just as not all three year old girls love princesses and tea parties, not all Texans carry guns. If you know that most Italians are more animated and talkative, then it will be easier to accept this behavior as natural rather than, say, an attempt to cover that they don’t want to talk to you. If you recognize that the quieter Japanese normally cover their mouths when they laugh, it will be harder to misread it to mean they are making fun of you, not just enjoying themselves. Like most things, stereotypes can be taken too far and cause damage. They can also turn into or be signs of racism, but the fact that any stereotype – anything at all – is seemingly considered racism on the same level as Jim-Crow-era segregation laws is ridiculous. This zero-tolerance policy is rendering “racism” a meaningless term, and that is dangerous because racism, real racism, is dangerous. The media and people in general need to stop saying things are racist unless they are, in fact racist. The person who killed nine people in their church in South Carolina was a racist. How can we be sure? Well, he said so, for starters, but also because he left a clear social media trail and a string of real-life encounters that confirm he thinks blacks are inferior to whites simply by virtue of their skin color. So when people of any color say trivial things are “racist” (calling actual monkeys “monkeys”) or use it to try to escape the consequences of their own bad behavior (the actor on Gray’s Anatomy), it chips away at the actual meaning of the word. It belittles all that the Civil Rights Era protestors fought for, and all that they went through, and it denies all the hard-won progress that has been made over the last fifty years.  


Happy Fourth of June!

Yeah, you read that right. Of all the holidays during the entire year in in the entire world, the USA’s Independence Day – a.k.a. the Fourth of July – has to be the hardest to get the date wrong on. Seriously – it’s in the name for pity’s sake!

The US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia has managed to do just that, though. This year, they celebrated it on the Fourth of June. That’s not the holiday, guys! June Fourth is too close to Memorial Day for another major federal holiday, anyhow.

Why on Earth?

It is in the middle of Ramadan and Indonesia is a Muslim country…and you are way ahead of me now.

That’s right, the American Embassy choose to change the date they celebrate our nation’s birthday to accommodate the religion of another nation. Perhaps someone should distribute copies of the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, to them since they missed the memo about separation of church and state.

No one changes the date we celebrate in this country because another holiday or event conflicts. We haven’t altered it in the past in other countries, either, no matter what their faith or beliefs. That includes Muslim countries.

Do they need to do that?

During Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours. I can see that it might be rude to have the delicious smells of a barbeque wafting around when your neighbors are fasting, but there are plenty of ways to avoid that. Assuming you are set on a barbeque, the simplest way is to barbeque after dark. Then any Muslims you want to invite can even join in eating anything that isn’t against their faith. Any who just smell the food, well, they’re probably on their way to get their own food, so no biggee.

Another possibility is to grill inside, on a stove, where the smells won’t carry to anyone fasting. They could even have the whole event indoors, which admittedly is counter to a normal 4th of July celebration.

And, as mentioned above, it’s never been moved any other time and hasn’t caused an international incident before.

Bonus to holding it after dark, when Muslims are not fasting: sparklers and fireworks show up even better at night.

At least they are still celebrating our Independence Day.

Well…. Not so much.The focus was on green energy.

That is so messed up I couldn’t have imagined it. It could only come from the minds of political-correctness-obsessing-bureaucrats.



Caitlyn Jenner is a Handsome Woman – NOT Gorgeous!

Frankly, I don’t care about Bruce Jenner’s “gender reassignment”. He’s not my husband, my family, or even passing acquaintance. It just doesn’t impact my life. But it’s been impossible to miss the headlines if you were online at all this week, and the big ones have all been to the effect of “Caityln is Gorgeous!” No. Caitlyn is NOT Gorgeous. Caitlyn is styled and photoshopped.

Caitlyn Jenner has a hair stylist, a make-up artist, a stylist to choose her (very expensive designer) clothing, and assorted other people to ensure she looks perfect. And her $200 bustier is from Trashy Lingerie, which can custom make items based on your measurements. Hardly the same as something grabbed from the rack at the mall. After all that, there are people to retouch her images.

So, no, Caitlyn is not gorgeous. She generally looks like a she (men don’t have breasts like that) – and considering she started out as a he, that’s no small thing. But she looks big boned, because she has a man’s bones and those are bigger than a woman’s. Caitlyn looks like a manly she, not a delicate little flower of femininity. Not “gorgeous.”

Women of a certain age who were still attractive would sometimes be called handsome in times past. “She’s a handsome woman” was not in insult, nor did it mean masculine. I think that usage and adjective are more suited here. Caitlyn is a handsome woman. (Face it: with that much money at your disposal, there is no excuse for not being at least modestly attractive.)

If nothing else, the reality is that “gorgeous” generally applies to much younger women. Once you pass retirement age, and Caitlyn has, the set of adjectives used to describe you shifts.

So what?

So why does saying Caitlyn is gorgeous annoy me?

It feels like political correctness run amok. Again. I can’t for the life of me see why everyone is saying she is gorgeous unless they are afraid that by not saying it they are not being “supportive,” are somehow “bullying” or phobic, or are risking a public backlash (particularly for magazines and websites).

The simple fact is that no person who starts out one gender and either transitions or dresses up like that gender is going to be held up as a shining example of attractiveness for their new gender. Mrs. Doubtfire was not a hot Grandma. Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie wasn’t the biggest hottie around. And Whoopi Goldberg in The Associate was not the World’s Sexiest Man. There will be traces of their old gender that remain, no matter how many surgeries they have. Bone size is just one example. Saying that isn’t bullying or being phobic, it’s just a fact. By definition, only a tiny number of people can be “the best looking” in their gender and saying someone isn’t one of those is not bullying nor is it being unsupportive (frankly, a job of actual friends and family, not the world at large or the internet in general). It’s just reality.

It’s also annoying that they are using the exact same word seemingly everywhere. The English language is a rich one. There are many words to describe an attractive woman. Stunning women abound on magazine covers. Beautiful women adorn many front pages. Stylish, elegant, classy women sashay up and down Fifth Avenue. Dazzling women pose on red carpets.

So why is it the exact same description for her, unless there is a feeling that she must be described a certain way by any supportive adult who is not a trans-gender-phobic Neanderthal bully?

Again, so what?

We shouldn’t have to describe anyone a certain way. We all have different standards and ideals of beauty, and there is nothing wrong with that. Even if all these posts and sites are authentic, by parroting the same headline, it sounds forced and fake. It sounds like something copied from a PR release.

I do not think that Bruce Jenner made a choice to do this for ratings (no one would change their gender for something so ephemeral), but I also think that he was fully aware of the publicity, ratings, and promotional opportunities that would come his way once he did it. If Bruce Jenner had never gone to the Olympics and gone on to reality TV fame, I think he would have died as Bruce. He might not have been happy with it, but he would almost certainly have accepted it because, frankly, without all the things his wealth and fame have gotten for him (including top notch medical care), having this done so late in life probably just wouldn’t have happened. Acceptance doesn’t mean you are happy with something, just that you have accepted that is how it is.

If Bruce had won the Olympics and simply never been on reality TV, I think (and this is just opinion) the probability is that he would have not made this choice because, really, once we reach a certain point in life, most of us simply accept our lot and don’t make major changes. He started down this path in the 80s and changed his mind. As I said before, this doesn’t mean he would have been happy in either general terms or with his gender, but he did make the choice to stop the process once before knowing how he felt.

But he did win, and he was on TV. This gave him a platform to have an extremely public sex change – one he will milk for a large profit, no doubt about it, and he has even all but admitted as much. But perhaps he will be able to do something good with it.

While I personally can’t imagine making that change or having someone close to me do it, I’m not going to judge Bruce or Caitlyn Jener for that choice. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to have hurt anyone except his ex-wife, and that hurt is between them and God. I am not involved. But most of us have read or seen, at some time, the horrifying statistics about both homicide and suicide, not to mention homelessness, drug addiction, and abuse, among homosexual and transgender people. No matter how much you may believe that either of those are choices and / or wrong, I don’t think most people, on either side of the aisle, are OK with such horrific things being done to them. 

The ESPY courage award (a sports award)

Making this change was undoubtedly hard and involved some self-admitted second thoughts, but she already knew her family supported her and that she would make serious bank off of it, as well as getting monumental publicity. Doing this required far less courage from her than it does for many others who undergo the procedure and do not have supportive friends and family, big bucks to ensure they have everything they need (including special ordered large size shoes) and a security detail to keep them safe from anyone who wants to harm them because they made this change.

People with average incomes (which may be much lower for transgender because of discrimination and other problems they face), families, and lives in general may risk losing their friends, their jobs, their families – everything they love – by going through this process. Caitlyn lives in Los Angeles where rather than her losing those things, anyone who was less than totally supportive of her might risk losing their jobs, friends, etc. Making a major change to your body like that can never be easy, but at the same time, her risks were not as large as many others, and she had huge potential upsides in free publicity and probably improved TV ratings.

Even more  importantly, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is a sports award and her gender reassignment has not a thing to do with sports. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Noah Galloway is competing in extreme sports despite having an arm and a leg amputated. Lauren Hill played on her team while battling brain cancer. THOSE are sports related accomplishments that required courage – especially Lauren Hill. No one knows who else was actually considered for the award, and it can be given for non-sports accomplishments, but it has been said many times that Caitlyn is a new and different person from Bruce – and Caitlyn has no sports accomplishments.

More to the point, though: if this award is given to Caitlyn instead of another award focused more on human right or some other relevant topic, what award is left for people like Lauren Hill or Noah Galloway to recognize what they are doing.

Honoring Caitlyn with this award is no more appropriate than giving a soccer star a Tony Award or a famed soloist a Pulitzer for literature. There are certainly awards that ARE specifically appropriate for her actions and I would far rather see her receive one of those and someone whose accomplishments are, you know, in sports receive the Arthur Ashe Award.

Final Thoughts.

Seeing all these comments about how “gorgeous” Caitlyn is annoys the beejeezus out of me because, well, I don’t see it. It feels fake and forced. And I feel strongly that there is absolutely no justification for giving her the ESPY courage award. But I do hope that some good comes of this in terms of less violence toward, and more acceptance of, others who go through or consider this process.

One point I want to be clear on: No matter what you think of Bruce / Caitlyn’s transformation, she is still a person and there is no need to be mean. If you wouldn’t, truly, say it to the face of a person you know, how ever slightly, in real life, then you probably don’t need to say it online.


Individual Liberty

Individual liberty. You won’t like what everyone else does with theirs. Get over it. Devon Austin Generally (FB post)

My kids have shared a room for nine years. The younger one just decided he wanted his own room. Given the level of bickering they had been doing, I made it happen that same day. (Luckily, he decided in the morning, not at bedtime.) We had always planned for them to have their own rooms, they just weren’t ready for them before, so this was doable.

What does this have to do with liberty?

The younger one got a bigger room. His brother asked why. Because you refused it – many times! (Your choice. Get over it.)

The younger one wanted his bed in the middle of the room, like a floating island. My husband thought it was weird. (His bed in his room. Get over it.)

There is a closet in their old shared room. I wanted to put the doors back on it (long story). My son wants a curtain there instead. (His room, his choice. I got over it.)

What these all have in common is that no one else is impacted, much less hurt, by the choices. These are all choices my kids can make safely.

If my youngest hates having his bed as an island, we can move it. If my eldest wants the doors on his closet, they’re still in the basement. The only impact on anyone else is that that their loving parents have to do some more furniture moving.

Kids get told what to do all the time. Until they are given the chance to make choices, to exercise their own freedoms and liberty in small ways, they will never learn to use it responsibly. How can anyone possibly expect a child who isn’t even allowed to make simple choices like the color of their sheets, if they want a side dish for lunch, or placing furniture in their room to grow up and make important choices like negotiating for a job or voting for President responsibly?

There are limits.

My youngest can have a CD player in his room, as long as he doesn’t disturb the rest of us with his musical selections. (Anyone who has heard Let it Go 500,000 times knows where this is coming from.) If he doesn’t like that rule he can…. That’s right: Get over it.

Individual freedom, like most freedoms, isn’t absolute. It doesn’t mean you can harm another or make their lives miserable. It’s OK to have a party and not invite the whole class (they aren’t really all your friends), but it’s not OK to only not invite one kid. Not even if you know (s)he can’t come, because that’s just mean.

Individual liberty is about taking responsibility for yourself and making your own choices – hopefully good ones. It’s not a license to be a jerk, but some people will treat it that way, given the chance and no one to guide them from doing so.

But they’re too little!

When my son was six months old, he could make choices about what he wanted. I remember showing him one red and one blue plastic chair at the store and asking which he liked. I asked two or three times, switching hands to make sure it wasn’t just based on which hand was holding what, and his answer remained the same. (My six month old, on the other hand, started getting annoyed since he had clearly told me and didn’t want to keep answering the same question.)

If a six month old can handle decision making, your kid can handle it. OF COURSE it has to be age appropriate! When you go through and clean their room, let them help decide where to store toys. That will also help them remember where to put them back. If it doesn’t make sense to you, so what? What matters is that it makes sense to the person putting away the toys. If it makes sense to your little one, then it’s easier for them to take over that job, which should be theirs anyway.

Let them help you decide on their chores. I have one who hates – *hates* – putting away dishes from the dishwasher. He can’t explain it and I certainly don’t get it, but he’d rather clean the cats’ litter box. After fighting him on it for awhile, it became his younger brother’s chore and he cleans out the cat box. Life is much more peaceful as a result.

One son loves running the vacuum and cleaning the gutter. The other prefers gardening, including weeding and planting. Letting them choose their own chores has ended up with them doing things I never would have expected (gutter cleaning? really?) that really are a help. Since they are things the boys don’t mind and they were involved in choosing, it’s easier (not easy, just easier) to get them to do their chores, with less whining and wandering off while they do them.

Bigger kids = bigger choices

As they get bigger, so do the choices they can make and the consequences. Part of a parent’s job is, of course, to help guide our kids in all their choices as they grow, no matter what the size. When my son was looking for new sheets, I made sure he felt the sheets to see if they were soft enough and didn’t just choose a pretty pattern. I know a scratchy set of percale sheets would have made him an unhappy camper in short order, but he didn’t know to look for that since he’s only had nice, soft sheets.

My older son really has his heart set on studying two specific languages. Naturally, neither is offered at his base high school, but both are offered at one he hopes to transfer to. Knowing this isn’t a whim, I found online courses the state recognizes that he can take the regular middle school classes. This way, he has a head start on one of his preferred languages if he gets in, and if he doesn’t, he can continue taking online language courses even at his base high school.

Because he was born an engineer (as some are born artists or musicians), the languages he wants are ones that can help him in his future work. This is not an idle choice, nor is it insignificant for his future, even though he is still in middle school.

There are those who think I am being a “helicopter” and pushing my son by helping him study the language he wants. My choice, as an adult, to help my son achieve his goals makes these other adults unhappy. I don’t care. My son is free to choose a path less taken, and I am free to support him in it.

Important choices start surprisingly early

In fifth grade, my son was bored. He hated school and just rushed through to finish things quickly, including standardized tests. In sixth grade, they start tracking kids into, basically, college-prep and not-college-prep. For math, a select few compress 6th through 8th grade math and take them all in 6th grade. They start taking high school algebra in 7th grade.

My son wanted in this class. His scores weren’t quite good enough (he was on the border) and he didn’t get placed there. I contacted the school and very nicely explained the situation. Given how close he was overall, they ended up letting him in. He is now on track to enter the hyper-competitive science and technology (STEM) high school he wants to go to.

Going to that high school will give him contacts and experiences that will help him for the rest of his life. Among other things, it will hone his presentation-giving skills, which are currently…. Let’s just say they aren’t his strongest skill-set.

One of his friends was offered admission to this same class but declined it because he didn’t wanna. He also wants to go the same STEM school but it is extremely unlikely that he will get in because, as a fifth grader, he chose to skip the hard math class.

Is that kid happy with his choice? I don’t know. Maybe he is. Maybe he doesn’t truly, in his heart, want to go to a tough high school, and that’s OK. I know my son is extremely happy with his choice to push to be, and stay, in that math class.

This isn’t the only time I have seen another parent’s choice and wondered about it. But in the end, I don’t know their child, their home, and their situation in general enough to make any judgments. It’s really hard not to judge, but it’s important to keep in mind that just because we don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they are wrong.

Returning to the main point…

Let your kids make choices. Encourage them. Heck, FORCE them to make choices! But be there to guide them. Help them learn what matters most to them, including sports, hobbies and volunteering, so their decisions reflect that.

Personally, I have been a Scout since I was six and will be until the day I die (lifetime membership). I make, remake, and make again choices to support Scouting. I know others who do the same with music, church, community, sports, alma matters, and any number of other organizations. I have been making the choice to be active in and support Scouting for as long as I can remember.

Think about your own childhood and teen years. There were almost certainly things you loved that you still love. Why would your kids be any different? Help them find their own passions and follow them, no matter what anyone else thinks – as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else or break the law, of course.

Make sure that as they grow, they learn to use their individual liberty to make the best choices for themselves and their loved ones. Not for their friends, neighbors, or passing judgmental acquaintances – for themselves.


Leaders vs Managers

I recently had a very frustrating experience with my son and one of his clubs.

I have been taught leadership and management skills since around the time I learned how to tie my shoes. As a result, I can have exceptionally high – and often unrealistic – standards for leaders. It is usually those I have seen enough of to think they are doing a good job.

The club organizer for one of my boys falls into this category. The boys all like him so well that I tend to think of him as a good leader. He is not. He is a good manager, and there is a big difference between the two.

Leaders vs Managers

A good manager treats everyone the same, always. They have a set of rules and they do not deviate from what that says. They are concerned with the whole group and the rules, not with the individual.

A good leader treats everyone the same, to a degree. They recognize individual differences and know the individuals within their organization well enough to know the small ways in which they should be treated differently, because we are all individuals and not clones.

One day when I was working at a bookstore, another employee came in extremely hungover. The store manager sent her home to sleep for a few hours, then come back, with no repercussions at all while anyone else who had done the same would have been in trouble. Candace was a good leader and knew her employees and what was happening in their lives.

The employee in question had graduated from college the day before and simply celebrated that fact a bit too long. Knowing that, and that it was a one-time occurrence from this employee, Candace simply let it go. There were no complaints of favoritism because everyone could see and understand the reason.

Going Back to the Club

Money was due for summer camp during a week I was out of town. I left instructions for it to be paid, but my son didn’t go because of bad weather on their meeting day. The leader emailed me, twice, saying I had to reply and when I didn’t (I was on a cruise – no internet of any sort for an entire week!), dropped him from the list so that the group wasn’t on the hook for the cost of camp. Apparently, boys have said they were going and flaked in the past.

That’s the response of a good manager – everyone who didn’t reply was dropped, same for all.

A good leader would have looked at it slightly differently. In two years in the group, my son has not gone on something he agreed to exactly once in over two years. He was accepted into a new club shortly before an (optional) outing and they had an event that conflicted. Not going would have negatively impacted the new club, but had no impact on the old one, so he went with the new club. But he still fulfilled his duty (buying food) for the original event, even though he wasn’t going. In addition, my not replying to one email, much less two, is unprecedented in those two years.

A good leader would have made a phone call to be sure everything was OK because they would have been looking at the individual.

If he had called, he would have known to keep him on and eliminated a source of stress in my life. Based on the email’s wording, I wasn’t sure he was going to be able to go to camp at all. In the end, I paid and they had room to add him, but I have realized that this adult simply isn’t a leader. He’s a manager. And that’s OK – but I have change my expectations of him.

Leaders tend to be good managers too, for the simple reason that a team that isn’t well managed will fall apart and they will have nothing left to lead. But good managers aren’t necessarily good leaders.


Playdates and Guns

I don’t know if you have seen it, but there is a post making the rounds about a mom who is concerned that there might be unsecured firearms left laying around other people’s homes. The original poster is unwilling to let her kids play at anyone else’s home if they own a gun, unless she is satisfied that it is securely stored.

Moms can be worriers. In fact, they are renowned for it, so I understand where the poster is coming from. I agree that it is important to keep our kids safe from and around firearms, but that doesn’t mean I agree with her conclusion that it is reasonable to never have playdates at the home of anyone who owns a firearm.

Perhaps that is because both the area where I live and the one where I grew up are full of people who have guns, both hunting rifles and sidearms. It is probably safe to say that the majority of my friends growing up and my children’s friends have guns in their homes. No one I know has ever had a problem because the kids are taught gun safety, just like they are taught not to put forks in electrical sockets and all the other safety rules.

Playdates and guns were never intended to be mixed, real guns at any rate. Everyone knows that. No one knowingly lets a weapon where a child can reach it, but it’s like anything else that could be dangerous, such as cleaning chemicals or unsecured bookcases: a determined child who doesn’t know or follow the rules of safe behavior can be hurt or even killed.

Asking to walk around and look at the rooms you child will be playing in is perfectly reasonable. You may spot a potential danger the homeowner doesn’t. For example, if you child loves trains and there is model on a higher shelf, they might climb to get to it when a kid who doesn’t love trains wouldn’t even notice it. That doesn’t give you leave to drag open every drawer and rifle through the medicine chest, so don’t abandon your manners. If there is a gun readily accessible, you’ll be able to see it.

Asking if there are firearms in the home is OK, but know that not everyone is willing to discuss the matter. Asking to be shown or told exactly what firearms they own and where they are stored is no more acceptable (or reasonable) than being asked to be shown all the family’s cleaning supplies and where they are stored, including the rarely used ones hidden away in basement storage, or where all their family valuables (jewelry, etc.) is stored. In fact, the valuables and firearms may be in the same place, if the family has a large enough safe.

BIG Assumptions

In a conversation the poster recounts, a friend says that she has a loaded shotgun in the house “near the bed.” This is enough for the poster to decide to never let her child play there. “Near the bed” was assumed to mean “laying around and accessible.” There are gun locks and safes that can easily be kept and used “near the bed” but not accessible to children. Gun owners tend to know, and follow, the basic rules for gun safety.

Yes, it is true that accidents happen and not all gun owners keep their firearms in a safe or otherwise locked up, but they are almost always kept in areas (such as the master bedroom) that neither children nor guests should be in. So that brings me to my bigger question:

Why do these parents think it’s OK for their children to wander into another adults bedroom and rifle through their things?

It’s a matter of simple manners that even toddlers can learn: you do not go into other people’s bedrooms. While toddlers can’t be trusted to follow that (or any other) rule, most parents I know stay with their kids for at least most of their playdates when they are that young. Since they are there, they should be watching their child and keeping them safe. Once they are old enough for playdates without one of their parents there, they are old enough to stay out of “off limits” rooms.

Helping Criminals

The biggest problem here is that the author, and many who commented on the post, seems to expect to be shown exactly where and how any weapons are stored in another person’s home. That makes the gun owner and their family less safe.

Honestly, if I had guns in my home and had the choice between showing how and where they were stored on-demand for playdates and not having playdates at my house, the choice would be easy. Someone else gets to clean their home and host!

If you aren’t a gun owner and aren’t around any, saying that it makes gun owners less safe probably sounds like nonsense, but it isn’t. There are two things gun owners fear: someone else getting and using their weapon, and someone else stealing their weapon, which they may then use or sell to someone else. In order to do either of those things, other people have to find it first.

By showing every Thomasina, Peggy, and Harriet who stops over for a playdate and asks exactly where and how weapons are stored, gun owners massively increase the chances someone else will rob them because more people know what they have and where.

A casual chat on the playground about how “I felt nervous with Alex playing there, until Chris showed me that they keep their 45 hidden behind some dresses in a closet safe and the hunting rifles locked up in the back basement” can be overheard by anyone. It won’t take too much effort on their part to find out who “Chris” is and where they live. Now there are illegal weapons in the hands of criminals in the area.

You Never Really Know

On top of that, it’s impossible to guarantee other people are telling the truth. Someone with 20+ guns could deny having any, and someone with no guns could claim to have some. There are no guarantees in life except death and taxes.

If you know a person has a firearm and they tell you it is “somewhere the kids aren’t allowed”, that should be enough information for you. If you know your kid can’t be trusted to stay out of forbidden areas, then it probably is best that they not have playdates at another home without you anyhow.

I know we have had times I was in the middle of a sewing project and some ill mannered little cretin who ran into the sewing room could have been injured on scissors and other items left strewn about, even hidden under fabric. The sewing room is a guest room that children simply aren’t supposed to be in. It is not a playspace.

It never even occurs to me that children might go in there because my kids don’t, and neither do their friends. However, a former classmate visited us and his son did decide to go looking into every room. No harm came of it, but those rooms hadn’t been child-proofed and could easily have had power tools or other dangerous (to kids) items accessible.

Train Your Kids

Don’t rely on other people! Train your kids to be safe around guns – and to follow the rules. If they know to never, ever, not even in jest, point a firearm at another person, that reduces the possibility of them shooting anyone to pretty much zero. If they know to always, always, no matter what, treat a firearm like it is loaded, that reduces the possibility of shooting someone to pretty much zero. If they know to go find an adult immediately and tell them if they see someone else playing with a firearm, that will keep them safer.

  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. (This means not at people, even people in another room because bullets go through house walls and floors.)
  2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. (Guns don’t shoot themselves)
  3. Always treat all guns as if they are loaded, even if you are positive they aren’t. (You could be wrong and it’s not worth someone being shot.)

If your kids understand – truly, deeply understand – and follow the basic rules of gun safety, you never need to worry about them playing with firearms. Yes, other kids might behave unsafely, but most people who own firearms teach their children gun safety. Teaching them firearm safety will go farther than simply refusing to have playdates.

While at a national park with the Scouts, some of the younger ones were climbing on a canon. Clearly, these are just for display, but two older Scouts (nine or ten years old) who had experience around firearms (air rifles) scolded them because “you always treat guns as if they are loaded!” Once they get it, they get it.

What to Do on a Playdate?

Instead of asking what firearms people own and where they are, ask all the kids at a playdate to tell you the basic rules of gun safety. This is a much better safety indicator. If the people own firearms, they will almost certainly be impressed by your concern. If they don’t and ask what you are doing, just tell them you’ve read stories online and this is how you keep yourself from worrying about kids and guns.

After all, it’s the truth.


All Hospitals Should Have Organic Greenhouses

We see memes online all the time, especially on Facebook. One that caught my eye came from Food, Inc and used an image from Henry Ford Hospital near Detroit, Michigan. It showed a greenhouse and said “All Hospitals Should Have Organic Greenhouses”.

Personally, I believe the label and certifications of things as “organic” are generally meaningless. Things can BE organic without earning the label because everything wasn’t documented properly, and they can NOT BE truly organic and manage to get labeled that way by subterfuge. Labeling issues aside, I think “organic” is generally preferable. I just don’t find eating pesticides appetizing.

Healthier Choices

It’s hard to see how organic could fail to be healthier than chemically treated. And it’s even harder to see how food that is high in nutritional content could fail to help a body heal faster than food that isn’t. So the idea of a hospital growing their own produce, under their own control so they know exactly what has and hasn’t been added to it, strikes me as brilliant.

When you order food, if you don’t use it quickly, you either serve it past its prime or throw it away, losing money. When you grow food, you can see what is almost ripe and adjust your meal plan to use it – all of it, or close to all of it – while it’s at the peak of freshness and flavor. The fruits and veggies grown in your own yard or the hospital (or school) greenhouses are served within hours, not days or weeks, of being harvested.

Personally, I would be hard pressed to eat less veggies and I’m not much better about fruit. I think I’m not alone in that. Anyone who is in the hospital and has fresh fruits and veggies who normally eats them will be extremely appreciative. Anyone else, like me, who doesn’t normally eat them may just find a few new things they are willing to eat when they go home.

But Don’t Be Nuts About it

As great as I think it would be, that doesn’t mean I would expect all or even most of their food to be home-grown. Many patients are in the hospital for one, two, or possibly three nights. For them, there would be little or no real difference in their health.

Longer-term and repeat patients (those who come back often for treatments) are the ones who would benefit the most. Focus on improving their food. Some might even benefit by working in the greenhouses. Imagine a patient with limited mobility, stuck in their room all day. Now imagine that same patient put into a wheelchair in the greenhouse pulling weeds and enjoying a change of scenery for an hour or perhaps two a day.

That may not sound like fun for everyone, but any change of surroundings can be a huge mood booster for long-term patients and, even more importantly, many people love gardening. Simply knowing they are contributing can be a big morale boost.

What do you think about adding greenhouses to hospitals?


Baltimore Riots and The Mom of the Year

If you haven’t seen the video, just search for “Mom of the Year”+”Baltimore Riots”. It’s a mom cussing out her fully-grown (but not adult) son and hitting him when she found him out with the rioters. He goes home with her and not a single rioter tries to interfere with the Mama Bear making her errant Cub go home.

Most comments are complimentary (Mom of the Year!), but a few say if she had been doing her job all along, he wouldn’t be out there. Really? He’s a teen – they rebel. They test boundaries. They bow to peer pressure. It’s normal, no matter how good a parent is, for teens to do things they were raised to know better than to do.

But what if, as a young child, he was particularly stubborn and the only thing that got through to him was physical punishment like a spanking? I have lived in a Baltimore row house – sounds carry. And it’s no secret to parents that CPS and police can consider any form of physical punishment, most especially including spanking, to be abuse.

To be sure, spanking can be extremely upsetting – for some kids. But those kids probably respond to far lesser punishments, so their parents aren’t likely to be spanking them anyhow, unless they actually are abusive. Frankly, it’s not 1960. If a kid is being abused, odds are good that it will become apparent.

For some kids, it’s no more traumatic than getting yelled at to pick up their clothing. Parents need to be able to make that call in their own homes. Parents need to be able to discipline their own kids in the way each individual child will respond to. Having parents afraid to discipline their children because CPS might come and take them away doesn’t help anything.

So what does this have to do with politics?

The Nanny State has decided that it knows best about how to discipline kids. Certain forms of punishment are not acceptable, ever. In some cases, they are right. But in those cases, it is already illegal as assault and battery or another crime. Spanking or slapping another person won’t get anyone thrown in jail (barring some other extenuating circumstance) because it isn’t really dangerous, just uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing.

My point is not that parents should start spanking and slapping their kids, willy-nilly. My point is that when parents are afraid that the state will take their children if they (the parents) step out of line when disciplining their child, among other things, in the opinion of an authority figure (CPS, doctor, police officer, teacher, administrator – the list is VERY long), then parents stop disciplining their children out of fear of losing that child to The System. And if you don’t know why that terrifies any parent, then you must be living under a rock.

What if he wasn’t at a riot?

My point is that this “Mother of the Year” would have received a very different response if she had done the exact same thing and it had not been in the middle of a riot. If she had simply been trying to keep her teen home on a regular Monday because she knew he was running with a bad crowd, the response would have been that her swearing and hitting him was the root cause of his violence.

My point is that The System needs to change so that control of the family and how it is run is returned to…The Family. Let Mama Bears rule. Unleashed Mama Bears can do more to restore order and control bad apples than any army any nation ever fielded.

My point is that swearing or yelling at kids sometimes, when parents have reached the end of their rope and the kid is sawing on that lifeline, is not going to turn them into hoodlums. Swatting them upside the head or on their backside (the kind of blow that is more embarrassing than painful) will not make them violent.

Creating a world where parents are afraid to discipline their kids because someone might turn them in to CPS or the Police and they will lose that child to the Foster Care System? That is a much faster track to turning kids into hoodlums because that is a fast track to kids having no one to discipline them at all.

CPS is Terrifying

I don’t know any parents who don’t fear CPS, no matter what their color or how much money they have. I know one family who stops to make sure their child is clean before taking them to the ER because if the kid is dirty from an afternoon playing in the yard, they will probably be reported for neglect. (I would say the rulemakers think it’s better to have kid clean in front of a TV than dirty playing in the yard, but that would imply more thought went into the policy than is likely.)

And you know what? They are right. Unless there is an immediate danger to their child, putting off going to the ER for a quick shower is probably the right choice to keep their child safely at home. How sad, and frightening, is that?

The people running these programs and setting the policies aren’t bad people. Letting your child be filthy all the time is neglect – but seeing them dirty one time does not mean they are always dirty. Instead of looking for patterns, they are taking single kids based on single instances. They are looking at a set of “free-range” kids whose parents have carefully taught them how to be safe and given them rules and guidelines and responding as if the parents dropped them off with no instructions, information, or practice.

I think the bureaucrats have the best of intentions, but good intentions aren’t enough when the end result is destruction. We, as a nation, need to return control of our kids to their parents and legal guardians.


Color Doesn’t Matter: Parents Want What’s Best

from the Library of Congress
from the Library of Congress

Enchanted Highway, “The Tin Family.” The Tin Family is part of the Enchanted Highway project. The idea of an Enchanted Highway originated in July 1993. The project features metal art works. It utilizes the welding skills of area residents and their artistic abilities. A number of organizations and groups of people contributed ideas.

Parents want what’s best for the kids. Immigrant parents, including Latinos, know their kids need to speak English to have the best chance at success. Parents of all colors know their kids need to succeed at school. The problem isn’t the parents, it’s a system that intervenes and forces parents to believe in the way The System has decided is best.

At one point, I was curious what immigrants thought about their kids learning English in school. I did some online research and what I found was overwhelming: they want them to learn English in school. They know it is essential for long-term success.

So why is is that their kids end up being taught in another language?

Simplest reason in the world: administrators and educators pressure them into it, with the best intentions in the world. The parents often aren’t fluent in English and probably can’t understand a lot of what is being said to them. Even though they know how important fluency in English is, many may not even truly realize what they have agreed to. Others know, but think they must be stupid because clearly the well-educated teaching professionals are certain this is the best course. And others understand and know they are right, but are so accustomed to being an underclass that is forced to obey those in power that it never occurs to them to fight it.

And what if they do fight it? Have you tried fighting with your kids’ school for something they need? It’s not easy. Now imagine doing it in another country, where you aren’t fluent in the language and don’t really know the culture or customs.


Do you Remember the Mariel Boatlift?

I was a kid when it happened, so I paid no attention to the news. A few years later, though, I remember hearing the adults talking about the Mariel Boatlift.

At the time, I lived near where they were resettled. Most of the people who were part of the Mariel Boat Lift were genuinely refugees from the dictatorship in Cuba. They weren’t the problem. The problem was that the Cuban government had decided to use that mass exodus to deal with a problem of their own – hardened criminals and the dangerously mentally unstable. They sent them here, and they didn’t take them back.

What did our government do after the Marial Boatlift?

They housed all of them together on a military base. (Is any of this sounding familiar with our recent illegal immigration issues?) Specifically, they housed them in Fort Indian Town Gap (FIG) near Harrisburg, PA, and one other base. FIG had been used a few years earlier to house Vietnamese refugees so it was set up for a large number of temporary civilian residents.

No harm, no big deal sending a huge group of (illegal) refugees there. They dealt with a huge group of (legal) refugees not long before with no problems. Same exact thing.


Since they hadn’t committed any crimes here and were considered refugees, they were eventually released. Would you care to guess the local big city they headed for? Harrisburg, PA.

Like I said, I was just a kid, but I remember hearing adults talking.

They talked about how the ER could tell when victims of a stabbing where attacked by a Cuban. They would stab in and instead of pulling out the knife, they would twist it to do maximum damage.

No one thought it was because of their heritage – it was because they were hardened criminals. Because most of their crimes had been committed in another county (since they weren’t living here), they had no provable criminal history and were simply released into society.

Who makes the decisions?

To be clear: I am very glad we welcomed most of those people into our country, but there was a reason a big group of those people were initially flagged and kept at FIG, just like there are many people in Border Patrol and ICE who know mostly which of the current illegals are criminal gang members and which aren’t.

We need to stop letting bureaucrats make all the decisions. We need to trust professionals to do their jobs. Let law enforcement officers (LEOs) decide which people in any mass are likely to be criminals – at least the first pass.

We need to accept that whether we like it or not, LEOs, Border Patrol, and other “front line” workers know, beyond a doubt and based on years of experience, that specific tattoos and markings mean the person is affiliated with a specific gang or has committed a specific crime. And they know which of these are the most dangerous. Politicians and bureaucrats sitting in D.C. rarely know such a thing, and even more rarely care.

The bureaucrats screwed it up when they left the criminals out in 1980, and they are screwing it up again by not allowing ICE and Border Patrol to do their job and protect us from dangerous illegal criminals.

Until they back off and let them do their job, using any and all means necessary to protect themselves and our nation, those same politicians and bureaucrats who think they are somehow protecting defenseless immigrants and helping them become more accepted are doing the opposite. They are allowing hardened criminals to become the face of immigration and allowing the crime syndicates from “the old country” to continue to prey on the poor when they move here.

Truthfully, is that what anyone wants?