Before I start, if you are looking for Part I, it isn’t posted yet. The reason being it refers to a disease that is also spreading across the country, but the one I am going to talk about now has exceeded it in epidemic proportions.
The disease I am referring to, is stupidity. Understand that the word is defined as behavior that shows a lack of good sense or judgement. Somewhere along the line it seems a major portion of the population decided it was easier to not exercise good sense and blindly base opinions on a lack of information.
The media has not helped in curing this problem. Pick up any newspaper, liberal or conservative (terms that have done more to make people stupid, but that is for another post), and look at the headline, then read the article. More often than not they say two different things. A recent example: “The President’s Credit Card Was Rejected”. Now if that is all you knew you would think he has bad credit or went over his limit. But neither of those is the truth. Once you read the story, you find out the bank declined only because of possible fraudulent use and a simple phone call would have resolved the issue. Now most of us have had this happen, and while at first a little embarrassing, we are glad our credit card companies are watching out for us.
One of the funniest and saddest headlines was “Weapons of Mass Destruction Found”. This would imply that Bush was right and Americans did not die in vain. Oops, turns out these weren’t the ones Collin Powell had said were there, but leftovers from previous wars. The conspiracy theorists are having a field day with this one, the government lied, what else could they be hiding? The government lied, no duh!! What do you think got us in the Iraq war in the first place?
The biggest example of stupidity has to be the “Ebola” scare. There are more people expressing opinions, fostering fear, and spouting inaccurate information than I have ever seen. We now have an “Ebola Czar”. Give me a break! At the time of this writing there were three cases in the United States. What we need is a “Stupidity Czar”. Stupidity has infected more people and is more contagious than Ebola by far. Oh, and has killed more people than Ebola, worldwide. Someone put on Facebook that “more Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola”.
Social media seems to be spreading stupidity at an alarming rate. How many times have you seen a post or message stating some fact or another that when checked out is untrue. A simple fact check with sites like Snopes.com can cure most of the ignorance that is perpetuated online. The problem is that there are too many people willing to send the false story along without checking the facts.
Ironically, while writing this, I had to leave to go to a book signing by author Garth Stein who wrote “A Sudden Light”. During his talk he made the point that we have become too dependent on the information highway and are not interacting with each other. We tend to only look at web sites that agree with our ideas and therefore do not expose ourselves to different opinions. Too many people rely on one news source for keeping up with the world. Somewhere along the line we lost the ability to have healthy discussions on issues and forgot that it is okay to agree to disagree.
As bad as this epidemic is, there is a cure, there is hope. Open your mind, listen to someone you disagree with and see if maybe they have a point, check the facts of a story before re-posting it. Above all don’t be so quick to judge or label someone or something. People are not really stupid, they just lack information that would allow them to use good sense and good judgement.
My cat’s name is Isis. Due to the recent publicity and negativity about that name I had a conversation with her.
Me: So, Isis, have you seen today’s paper?
Isis: Meow, meow, meow!
(Oops, sorry, I forgot to turn on the Feline to English translator. Let’s start again.)
Me: So, Isis, have you seen today’s paper?
Isis: I played with the rubber band around it, why?
Me: Well, if you had read it, there is an article about ISIS.
Isis: Oh! Did I make the paper?
Me: No, no, not you. The terrorist group known as ISIS that is beheading people.
Isis: Hey, I get upset when you don’t clean my litter box, but I wouldn’t bite your head off!
Me: You are missing the point. This is a serious group that hates any non Muslim. The problem is there are over 270 products, services or businesses with the name Isis, not to mention you. Because of the terrorist, some companies are changing their names. Should we change your name?
Isis: Change my name!! How stupid can people be? I am a cat for crying out loud.
Me: Well, you are right people can be stupid. It seems people are harassing the owner of a bridal shop because the stores name is “Isis Bridal and Formal”. The company Isis Wallet changed their name to Softcard. Maybe we should change your name.
Isis: No way! I am named after the Egyptian goddess. The goddess of nature and magic. My name means throne and as you know I am the queen of this house.
Me: Yea, I know you are. But what if the NSA is bugging our house and they hear me call “Isis”? Or maybe one of their drones is flying overhead and they hear me calling you?
Isis: First, I have no idea what the NSA is, nor do I care. Second, I am not about to change my name to something stupid like Fluffy or Boots. So no, I am not changing my name.
Me: Okay, but let’s hope one of our neighbors isn’t a fundamentalist, right wing, flag waving nut case who might shoot me for thinking I am pro ISIS.
Isis: And you people wonder why we cats feel superior? Enough of this, my bowl needs refilling by the way.
It’s a twenty minute drive. Okay, maybe 45 when traffic is thick, or an accident slows things, or when a tree falls in the road. The drive over the hill (I call it a hill because with an elevation of 1800 feet it is hardly a mountain) can be unpredictable at times. But in any event that is the separation between Sunnyvale, California and the quaint village of Aptos. The time separation may be short but the quality of life, the pace of life, the essence of life is a world apart.
When you walk down the sidewalk, or along the beach (okay, so in fairness Sunnyvale doesn’t have a beach) people actually say good morning or good evening or just hello as you pass. If people are running with earplugs they will smile at you as they go by.
When you are at a crosswalk cars actually stop. Even if you are not at a crosswalk, cars stop to let you cross. A young man of about ten carrying home a pizza stopped at a point where the sidewalk narrowed for only one person to pass and let us go by. In Sunnyvale you’re lucky if kids don’t run into you on skateboards or bikes.
The neighbors came out and greeted us, introduced themselves, and welcomed us to the area. There are still neighbors in our old house we have never met or even seen.
We found a small independent pharmacy, the pharmacist gave me her card and said if you have any issues or problems call me. In the local CVS an employee asked us if we needed help, twice. I have never been asked if I needed help in the Sunnyvale CVS, much less have the pharmacist do more than dispense the pills.
The mailman actually said hello and was not talking on a cell or walking with an MP3 player plugged in his ear.
At the end of each story that’s continued, the local paper prints “please turn to page #”. Please!! Now that is a word you rarely hear much less see in print.
The local restaurant we found actually pours a full glass of wine, instead of to some line fixed by corporate to maximize profit.
At the Armitage wine tasting room the woman working the counter came around and hugged us when we were about to leave, having purchased two bottles of an incredible Pinot Noir. I have been in a lot of tasting rooms and have never been hugged before.
Sitting on a bench, looking out at the ocean, sipping wine, we had a man come up to us, also with a glass of wine, and toast with us for the gorgeous sunset. Now in fairness we did have great sunsets in Sunnyvale, but somehow having the ocean as backdrop just makes it all better.
We had a good life in Sunnyvale, but on this side of the hill life is and will be so much better. So if you head this way just look for the guy with a white pony-tail, wearing flip flops, black cargo shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and a big smile on his face, walking with the love of his life beside him.
If you live in California you are aware of the water shortage. Some predictions say that we have twelve to eighteen months of water at current usage levels. Predictions for an El Nino which would ease the shortage have diminished and our rainfall may just be normal this next year. If you go into a restaurant there are signs saying water is served only on request. It is a badge of honor to have a brown lawn. Some cities like Santa Cruz have instituted rationing , limiting monthly use to 7,480 gallons for a family of four. Mandatory rationing for the state may be around the corner. As bad as this shortage is, it is not the worst.
If you were around in 1974 you remember the gas shortage that came about when OPEC gathered to impose an oil embargo due to our involvement in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In May of 1973 the average gas price was 38 cents a gallon and by June of 1974 it had skyrocketed to 55 cents. Gas stations began rationing and most had a flag system to warn drivers of their supply. Green meant we have gas, anyone can buy. Yellow meant only commercial trucks and cars plus emergency vehicles could buy gas. Red meant we are out of gas. (A side note to this: at the time I was working as a sales engineer for General Electric Medical Systems and had a sign on my dash that said GE Medical Emergency Service which was for being allowed to park in areas of a hospital not open to public parking and normally used by our service technicians. When I went into a gas station with a yellow flag, the attendant would see the sign and having no clue what it meant, allowed me to get gas.) Anyway, this shortage was the catalyst for gas prices to climb and as we all know finding gas for less than $4.00 a gallon is getting hard. As bad as things were in 1974 this was not our worst shortage.
If you look at our history, our country has had all kinds of shortages, some still going on. We have or have had a shortage of nurses, doctors, grain, propane, drugs, even guns and ammunition. In 1973 the country even thought we had a toilet paper shortage, thanks to a news item Johnny Carson read and joked about on the Tonight Show. All of these are serious shortages and have devastating effect on those who suffer from the shortage, except the gun and ammunition one which came about when Obama was elected in 2008. But again, none of these are the worst shortage this country has faced.
The worst shortage facing America, daily growing beyond any sign of recovery, is the lack of turn signal fluid. Okay, so there is no such thing, I know!! But drivers are more and more acting as if there were. The use of one’s turn signal has become a lost art. Drivers switch lanes abruptly, no signal. Drivers turn left or right in front of you, no signal. The worst is facing a driver at a stop light with your turn signal on. There’s isn’t, so when the light turns green, you wait for them to come across, then they turn left. How much effort does it take to tap the lever on the side of the steering wheel and announce your intention? Evidently more than many drivers want to exert. The attitude of “I can do whatever I want, and why should I think about others” is the driving force beyond this and just about all other shortages.
If we would conserve water the way we conserve turn signal fluid, we would all be taking 20 minute showers and are lawns would all be greener than the Emerald City.
One of the many things my wife and I have in common is decision making. It doesn’t take us long to decide on anything as we usually know what we want or can quickly make a choice given options. The beauty of this is also that we most always agree with whichever one of us speaks first about a choice.
This allows us to move quickly where many might linger in anguish about what to do. Shopping is a good example, as we both hate it. If needing new clothes or shoes or just about anything else we are like Navy seals on a mission. We move in quickly, grab what we came for, and extract ourselves even faster.
Our quickness in decision making does have one drawback. We get impatient when we can’t do things at a speed we would prefer and when something to be decided is out of our hands, our patience gets tested fairly quick. The most recent example of this was in buying a new house and selling ours.
We had made a rather fast decision to put our home up for sale and look for a house near the ocean. Getting our house ready took some time as we had to get an agent, go through the inspection and disclosure process, and do all that was asked of us to “stage” our home for an open house. Having done all of that we began to look at areas where we might want to be that were close, as in walking distance, to the ocean. On our second trip trying to get ideas, we found the house we wanted. Boom, we put out an offer, and now just needed to sell ours.
Here is where the trauma began. After two open houses and multitudes of people traipsing through our house, we had some interest but no serious buyers. Our agent would tell us how people were confused by our floor plan, or that they thought is was a charming home but just not what they were looking for. Disclosure packets were sent to a few agents but nothing was happening. The clock was ticking as we had made an offer on what we felt was the perfect “beach house” for us, but we were running out of time to lock in a buyer.
One evening, sitting in our living room, feeling down and frustrated that we might never sell, a car pulled up in front of our house. Now you need to know that if someone wanted to see the house other than the times of the open houses, they were to go through an agent who would set up an appointment to show the house. Two men came to our door and asked if they could see the house, and apologized for just “dropping by”. Not wanting to discourage a possible buyer we said sure
Neither one was an agent, but one of them said they had been at the open house. They introduced themselves and asked if we could give them a tour. As we talked and walked through the house, one commented on the many Egyptian objects we have and told us he was from Egypt. The other on seeing my library of seminary books, said he was studying for a degree in religion and hoped we might have time in the future for a good discussion. In checking out our floor plan, which is an unusual layout, they said it would work perfectly for what they needed. We talked for a good hour and found out both of them actually like Scotch, which my wife and I are known to like also.
They said they needed to talk with the two other people who would be living here. I gave them my cell number and said even if they don’t buy we need to stay in touch. As they were leaving one of them said, “Don’t accept an offer til you hear from us”.
In that short hour my wife and I went from depression to excitement and a re-energized belief our house would sell, and soon we would be walking on the beach, a short distance from our new home!
We never heard from these two again, and realized after they had left they did not give us their number. But we were now confident that everything was going to work out. Which about five days later it did when the perfect buyers made the perfect offer and we are now just waiting for the final close so we can move.
Who were the two men that came to our door? Why when we were on the verge of giving up did they show up? Why was it that everything we enjoy or relate to: Egyptian things, my seminary background, good Scotch – they appreciated. Why did they not get back in touch even if just for a drink?
We have concluded that they must have been angels sent to just let us know, “Hey, chill, it will all work out, some decisions just take longer”!!
So it is the Fourth of July, a day for BBQ’s, parades, and hanging out Old Glory. But, wait. I look around my neighborhood and there are very few houses with an American Flag flowing in the breeze. Oh, and there is not one on my house.
Since the flag is a symbol of the United States of America and our country’s strength and unity, shouldn’t there be a flag on every house, including mine?
Originally our flag was designed to represent the first thirteen colonies and our independence from the tyranny imposed by the British. The thirteen stripes stood for each of the original colonies, the stars on a blue background were symbolic of a new constellation, the red stripes reminding us of the hardiness and valor it took to gain our freedom, the white standing for purity and innocence.
All of what our flag represents, the hardiness, the valor, the purity, the innocence, the newness, the strength, and the unity should make all of us fly a flag at every opportunity. But we don’t, I don’t. Why?
Since the late sixties the meaning of flying an American flag has changed, at least for me,. Although the term “Love It or Leave It” was used prior to this time by Walter Winchell, it became a popular rant against the “Make Love Not War” protesters of the Vietnam War. The flag became a symbol of the love it or leave it mentality that said if you question or disagree with the way things are going get out. A complete contradiction to the ideals that founded our country and brought about our flag in the first place. Our nation was forged on freedom of thought , speech, and healthy debates that led to us being unified as a country.
Today it seems we can’t have a rational discussion about anything. Take an issue and there are those on one side and those on the other, neither one willing to listen much less compromise on how to handle or resolve the issue. Be it abortion, immigration, health care, government control, taxing the rich, or any other issue where we can’t seem to find a middle ground.
Caught in the middle of this division is our flag. The symbol of strength and unity has become a symbol for division. Right vs left, fundamentalist vs moderate, pro-life vs pro-choice, hawks vs doves. One side claiming the flag as the symbol of the only way to truly be an American. The love it or leave it mentality is stronger than ever.
One can love this country and still question, be pro-choice, be moderate, be behind make love not war, be willing to discuss rationally the issues facing us.
When the flag once again represents all of us, our combined strength, our unity as a people, our willingness to work together for the common good then you just might see Old Glory hanging by my door.
Currently, thanks to Mitt Romney, there is a lot of discussion about the Mormon faith and Christianity. Both the New York Times and The San Jose Mercury News have published articles relating the two and how they are different. Neither one seems to grasp the full difference.
If we use the simple definition of Christianity, the belief in the death and resurrection of Christ, Mormons and Christians, at least on the surface, appear to agree. Herein lies the first distinction. The “Christ” in that phrase is not the same to a Christian as it is to a Mormon. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and is One with God and the Holy Spirit. The Christ in Mormon theology is a physical son of God and a separate being from God.
This distinction is enough to make them different. If we call Mormons Christian, we may as well call Muslims Christian for they recognize the existence of Jesus also, as a prophet not a savior.
From here the other distinctions are not as important but simply add to the gap between what Christians believe and what Mormons believe.
For a Christian the Bible is the word of God and the last written authority, for Mormons the book of Mormon combined with other writings (The Doctrine of Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price) are their authority.
Mormons believe that if a man lives a perfect life now, he will become godlike and have his own planet to rule and populate. While this belief has been played down it is still a difference between Christian thought and Mormonism. They also believe that a man and woman, if married in the temple, are together for eternity, and the woman’s role is to help populate his realm, essentially being eternally pregnant.
For Christians, one is justified by faith, while Mormons belief it is by works. Mormons believe that one’s salvation is based on such good works as baptism, good deeds, missionary work, and following Mormon teachings. In The Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, justification by faith in Jesus Christ is called a “pernicious doctrine” twice and he states that it has been “an influence for evil.” (pp. 107, 480) Bruce McConkie once stated at Brigham Young University that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is “improper and perilous” (Church News, March 20, 1982, p. 5)
While Mormons and Christians are free to believe as they wish, the two are different and to try to make them the same is a deception. What is a little sad to me is that most of the Mormons I know are better role models than most of the Christians I know.