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Sweet Land of Liberty

Well, today I am going to write about something that may make a few people mad.  It’s something that I have been feeling and wanting to write about for awhile now, but I’ve had to approach it in a constructive way.  I already have a few people in the world who can’t stand me for whatever reason, but I just need to vent a bit here.

I’m sick and tired of hearing people constantly criticizing the United States.  I don’t hear the same type of constant criticisms about other countries the way I hear about our country.  I know…..Americans are viewed as arrogant, and I know quite a few arrogant Americans, but I know a lot more Americans who are kind-hearted, and loving.  I know….our government has some major flaws right now, and I for one, cannot stand the man in the White House…..but he does not represent everyone, or what I see as the “American Dream.” I get it. We are a big, powerful country, which makes us a target.  But I’ve had enough.

I recently read a blog about what we do wrong, written by a European, now living in the USA.  First of all, if we are such a horrible country, then why is this person living here?  The criticisms I’ve heard are that we are too friendly, we dress too casually, our restaurant dishes are too big, we have free refills on drinks, we tip, we have “to go” boxes, we ask strangers, “how are you?” in our greetings, we drive too much, our children drive too early, but drink too late, guns, healthcare, and blah, blah, blah.  If I addressed everything he wrote about, I would be writing all night.

So….I love living in a friendly place.  I know people will help me, if I need it, especially if they have presented me with a warm smile.  I’ve received compliments from total strangers in public before…..sometimes a little creepy, but most of the time, I welcome a kind word and someone asking how I am.  I usually respond with, “I’m fine, thank you!  How are you?” Why is this wrong?

Dressing casually….well, why not?  And what is considered casual?  I don’t approve of the pajamas at Walmart, but I don’t like shopping at Walmart anyway!  But we can dress up when we want to, and most of us do.  My father wore a suit and tie to work every day, and seldom wore jeans or sneakers.  I live in a beach community.  It’s 90+ degrees every day with extreme humidity, making it feel like a 110 degree sauna.  I wear sun dresses or jeans with a nice shirt, cute shoes (always!), and jewelry to work every day…..is that too casual?  Why wear a suit in this weather?  You’ll MELT! And really, why does anyone else care? It’s not like I’m going to a wedding in a bikini!

Al and I went to lunch today, and we spent less than $50 (including dessert and tip).  Yes, the portions were large, but we didn’t eat them all (some Americans aren’t obese either).  I brought home enough leftovers for at least 2 more meals! This is extremely cost effective, common, and smart!  And our service was excellent, because our wait person was working for a tip!  The better the service, the better the tip, so she probably makes more than I do as a teacher! I’ve been to some countries where the customer service is crap, and I wish they were working for tips….maybe they would be more attentive! Oh yeah, and we also got free refills in “to go” cups for our tea because as our waitress said, “It’s about 130 degrees out there!  You’ll need something cold to take with you!” See how that works?  Reasonably priced meal, great service, leftovers, and a nice dining experience.  How is that wrong?

Driving….well, if you live in a city, you are more likely to have access to public transportation.  Let’s face it, this country is HUGE, and we are very spread out.  We like the space!  In order to get places, we do drive, but we also love road trips, and exploring our country, and you can’t get that in a taxi or a subway.  We don’t all drive gas guzzling vehicles, and enjoy learning about the diversity and history of our country.  Our children drive young (not something I necessarily agree with) because this country was built on family farms.  Farmers had a lot of children to help, and they needed to drive trucks and farm vehicles to help.  My father started driving at 12 years old (in 1936) from necessity.  So licenses at 16 or 17 (after a period of restriction) isn’t all that strange to us.

Alcohol….this one I have to agree with.  If our young men and women are able to fight for our country, and our boys are required to register for the draft, then yes….they should be able to have a beer!  I remember when the drinking age jumped to 21 nationwide.  Before that, the states had their own age limitations.  In Kansas and Oklahoma, you could buy low point beer at 18, but liquor at 21.  In Iowa, it was 19 for everything.  The Mothers Against Drunk Drivers were behind this, if I remember right.  They wanted to keep it out of the hands of high school students, which I understand, and can sympathize with too.  But if the kids want it, they will get it.  I thought 19 was a good compromise. And I have read that teenage drinking has dropped in recent years.

Guns and healthcare….well, we do have a problem.  I will not argue with this.  But some of us want solutions, or at least compromises, to these issues, and some of us don’t.  Please don’t lump all of us in to being part of the problem.  It’s a real concern for many.

A few weeks ago, I met some people on the beach from a European country (I won’t say which one, because I don’t believe in doing that to anyone….just like us, they do not all think and act alike).  They had flown to Washington DC, drove south to Miami, and were now on their way to New Orleans, stopping in our little community for a day or two to rest. Now, how many European countries can you travel that distance and still be in the same country?  Like I said before, our country is vast, and I think they were surprised by that, but how cool!  But they had nothing nice to say about us or our country!  I was really annoyed.  Here they were, sitting next to a total stranger, on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (free admission and free parking), complaining about everything, and saying we had no freedom.  And by the way, this American was more than happy to take their picture with the water in the background, and watch the lady’s purse while they went for a stroll on the beach, but you couldn’t do that in every country. They complained about where they stayed, thinking it was ON the beach.  It was on the Sound, and just over the bridge to the beach.  They complained that they had to drive to the beach.  I told them they could have walked over the bridge…a lot of people do.  They were afraid of the traffic….there is a walking/bike path.  Americans eat too much and are fat….these folks weren’t particularly skinny!  Black people shouldn’t be on the beach….I really had to hold my tongue with this one…..but then they complained about the racism we have.  I told them that my husband and I are teachers, and what we teach.  When I said that my husband works with students in the behavior unit, they assumed they were just “brats.”  I had to inform them that the majority of them suffer from some level of autism, and can’t help it.  Believe me, by the time I was finished talking with these rude tourists, I wanted to ask them why they bothered coming here if everything is so horrible!

I love my country, even though we are really in the midst of some awful things right now.  It was a safe place to grow up and raise children, and my parents encouraged all five of their children to go to college. We aren’t tacky, stupid, rude, or lazy.  Obviously, I have manners for not criticizing these individuals, or their countries.  We have a lot of freedoms here that many of us take for granted, and we should always protect.  But one thing that I will not stand for is someone telling me how we are “wrong” because we have a different culture.  This is OUR culture….like it or don’t.  There are a lot of things we do right, and some things we need to work on.  We are not everything you see in the news and on television.  As much as I struggle at times to understand what is happening in our country, it’s still MY country, and if it isn’t something you like, or can appreciate, or say something nice about, then go away…..you need to learn some manners!

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Anger, Be Kind, Being Strong, Bill Cosby, Coping, Egos, Insensitivity, Laughter, Make a Difference, Racism, Respect, Respecting our Educators, sexual assault, Speak Up!, Uncategorized

Bill Cosby’s Sad Legacy

Bill Cosby……Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids……The Huxtables…….the Jello pudding guy…….I Spy……..the Little Bill books……so much a part of my childhood, as well as my children’s.  I’m not here to argue his guilt or innocence….the verdict has been handed down.  It is what it is.  And it’s incredibly sad…..

I remember being upset and disappointed in the downfall of O.J. Simpson.  He had been such a charismatic personality, and the events playing out on television each day became part of our lives.  It was sad, but O.J. had not had the same positive impact on lives as Bill Cosby has.  Bill Cosby depicted African Americans and their families in ways that were positive, and lifted them up, during times when a lot of America was only portraying the negative, perpetuating ethnic stereotypes.  He helped them believe that everyone can make something of themselves with an education and hard work. He contributed to charitable causes such as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Jackie Robinson Foundation.  He was a supporter of educators and literacy projects (his son was dyslexic).  The Little Bill books that my son had taught life lessons to early readers in a sweet storybook.  He and his wife have created scholarships for hundreds (maybe thousands) of recipients. And he made ALL of us laugh.  You can’t deny it.  He was funny…..especially when it came to his skits with children.  He brought a lot of good to the world, and yet behind closed doors, had a completely different personality.  All of those good things he did will now be tainted or scarred because of his conviction for sexual assault.  I can’t watch the news because it makes me so sad.  Of course, he wasn’t who we thought he was (what television personality is?), but he was doing a lot of good things…..and unfortunately, bad things.

I have heard a story that Cosby wanted to buy NBC, and there were people who didn’t like this because of his color.  They knew he had these allegations against him by different women, so they used it to bring him down, in order to keep him from buying the network….”we’ll show him!”  Now….this could be an excuse.  It could be his team playing a bit of the race card.  Or, it very well could be true. Whether or not you want to admit it, racism is alive and well!  I’ve seen it more than I want to admit.  There are an awful lot of powerful white men who have been accused of the same type of behavior, and are not facing jail time.  Sure, they may have lost their million dollar jobs and their status in their field, but they’re not facing charges in court……yet.  To be honest with you, I don’t believe every woman who makes these accusations.  I do think that a lot of them are out for their 15 minutes of fame, money, or to ruin a man’s career and/or life.  But each one should be heard until a decision/verdict is made.  The deserve to be heard.  We can’t ignore them.

Bill Cosby should pay for his actions, as anyone should who commits the same type of acts.  But what about the good things he did?  Do they just get erased?  Are the scholarships now gone?  One of my students was looking at a “Little Bill” book the other day.  Does Bill Cosby’s conviction mean that the lessons in these wonderful books are no longer relevant and helpful?  I know I also learned a lot of lessons from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids every Saturday morning.  And what about the Huxtables…….you know there were a lot of other people involved in the making of that show.  There were other actors, writers, producers, directors, stage hands, etc.  By pulling the show off of television, those other actors also lose their royalties, and they did nothing wrong.  Many of them were children! How about keeping the show on the air (it has been syndicated for many years), and ordering Bill Cosby to give 100% of his royalty shares to programs that help victims of sexual assault? If you don’t want to watch it, then don’t, but at least he would be forced to make amends in some way, and the rest of the cast can receive the money they deserve.

The man obviously has a dark side, but he also had so much to give.  It’s incredibly sad that all of the good he did will now be forgotten.  Yes, his accusers did the right thing.  I fully support them.  But let’s not erase the good things.  In fact, let’s continue some of those good things.  Let’s contribute to charities, literacy programs, help children learn valuable lessons, look past color and stereotypes, and always, always, ALWAYS have a sense of humor.

Now let’s move forward, respecting each other, hearing each other, helping each other, and….making each other laugh.

 

Anger, Be Kind, Being Strong, Bullying, Compassion, Courage, Empowerment, Grow a Pair, Kindness, Loyalty, Racism, Respect, Speak Up!, Support, Uncategorized, Understanding

Don’t Be Part of the Problem

Things are a mess in our country/world right now.  I guess our parents and grandparents felt this way at times too.  My grandparents were adults during WWI and WWII, and my parents were witnessing terrible things in the tumultuous 1960’s.  I’m sure they felt afraid and concerned at that time too.  One thing they did not do is turn and look the other way when someone was being mistreated.  They always spoke up, and always stood up for people who were being treated unfairly.

In today’s world, I keep thinking about the saying, “If you ignore the problem, then you condone it.”  Right now, many of us need to be remembering this.  On a world scale, it applies to racism, bullying, sexism, animal cruelty, hatred, or any type of discrimination.  On a personal level, it applies to those who are being unfairly treated at work, home, or in our communities.

Confrontations aren’t easy, but I have always prided myself on the fact that I will stand up for others, whether I know them or not.  I will stand up for someone else before I stand up for myself.  My friends and family can always have confidence in knowing I will defend them.  If someone mistreats them, I won’t tolerate it, and will address it directly, putting a stop it to immediately.  If the other person gets upset with me, that’s just too bad.  I will not condone meanness on any level, especially if it’s hurting someone I care about.  I admired this quality in my family members, and have applied it to my own actions, feeling that it defines good character.  The good old “golden rule” seems to be lost in our society these days.  Some people might say they live by it, but their actions say otherwise.  In other words, they have no balls!  When you don’t speak up directly, and don’t stand up for someone being mistreated, you are showing that person that you don’t care about them, and you agree with the poor treatment.  What does that say about your character?  How should the person being mistreated feel about you?  If you agree with the negative treatment, then why would they trust you on other things?  Why would they support you if you needed it, when you didn’t defend them? If you thought they were your friend before, then I am willing to bet there will be a wedge in your relationship after the fact.

I worked in a situation once where another teacher was being incredibly cruel to me.  It was being condoned and encouraged by the owners of the school (private school).  They were trying to make me uncomfortable enough to quit.  They had no reason to fire me because I had done nothing wrong.  I just knew too much….(actually, I could have an entire blog just on that school!).  This teacher was telling other teachers not to talk to me, or they would be fired.  Why?  They had decided I was a threat to their business by knowing a bit too much about their financial dealings.  Yet, I would go to work each day, arriving early, teaching my students, and showing them my love and dedication, even though I was being ignored, talked about, lied on, and putting up with mean remarks by this other teacher (directly and indirectly).  No one stood up for me.  No one helped me. I was keeping my mouth shut and being professional, but I became a target, and it was miserable.  All I wanted to do was teach.  It taught me a lot about the character of the others who wouldn’t help me.  There were still a couple of teachers who talked to me, and were supportive, but no one who had the power to put a stop to this evil witch and her remarks did anything about it.  They showed me their character…..

We teach our students in school that we will not condone any type of bullying (threats, harassment, alienation, physicality, gossip, etc), but adults are just as guilty of it, and many condone it by not putting a stop to it.  I know I talk a lot about being nice, or being kind, and I think most people think they are.  Adults can hurt just as much, or maybe even more so, than children when it comes to cruelty.  I challenge all of you to look in the mirror, and evaluate yourself on this.  Are you really nice if you are ignoring mean behavior?  Are you really nice if you aren’t practicing what you preach about loyalty, love, trust, friendship, care, and protection?  If you are ignoring it, then you are definitely a major part of the problem.  Don’t be a part of the problem.  No matter how large or small the situation….stand up, grow a pair, and don’t allow ANYONE to be mistreated.