Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 - That's the way the old year passes...

January started off pretty well, at least for the first five days.  On day six, I popped all the tendons in my right knee.  As of today, they are still not totally healed.  My appointment the following day with the hip surgeon resulted in the determination that I had the left hip of a healthy 40-year old and the right hip of a badly deteriorated 97-year-old.  I left with the command to wear a brace on the knee, to walk with a cane, and not to fall before the first possible surgery date of March 6.
Hip surgery went extremely well.  Days after my surgery, however, my elderly mother’s health took a turn, and I spent much of my own recuperation time visiting her in hospital, rehab, and assisted living facilities.  I returned to work the first week of June, but my mother’s health issues have not ceased, so the visiting continues after work hours most days of the week and on weekends.
Since June, things at work have been unsettled.  I lost members of my staff, and those remaining have taken on much more work than can reasonably be done well by their dwindling number, even as the expectations of management increase.
To make things even more interesting, the country has endured a spate of freakish and destructive storms, children have been mass murdered in their classrooms, and billions of dollars were spent on political ads by both parties while people were starving, lacking in medical treatment, and were losing their savings as the deficit was rising.  This was made even more ironic when the incumbent won and the challenger was outed by his own son as never really wanting the presidency in the first place.  What an enormous waste of time and resources.  The negativism of the election served only to divide and polarize the population.  Now we have a government where our elected officials stubbornly refuse to compromise, rendering the entire political structure unable to function. 
I was taught that government was in place to serve the people…ALL the people.  Our elected officials are voted into office to serve US.  They are paid by US.  Good solid management requires that all options are weighed, and the options that accomplish the most good for the most people are the ones chosen.  This requires compromise on all sides.  Good management also requires housekeeping.  If an employee cannot or will not perform the tasks for which he or she was hired, they are fired from the position.  Congressmen and senators are OUR employees.  If they are not performing the function of governing, which requires intelligence and compromise, then they should be fired.  If they are basing political decisions that affect ALL the citizens of this country on their own narrow set of religious beliefs, then they should be fired.  Our forefathers created our constitution and our government with separation of church and state for a reason.  In religion, there is only right and wrong; there is only black and white.  Compromise requires gray.  If the mind sees only right or wrong, there is no ability to compromise.  If one lacks the ability to compromise, then one lacks the qualifications for governing.
What we need is to focus on the greater good…not the good for the rich, or the good for the poor, or the good for any particular race, religion, gender, age, or sexual preference.  We need to stop harping and blaming each other, or any group, and start working together for the greater good of our country, our economy, and our standing in the global view.  If we do not put aside our differences and work together to fix the real issues in this country, we may cease to exist.
How do I feel about the passing of 2012 into history?  2012 was such that I have ambivalent feelings about the inaccuracy of the Mayan prediction.  But perhaps the prediction was accurate.  Perhaps the prediction was a warning, not that the earth would end, but that our way of life would end if we didn’t learn to work together for the greater good.  Quite frankly, considering the behavior of many in this country and around the world in 2012, it would have served us right to be blown to bits in an earth-destroying cataclysm. 
2013 gives us one more chance to get it right.  I’m not sure how many chances we’re going to get.  Just remember, those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.  So my advice to everyone in the New Year is this:  You have a chance to do it right…don’t blow it.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Time Moves On...

A lot of things have happened since I last posted.  Sometimes life just throws one curve ball after the next, and you’re so busy jumping from side-to-side trying to handle what’s coming at you that the game is over before you realize it.  Once again, the holidays are upon me. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas is two days away, and I’m still searching for my Christmas spirit. I really should be in the swing of things. Normally, by now, I would have made a dozen different types of cookies, four or five flavors of pizzelles, had Christmas dinner planned, and maniacally trimmed my tree by carefully unwrapping each ornament and deciding whether to use it or not.

This year, I actually considered not putting up a tree. Until my daughter called and asked if she could use my oven (yesterday), I had not made a single cookie. The pizzelle iron sits cold and unused in the cupboard and likely will remain there. As of today, I still don’t know how many people will be sitting around my table on Tuesday.

Let me clarify that none of this stems from worry about the accurate prediction of the end of the world by the Mayans. But for some unknown reason, life seems particularly unsettled. Though the election is over, both parties are still sniping at each other rather than working together. Once again, the stock market is shifting because of the possibility of going over the fiscal cliff. Tempers are flaring as the extremists on both sides of the gun control issue take aim at each other.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have not watched the news since the shootings in Connecticut. It’s as if my subconscious knows that subjecting my conscious mind to additional stress, sorrow, depressing news, or heartache would be mentally catastrophic. What I want to know is, where are the moderates? Where are those who are the voice of reason? Have we become so polarized that there is no hope for agreement or compromise on any issue? Even though I have not watched the news, I’ve seen plenty of extreme comments on the Internet and heard plenty of them on the radio.  Yes, I am horrified and mortified by what happened at Sandy Hook elementary school, but there are number of things that any intelligent, rational person should know.

1)     Someone intent on killing will find a way. A gun may be the weapon of choice. But if they can’t find a gun, they might use a knife, or start a fire, or build the bomb. Mass murders have been perpetrated by evil men for hundreds, even thousands, of years, including during the time when guns did not exist. Our cave dwelling ancestors clubbed each other to death over food, water, or mating partners, and we’ve been killing each other off ever since.

2)     Mental illness, in most cases, is not a precursor of violent behavior. By the same token, psychopathic personalities don’t always occur in mentally ill people.

3)     Having armed “good guys” on the premises may deter someone from attacking; however, it is not a guarantee that death and injury will be prevented, as demonstrated by the shootings at Virginia Tech where they had a police force and on a military base surrounded by armed soldiers trained in weaponry. As another example, after the concealed carry permit law was passed in Florida, the number of carjackings of Florida residents went down because the perpetrators were deterred by not knowing if the resident was carrying. However, carjackings of rental cars increased dramatically. Authorities determined that the perpetrators realized those renting the cars were from out of state and were unlikely to have a weapon. It stands to reason that if schools are armed to the teeth, the person intent on killing will find a place where there is no deterrent, such as a mall, a theater, a football game, or any place where he perceives that he can accomplish his mission with a minimum of interference.

4)     Why is it that arts and entertainment always seem to get the blame from the extreme right? I agree that if someone is entirely unbalanced or psychologically disturbed, seeing a violent movie or playing a violent videogame might trigger some sort of deviant behavior. However, millions of people see those movies and play those games and do not go out and execute innocent people because of that exposure. It’s like saying that anyone who drinks an alcoholic beverage is or will become an alcoholic. Telling people what they can read, watch, or listen to smacks of Nazi-ism. Reading Harry Potter or watching Harry Potter movies does not turn young children into witches and warlocks. There is a rating system for movies and video games in this country. It is the responsibility of parents to enforce that system in their own families. I saw a brief news clip on the Internet the other day where a kid and some of his friends turned in their video games and were signing people up to not play those games anymore. The father was asked about his son’s project and proceeded to tell the reporter how proud he was of his son. But when the reporter asked why the 10-year-old child owned an R-rated video game, the father hemmed and hawed, did not answer the question, and ended the interview.

To me it seems that the answers lie not in the extremes but in intelligent, dispassionate reasoning to determine how best to protect our innocent children. The fact of the matter is, we can’t put armed guards in every public place.

I listened to the media personalities asking the question, “What was in the mind of the shooter at school?” We are never going to know what is going on in the head of someone twisted enough to gun down innocent people. We can psychoanalyze mass murderers and serial killers up one side and down the other, but unless we are as twisted as they, it is not possible for us to understand what is going through their minds.

I’m not sure how long I will avoid watching the news. I know that I will be focusing only on things that are inspirational or humorous for the time being, because that’s what I need right now. Actually, I think that’s what a lot of us need right now. I don’t know how many more banal Hallmark Christmas movies I can stomach, but at least they are predictably positive. Of course, I could always plan on watching “A Christmas Story” for the millionth time, but I’m waiting for someone to protest its broadcast because Ralphie might shoot his eye out with his infamous Red Ryder BB gun.

As Christmas heads toward me like a tsunami, I will be doing my best to foster and keep a positive attitude. When the holiday is over, I plan to take a week of recuperation time. My batteries most definitely need to be recharged!
As for everyone else, I wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday!