Friday, November 21, 2014

'Love it or leave it' is a smokescreen that limits the American Dream

Thomas Paine, early American colonialist and author of Common Sense
Immigration has become one of the major areas of disagreement among the various factions involved in debating what to do about undocumented workers or those who have entered the United States illegally.  When folks criticize the government's action, or inaction, often the phrase, "love it or leave it" is used to challenge one's opponent, but is it effective in consolidating one's argument?

"If you don't like it, why don't you just leave,"is what some folks say to cement an argument about a political position.  It does, however, counter the American framework of the country as well as scientific principles, because it is in finding our mistakes, we learn and grow the most.
 That was the message of those who founded the United States, the arguments presented by Thomas Paine, who argued with authority. 

His arguments, his references to his disappointments and disagreements with how England ruled its colonies, and what should be American rights, became the beacon of the best of political argument in US history.  "Love it or leave it" counters Paine'sCommon Sense presentations and the fabric of debate.

This "love it or leave it" , coined originally by the famous media pundit Walter Winchell, is often used by the conservative right when losing an argument or when there is nothing to say.  This occurred during debates over the war in Vietnam, civil rights, Obama's election and the recent election as well.  It provides a smokescreen the person uses to shut off the opposition as an outsider unworthy to even be allowed to stay in the country.

Indeed "just move if you don't like it" is a paraphrase, and a way of removing opposition, when one is uncomfortable and worries he or she might have to face the facts of being wrong or even being right but still not knowing the arguments to defend them properly.  When it becomes its most insidious, however, is when it is used for scapegoating and victimization, part of the process of debate that is used by the "love it or leave it" folks.

But the statement's worst damage comes from the underlying threat that says, "You leave or we'll remove you" that often follows next, either by physical or social isolation.  What is lost, however, is the progress that can be made from looking at those criticisms and learning what needs to be done to improve an idea or place and thereby limits the very nature of the American dream, which is to grow better every day.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Journalist offered $2.5 million prize in the manner often used with seniors

Scam victim
This journalist just won $2.5 million, at least that's the news I got after answering the telephone today.  Perhaps you too have received a similar call, one that initially makes you very happy, that is until you learn the facts from the manner often used with seniors and military people.

"John Harper," who announced his status as representative of the Publishers Clearinghouse, called to inform me of my winnings.  He also gave me the number of the package I would be receiving and the representative at the Bank of America who would be verifying the winnings and making sure the money is transferred to a bank account.  I was only to obtain two IRS merchant banker stamps made out to an individual named Robert Marsh in New Florence, Pennsylvania in the amount of $360 that would verify the amount and to notify the IRS of the winnings in advance of tax payments.

But John Harper, according to the American Association of Retired Persons, is not a representative of the Publishers Clearinghouse.  The famous sweepstakes giant does not offer mailings or prizes until February.  Furthermore, Publishers Clearinghouse, and other legitimate sweepstakes offerings, do not ask the winner to pay any amount of money in order to receive a prize.

It is a familiar type of scam, but those playing the game of chance are taking less of a chance themselves with phone calls that on the surface appear to be legitimate.  The soft-spoken, courteous voice without accent, clear and kindly, makes the pitch.  Then there are the details that at the outset make the call sound like the prize and the winnings are real.  But there are hidden clues at the outset that offer a hint of the scam information that comes after the introductory remarks.

One of those clues is the salutation itself.  The caller referred to me as "Madam" at the outset and throughout the call.  I was not "Carol" nor Mrs. Forsloff."  And the caller, in referring to the delivery from the Bank of America, was unaware of the banking industry in Hawaii, where the banks are local and mainland banks have only small offices as opposed to large banks in the islands.  When I was told about the "stamps" needed for the Internal Revenue Service to be sent to a particular person, it became even more clear the call was a scam.  Add to that, the caller offered me the phone number I should call to speak with someone at the IRS.

The caller in my case, the "John Harper" who sounded pleasant and able to converse clearly and with detail, was very persuasive, congratulating me on being a skeptic while assuring me he is an honest person.  The FBI tells us those in the business of scamming seniors, and others, can be very bright and able to sound legitimate.  describing them as able to "make themselves extremely believable over the phone.  For people on the other end of the line who were even a little bit gullible or desperate for money, the deception could be too much to resist."

I resisted well enough so the caller gave up and moved on, but not until I had finished taking notes to write this article. I was wary enough to avoid being duped.  On the other hand the scammers are adept enough to catch some of the most astute, so it pays to remember that when someone asks for money to be sent in order to get money in return as a prize, it's time to hang up the phone and put your number on the "do not call registry," making it more difficult for those who want to scam to find you among the willing and the gullible.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On learning your grandchild is autistic

Ribbon symbol of autism spectrum disorder
It was a stunning phone call. Our twin toddler grandsons were diagnosed autistic. Our son told us in a tone that spoke of grief and confusion. What we learned about ourselves and the disability strengthened our family and gave us lessons we would like to share.

"Are you sure about it?" we asked. That question, innocent enough, was inappropriate given the fact our son had told us several times the children had been taken to doctors specializing in assessing children with special needs. Experts say that families should reinforce the parent's coping abilities, not minimize their resources or their capabilities in the face of learning a child has a serious disability.
We should have simply asked, "What did the doctor say?" The flow of details could spark the right discussion about the specifics about our grandchildren so we could offer information or comfort necessary in this instance.

We learned the twins are different in the details of autism. Over time we found, both by observation and by asking questions, that autism, according to reports, runs in families and not everyone exhibits the same behaviors. Our grandchildren are fraternal twins with different body types, and along with that they exhibit unique behaviors. This is a common aspect of this disorder in that patterns of a child's interaction may be as different as they would be in separate families.

In the case of autism spectrum disorder, family members often have to adjust just like parents to a different way of relating and to different benchmarks for watching children develop. Experts say there is a range of differences in autism spectrum disorder as there are in any other conditions, but the usual diagnostic criteria that defines it makes the child stand out as unique from others of similar age. The language delays, the problem with social interaction, and what is usually defined as inappropriate behavior, like throwing temper tantrums publicly or fondling the genitalia, is often clearly seen.
Adolescence is a difficult time, but for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder it can be especially that. How adults accept and manage behaviors can make a difference in how they learn to adjust as adults, medical experts tell us.

One grandson over the years is interactive, speaks to us and gets involved in play. As a 15-year-old he is beginning to explore the world in many ways, that would be seen as socially inappropriate outside his social sphere. Two years ago we noticed he touched his genitals frequently while engaged in simple interaction, that might simply be showing us a picture or bringing us a bit of food from the kitchen, which he enjoys doing. We have learned to ignore much of that socially inappropriate behavior and focus on what he does that involves some new accomplishment, like a drawing or a piece of writing he likes to share with us.

Our other grandson seldom ventures outside his room, except to meet his physical needs. He relates with both his parents, but without eye contact and with few readily understandable words and gestures. Their parents, our children, understand, however, and say they have enough time and experience with both children to know what they want and need. They can interpret gestures and words that we cannot.

What we have learned in a decade of being grandparents of autistic children is to relate with them is little different than how we relate with our other grandchildren who have no disabilities. We support our children and reinforce their parenting skills, give suggestions only when asked and accept and give affection during visits. We've gone past that initial heartbreak to knowing what our grandsons can and cannot do and just accepting them as children with the curiosities and dynamics that are unique to them.

What we have learned, beyond all else, is that our grandchildren need love and acceptance like all other children do. As grandparents giving that is our special role and what we intend to do, happily and proudly for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Did American colonial laws embrace dueling as the way to resolve political conflict?

Hamilton-Burr duel
Politicians used to have unique ways of settling disputes, with some of them saying that in the early days of America people respected an aggressive style of taking care of business. However, there are differences of opinion on the matter, with a narrative that appears to favor the present style of disagreement over the way things used to be done during those early years.

Sarah Palin said, in response to attacks accusing her of verbal violence a few years ago, that America's past political disputes were more violent than present ones, using dueling as an example. But what does history say about it?

Since the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Gifford in Arizona and school shootings that have occurred both at Sandy Hook and in Washington State, people have disagreed about the present political climate. Some say politics has always been violent and confrontational, whereas others argue the present political atmosphere is particularly toxic.

Palin was accused of fostering violence by having a map on her Facebook page with crosshairs targeting political opponents. She countered this accusation by saying, "There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those "calm days" when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?"

History tells us that harsh language and dueling were common in the 18th century and that it was the ultimate outcome of political debates that could not be reconciled by discussion or apology. It was, however, frowned upon by key figures in America's early period of independence.

Dueling was one of the methods used to resolve political differences in the 18th century. This method was imported from Europe, where nobles fought with swords or guns to defend their honor. Men from various backgrounds dueled in America, with guns most often the chosen weapons used. For example, Button Gwinnet who was one of those who signed the Declaration of Independence was shot by General Lachlan in a duel. In addition history records the fact that Abraham Lincoln narrowly escaped a duel with swords but prevented it by issuing an apology to a state official.

Dueling had its formal rules, codified in 1777 and known as the Code Duello. An individual would issue a challenge; and if that challenge was accepted, both parties would select a second. A second was to try to settle the dispute between the two opponents. If they were unable to do that, a time and place was selected for the duel. Death was not necessarily the desired outcome. A shot fired and blood drawn could be sufficient.

Experts tell us that death from dueling was infrequent and that it was the last resort of an unreconciled argument. It was considered harsh, and the expectation was the opponents would work out their differences before this occurred. Although dueling was common enough, many members of the clergy and key government officials such as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington opposed it.
One of the most famous duels took place between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. Hamilton and Burr were both personal and political enemies.

The duel between Burr and Hamilton was politically motivated, unlike the Arizona shooting or school shootings, but the notion of having a gun for self defense as a personal weapon was not something the ordinary citizen embraced during the Colonial period.  Yet there were those instances, as in the Hamilton and Burr duel, where the love of the gun became the emotional spur for resolving disputes.

Alexander Hamilton was an advocate of strong central government, wrote the Federalist Papers and was America's first Secretary of the Treasury. His opponent, Aaron Burr, was a Republican who was elected and served as Vice President of the United States with President Thomas Jefferson.
Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel following Hamilton's interference with Burr's re-nomination for Vice President in 1804 and attempt to become New York's governor.

The duel commenced, and Burr's shot mortally wounded Hamilton. The physician on the scene recorded the following of Hamilton's words and behavior before he died: "Soon after recovering his sight, he happened to cast his eye upon the case of pistols, and observing the one that he had had in his hand lying on the outside, he said, "Take care of that pistol; it is undischarged, and still cocked; it may go off and do harm. Pendleton knows " (attempting to turn his head towards him) 'that I did not intend to fire at him.'

Hamilton was then taken to his home and was said to havdied in agony the following day with the pistol's ball lodged next to his spine. Burr may have won the duel, but he was indicted by both New York and New Jersey. The trial, however, never took place. He ended up wandering the country and died in poverty and disgrace in 1836. The duel may have settled the score, but the way it was done was not embraced by the laws of the times, just as it would not be today. By the time of the Civil War it had declined because of negative public opinion.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kanaka Wai Wai: Hawaii's ballad about Jesus embeds culture and belief in #1 ranked song

Hoffman's painting of Jesus and the rich young ruler
The song Kanaka WaiWai, or the story of Jesus and the rich man, is performed by many Hawaiian musicians, as it is a narrative not just of faith but has lyrics that offer lessons to people that incorporate some of the beliefs of the indigenous people and a melody that maintains the heritage of music in its special island ways

The creative arts are the heart of a culture that reveres the beautiful, the depiction of it in word, song and visual images.  Art in the form of paintings, sculpture and crafts are abundant in the islands.  The farmers markets that offer fresh food every weekend also allow crafts people to proudly display their wares.

As the ukulele continues to grow in popularity around the world, the musician holds an honored spot among most folk, with the virtuoso of the uke especially respected.

Like other cultures, music and art are primary vehicles for translating culture across generations.  Therefore many of the paintings show the ocean, the fish and fauna that grow around Hawaii, and the beauty of the local people interacting with one another.

Music and art that elevate the human spirit are highly prized.  The song Kanaka Wai Wai is known for being a special song that reflects the best of Hawaii's original music.  In Waikiki, entertainers focus on contemporary Hawaiian music, the newest reggae sounds that predominate much of it.  But traditional music remains part of the professional entertainment, although it has lessened as younger folks adopt mainland music styles and the Caribbean sounds become embraced as it represents island ambiance that people feel in Hawaii as they do in other climes.

The song Kanaka Wai Wai touches many people with its beauty, so much so that it was the No. 1 ranked song in 1980 in Hawaii.  Those who want to know more about the islands of the Pacific have only to spend some time listening to this song to find hidden in its words and melodies much of the culture of the paradise of the Pacific that is here.

The lyrics with translation from this source were copyrighted in 1971 but originally composed by J. Almeida in 1915.  It was said to have been composed for the Mormon Church in Hawaii but rejected because it sounded too much like a hula.  Translation was done by Haunani Bernardino.  The story comes from the parable in Matthew 19:16-24, 

Ma ke alahele 'o Iesû
On the road, Jesus

I hâlâwai aku ai

Me ke kanaka 'ôpio hanohano
With the dignified young man

Kaulana i ka waiwai
Famous for (his) wealth

Pane mai e ka 'ôpio:
The youth asked:

"E ku'u Haku maika'i
"My good Lord

He aha ho'i ka'u e hana aku ai
What must I do

I loa'a e ke ola mau?"
To be given eternal life?"

"'E hâ'awi, e hâ'awi lilo
"Give, give away (all) entirely

I kou mau waiwai
Your riches

Huli a hahai mai ia'u
Turn and follow me

I loa'a e ke ola mau iâ 'oe"
To obtain eternal life for you

Minamina e ka 'ôpio
The youth was sorrowful

I kona mau waiwai
Of (losing) his wealth

I ke ku'ai a hâ'awi lilo aku
Of selling and giving it all away

I ka po'e nele a hune
To the needy and poor people

Huli a'e 'o Iesû lâ
Turning then, Jesus

Pane aku i ka 'ôpio:
Replied to the youth:

"'A'ole a'e hiki ke kanaka waiwai
Unable to rise, the young rich man,

I ke Aupuni o ka Lani"
To the Kingdom of Heaven