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Archive for the ‘Being Dad’ Category

Wednesday night I got to share an experience with my oldest son which he will never forget. As my two regular readers will already know, both my sons are on the autism spectrum. The oldest one has Asperger’s Syndrome. Unlike his little brother, he is in regular classes, and if you were to encounter him in public or on the street, depending on the setting, it might take a few minutes for you to figure out that he doesn’t see the world the way you and I do. And like me, he is an Eric Church fan.

At The Key Arena

When we learned Chief was coming to Seattle this spring, my wife got on-line and we bought two tickets, so he and I could go and see one of our favorite singers in concert.

While I have been to many “big” concerts over the years, mostly at Michigan venues like Meadowbrook, the Pontiac Silverdome, The Palace at Auburn Hills, The Saginaw Civic Center, and Pine Knob, I have never been to any major Washington venue other than McCaw Hall.

We left in the early afternoon, so to avoid any traffic issues, and arrived in plenty of time to enjoy a spring afternoon at Seattle Center, and found a line forming already, with hard-core fans outside. I wish I could say that I was impressed with the venue’s handling of guests outside the building, I can’t. Conflicting information and instructions given by the venue’s workers made the wait frustrating and disappointing, especially for a young man who has a need to clearly understand what he is expected to do and participate in. However, once we finally got to the entry, the credit card/ticketless entry system seemed to work very well. The lines for souvenirs were long, but moved quickly, and soon my son had his first concert t-shirt with the image of his hero on the front and a list of concert venues on the back. We went to the concession stand to get a snack and some drinks and went to find our seats.

Let me say that for a concert, I don’t think there can be a bad seat in the Key Arena. We both spent a fair amount of time looking around and watching people file in, and looked at the stage at the south end of the arena.

The Brothers Osborne took the stage at 7:30 pm, and played a great show for about 45 minutes to a half-filled arena. I had heard them before, and knew they could play well, but judging from some of the reactions around us, several people were hearing them for the first time…and liking it. They played songs from their EP, including “Let’s Go There”, and “Rum”, and connected well with the audience when they spoke about knowing that you don’t have to be from the south to be country, before launching into a blistering rendition of “Down Home”. But my moment of great surprise and wonder came when they admitted to being great fans of The Band, then started playing an ambitious take on “The Shape I’m In.” While my son wasn’t familiar with the songs, he still enjoyed the performance, as did the concertgoers there to see it.

Eric Church

After the Brothers Osborne left the stage, the workers came to clear everything off, and soon a slide show started playing on the jumbotron above the stage as the arena filled over the next hour and fifteen minutes.

When the lights darkened and the opening strains of “The Outsiders” started, my son’s eyes got wide and he turned to give me a high-five as the crowd erupted. By now the woman next to me had figured out that my son isn’t “normal”, and that it was his first concert. At different points she tried to engage him, asking him what his favorite song was, high-fiving him when he appeared to be excited about a particular song, and urging him to wave his arms and cheer like everyone else in the arena, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

Eric and the band played an excellent show on a stage meant to allow them to play to the front, the sides, and the back. His energy was undeniable, and he reminded the crowd of his many visits to Seattle. The drum kit came down from the ceiling and turned during the show, and lights lowered and raised from the ceiling and from the back of the stage throughout the show. Eric drew on his vast catalog of songs, getting some of the strongest crowd reactions to favorites like “Sinners Like Me” and “Pledge Allegience to the Hag”. As the top-fueled 2+ hour performance drew to a close, he and the band played a poignant version of “Springsteen”, and before he wrapped it up, he talked to the audience about the line “Funny how a melody sounds like a memory”, and how he wanted us all to form a memory of that special Wednesday night, before he invited the audience to sing along with him to the “Whoa-oh-oh-oh, Whoa-oh-oh-oh,Whoa-oh-oh-oh”.

Chief
I was glad for that. For that evening, my son was part of an arena full of family, united in their love of a performer’s music, and of the performance itself, which was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed, and he got to just belong, and enjoy the irony of not being an outsider. I saw his shoulders droop just a little as the band left the stage at the completion of the song, and then I saw them raise back up a bit when Chief walked back out alone, and stood in the spotlight as he played “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young”.  It was a good ending to a great concert.  And we got to enjoy a day of good conversations, before and after the concert, and one of the best performances he’ll ever see by a guy who sings songs that will be permanently embedded in the soundtrack of our lives, and those melodies will always be memories.

Thank you, Chief.

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Sometimes, movies for me are as much about the memory of who I watched with as they are about the movies themselves, and no movie embodied this more than “A Christmas Story”.

Its funny how we remember our parents, or how we think about them after they are gone. I don’t ever remember my father being terribly open about his feelings about the people he loved. It wasn’t that he didn’t love them; it was that he just seemed to take it for granted, and expected the rest of us to do the same. But those weren’t the only things that I recall about growing up with him. Phrases such as “No brain, no pain.” “Pain is nature’s way of saying don’t do that” and “No good deed goes unpunished were repeated so often in my home that they became automatic responses to certain circumstances and events…so much so that it became difficult to think of him in terms other than a gruff guy of few words and flinty sarcasm for the words that came. As a result, I remember hearing some of his friends speak at his funeral service, and wondering who it was they were talking about. But the single greatest character trait I recall was a real humbugism about Christmas. This would have made his love for “A Christmas Story” seem to be an anomaly unless you knew of his love of Jean Shepard stories.

When this movie was on, it was its own Christmas miracle, as my father would watch it, and laugh. Not chuckle. Not chortle. Not guffaw. LAUGH.

For years after his passing, I would watch the movie with him every year. Oh, I knew he wasn’t really there, but just the same, I felt that I could look over, and see him smiling and laughing, in what was for me, an unfamiliar attitude from him. And though I have sons of my own, I didn’t share this experience with them. It wasn’t something I could adequately describe, and I never wanted to feel compelled to do so. But each year, this echo of memory seemed to fade a bit more. Last year, I strained through the movie, to see Dad laughing, to hear him, and it was difficult. It wasn’t a good experience, and I was left feeling frustrated.

This year, when I sat down to watch the movie, I got nothing.
I let it play, and I listened. Darren McGavin was still the Old Man. Melinda Dillon is still Mom. But Dad wasn’t there. And I realized that even though I like Jean Shepard’s stories too, I watched it to spend time, as fleeting as it was, with the ghost of my Dad, and without him there, it is reduced to a story that I know too well, and that holds no new meaning to replace the one I’ve lost. As I watched the scene where Mom and the Old Man are sitting in the dark with a lit up Christmas Tree and the snow falling outside, I realized that this is how I want the memory of my Father and this movie to remain. A quiet moment with someone he held dear, saying nothing and everything in a setting where he could speak volumes without saying a word and still be perfectly understood.

I’m sad that I can no longer hear him when I watch this, and that no matter how hard I focus in my mind’s eye, I can’t see him just enjoy this story, and let his guard down completely. I still carry other memories. Other movies. Other experiences in which he chose to share something with us that wasn’t for everyone. But the lag in the echo grows longer with the years, and the echo grows quieter. I like to think that the silence in this movie is an indication that he is at peace, but I suspect that it has more to do with me finding peace with my memories of him, and the realization that I need to make such memories of my own with my sons. Maybe something to help them understand me when I am gone, as they so the same with their own kids. But in the interim, I’ll be looking for my own moment with my wife, in the dark before a lighted tree, with a steady snow falling outside.

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Buzz-Slider-Image
I was driving home from work the other day, listening to Mark Levin, and an ad came on that had a father helping his little girl learn how to tie her shoes.  After she did it, Tom Selleck came on, and said “Sometimes, the smallest things make the biggest impact in our children’s lives.  Take time to be a Dad.  This message brought to you by fatherhood.gov.”

I couldn’t believe it.  FATHERHOOD.GOV???  It had to be a joke. 

Sadly, it wasn’t. 

I came home and typed www.fatherhood.gov into my computer’s web browser.

One of the graphics I saw was the one above.  Another had a picture of the President with his daughters, and the message below invited me to take the fatherhood pledge.  I paused, choking down the irony of a man who’s only political stands of any import before becoming the President were centered around maintaining abortion, and resisting palliative care for children who survived their mother’s attempts to murder them pressing me to “Take the Fatherhood Pledge”.

Then I scrolled to the bottom of the website, and saw these words:

This is an official U.S. Government Web site managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

The agency that DEMANDS employers provide abortion, abortifacients, and birth control, even when doing so goes against their religious beliefs, and which persists in the fantasy that giving taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood helps poor and low-income women get mammograms actually sponsors a website purporting to teach American men to be better dads.

  With OUR tax money. 

The same government which has managed to destroy the black family, (and has inflicted damage on all families) is now telling men how to be dads.  How is this acceptable?  How is it that the Federal government, even without everything it has done to destroy families, has the right to deign to tell men how to be fathers?  It isn’t the government’s job to tell me how to be a Dad…and the fact that it sees fit to do so with my money simply adds insult to injury.  The family is not the government’s sphere of influence, especially in light of the fact  that there is so little that the government can do efficiently.  This is the embodiment of the concept of government breaking your legs, then putting you in a cast and telling you how lucky you are to have it.  Add to the concept what government has done to make war on the family, and yes, erode parental authority, and there is simply no moral basis which government can stand on to defend this.  And in the meantime, I’m sure this extended middle finger to any parent with a brain is nowhere near the list of things to be cut in the miniscule curtailment in the growth of government known in the White House as SEQUESTERGEDDON!!!111!!!  Not when they can mess with airtravel instead….you know…for the CHIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLDDDDDRRRREEEEENNNNNNNN!!!!!

I’m sure when my kids are still living in my house when they are 40, dreaming of the day when they can afford to move out to an 800 sq. ft. efficiency apartment all their own, I’m sure that they’ll thank Obama for the usurpation of authority never granted to the government and the deficit spending that make the offensive government lily-guilding like FATHERHOOD.GOV possible.  They’ll have a future full of much diminished prospects, but at least they’ll have the memory of Dad helping them learn to tie their shoes because government told him to do it.

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My wife and I were talking about the recent massacre in Aurora, Colorado, during the midnight premiere of the The Dark Knight Rises.  We were talking about the sadly predictable rush of some in the press to blame it on the Tea Party or other right-wing “extremists”, and some of the questions that reasonable people would ask like “Who takes a 3 month old baby to a midnight screening?” and why it is a mistake to call it a “tragedy” rather than what it is: a massacre…a premeditated act of evil.  At this point, the little pitcher with big ears, my 12 year-old chimed in.

“That’s why people shouldn’t have guns.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you know that the theatre was a “gun-free zone“?

“So.”

“So why did the guy who shot people get in with his gun?”

“Because he didn’t care?”

“Exactly.  And do you think that people who obey the law also obeyed that policy, and didn’t bring a gun with them?”

“Yes.”

“Exactly.  So did that “no guns” policy make anyone safer?”

*pause*
“No.”

“But only the police should have guns.”

“NO!  Think! Why do you think only the police should have guns?”

“So they can keep us safe.”

“Did they keep those people safe?”

“No…”

“Exactly.  Sometimes, you have to go to dangerous places.  And those places are dangerous because of the people who are there, not because some of them have guns.  But having a gun, and knowing how to use it is a way of taking responsibility for your own safety.”

“But that’s what the police are for.”

“Can you strap a police officer on your hip?”

“No.”

“Is there always a police officer around when you need one?”

“No.”

“Exactly.”

“You should respect police officers, son, but you should not rely on them for protection.  They have a very difficult job, and frequently, no matter what they do, they are going to make someone angry.  It is a tough, thankless job, and because they are people like you and me, you also need to understand that when things get tough, they feel the pressure too.  But you also need to understand, they cannot be everywhere, and when there is a problem, they may or may not be able to get there in time.  People who understand this have a few sayings that help make this clear:  “Call a cop, call an ambulance, and call for a pizza, and see who shows up first.” and “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”

I could see the wheels working.

“So having a gun should be a right, because people should be able to defend themselves.”

“It IS a right.  That’s one of the reasons we have a Second Amendment.”

“Why would people not want this right?”

“Because they believe that if they give up those freedoms, and the responsibilities that go with them, then the people they give those rights to will make them safe.”

“But it doesn’t work.”

“Well, it might…if you give up everything.  But then it isn’t much of a life when someone else makes all your decisions for you.  And in the meantime, laws like the ones that people are calling for only make people who obey the laws less safe, because people who don’t care about the laws aren’t going to follow them.   Kind of like what happened there in Colorado the other day…the people who obeyed the law were disarmed, but the criminal…the guy who planned to do bad things and hurt and kill people didn’t care about the rules and the law.  And because of that, a lot of people were put in danger because they weren’t allowed to defend themselves.”

“I understand.  People have a responsibility to protect themselves.”

“FREE people have a responsibility to defend themselves…and their loved ones…and the innocent and defenseless.”

“Because in life, there are people who want to hurt others, and who don’t follow the rules.”

“Exactly.  And FREE people understand that you can’t be made safe from the consequences of life and be free. ” 

“I think I understand, Dad.”

“I think you’re closer than a lot of people, and I think you’ll continue to understand more as time goes on.”
—————————————————————————————————–

The saddest part about this is that a 12-year-old with Aspberger’s understands better than Roger Ebert that this didn’t show a failure of concealed carry laws, because law-abiding people with a concealed carry permit followed the rules, and the murderer did not.

“I sure am glad I obeyed laws that disarmed me, and allowed me to be killed.” said no massacre victim ever.

DPUD has some MOAR relentless fact and logic for the gun-fearing wussie crowd, and as always, its a good read.

**************************************************************************
Now we’re seeing that the “body armor” wasn’t?

Holmes also bought an urban assault vest, two magazine holders and a knife for just over $300 on July 2 from an online supplier of tactical gear for police and military personnel, according to the company.

And the PJ Tatler has more on this “urban assault vest“.

In this case, Winter interviewed Chad Weinman, CEO of TacticalGear.com, who admitted the shooter’s vest came from their mail order company.

Winter used the term “urban assault vest.” Looking that up at TacticalGear.com displays this result. It’s made of “heavy-duty nylon” and has no Kevlar or other bullet-resistant materials. Granted, if you load it up with magazines you may derive some protection at the expense of your ammunition, but it’s not “body armor.”

You’re welcome to browse other offerings, like this Blackhawk vest made of “heavy-duty nylon mesh for maximum breathability.” Looks like body armor and could fool people into thinking it is,especially under low light conditions.

 

Nylon…NOT Kevlar…and look at the nice unprotected gaps.

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Hero: a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

I hope you all found something worthwhile in your Memorial Day Weekend.  I know I did in mine.  It was busy, and it seemed like I spent much of it on the run, but I still found time for the sober reflection that is the reason for the holiday, and heard an excellent sermon on Sunday about reflection and remembrance, the latter being important enough to be mentioned in the Bible more than 100 times.

Then later that evening, I got to watch Courageous, a movie about heroes who made a decision and a committment to be the heroes that every man should be.  My oldest son watched it with me, and we had a very good discussion about the various topics raised in the film.  It won’t be a candidate for an Academy Award, but I appreciate the fact that people like the producers of this film, and people like Tyler Perry are willing to make movies with small budgets, and short timelines to tell a story that encompasses values no longer embraced by the larger studios.

Then, Monday morning, we finally went to see The Avengers.  It didn’t disappoint, but then with Joss Whedon at the helm, it would have been an unpleasant surprise if it did.  What did surprise me was the insertion of some lines, and story developments that reflected some values that Hollywood hasn’t been too big on in recent years.  I suspect that this was allowed to happen because it was based on comic book heroes, and therefore. those values could be mocked by those who felt the need as childish or simplistic.  Sadly, I doubt the message will be received by the rest of Hollywood, much of which chalked the success of The Dark Knight up to “making the character dark”.  After all, the truth doesn’t fit the narrative.  It was an exhilarating experience to see a story unfold that allowed for sacrifice, determination, and redemption in the characters that didn’t leave me feeling as if the dreams of childhood were retconned by a society that feels an overwhelming urge to “reimagine” and redefine that which it finds itself opposed to.

It was a good weekend that was a celebration of the things that it should have been about, and I felt relaxed and ready when I went to work today.  Then I read about Chris Hayes’ shallow pontification over the weekend.  If, like me, you were busy having a good weekend, and decided not to shave points off of your IQ by watching MSNBC, let me fill you in on what Chris said in his show “Up With Chris Hayes” :

“I feel uncomfortable about the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war,”  he added that “there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers,” but that “it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic.”

I know what you’re thinking.  I didn’t know that Butch Maddow had a brother either.  Yes, “Up With Chris Hayes” is a stupid name for television program, as it evokes images of this, which doesn’t really get me thinking “serious credibility” but in its own way, does make a certain sense.

The apology, as predictable as an afternoon rain shower in Florida, came less than 24 hours later, and underscored his focus and the true target of his remarks, demonstrating that he still didn’t understand why what he said was wrong. (Yes, Rutherford, I said “wrong” and not “offensive”.  Deal with it.  Or don’t.)

Regardless, Hayes issued an apology for his comments on Monday, saying that he was “deeply sorry” for the remarks. “As many have rightly pointed out, it’s very easy for me, a TV host, to opine about people who fight our wars, having never dodged a bullet or guarded a post or walked a mile in their boots,” Hayes said in a statement. He said that he had made a mistake by conforming “to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war.”

While its fine to oppose war, secure in the knowledge that other will still join the military and lay down their own lives to keep yours safe, to fail to recognize that sacrifice for what it is, and deny them the very basic respect they deserve simply for having made the decision that you wouldn’t (for whatever reason) is the mark of an ingrate.  You don’t have to have done it yourself to recognize that signing up (or accepting selection) into a service that will take you far from home and most certainly put you in harm’s way to protect your nation and your loved ones, or to be a part of something much larger than one’s own self-interest and benefit is an act requiring the kind of courage that not everyone choses today.  The fact that one would choose to do it, either in the previous administration, or this one, indicates to me that they clearly see something obscured to the Chris Hayeses of the world, and reminds me of a famous movie speech delivered over a decade ago: 

“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to. “

There are many ways to be a hero.  Some will cast much longer shadows than others.  Some will do it by living up to their responsibilities, no matter how much they would prefer an eternal adolescence, and some will do it by exhibiting valor and great sacrifice, up to and including the one life they have to give, for their country, or for their fellow man.  That doesn’t always have to be a conscious decision to charge a machine gun, or exposing yourself to fire, because the first act comes with the decision to serve, and to be a target so that others won’t.  It isn’t glamorous, but then, it doesn’t lack conviction, either.

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I have at times been criticized for being difficult and harshly critical of people at times.  This might be a fair criticism, but at the same time, it is rooted in a belief that most people are their own worst enemies, and often deliberately do or say demonstrably silly things, and then get offended when people like myself have the temerity to call them out.  But at the same time, I don’t direct that blowtorch at people who can’t help whatever ails them.  Maybe it took having to neural-atypical children to really drive that point home, but consider it made.  And when I see accounts of people who have training and who are considered “authorities” deliberately belittling and mocking those they have been trained and hired to help?  Yeah, the RCOB* descends, and the fangs come out.

So when I read this story?  Yeah…put away the breakables.

Two Alabama teachers have been put on administrative leave after the mother of a 10-year-old student with cerebral palsy attached an audio recorder to the bottom of his wheelchair and caught them scolding him about drooling, among other things.

Really? REALLY?

You drooled on the paper,” a male’s voice, allegedly that of teacher’s aide Drew Faircloth, could be heard saying impatiently. “That’s disgusting.”

“Keep your mouth closed and don’t drool on my paper,” a woman’s voice said, allegedly teacher Alicia Brown. “I do not want to touch your drool. Do you understand that? Obviously, you don’t.”

Over the three days of recordings, Salinas said Jose received about 20 minutes of actual instruction and spent almost the entire day sitting in silence with no one speaking to him.

This cannot be excused.  There simply is NO excuse for this.  Scold him in a snotty way for something he cannot help, then all but abandon him when he is in your care? I can imagine all sorts of treatments for this kind of behavior, none of them pleasant.  But the kicker?  They got slaps on the wrist.

Salinas took the recordings to the school board and the teachers were put on administrative leave. But last Friday, the teachers were back at school.

and

By Monday, the teachers were back on paid administrative leave, and on April 9 the school board will meet to decide what further action to take.

Great.  Treat a kid with cerebral palsy like dirt, and get paid time off, recalled, then more paid time off when those idiot parents had the nerve to continue complaining.  What do you want to bet a teacher’s union is behind this?  Paid time off is not the right response.  This is a formal hearing, followed by a swift termination.

And they wonder why parents are reluctant to acknowledge and acquiesce to the “authority” of the educational establishment?

The behavior of these teachers is beyond reprehensible.  Parents have every reasonable expectation that when they entrust any child, let alone THIS child

to the schools, that they will not be mistreated or abused. These teachers cannot be trusted to fulfill their professional duties, and should instead be cleaning the johns at the nearest truck stop.

*Red Curtain Of Blood

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So Barack Hussein Obama thinks it more important to go on a talk show with some of the most vapid ‘talents’ to waste pixels since Britney Spears had a show than to go to the Boy Scouts’ Centennial Jamboree.  Is it news worthy?

Only if you think about how it demonstrates his priorities.

On the former, he can field softballs from a friendly panel who would much rather joke and giggle with him than ask a difficult question about the many failures of his adminstration or push him to denounce the tired tactic of his defenders and enablers of “Blame Bush!”  nearly two years after taking the job he so desperately asked us to give him.

At the latter, he is likely to come face-to-face with people of all hues and creeds who focused on achievement and learning all the things that they can do, rather than wallowing in the conviction of all the things they are sure that they can’t do (even if they never tried).  He will come face to face-to-face with people of all hues and creeds who make the daily attempt to adhere to a code that doesn’t have room for cynicism or the petty divisions that politicians cleverly manipulate in an attempt to increase their own power.  At the latter, he would come face-to-face with people who believe in voluntarily giving service to their communities, not out of a tangled belief in collective salvation, but because they understand their faith enough to know that such service is a betterment to themselves personally, and is the real root of charity.  And finally, he would come to face-to-face with people who believe in right and wrong in personal behavior, and are willing to take a stand regarding those beliefs, rather than bow to political expediency.

Knowing this, I understand his choice completely, and I find it unsurprising.  If I were him, I wouldn’t want to be spending time with boys, young men, and their elders, any one of whom demonstrate more character on their absolute worst days than this shallow shell of a man who has left a trail of friends and associates in his wake so that the electorate doesn’t think too hard about birds of a feather flocking together.  That would have to be singularly uncomfortable. 

I know some conservatives and former scouts who are upset that the President of the United States will not lend the prestige of his office to a celebration of an American Institution.  I myself have mixed feelings about this.  While I regret that the current occupant of the Oval Office cannot suck it up, take a break from his perpetual vacation, and try to inspire young men and boys to aspire to such lofty goals, I find that I am glad that he has once again chosen what is easy over what is right.  If the boys cannot have such an honored guest who demonstrates many of the morals that are the product of the code they live by, then I would honestly prefer that they didn’t have to endure one who clearly cannot. 

And while I too, was a scout, and still try to live up to that code, I fear that their grace and respect is simply more than he deserves.

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I confess.  It was late in the workday, and I was hot and bored.  After checking my email, I followed a link to the Washington Post, a paper I normally wouldn’t look at unless I was using it to line the bottom of a birdcage, when I saw this headline:

Neurodiversity rights activist Jonathan Mooney: “You’re not broken”

I knew it was simply a baited hook, but I bit down anyway.

And like a sharp object poked through my lip, I found it irritating.

You wouldn’t know to look at him that Jonathan Mooney is a man with a disability. He is young, handsome, and speaks with an easy style and a confidence that doesn’t reflect early, dire warnings of jail or a life flipping burgers that his early teachers predicted for him. To look at him, you wouldn’t know that he is an energetic advocate for what he calls “a defining rights movement for the 21st century,” the neurodiversity rights movement.

You can read the rest of the article for yourself, but the gist is rather than concentrating on helping kids with autism connect with and conform to the world in which they live, we need to find ways and places where they can continue to be who and what they are without such expectations.  Hence the idea of a “neurodiversity rights movement”.  And hence my irritation.

Now before the more sensitive among you take it upon yourselves to swaddle up in the mantle of self-righteous outrage at how I am about to proceed, be warned:  I have two boys who are autistic.

These young men have been a real blessing in my life, and have helped me to nurture an incomplete sympathy into a more developed sense of empathy than I would have likely ever developed if left to my own devices.  And when I say “autistic”, I am using the generic term which is what I am told is the new proper term.  If we go to older diagnoses, which I tend to consider more precise, they each have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum, but is usually a type of high functioning autism which can manifest itself in some interesting behavioral quirks, but doesn’t necessarily make the afflicted person stand apart the way a child with other, more extreme forms of autism can.  In my oldest son, the symptoms have been a propensity toward sensory overload, which used to lead to some alarming meltdowns, an unusual focus on various things, sensitivity to loud noises, very weak fine motor skills, which makes handwriting difficult, and a lack of comprehension of the various social customs that are second nature to other people, such as knowing that you face front in an elevator, or knowing about and respecting the idea of personal space. 

In my younger son, the symptoms are marked by inappropriately loud reactions, which correlate to his frustration levels, walking on his toes rather than his feet, a deep shyness around people he doesn’t know well, sensitivity to loud noises, and an expanded sense of anxiety around people, which can cause him to “flap” his hands.

While I can echo Mr. Mooney’s sentiment—they are not broken—nor are they normal. 

I want them to reach their fullest potential.  I already know that they are smart.  The oldest one’s vocabulary alone far exceeds the 5th graders he shares a classroom with, and his little brother was reading when he was three.  Their intellect doesn’t worry me.  And the help that the oldest has gotten has helped considerably with his social skills.  he hasn’t had a “meltdown” in 3 years, and you might have to talk to him for a few minutes before you might start to realize that he doesn’t really see the world quite the same way as everyone else.  And I am glad for that.

Humans are the only creatures on the planet who figure that other like creatures owe them a certain deference because of their condition, and we in this country take that one step further by passing laws that purport to confer “rights” in order to make people conform to these expectations.  This is, of course, silly.  If you have to rely on the activity of government in order to confer a right, than it isn’t a “right” at all, it is merely a mandate for deference, and mandates can be changed on a whim.

I want my children to grow up to be happy and fulfilled.  Every parent who cares wants that for their kid.  However, I don’t think that learning to meet society’s minimum expectations hampers that ability.  I know my kids are capable of doing that.  I watch as it happens more and more as they grow older.  It hasn’t changed who they are.   It hasn’t destroyed their way of looking at the world, but they have gotten more adept at dealing with it. 

I realize that this isn’t an option for every kid with autism.  I realize that for some, no amount of training will enable them to interact in a regular and normal way with the world around them, and those who love them.  For them, others may always be their conduit to the outside world.  I remain unconvinced that special rights are the answer for supplying those people with the respect that they deserve as human beings, or that such a grant really is to the benefit of society. 

It comes down to a very simple truth.  The touch of God is present in everything and in everyone who surrounds us.  If we are created in his image, then we owe that respect to each other.  It it sometimes difficult to maintain, as some people sully or misuse the gifts they have been given, but it is this recognition which is sometimes lacking for which a mandate creates a very poor substitute.  Anyone who spends time with an autistic child understands that whatever the behaviors might be, there is still a dignity there, and that dignity sometimes drives them to achievements that teachers and parents don’t think are possible. 

I want my boys to be who they are.  I want the world to know that their hearts are so much better than my own.  And I want them to be able to make their own way.  That doesn’t happen in a world that has to accommodate them, and they would never know if their achievements would be the same without the deference. 

You keep your “rights”.  I’ll keep them learning, working, and growing in their understanding and ability to deal with the world around them.

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I was driving to work this morning when the host broke into his own broadcast and played the Tiger Woods “Statement“.

I listened, and refrained from talking back to the radio as is sometimes my habit when I am subjected to such things.  Unlike the President’s uncritical appraisal of his own performance for the last year, I give the statement a solid “C”, with a few reservations.

I understand that his ability to play golf exceptionally well has allowed Tiger to enjoy a level of wealth and celebrity that very few other people ever enjoy.  With those benefits often come temptations of the type that he indulged in.  Yet, for some reason, there seems to be a degree of public upset that cannot be easily explained.  Why do I say that?

Think about it this way:  Is a big time sports star that much different from a rock star?  They both are very recognizable.  They both make buckets of money.  They both travel lots for their job.  No one bats an eye anymore at the rock star sport screwing anything that crosses their path.  It is largely taken for granted that they have sex on demand with multiple partners from coast to coast.  That is one of the reasons why so many young men dream of become rock stars.

This mindset seems to be more common for the NBA, as well, as the stories of life on the road leak out into the mainstream consciousness.  Wilt Chamberlain claimed to have slept with thousands of women over the course of his career, and many younger players seem to be determined to follow in his footsteps.

Is the difference that Tiger is married?  I doubt it.  One of the hallmarks of today’s society is infidelity.  The stigma and shame appear to have been set aside for most people.  A scan of daytime TV or a cruise through the family law docket at your local court should drive that point home.  No fault divorce, a decline in religious practices and attendance, and even the mainstream character of terms like “Babymama” provide ample evidence that infidelity is no longer taboo.  If that isn’t enough, a spin around the dial of primetime TV, the appeal of companies like the Ashley Madison Agency, and any number of “hook up” sites on the internet should make that a bit clearer for you.

When I take all of the above into consideration, I have to ask myself “Why did  he do it?”  I mean, if I were the world’s best golfer, making buckets of cash, and still able to draw large crowds even though I had this “problem”, I might look at the free pass that other wealthy celebrities get on the same topic and say “Screw this.  I did it because I could.  It is an entitlement that I have little reason to believe that any of you would pass up if you had the opportunity.” 

Maybe it was the image that he benefitted from, if he did not outright cultivate.  The nice guy…close to his parents, married with kids…the kind of guy you want to root for.  The kind of guy that not even Barack Hussein Obama could publically declare “makes too much money” and get the same head bobs that he gets for similar remarks about those “Greedy Wall Street Executives.”  Maybe we feel betrayed…betrayed enough to ignore the obvious double-standard that we have apparently imposed on him.  And maybe that is enough to keep me from exploring that idea that this pointless public apology wasn’t either a dramatic gesture towards a justifiably pissed spouse, or an attempt to straighten and polish a crooked and tarnished halo that was worth millions in endorsements that have since abandoned him.  I’d like to think that he is smart enough to know that redemption isn’t the same as making it all like it was before.

He was right about one thing:  character does matter.  But if you are more worried about your character because of how other people choose to see you, rather than how you see yourself or are right with God, then you’re still doing it for the wrong reasons.  Character is defined by what you do when no one is looking.

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Why is this day special?

Not because some men who get paid very handsomely to play a game will meet in what is almost always an overhyped, underplayed contest that allows people all over the country an excuse to come together, drink too much,  and gather around their televisions for several hours so they can watch a few minutes of game, punctuated by ads that cost their sponsors dearly for the privilege of an inebriated audience.

February 7, 2010 is Scout Sunday.

In 1910, when Sir Baden Powell formed the Boy Scouts, having reverence as one of the group’s core values for its young charges was hardly controversial.  At the time, religion, as it is commonly understood, was still very much a part of the American Psyche, and considered a necessary element of a moral and just society.  This was in keeping with prior generations, reaching back to the one that originally threw off the yoke of european leadership and formed this nation.

In the century since, there has been a relentless assault on religion and its place in society, lead, ironically enough by a religion, albeit one that tries to avoid the title at all costs.  Secular humanism has clothed itself in the garb of a neutral and liberating doctrine that rejects God and what he requires in favor of what the human heart deems to be progress.  It has employed terms that it refuses to model, like ‘tolerance’ to characterize all moral judgement as bad, and continues to espouse the beliefs that the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth, and that to judge is wrong, unless it is to judge those who believe in absolute truth.  This means that the Boy Scouts, as any institution still believing that reverence has a place in society, has come under attack from those who preach the gospel of self, and the good news of their own selfish desires, regardless of the clear damage that such beliefs cause when practiced in real life.

Nevertheless, the Boy Scouts have remained as an institution, instilling proven values in boys, as well as teaching valuable skills, so that they can continue to learn and grow with confidence, and be an example to others around them.  And I am glad not only because they are helping my sons to grow this way, but because they helped me.

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