personal responsibility: a novel concept

I stopped by the library today in search of a particular CD.  The online catalog claimed they had the CD available but I, who practically grew up in the library, could not find it.  I asked about it at the information desk and while one of the librarians went to look for it with recently returned materials, the other explained how it could be in a few different (wrong) places.

Librarian: Someone might have put it down in the wrong place.  Or some people – like that gentleman over there (gestures toward young guy with laptop and ipod) – bring in their laptops and ipods and just sit there with a stack of CDs.  They pop them in and rip them.  They’re not really supposed to do that.

Come on, people.  At least have the decency to check them out and take them home for a day or so, like I do like this person I know.  Sheesh.


Also, not a/an eulogy.  (I looked online and saw it both ways so…it was basically no help.)

My dear friend Emi came to hang out this past week.  You know someone is a true friend when they act like it’s no big deal that your house is a wreck and you make them sit on the floor and all you have to feed them is frozen pizza.  (I have eaten frozen pizza four times this week, by the way, although I do typically cook it first.)  Incidentally, Emi is in the process of moving too.  She brought us French magnetic poetry, which is awesome.  Emi has a lot of great qualities, and the fact that she gives very cool and useful gifts illustrates that.

I met Emi when we were in junior high, I think.  She is really fun and does things that need doing, simply because they need to be done.  “Somebody’s got to do it,” she would say.  Somebody had to play keyboard for our youth choir, and she knew a wee bit of piano but since nobody more qualified stepped up she did it.  And it was fine.  When many of our peers (myself included) were feeling disconnected at church, somebody needed to do something, so she organized an informal Bible study that fit the bill perfectly.  In high school we used to sit around during down time on mission trips or camp with another girl named Laurie and sing harmonies, although probably none of us would have claimed to have a great voice.  Considering our non-vocal team status they always turned out surprisingly well.  Emi and I were working at a weekend youth thing a year or two later when we found out Laurie had cancer, and that was the end of the harmonies.

Emi has phenomenal taste.  I mean, she is in a league with Audrey Hepburn.  Everything from clothes to makeup to friends to music to movies – if she recommends it, you know it is a solid choice.  I asked her to help me pick out Jake’s wedding present for this reason, and it was a hit.  But beyond that, she is a really great person.  I guess being half Japanese and half Irish doesn’t hurt, because there is a lot of awesomeness in that combination.  She has a lot of wisdom, lets you borrow her socks at frisbee if you forget yours (another sign of true friendship), lets you borrow her ipod to DJ your wedding reception if you are not cool enough to own one, lets you borrow her clothes that are so much more tasteful and stylish than your own, and drives you around when you don’t have a car.  Reading over that I sound like an Emi mooch, but the thing about Emi is she is so cheerful about giving or being helpful in any way.  And she is not too proud to let people help her too, which is a rarity.  Also she is very cute, has a lovely smile, and is a great athlete.

Once at Bible study she said something that has stuck with me: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”  At the time she was talking about how the church (as in Christians, not a particular church) neglects their duty of caring for people and then complains about how the government does it, but this has since really shaped the way I think about and act in all sorts of areas.  If there is something that is just not right, whether it’s litter or people going hungry when others are throwing away tons of food, instead of waiting for someone else to do something or complaining about it, I should get up and do it myself.  Somebody’s got to.

…don’t loan large sums of money to people that have no means to repay the loan.

It’s novel!  It’s unheard-of!  It sounds like common sense…and it’s so simple that IT JUST MIGHT WORK.

  1. litterbugs. How hard is it to find a trashcan? I kid you not, at one of the parks I run in there are trashcans approximately every 15 feet. I don’t even know how kids play there, there are so many trashcans. Yet there is still trash everywhere. What are you doing at a park if you can’t walk a few feet to a trashcan? And if you’re driving – well, that’s YOUR trash. No one else wants it either. Just let it sit there in your car until you get where you’re going. There’s most likely a trashcan there.
  2. people who think their vehicle is a status symbol, letting everyone know how awesome they are. Frankly, I think your truck/Hummer/SUV/little sports car is butt-ugly.
  3. people who cut in to a funeral procession, refuse to stop for a funeral procession, speed by a funeral procession, get irritated by a funeral procession, or otherwise behave disrespectfully to a funeral procession. Somebody just died here. You will die too someday, regardless of how important you are. It’s just 5 minutes out of your life, which you are lucky/blessed enough to still have. Show a little respect.
  4. people who act all buddy-buddy when they don’t know you. They usually do this because they think they will get special treatment.
  5. people who think they deserve special treatment.
  6. people who can’t spell basic words. Things like “wander” instead of “wonder,” “heart worming” instead of “heartwarming,” “perception” instead of “perspective,” “loose” instead of “lose.” Or, use the verb form in place of the noun – like “emphasize” when they mean “emphasis.” I am not referring to typos, I mean people who do this and think they’re smart.
  7. people who say my posts are too long.
  8. people who think the world revolves around them, the sun shines out of their butt, or some other astrological phenomenon.
  1. people who smoke at red lights with their window down.  Especially if my window is down.  If your habit is so gross that you have to roll your window down to get away from the aftermath, please understand I want no part of it.
  2. people who smoke in public places in general.  If you want lung cancer, fine.  I don’t care what you do on your own property, on your own time.  Don’t drag your nasty habit into my airspace.
  3. people who drive like maniacs.  If you want to die, fine.  The rest of us will probably be better off.  But you are driving around thousands of pounds of various materials, you can do a lot of damage.  If you want to damage yourself that’s fine but quit endangering everyone around you.
  4. people who drive like maniacs in a parking lot.  Hello, there are pedestrians here.  And others who are driving cautiously because of the pedestrians, and also to look for a parking space.  It is not acceptable to zoom around at 55 mph.  Also it’s a good idea to look where you’re going.
  5. people who “work” the exit-only lane because they’re too important to wait in the lane they really want to be in.  YOU are the reason that lane is moving so slow.  If everyone would just get in line like they’re supposed to traffic would move so much more smoothly than having to constantly slam on their brakes because some idiot is forcing his way in just before the barrier.  Also you are slowing down the exit-only lane.  I WILL honk at you and give you The Look That Causes Terror And Death.
  6. people who expect others to clean up their mess.  This applies to actual physical messes as well as to stupid lifestyle choices.
  7. people who are arrogant jerks.
  8. people who are idiots.
  9. people who get all riled up about politics with no facts whatsoever.  This includes those who select their candidate based on “cool” factor as well as those who talk about democracy all the time.  America uses democratic process but we are not a democracy.  This is a constitutional republic.  They’re different.  People like you are the reason we are not a democracy.
  10. people who are in a rush to share their ignorance on any topic

I read this on a blog the other day: “The world is not an easy place to live in right now and I can’t see any way out of the hole our country is in economically. We’re heading for the bottom and I can barely see any light anymore. I wonder if this is how people were feeling during the great depression.”

Oh, pleeeeeeeeease.  First off, we are nothing nothing nothing like the Great Depression.  People who lived through the Great Depression STILL, more than 70 years later, add water to the ketchup bottle to make sure they get every smidgen possible.  Absolutely nothing got wasted or thrown away.  You didn’t buy new clothes, you had to repair what you had.  When it couldn’t be repaired anymore you made something new out of it for a smaller family member.  No one had a job – there were no jobs to be had.  The lady who said that was complaining about how hard it is to make ends meet on the two incomes she and her husband bring in – she did mention that one of them makes 90k a year.  The fact that either of them is working indicates it is not the Great Depression.  Also my husband and I make two incomes which combined don’t even equal 90k.  We live very comfortably off less than one of those incomes, which is by itself slightly less than the average American household income, and I am so happy that I saw a shooting star a few weeks ago and couldn’t even think of anything to wish for.  Possibly this lady needs to re-examine her budget because I feel ridiculously wealthy on less than half of what is apparently suffocating her.

Secondly, WE ARE NOT IN A RECESSION.  Yet.  Our last quarter’s economic growth was 0.9 percent, and the quarter before that growth was 0.6 percent.  I will readily admit that those are not great numbers, but the economy cannot be growing and receeding at the same time any more than the tide can simultaneously come in and go out.  A true recession requires two successive quarters (six months) of negative growth.  We are not growing at the rate we have been over the past few years, but we are not in a recession.  It is more like a stagnation.  I am no economist but I did pay a bit of attention in high school and I know this, so I am surprised that the media in general can’t figure this out.  Reporter does not equal economic expert.  Yet, people in general listen to the media in general and get all flustered over “our horrible economy.”  Well, I hate to break this to you but stagnating at a relatively good place does not count as being horrible.  Yes, gas prices could be lower…but they are still much, much lower than in most places in the world.  Food prices could be lower…but you have access to food, which is worlds away from what a lot of people experience on a daily basis.  Jobs could pay more…but you have a job, so quit whining.  I know things are getting hard for some people right now, but – and I am speaking anecdotally here – most of what I can see is people suffering from poor choices they made in better times.  “Oh, let’s go ahead and get the bigger house with that balloon mortgage thingy – surely we’ll get a raise before the balloon payment is due.”  “Well, we really need a new big-screen flat panel HD TV.  We’ll just finance it, they have a great plan here.”  “We consolidated all our loans!  Let’s celebrate by financing this great new set of couches.”  But the raise didn’t come, or the balloon payment wasn’t saved for, or the planned-on bonus didn’t come through, or whatever.  Here’s a thought: don’t plan on money you don’t have.  You’re not entitled to something because you breathe air, to borrow a phrase from Dave Ramsey.  If you have money to pay for something, great.  If you don’t, wait until you have money.  I cannot tell you the number of foolish financial decisions I have witnessed over the past year through various friends and acquaintences, and I have very little sympathy for those who are lying in a bed of their own making.

And thirdly, an economy cannot sustain huge, uninterrupted growth.  I am reaching back to high school again but it is OK to have times of growth and times where the economy isn’t so great.  Just keep thinking of the tide – it comes in, it goes out.  Nobody gets too upset because they know that, sooner or later, it will come back in again.

Honestly I think the biggest problem is that Americans live in a culture of entitlement: “Waaah, I want that, waaaaaah, why can’t I have it, I deserrrrrrve it!”  And suddenly banks realized that it isn’t so smart to lend money to people who can’t pay it back.  And people who can’t pay the banks back get foreclosed on, which everyone has known in the back of their minds all along but suddenly it is National News.  And suddenly people have to spend money on food rather than pay-per-view, and that means we are in Desperate Times.  The media created this recession impression (I’m a poet, too!) about 6 months ago, if I remember correctly, at the same time we were posting record low unemployment rates.  And now they feed it with horror stories of the dark, dark times we are facing when most of what is going on is people not being able to spoil themselves as much as they want to.  I will add here that the media is possibly creating a recession – scaring people into not buying that tomato because they don’t think they have 79 cents to spare, and then the little tomato farmer goes out of business, and then the fertilizer company has less income and lays some people off, and so on.  It is wonderful to report news; it is not acceptable to invent it.  We may be headed for a recession; I don’t know that.  I’m not an expert.  But I’m not worried.  Jake and I, through hard work and stubbornness, are 100% debt free.  We can handle our rent, utilities, and food on his income no problem.  We have an emergency fund saved.  I know how to use coupons.  We drive only when necessary and then use a car that gets amazing gas mileage.  We learned how to live small while everyone else was living it up – living like we were in a recession when we weren’t.  Because of that our way of life hasn’t changed a bit.

This wasn’t supposed to turn into my soapbox about financial choices…I’m just really tired of being told at every turn that I’m just an innocent victim.  I’m not a victim.  I made choices and I like how the chips fell.  Of course I would like cheaper gas and vegetables, but I really don’t have a problem with The Dire Economic Situation.  It may be popular to sell the victim mentality but I’m not interested in buying.

Or, Why Obama Is a Horrible Candidate.

I cannot understand the appeal of Barak Obama.  I’ve tried.  I mean, I haven’t read his books, which I’m sure are literary masterpieces, and I haven’t really heard his speeches, although I’ve heard they are oratory marvels.  I can’t even get interested enough in him to do those, because:

  1. His strong suit appears to be derision.  Headlines about him often begin, “Obama mocks…”, “Obama scoffs at…”, “Obama mocks…”, “Obama scorns…”, “Obama mocks…”  I don’t have exact numbers on this, but most of what comes from him belittles the ideas of current leaders or other candidates.  If I did want to listen to him, I would want to hear his thoughts and ideas, not how horrible the other guy is.  I think the leader of my country should have more intellectual skills than playground taunts.
  2. He doesn’t seem to have any actual ideas of his own.  “We need change” pretty much sums up what I understand of his platform.  Well, people ALWAYS need change, because people aren’t perfect.  Which means countries aren’t perfect.  So I don’t understand how he’s supposed to be so innovative – people have needed change since Adam.  And if I don’t like my life, NO president or politician is going to make my life better – that’s my responsibility.  Regardless of who is in the White House, and regardless of what party they are from, my life is MY life.
  3. In the same vein, he appears to be of the opinion that the government exists to fix everyone’s problems.  And yes, our government was created to “promote the general welfare,” but it is not a babysitter or a mother.  It is not the government’s job to clean up the mess you make of your own life.  That’s your job.  If you make bad choices, you get a crappy life.  If you make good decisions, you will end up with a good life.  The government’s job is to make sure that things keep happening that way (shoot a person, go to prison; conduct your business in a law-abiding and wise manner, make a profit).  That is how America works.  Our government is not here to remove the consequences of your poor decisions, and I certainly don’t want our country’s leader thinking that it is.
  4. He rejected a bill to protect infants born alive after failed abortions.  It’s called the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.  Basically it just says that if the fetus emerges alive, the doctor should not deny medical attention.  While it is fairly rare for this to happen, currently the doctor discards the “results” of the abortion as unwanted tissue.  Obama cited mother’s health concerns as his reason for voting against it not once, but twice.  Unless a baby is born with a machete in hand, I fail to see how his/her existence is a threat to the mother.  I, for example, am not a threat to a pregnant mother, because I am existing outside her body.  For me, this raises concerns about his morality as well as his intelligence.
  5. Except for voting against said bill, it doesn’t seem like he’s really accomplished much in his political career – except an impressive amount of mockery.  There’s not really a job that can prepare someone to be President, except being President, but I think I’d like to have someone that has some sort of clue what they’re doing in leading a huge body of people.
  6. He is inconsistent.  In scathing terms he mocks the war, but he would like to increase foreign aid spending $845 billion over current spending.  Apparently he does not approve of liberating a nation from a cruel dictatorship, helping said nation set up a non-tyrannical form of government, or granting basic human rights to women.  I guess that doesn’t count as “aid” to him.  And while “the situation in Darfur/Kenya/elsewhere in Africa” really is horrible, I’m curious how he plans to deal in a peaceful manner with the militant rebels who are causing a lot of the problems.  Maybe I’m naive, but militant rebels don’t really seem the type to sit down for some heart-to-heart negotiation.
  7. He’s a liar.  I realize he’s a politician, so that should go without saying.  But he claims to be a different kind of politician, and he’s not.  At all.  His campaign tactics represent everything most people claim to hate about politics: mud-slinging, name calling, pointing fingers.  On top of that, in February and March of this year alone, he raised $95 million for campaigning ($55 million in February and $40 million in March) while claiming to be all concerned about “the little guy.”  a) Bill Gates and Oprah, the richest man & woman in America, are ardent Obama supporters and generously support him financially.  Neither one counts as “the little guy.”  And if you think after all their support he’s not going to be doing some favors to big guys if he gets in office, you have some strong rose tints on your glasses.  b) $95 million could go a very long way in dealing with poverty in America, or health care for the poor, or any of the other issues he claims to be so concerned about.  Yet he is spending this money on commercial air time, hotel stays, transportation, etc.  For me, his extravagance in campaigning raises concerns about how well he could handle a national budget as well as reveals that his true concern is himself, not any “little guy.”

There’s a host of other reasons I find Obama distasteful, but I think these sum up my concerns about him as a person.  And our nation’s leader, after all, is a person before they are a leader.  Character matters, and I just don’t think Obama has it.