Category Archives: The State of Affairs

Ramblings on Refugees

I’m challenged by the Syrian refugee issue. I don’t know the right answer. On one hand, I feel compassionate to people who live in a horrible place, made that way by war. I don’t believe people deserve to live that way and I don’t believe the majority of them have the power or capacity to change their country/region. As a human and a person of faith, I am called to help, to be compassionate and caring.

On the other hand, as a thinking person living in a free country with a culture vastly different from where this war is taking place, I feel cautious. We have seen many examples of the hate manifested in attacks on innocent people. People who did nothing to deserve it. I feel the need to protect my family, my home and my way of life. I think that’s fair on my part.

How then do I reconcile the two? How does one show compassion for hurting people and at the same time provide safety and security for their own family? I really would like to hear how others have resolved this conflict personally.

My thoughts – First, I think you have to identify if it’s a real threat. Is it the kind of “perceived threat” we feel when we see someone who looks different from us? Or the real threat of someone who likely intends to do harm? I think in this case it’s both. There are desperate people who need help. They need the basics of food, shelter and safety. And among them there are people who are evil. People who will use our compassion against us. People who will give up their own lives to hurt us. Both are real.

It seems this issue is like every other; there are only extremes. My feed is filled with calls to reject all refugees or risk death, to close the borders quickly. And with claims of willingness to open their own homes to refugees, to let them all come. Either you believe the refugees are a threat which makes you a heartless, cruel Christian who picks and chooses when to follow your faith. Or you think we should open the doors wide and welcome everyone in which makes you naïve and willing to risk the freedoms our forefathers fought to gain. People who are against bringing refugees to this country forget what our ancestors went through to get here. People willing to bring refugees to this country forget the danger and evil that exist in the world. There is no in between.

Is bringing refugees to our home, our country the only way to help them? Is there another solution that is somewhere in between? It seems like if we take a breath, step back a moment, we can come up with a solution that cares for those in need and maintains some level of security for this country. (Ya, I know, I’m living in a fantasy world to think anywhere is safe!) At the very least is there a place for conversation without name calling? Is there a place for an intelligent, thoughtful conversation without resorting to hyperbole and extremism? Can we articulate our ideas and opinions with our own words rather than an exaggerated meme? Is it possible to hear someone else’s thoughts and opinions and validate their concerns? Is it so risky to acknowledge that you can understand where someone else is coming from? Or must we shut down and label those who might see the world differently? Is there a place for a real conversation?

I don’t know if that exists anymore.

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Filed under Faith, Intention, Legacy, The State of Affairs

Time to Speak Up

I was at the Kansas Capital on Monday advocating for individuals with MS. I was there with others who care about issues that impact those living with a chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis. There were lots of appointments scheduled with Senators and Representatives. I knew the “religious freedom” bill was up for discussion that day, but honestly didn’t think much of it. However as the program portion of the day wrapped up and we got ready to make visits, we received word that many of them would be cancelled because the House was still in session discussing the “religious freedom” bill.

I have a twitter account, but I don’t tweet. And honestly, I only use it to check up on my kids. But someone more hip than me showed me how to follow the action in the house on twitter. I was truly riveted to the feed. It was shocking to hear the 140 character descriptions of what was happening. {As an aside, I think we just figured out why I don’t tweet…140 characters?} Just as I was considering going into the gallery to hear the discussion live, I saw they had voted. And it passed.

I will be the first to admit, I don’t totally understand our legislative process. And yes, I’m embarrassed that I don’t know exactly how things work. It has kept me from speaking out when I probably should have. I like to know the facts, know and understand what I’m talking about before I run my mouth. Not completely understanding the process or the legal verbiage used in bills keeps me from talking. I know enough to know, that I don’t know a lot.

But what I did realize, is that I do know enough to have an opinion. I probably understand the issues as well as the next guy. Maybe better on some topics and undoubtedly less so on others. I also realized from participating in advocacy days…our Senators and Representatives are just like me and the next guy. They know enough to be dangerous on some topics too.

In the interest of not sounding like a fool when I express my opinion, I try to be a diligent consumer of information. I watch sources; look at who wrote a piece, where it came from, how well it is cited. Essentially is it worth reading? I try to go to the source. I have read more bills lately than I ever imagined I would, in the interest of knowing what I’m talking about. {I tried but didn’t make it through the Affordable Care Act, but then neither did those who passed it:)!} I try. I try to understand where they were coming from and more importantly, what injustice or wrong is being corrected. What travesty avoided, what problem solved by any legislation that comes to my attention.

So when I read this bill had passed the House, I felt the need to read the text for myself. Now I’m not a lawyer, but what I read is concerning at best. Down right frightening the longer I sit with it. By my read, in my understanding of English, it sounds to me like this bill gives every person the right, based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs” to not only refuse to serve someone, but refuse to recognize them in very basic ways. And then it goes further to say that the individual being refused does not have the right to claim they have been discriminated against. Huh?

Let’s play that out a little bit. So my “sincerely held religious beliefs” call me to polygamy. I believe with all my heart this is the way God intended us to live. I also happen to be the clerk in the county office that issues marriage licenses. I have the right to refuse to issue a license to someone who is choosing a monogamous marriage. The idea of marrying just one person goes against the way I was raised, the faith I follow and my personal beliefs so I will not issue a marriage license to someone who believes differently than me. And don’t think you can sue me for this, because this law makes it perfectly acceptable for me to refuse to serve you. It even adds adoption, foster care, social services and employment to the mix. And I cannot be fired for refusing to do my job.

Sit with that for a moment.

Government employees, private businesses, big corporations, small mom & pop shops. They all have the right to refuse to serve someone who goes against their “sincerely held religious beliefs”. Every employee of every agency, business or organization. That’s a lot of sincerely held religious beliefs.

Certainly there must be a horrible injustice being corrected by this legislation. Well…So if…Maybe…Nope, I got nothing. I cannot figure out the problem. I can’t figure out the horrible oppression religious people in our state are experiencing to precipitate this law. I don’t get it.

It doesn’t pass muster.

The reality is, it is a thinly veiled attempt to take a preemptive strike against the inevitable ruling of the Supreme Court rendering gay marriage bans unconstitutional. It is a blatant attempt to single out a group of Kansans as less than. Less worthy of the pursuit of happiness we are all promised by our Declaration of Independence. It is glaring discrimination! Yet they have said it is not and just in case you don’t believe them, they will prove it by declaring you cannot claim it is. This legislation is dangerous. I don’t care where you stand on gay marriage, homosexuality or polygamy for that matter, this is scary legislation. And it is a giant leap back in time to a day when it was normal to fear those who are different from us. A time when our world views were so narrow, we would rather hate than learn about someone else.

On our vacation last spring break we drove through Montgomery, Alabama. We made a quick stop at the Greyhound bus station to read about the Freedom rides. One of the things that struck me as I stood there was how certain the whites were that they were doing the right thing. And how easy it was today to see how wrong they were.

If you live in Kansas, please get involved in the legislative process. Make your opinions known to your Senator and our Governor before it’s too late. This link will take you to the bill so you can read it for yourself. Go to openkansas.org to find your legislators.

If you don’t live in Kansas, please know that many of us are feeling like our state has been hijacked by a few with beliefs that I simply can’t understand; a real fear of those they don’t know. I am a conservative Christian and these people do not speak for me.

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Filed under Faith, Intention, The State of Affairs

Please Stop!

The posts about the arrogant, narcissistic, plastic, CEO and his clothing company need to end.

I agree, the brand is crap and he appears to be an amoral person. However, in the last week he has gained more media exposure than anyone could buy. I can’t imagine the number of mentions that company has had on social media – priceless. (And I have to wonder if this whole thing isn’t the brainchild of a media firm.) Yes, most of us consider the press to be negative, but buzz is buzz. And there are people who aren’t turned off by an elitist brand. You remember them from high school. Those who lived to be seen with the right people in the right clothes. They don’t change when they grow up. And often they raise their kids to be just like them. Not judging or knocking them, just telling it like it is. This media storm has just solidified the brand.

I know there is a movement to “change the brand.” But, stop for a minute and think about the message behind that approach. So to change the image from the “beautiful people” lets find the opposite to wear his clothing. Yeah, lets find some really unattractive people! I know, let’s go to Skid Row and give them the clothes! That’ll show ‘em!

Really? So just because someone is down on their luck, desperate, we can use them to make our point? Like our dog we put a costume on at Halloween; despite the humiliation? Are we really OK with that? Do we want to say to an entire group of people, “Hey you’re the opposite of beautiful. Here’s a free shirt, wear it so we can make a point.”?

I’m not OK with that.

How about, we just stop talking about him?

Stop mentioning this company?

Stop buying the clothes.

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Filed under Intention, Randomness, The State of Affairs

Shop Intentionally

There is a lot of buzz lately about shopping locally. People are getting passionate about supporting locally owned and operated businesses; run by people they know. I love the idea of supporting entrepreneurs! I think knowing the person you buy products from, the people you do business with is so much more comforting. It feels good and right.

But I have a couple of issues with the way this is sometimes portrayed and the lengths it is taken to. Here’s why.

First, nationally or regionally owned businesses do employ your neighbor! The ad touting that when you buy local you are helping pay for a kids music lessons or buy their soccer uniform. True. And that’s good. But guess what? When you buy from a national conglomerate you are doing the same thing. The people who work in that store depend on their wages and often profit-sharing to pay for their kid’s school supplies, baseball fees and their own retirement! Gosh, when you buy bread from the regional grocery chain, you are helping me pay my son’s college tuition! When those sales go away, so do staff. When sales are down, so is my husband’s profit-sharing. That hits a little close to home for me.

Second, many national chains are franchised meaning the local store is owned and operated by your neighbor. This is especially true in the food industry. By eating at the national pizza chain you are paying for a kid’s braces! Our world is much smaller and more connected than this movement reflects. I heard an ad on the radio encouraging people to buy their car at the dealership that is locally owned so your money stays right here in your community. Well duh! The wages for the sales people, the support staff, the mechanics all stay local. But if you really want to be local, you better only buy a car manufactured in your community or the money is leaving!

Just to be clear, I love the idea of supporting great businesses! I like promoting good behavior with my dollars. I would like to propose a different spin to the Shop Local movement though. How about we encourage others to shop intentionally. Know the business you buy from and what kind of corporate citizen they are. Know what they do to support the community and their employees. Learn about their environmental practices, their manufacturing sources, their employee benefits. Yes, it’s more work. Sounds like a first world problem to me.

Take the time to get to know the companies you patronize. Learn where they stand and make choices about how to spend your dollar. Make an impact in your community and our small, interconnected world by how you spend your dollars. That’s a powerful way to make a difference every single day.

And that’s a movement I can get behind!

Shop Intentionally!

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Filed under Advice, Lifestyle, The State of Affairs

The Morning After

The election is over. There is a victor. I voted for the Romney/Ryan ticket on the presidential ballot because I believe that is what our country needed. And today I am deeply disappointed. That’s how it is in every election. There will be winners and losers, those who are relieved and those who are sick to their stomach. That is nothing new. But in the day of social media it is all played out in real-time. People type before thinking and hide behind the anonymity of the internet.

Platitudes and flowery pleas to all come together abound. It is the morning after the election and it seems I am supposed to set aside my convictions, forget my concerns and rally behind the winner. It’s done and it’s time to move on. Trust the process and support the results win or lose. 

But I don’t think that’s how it really works. I do trust our electoral process, that doesn’t mean I always agree with the outcome. And honestly, to tell me to move on feels like a condescending pat on the head. As though I should suddenly set aside my beliefs and get onboard the train. Like the opinions that informed my vote are no longer important. I think it is appropriate to take some time and give some space to those who don’t agree with the decision the country made.

The reality is our country is extremely divided. An election won by a 2% margin {looking at the popular vote} is by no means a mandate. That means it will take a great deal of effort to be the president of both halves of the country. Half of the people in this country have real and valid concerns about where we have been and where we are headed. That needs to be acknowledged and validated. There is much progress to be made in serving all of the country.

In the interest of moving forward, I will do my best to calm the knot of worry in my stomach and support the man who our country elected president. But can I have a minute please? And I will do my best to forget the frustration and disappointment I have felt at the way things have gone for the last four years, to start fresh with an open mind and a clean slate. That won’t be easy.

But I do ask for something of our President in return.

I ask that our president serve all of the country, not just those who voted for him. That he listen to the concerns of all of the country and try to understand and serve those who think differently than he does. I ask that he work for all of us.

I hope our president will be mindful of the fact that, like many before him, he did not win the hearts of the vast majority of this country. And I hope that he will work tirelessly to earn the trust and respect of those who did not vote for him. That he will work to unite our country; rather than divide. Only when the president is able to find intersections of agreement and build consensus will he truly move our country forward.

Our president now has the freedom to move forward any agenda he desires without concerns of re-election. I hope that he will take seriously his responsibility to all the people of this country and make it his legacy to unite our country. Truly listen with humility and an open mind to those who believe differently. Seek common ground, intersections in beliefs and universal passions. Desire earnestly to unite our country through compromise and collaboration.

If our president can do that, he will earn my trust and respect.

Maybe we the people, through our ever-present social media can set that example. Maybe we can seek to understand before being understood. Seek points of agreement to build upon. Do you think we could show each other the same respect online that we would when talking in person? Maybe we could give each other some space and time to adjust. Could we respect each other’s opinions and beliefs without discarding our own? Now that would be real progress.

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Filed under The State of Affairs

What I Don’t Get About the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Like most Americans, a lot has been running through my mind since the Supreme Court ruling was released yesterday. Wherever you stand on the issue, yesterday was no doubt a historical day. That fact is not lost on Americans. As with so many other monumental days in our history, people are divided. What feels different to me in my short lifetime of experiences, is the level of dissention and the inability to be civil. The horrible language, name calling, and hatred that appears in the comment section of any blog post or news story (and sometimes it’s quite hard to tell the difference) is astounding. It seems when people get online they lose every ounce of composure. It’s really rather frightening to see how out of control people can get.

As I watched and listened to the coverage unfold I wondered what would happen if each person tried to say something in support of the opposing side. What if everyone against the PPACA could say one thing they like about it and those for it could say one thing they don’t like about it? What would happen? I think we would find some common ground. I don’t think half the country wants us to be socialists and the other half wants people who can’t afford health care to die. If you believe an eighth of the rhetoric out there, you would have to think this is true. It is never that simple. I think the reality is, there have been no civil conversations in the public arena about the pros and cons of the law. Only rhetoric and party lines tossed about with no willingness to discuss the meat.

I have questions about it. Things that concern me; things I don’t think will work. I have tried to seek out the answers and there don’t seem to be any. At least not any from sources I trust. Maybe that’s the key, no one has earned my trust by being willing to discuss the good and the bad. I thought today I would put my questions out here and see if there is anyone who can dialogue with me about them. Anyone who understands the ramifications of the law and how things will play out, who is willing to have an honest, respectful conversation. So here goes.

Personal responsibility

I believe there are two kinds of people who don’t have health insurance. Those who can’t qualify or afford it and those who, for whatever reason, choose not to have it. My question is around the second half. There are plenty of Americans who think they won’t get sick. “That won’t happen to me.” They are healthy and don’t choose to spend their money transferring that risk to an insurance company. Or they are lazy and simply don’t want to be bothered. I refer to that as personal responsibility and people have the choice whether to take it or not. Those who don’t are fine with letting someone else fix their mess. It is not unlike those who buy a house they cannot afford and then want to be bailed out rather than lose the house. Some people choose not to be responsible for themselves and allow others to carry that burden when it does “happen to” them. But how do we legislate them in to taking personal responsibility? Because if we can, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Will we pass legislation to mandate all forms of personal responsibility? And who will be the judge of what is responsible? Will there be a limit on the size of house I can buy? Will I be mandated to drive a certain car to avoid over extending my self? I get that this sounds foolish, but I believe you have to carry this kind of concept through to the extreme to see where it could go “in the wrong hands”, where could it lead, what precedent have we set? I feel like this becomes a slippery slope. I fully understand there is a cost associated with others not taking responsibility and one of the goals of the PPACA was to alleviate that burden on others. But can we really do that? And how else will we legislate responsiblity?

Insurance is a way to transfer risk

The entire premise of insurance is that I will give you money (premiums) in exchange for you agreeing to pay if/when I need medical care. It is a business. Thousands, probably millions of people are employed in some way by the insurance industry. It is not an evil entity; it is an industry full of Moms, Dads, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles working to support their family. It is businesses that are invested in by millions more Americans. My retirement portfolio is probably invested in insurance to one degree or another. That means if insurance companies don’t make a profit, my retirement savings doesn’t grow. I am counting on the money I invest in my retirement growing and compounding over the next 30 years until I retire. {It goes back to that personal responsibility thing – I don’t choose to rely on Social Security to take care of me in my retirement years, I’m planning ahead to take care of my self.} Thank goodness there are companies who are willing to take on the risk of my health so I don’t have to. Thank goodness for the insurance industry that employs millions. Sorry there isn’t a question there, I just needed to make that point.

Pre-existing conditions

Hallelujah that someone with a pre-existing condition can change jobs or choose to stay home to raise their children without the fear of losing insurance driving all their decisions. I think this gives people freedom. And I love that! There shouldn’t be a life sentence because you, or someone you love,  happened to draw the short straw in the health department. What I don’t understand is how people believe this will not raise the cost of health insurance for all. The idea behind insurance is the gamble of estimating what an insurer will have to pay out for any individual over the course of the policy. The premiums are based on those best guesses. If I know ahead of time that your illness will cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, over your lifetime, would I not have to charge more? What kind of business model would not cover that?

Level premiums for all

It’s a nice idea to think that no one should be charged more for their insurance. But this goes back to the idea that insurance is a business and as such must have a model that makes a profit. If not they won’t be a business for long. Why is it not ok to charge different premiums for different levels of risk? As a woman, there are some health issues I have the potential to face that men do not. That’s reality. So why would it be wrong to charge more for my coverage; the person with a higher risk. If that is the precedent, I’d like to have a reduction in my car insurance premiums since I pay more having teen boy drivers. I call not fair! When did the “right” thing become synonymous with “everyone is equal”? I think this is the part that makes people cry socialist. When the standard is set that the expectation is all are equal. Then all jobs should pay equal, then socialism. Do you see why people would be concerned by that? Can we acknowledge and talk about that?

Elimination of lifetime caps

This is another piece that is incredibly important for those with chronic disease. Often the annual or lifetime limits can leave them capped out in their 40s with no options. That is a scary place to be and offering the security of no caps is incredible! What I don’t trust is the sustainability of the plan. I think of it like Social Security that seemed like a great solution, until the numbers drawing out surpassed the numbers paying in. It isn’t a sustainable model. With people living longer is this sustainable? I would love to know that it is.

Spreading the burden

There has been much talk about the penalty (now redefined by the Supreme Court as a tax) that anyone without health insurance will have to pay. I understand that all Americans who don’t purchase insurance on their own will pay this fee of 1% -2.5% of their income. I believe the idea here is to help cover the costs which we currently all absorb in the form of higher health care costs when someone goes into the emergency room without insurance. So will the individuals without insurance, who have paid their penalty/tax be treated? How will this begin to cover the costs. {For example a young 20 something making $40,000 a year doing factory work doesn’t think he needs insurance. He chooses to pay the fine of 2.5% of his income. That’s $1000. He has an appendicitis attack, goes to the emergency room and ends up having surgery. I don’t know what that would cost, but I do know it would be more than the $1000 penalty/tax he paid.} Those who don’t want to pay this penalty/tax will get out of it just like the deadbeat parents who get by without paying child support, by hiding assets, working for cash, etc. How will this be different? How will this ultimately bring down the cost of healthcare? And will it disincentivise businesses to provide health care to their employees? If the penalty is less than the cost of insurance premiums will employers simply decide not to mess with offering insurance coverage to their employees?

There is good in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There are things in this legislation that will be positive, especially for people with chronic illness. There is also a great deal of ambiguity in this legislation. There are lots of things that set a precedent for a direction that I’m not sure the American public has determined should be our future direction. There are so many questions unanswered. Could we just have a dialogue about the law? A civil, respectful, honest conversation?

Readers,
This blog is my little corner of the world-wide web. The ideas and opinions posted here are mine and mine alone. I don’t purport to speak for anyone else or promote anyone’s agenda. The comments section is a place for me to dialogue with my readers and I hope we will have some good conversation. As my little corner of the web, I get to choose the rules – kind of like being the Mom. I choose to have this be a positive, respectful, thoughtful place. Comments that do not fit that criteria will be removed. {Please note, the first time you comment on my blog I have to approve your comment. Subsequent comments will appear immediately.} I would challenge you to do as I said at the beginning of this post and say something that reflects an understanding of the other side of the debate. Show that we can disagree, but we can also find points of agreement. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back again – my posts are rarely this heavy:)!
Judy

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Filed under Health, The State of Affairs

Moral Compass

I saw a post on Facebook recently with a speech attributed to Ben Stein. I don’t know for sure that he actually said it all – the end had all the markings of a chain email. But I did appreciate the point being made. I struggle with the way religion, and specifically Christianity, is being pushed out. There has been a continuous progression in my lifetime to “separate church and state”, but somewhere along the way this has been translated to “remove all signs of Christianity from our society.” I understood the intention of the separation of church and state to be prohibiting us from mandating one state religion; that it cannot be proclaimed that all Americans must be Christians. And thank goodness for that! When we mandate what people must believe we become something so drastically different, something I don’t want to be a part of. But I don’t believe it is intended to mean that people may not express their own faith in public. That we must cleanse our society of all signs of Christianity. Is that not mandating atheism? How different is it to force one religion or banish religious practice?

Being “politically correct” which is code for appeasing the most sensitive individuals ensuring no one is ever made to feel slightly uncomfortable has become the norm. We as a society have stepped aside and let a small minority dictate what is offensive, what could be misinterpreted. We have watched as things like the Father Son Cake Bake become the Manly Cake Bake to insure that no child feels uncomfortable that they don’t have a father or their father is not a part of their life. The intent may be good, I certainly don’t want a child feeling ostracized because of the choices his parents made. But is this not diminishing the role of fathers in a boy’s life? Does it not minimize the importance of having a father if we are always careful to note that not everyone has one? When we work so hard to make those without a father feel “normal” and minimize the deficit this causes in their life, are we not minimizing the importance of all fathers?

Likewise, when we remove the standard by which we judge right and wrong, our moral compass, should we not be prepared for a new sense of right and wrong? I grew up with the Ten Commandments as that compass. That along with the whole of the Bible is what I base my morality upon. If those tenants become unacceptable in our society what replaces them. Look at the laws of our country and how closely they mirror the Ten Commandments. No killing, no stealing, and no lying are the first that come to mind. If not for the religious basis, then why do we have these rules? Why not  just say  anything goes? Why not let each person judge what is a fair way to be treated?

I fear that as a society we have lost our moral compass. Or possibly we have changed our true north – that by which we set our compass. I would argue our culture’s true north has been moved to our own centers. It has become about what will make me feel good, not cause me stress or angst. The goal has become to not make anyone uncomfortable, to make everything OK. In our haste to not offend, we lose sight of the fact that there truly is right and wrong. There are things that are not negotiable. And sometimes life is hard and unfair. There will be times when we screw up and we have to answer for our actions, we cannot make the pain go away by changing the rules. We make the pain go away by pushing through it, by learning from our mistakes, repenting for our wrongs, asking forgiveness of those we have hurt and doing better. When we work so hard to protect others from discomfort, we also shelter them from the opportunity to grow and learn and do better.

Where does our future lie as a people? At what point will we begin to take personal responsibility for our actions? When will we realize that in trying to make everything OK, nothing matters? When we let go of what matters only chaos remains.

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Filed under The State of Affairs