Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thoughts on Sir Isaac's Laws

Science has always fascinated me. Unfortunately, I wasn't smart enough to pursue a degree in Chemistry or Physics. I did end up with a minor in Biology, and my favorite times as a teacher always revolved around 5th grade Science classes. 5th grade allows us one of our last opportunities to keep things simple. Break things down, make them easier to comprehend.

I often wish I could turn off the thoughts in my mind. I practice every day. Some times I succeed, other times not so much. Veterans Day coming on the heels of the Ft. Hood tragedy has kept my mind busy. Yesterday, Sir Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motion came to mind. Ok, maybe not so much the 2nd law (because come on now, that 2nd one is not so easily simplified) but definitely numbers 1 and 3. Newton's first and third Laws of Motion are relatively easy to break down and comprehend. I'm guessing he probably didn't intend for his Laws of Motion to mill around in the mind of a woman who thinks too much. But, that's exactly what happened.

Newton's First Law:
A body persists in a state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force.
I have sincere hope the events at Ft. Hood will serve as a force that changes the state of rest and uniform motion currently found within our country. As things are now, FBI officials conducting background checks for firearms are banned (by federal law) from sharing information about gun purchases with other departments...departments such as those dedicated to counteract terrorism. What?!? That's a problem.

In addition, the Army's uniform motion is most often a textbook case of "damned if you do, and damned if you don't". There were signs, clear signs, that the perpetrator was a threat. Complaints against this man were made by patients, parents of patients, and co-workers. He was simply waiting for opportunity to inflict his poison.

The Army would've been "damned because they did". Had the Army vigorously addressed the complaints, and taken action, what would your reaction have been? Chances are if you've laid blame for this merciless attack at the feet of the Army, you would've been just as quick to attack them for being anti-Muslim had they more assertively addressed the concerns. Thank you PC Police of the world. Apparently you've effectively tied the hands of many Army officials. Because of your tireless efforts, my husband and millions of others are now less safe. Because of you, one man was allowed to inflict his extremist wrath on innocent individuals...not only those who were physically harmed, but also their children, families, and an entire community. An extremist, a man who did not practice the religion he claimed but rather his twisted view of it, walked among us because the Army feared condemnation and accusations of prejudice. Thank you so much, PC Police of the world, for your compassion and concern.

The Army is now being "damned because they didn't" by many people. Let me be crystal clear: I fully believe something should have been done to prevent this. I am sick that such vile behavior was flaunted. And even with that flaunting, the behavior was shoved under the rug. But I will never "damn" anyone or anything. And, if the Army had taken action against this man, I certainly wouldn't have condemned them for being anti-Muslim, or anti anything for that matter. I would've been thankful for their courage in taking a stand against those whose only purpose in life is to destroy us, to frighten and do harm. The Army can no longer allow fear of "anti" labels to get in the way of protecting innocent soldiers and civilian employees.

I have a sincere, snark-free question: Why do we refuse holding individuals accountable for their actions...when those actions are monumental, horrific and in relation to this country? No, for some reason we choose to blame those type actions on everyone but the perpetrator. It baffles me because I (thankfully) don't see this level of acceptance and lack of accountability when acts of horror are exacted upon abused children or battered women. We want accountability for those actions, and rightfully so. But I have to wonder, what exactly do you think the children, wives, loved ones, and friends of the Ft. Hood victims feel? I'm guessing abused and battered might make the list.

We don't mind assigning blame when the actions of others are far less destructive. Someone cuts you off in traffic...your blood boils. A co-worker annoys're angered by the behavior. A well-meaning stranger, a family member or friend uses the wrong words when you are facing pain and're infuriated, you want to tell them how stupid and insensitive they are. Why are we so quick to think and feel the worst about decent people who cross our paths, our family members, and friends when they make mistakes? Or when they innocently choose the wrong words because they honestly have no idea what to say. We aren't too concerned with hurting the feelings of those we perceive have mistreated us. Too often we rush to put them in their place, or maybe we bitterly sulk, basking in our aggravation and anger.

But, an act of terror? We move around it, as if not calling it out somehow makes it nonexistent. It doesn't matter if you want to call it out or not, it happened. Terror? Oh no, we can't call it what it is. We might hurt someone's feelings. Frankly, I'm far more concerned with the hurt feelings of those who are suffering. Did the actions at Ft. Hood cause intense fear and anxiety? Because that's the definition of terror. How do you think 21 year old Francheska Velez felt in those moments? She had just recently returned from Iraq. She was pregnant, and her unborn child isn't even included in the number of casualties. Do not tell me the act at Ft. Hood was not one of terror. What must she have been feeling, this young woman carrying her child, during those moments? How about taking a little more time to consider people like Francheska, and her child?

Newton's Third Law:
To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The tragedy of Ft. Hood triggered an opposite reaction. In place of the cowardice shown by one man, we have seen the bravery and courage of countless others. In place of brutality and terror, we see expressions of sincere kindness and love.

Yesterday, all over this country, we stood together. People of every make and model, every religion, and people from all walks of life. We stood together, honoring those who have served and those who serve today. We sent a message to people like the Ft. Hood perpetrator. No matter the horror that you spread, we will be there with an opposite reaction. Count on it. And, our reaction will be just as merciful as your action was hateful. Our reaction will be just as peaceful as your action was violent. I felt blessed as I stood in a gymnasium packed with middle schoolers, teachers, Veterans, and their family members. There was a moment of silence offered for the community of Ft. Hood. I admit, given this was a middle school program, I was brought to tears as I looked at the faces of the children in that gym. They were so respectful, so full of sincerity. And, you could have heard a pin drop...literally. This behavior was displayed by the students throughout the entire hour long program. There is so much injustice, so much we can find wrong in this world. But, there is even more that is just, much more that is good. I was surrounded by goodness yesterday. I felt a renewed sense of hope.

I was especially touched by a father (a Vietnam veteran) and son (a veteran of the Iraq war) in attendance. The father spoke of his service during the Vietnam War. He said he rarely revisits that war, neither in his mind nor with his words. There is too much pain. The only story he told was of returning home, and his first stop was a California airport. He had to change out of his uniform before walking through the airport because of protesters waiting to cause pain and malign the service members. He told us his pain was finally healed as he watched our country's treatment of his son, and other soldiers. An equal and opposite reaction. As poorly as he was treated, the countless backs that turned on him...his son has received that much, if not more, support. He expressed gratitude that "our country has turned around on that one." I couldn't agree more.

External forces acting and, in doing so, bringing about change. Actions resulting in equal and opposite reactions. Sir Isaac's Laws of Motion are present, both inside and outside the science classroom.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today, and every day, I remember. My sincere gratitude is extended to those who have sacrificed so much, expecting so little in return. Thank you!

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, "Mother, what was war?"
Eve Merriam

Their life's work is our security and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- that is their legacy.
President Obama speaking at Ft. Hood Memorial Service

I remember. Always.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Heavy Heart

Today my thoughts and prayers remain with the families, friends, and loved ones of 13 who lost their lives and 30 wounded at the hands of calculated and deliberate violence. My heart goes out to the entire Ft. Hood community. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and respect for all those who responded quickly, without hesitation or thought for self, in the midst of such horror. Those responses most certainly kept the violence from becoming more widespread. I am in awe of unarmed soldiers who bravely took action, and in doing so saved many lives. Today I have a heavy heart. I am praying for the children who live in the Ft. Hood community. The children whose innocence has been wantonly stolen with vicious anger and cruelty. I pray all those facing this tragedy may somehow feel lifted, loved, and comforted.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Confessions on a Sunday

Last week in Target, I needed was obvious. Nothing major, I had simply misplaced my car keys. Two women walked past, looked at me, then turned away...pretending not to notice. It wasn't a big deal. I understand people are busy, and it was just car keys. I was appreciative when a lovely young lady walked up and asked if she could help. She was tattooed up one arm, down the other, and everywhere in between. She had streaks of bright green all throughout her jet black hair. Oh, and she had a nose ring too. As the young lady walked away, Princie said, "Mommy, she is so beautiful."
"Yes," I replied, "she certainly is so beautiful."

I know there are people who would snub the beautiful young lady who saved my day. There are those who would criticize me for encouraging Princie's opinion that this stranger was beautiful. You wonder what I'm teaching my daughter, how I'll feel if she's 17 and gets a tattoo. You think I should have responded to Princie's remark with something along the lines of: "Well yes dear, her helping us was beautiful, but she certainly wasn't dressed appropriately, and you know we shouldn't have tattoos. She acted beautifully, but we don't like those piercings." I confess. If you are one of those people, I judge you. You irritate me. I may even like or love you tons, but you irritate me. Yes, I clearly understand where our church stands. I also understand that most importantly, we are not to recognize a tattoo or nose ring. First and foremost, we are to recognize that the worth of souls is great.

I confess. I judge judgemental people. I'm highly critical of people who criticize others. I'm unbelievably aggravated by people who feel they are superior because of their religion or spirituality. I'm beyond annoyed by those who are so caught up in the letter of the law, they miss the boat completely when it comes to following the spirit of the law. And, I feel kinda bad about it. I'm going to work on this issue of mine. Because my behavior isn't helpful. And as I mentioned to a friend, I don't want to simply "tolerate" people. I want to find commonalities. I want to love those who are hard for me to love...the judgemental, holier-than-thou, critical, self-righteous...they are hard for me to love, but I desire to love them and I should. I want to fulfill God-given responsibilities that were placed upon me many years ago...that I "shall
not look upon the faults of mankind nor judge anyone", and that I "shall see in fellow beings that which is beautiful and pure".

Now don't get too excited. No matter what I do, or how hard I try, the snark can not be removed from me. Seriously, a girl can only handle so much. And there are times when OH. MY. GOSH., a person had better take a stand! But, the following article reminded me that I want no part in the rampant decline of civility in our societies.
(I must admit I was thrilled to see that "rigorous debate" gets a green long as it remains "rancor" free.)

SALT LAKE CITY 16 October 2009
The political world is astir. Economies are faltering. Public trust is waning. Individuals feel vulnerable. And social cohesion wears thin. Meanwhile, stories of rage and agitation fill our airwaves, streets and town halls. Where are the voices of balance and moderation in these extreme times? During a recent address given in an interfaith setting, Church President Thomas S. Monson declared: "When a spirit of goodwill prompts our thinking and when united effort goes to work on a common problem, the results can be most gratifying." Further, former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley once said that living “together in communities with respect and concern one for another” is “the hallmark of civilization.” That hallmark is under increasing threat.

So many of the habits and conventions of modern culture — ubiquitous media, anonymous and unsourced online participation, politicization of the routine, fractured community and family life — undermine the virtues and manners that make peaceful coexistence in a pluralist society possible.
The fabric of civil society tears when stretched thin by its extremities. Civility, then, becomes the measure of our collective and individual character as citizens of a democracy.

A healthy democracy maintains equilibrium through diverse means, including a patchwork of competing interests and an effective system of governmental checks. Nevertheless, this order ultimately relies on the integrity of the people. Speaking at general conference, a semiannual worldwide gathering of the Church, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asserted: “In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay.” Likewise, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton emphasized that the virtues of fidelity, charity, generosity, humility and responsibility “form the foundation of a Christian life and are the outward manifestation of the inner man.” Thus, moral virtues blend into civic virtues. The seriousness of our common challenges calls for an equally serious engagement with reasonable ideas and solutions.
What we need is rigorous debate, not rancorous altercations.

Civility is not only a matter of discourse. It is primarily a mode of engagement.
The technological interconnectedness of society has made isolation impossible. Of all the institutions in the modern world, religion has had perhaps the greatest difficulty adjusting to the reality of give and take with the public. Today, and throughout its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continuously encounters the legitimate interests of various stakeholders in its interaction with the public. Rather than exempting itself from the rules of law and civility, the Church has sought the path of cooperative engagement and avoided the perils of acrimonious confrontation.

Echoing this mode of civil engagement, President Monson declared: “As a church we reach out not only to our own people but also to those people of goodwill throughout the world in that spirit of brotherhood which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Speaking of civility on a personal level, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught Latter-day Saints how to respond to criticism: “Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But, to ‘love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]’ (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.”

The moral basis of civility is the Golden Rule, taught by a broad range of cultures and individuals, perhaps most popularly by Jesus Christ: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). This ethic of reciprocity reminds us all of our responsibility toward one another and reinforces the communal nature of human life.

Similarly, the Book of Mormon tells a sober story of civilizational decline in which various peoples repeat the cycle of prosperity, pride and fall. In almost every case, the seeds of decay begin with the violation of the simple rules of civility. Cooperation, humility and empathy gradually give way to contention, strife and malice.

The need for civility is perhaps most relevant in the realm of partisan politics. As the Church operates in countries around the world, it embraces the richness of pluralism. Thus, the political diversity of Latter-day Saints spans the ideological spectrum. Individual members are free to choose their own political philosophy and affiliation. Moreover, the Church itself is not aligned with any particular political ideology or movement.
It defies category. Its moral values may be expressed in a number of parties and ideologies.

Furthermore, the Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible. As the Church begins to rise in prominence and its members achieve a higher public profile, a diversity of voices and opinions naturally follows. Some may even mistake these voices as being authoritative or representative of the Church. However, individual members think and speak for themselves. Only the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles speak for the whole Church.

Latter-day Saint ethical life requires members to treat their neighbors with respect, regardless of the situation. Behavior in a religious setting should be consistent with behavior in a secular setting. The Church hopes that our democratic system will facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing. In his inaugural press conference President Monson emphasized the importance of cooperation in civic endeavors: “We have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live, all Latter-day Saints, and to work cooperatively with other churches and organizations. My objective there is ... that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute for it the strength of people working together.”