path and price of freedom

I sit and reminisce once in a while.  What a long, strange trip it has been. This life we live has highs and lows, ups and downs, triumphs and sorrows.

We all lead ordinary lives and eventually something hits us and just doesn’t sit right. Then you become active where you live.  It is somewhat of a NIMBY prospect (Not in My Backyard) because you often do not realize how wrong something is until it is happening in your own backyard.

Trust me; it is far easier to just be a sheeple in your community accepting at face value verbatim whatever local politicians and power brokers tell us must be so. (You know the theory of they say it is so , so it must be so?)

Some assert that it is far easier to just vote the way you are “told” — and yes, volunteering in local elections many moons ago I literally heard someone say that as they walked an elderly person into a polling place say “Now you just vote the way we told you to.”  That very memory is one of the things that always makes me tell people to vote in all elections, including local .

You don’t realize that our vote is such a powerful voice.  Check out the candidates…and also whenever able check out who supports them financially as that always tells an interesting tale.

If you are in a group trying to enact change, never, ever back a candidate for political office when they come calling.  Ask them to take YOUR position, i.e. what are they willing to do for you? Don’t be used by politicians. They are public servants, they work for us.  That also means that anyone at any time should be able to speak to an elected official.  If they as politicians, do not have time for everyone, replace them with those who do have time. Keep replacing until you get the ones you want representing you.

I have never had the desire to run for elected office.  I don’t have the long-term stomach for the games and the inevitable deal making.  Politics however will always fascinate me and repulse me. It makes for interesting people watching, that is for sure.

I have, however, had the privilege to know some amazing elected officials in my life from the most local of levels to Harrisburg to Washington D.C.  Like me, like you, they are just people.   I have no hero worship, just appreciation for some of them because they do care and they do work darn hard to make a difference.

We live in a dangerous and somewhat crazy political climate right now.  As Americans, we have watched in horror as people have shot up schools, Congressmen on ball fields, random people in malls and movie theaters.  A week ago today we all awoke to the news that Las Vegas was the scene of a massacre engineered by a mad man.  All those poor people were doing was listening to music at a concert.

Yeah, we need to have a conversation about gun control, but NO ONE can do that CALMLY in this country.  All people and officials on both sides of the issue do is SCREAM at each other.

We live in a crazy political climate and most of what we hear out of a sitting United States President appears on Twitter.  In my opinion , as an American citizen,  I not only find the behavior embarrassing that we even have a Tweeter in Chief, but somewhat removed from everyday reality.

Along with friends I have fought eminent domain for private gain.  It was a whirlwind and we fought all the way down to Washington, D.C. alongside folks like ordinary people from Long Branch, NJ , Cramer Hill Camden NJ, Coatesville Pa (Saha Farm), and Suzette Kelo of New London, CT (as in the U.S. Supreme Court Case.)

Another time, other friends and I found ourselves the recipients of a congressional commendation for a specific volunteerism campaign we had initiated and completed.

I have done what I have done because I believe in community and a sense of greater good; because it was the right thing to do.

Along the way I have grown less idealistic and naïve.  Sadly, I can be jaded now.  But as you age and watch how bloody cruel and duplicitous human beings can be to one and other, you change.  But you have to remember the good in people, as hard as that is at times.

I am just a person.  I was not born with other than an immigrant pedigree.  Italian, Irish, and Pennsylvania German.   To me that makes me a quintessential Pennsylvanian.

I believe in our Constitution and the freedoms our founding fathers fought and bled and died for.  Yes, the same values and freedoms that subsequent generations of Americans have fought and marched and bled and died for. It seems as Americans that we have been perpetually fighting for our rights and freedoms.  But is that not the very nature of preserving and enhancing freedom?

As an American born in the birthplace of American rights and freedoms, I believe in the First Amendment.

Be independent-minded in life.   You will be glad of it.

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school days: what happened to age appropriate?

I am going to wade into something some parents and people in general might take issue with, but I am going to do it, anyway. I think it is a conversation that parents everywhere need to have with educators.

I am not a prude.  I don’t believe in treating children as a collective of village idiots.  But I do believe there are topics that are age-appropriate.

A few years ago a friend told me about a program a private school was running with elementary/middle-school aged kids about being gay.  At that age, most kids have no inclination of what that means even if they have same-sex parents. Anyway, my friend told me of the confusion and upset it caused the children.  Not the parents – the kids.  At the time I wondered aloud to my friend why they did this with kids so young and naive.  Basically kids who hadn’t even had any sex ed classes, either.

Now I am asking the same question of schools preparing for mock elections: what is age appropriate and when does it cross a line and make people fear there is another political agenda? (And I will note that I have a BIG problem with educators who bring personal politics of ANY kind into a classroom – it is not right – they are supposed to teach and be apolitical, educational Switzerland. Not put forth political agendas.)

What has got me on this topic?  Things I am hearing from parents all over whose kids are getting ready for mock elections at school.  Some schools require kids to have specific homework projects on it.

I have no problem with mock elections, I participated in my first one in 7th or 8th grade (when Jimmy Carter ran and became president).

What I have a problem with are some teachers are not only asking kids to do this but include as age appropriate topics for the NOT upper levels of high school set: abortion and gay marriage. These kids are elementary and middle schoolers. Not even high schoolers.

That truly bothers me.  What life experience and complex emotional capability do 10 – 14 year olds have to discuss gay marriage and abortion?  This is a complex subject, and to me it is something to be discussed at home….when they are older, or basically when the PARENTS decide. And truthfully, I don’t think the lower end of high schoolers (9th and 10th grades) should have this shoved at them as appropriate discussion either.

I am not even sure the average middle schooler can comprehend and articulate on the topic of gun control either for that matter. I mean is it really necessary?

And let me be clear, I might be a Republican, but I am decidedly pro-choice which is why I am also a ticket splitter half the time.  And I believe that a woman should have a right to choose and it is also a personal matter.  It is not for political platforms, courts, or pulpits.

As for gay marriage. Really?  Who does it hurt? Can you see it from your window? I have friends who have kids in their kids’ classes with same-sex parents.  Everyone gets along just fine. No one feels the need to wave a flag. It just is. The kids and the parents are accepted.

I just feel that these are very complicated topics that adults can’t even discuss pleasantly for the most part.  So why do middle schoolers and elementary schoolers have to?

I just do not see it as appropriate, and I question the underlying motives of any teacher that does this and school that promotes or allows this.

There is enough to learn about the electoral process, the issues, and individual politicians without having to explain to kids who haven’t even had sex ed in a lot of cases what abortion is.  Or to give them a pre-disposition towards gay marriage.

We do need to teach our children well.  But certain topics? Best saved for another discussion…and to an extent, I feel that there are certain  conversations which should occur at home when parents decide the time is right.

Seriously, I think it is bad enough when parents dress their kids like mini-me versions of themselves and schedule them so hard they don’t really know what it is to just be a kid, but to weigh them down with topics they are not emotionally or intellectually equipped to handle?  Just not right.