While talking to scouts last night about respecting the American flag, some of their questions led to a great discussion about our American right to free speech — specifically how the government can’t prevent any citizen from expressing his or her ideas even when those ideas make us feel extremely uncomfortable or unwelcome. As long as the expression is not a direct threat to personal or public safety or inciting violence, it has as much right to the public square as ours do. The second we start to limit speech, we’ve sacrificed one of the greatest of our founding ideals.
The way to counter ideas we find reprehensible is not squelching or drowning them, but by presenting a better alternative.
I was about to make what’s become a regular breakfast: peanut butter on a toasted English muffin. Disappointment struck when I realized I’d used the last of the peanut butter earlier this week. I remembered my frustration trying to get the knife blade to scrape the remnants off the sides of the jar, trying to avoid ending up with a handle — and hand — full of peanut butter. I threw the jar back into the pantry even though I knew it was “empty”.
I really wanted my PBM this morning, so I grabbed the jar — and a spoon. The large curved edge of the spoon easily scraped the sides of the jar clean and provided me with a large enough dose to satisfy my craving.
Made me wonder how often I end up wasting resources at my disposal because I’m using the wrong tool.
A while back when I was talking to a female friend (who’s an avowed progressive) about the possibility of running for office, she looked at me very seriously and said,
“You’re the perfect white guy.”
What she meant was that I did a reasonably good job of standing up for people that aren’t straight, white, and male while looking very much like I wouldn’t. A donkey in elephant’s clothing, I joked.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this since that day, and have realized that there are a lot of straight, white men just like me. We understand the advantage inherent in who we are. We welcome diversity of culture and opinion into our lives. We intervene when we see overt injustice.
But, yet, in today’s world, we’re also seen as the root of all problems. The oppressors, the 1%, the privileged. That creates an almost untenable conundrum in how to navigate our current progressive political culture.
I don’t intend this as any sort of sob fest for straight, white guys. Far from it. I know exactly how good I (and we) have it. It just makes me wonder how effective it is to amplify the far left’s “white male privilege is the root of all evil” mantra when there are plenty of white men who are standing squarely on the side of justice.
Perhaps it’s time we cool down the rhetoric and ideology and start engaging each other as individuals instead of labels.
Some days, the 1900 calorie limit sucks. Some days, the endless parade of meetings and projects wears on me. Some days, my ambitions feel suffocating. Some days, the veneer of life threatens to crack. Some days, the pieces of the puzzle flicker in and out.
It’s those days when I rely the most on intention. What do I want this day to be? How do I want to feel about myself and my accomplishments? What do I have to do to make it so?
Intention, every … single … day.
I can remember those days as a kid when I’d get to light a candle in church. The small white votives flickering through red and blue glass. The wooden sticks we’d light from one burning candle and then eagerly decide which new candle we’d bring to life. I’m not sure we always had the proper reverence for lighting a candle in memory of someone no longer with us, but it’s one of my most vivid childhood memories. I can still smell the blend of wax and wick like it was yesterday.
I still love to light candles, still feel a bit of awe as the match comes in contact with the wick and instantly starts to glisten the wax. The flame flickers and then stands tall. Warmth. Light. Two necessities of life. It’s no wonder we burn candles in memory of life lived … and lost. They bring us back, reignite our memory for a few moments, and honor our past. It’s those people and experiences that become the wisdom and fuel for our future.
My apartment’s kitchen faces east so I enjoy this time of year when the sun and I rise about the same time each morning. It frustrates me sometimes that the windows aren’t clean and I can’t get a clear shot of the dawning day. But this morning I found that if I focused on the condensation on the glass rather than the sunrise, a new kind of beauty emerged. Goes to prove that changing what we focus on can make a real difference in our perception.
I don’t have a ton of space in my apartment. My dining room table is pushed up against a wall and became that place where I threw all the extraneous stuff that came in the door. It was a stress-inducing eyesore — especially since it’s the background when I have video calls from my home office. Since moving a plant, a few of my favorite books, and a couple of other accents to the table, I’ve been more motivated to keep it clear of clutter. It makes a wonderful place to enjoy my morning coffee, too. Little changes can make a big difference.