July 31, 2015
Over the last few weeks, I have received some work in my writing business to redo resumes and cover letters for people over 50. When discussing their work history, the conversation always comes around to why they are looking for a new job. Unfortunately, the theme always ends up being the same story: laid off from their jobs for whatever reason and now having a desperate time finding work. Unemployment benefits go quickly, the jobs prospects are not there, and there is a feeling of desperation.
Here are a few actual stories. One involves a woman whose company let her go for no solid reason. What did happen after she left is that her position was filled by someone who was half her age at half her salary. She has been constantly looking for work, and had a few interviews, but nothing yet. At one job, she was asked what kind of salary she was looking for. The figure she gave was less than she used to make and not outrageous at all – and the interviewer looked at her as if she was out of her mind. Obviously, it was someone looking for a person willing to work at bargain basement prices.
As a side note to this, when she asked someone at unemployment what to do after her benefits ended, she was told, “Oh, you can apply for welfare.” She was horrified. She has worked since she was 16 and the prospect of doing something like that is almost a killing blow.
Another woman who is over 60 has exhausted her unemployment benefits, been constantly looking, and is in a very real danger of not having a roof over her head soon. If being over 50 is a detriment to finding a job, being over 60 seems to be a death sentence.
Then there is a gentleman who wanted me to “dummy down” his resume. He is very intelligent, highly capable, and cannot find work. He has greatly lowered his expectations and does not want a resume to intimidate perspective employers. I have often tried to punch-up a resume for someone, but this is the first time I had to downplay one.
Therefore, to John Boehner and the rest of the politicians who think that programs like unemployment benefits are creating a nation of lazy people: Get out of Washington for a while and see what is really going on in your country. You really have no bloody idea of how much people are hurting. Your self-interest and supposed insight and knowledge of the American people is somewhere between a drug induced stupor and pure stupidity and ignorance.
The same goes for President Obama and his cronies. Before you hurt yourself patting yourself on the back because unemployment is so low, look at the people behind the numbers. Many work part-time jobs because that is all they can find. Wages are about the same as they were in the 1980's. Oh yeah, one reason the numbers are low because they aren't counting the folks who are off unemployment and are still looking for jobs. There are plenty of them out there!
Since I am only familiar with New Jersey in this regard, I would like to mention to Governor Chris Christie that maybe it is time to stop campaigning for others and putting out presidential feelers, and look what is happening in your own back yard. Does it mean anything to you that this state ranks 47th in creating new jobs over the past 5 years? Kind of puts into perspective what you have not been doing.
To business owners of all size: employees are not some type of interchangeable part. You complain about bad workers and no loyalty – well you reap what you sow. To throw another cliché out there – you get what you pay for. I marvel that so many employers pay their people a wage that does not allow them to buy the products or services of the company they work for. I am no economic expert, but sooner or later this stock market boom is going to prove to be a paper tiger. The great majority of the people who drive the real economy of America will not be able to afford to do so in the near future. Then what do we do?
Essays on government, education, family life, etc. that helps put issues and solutions in perspective with thoughtfulness, not extremism. You know, like the majority of Americans really want! Go to The Book Corner.
July 28, 2015
The Boy Scouts of America on Monday ended its blanket ban on gay adult leaders while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion for religious reasons.
This is not really an article about the Scouts allowing gays to serve as leaders. First of all, I am an Eagle Scout. Granted, it happened long ago and not too far after Baden-Powell created Boy Scouting. (At least, it seems that way lately.) Second, I am fine with the decision. It was a long time in coming, but as they say…better late than never.
What I really want to talk about is the total lack of respect that people seems to have these days for a viewpoint that is different from their own. In this day of social media and internet access, anyone can spout their opinion. (After all, you are reading mine). It seems like for a world that is constantly shifting into various shades of gray, people want black and white answers. While I believe that there are some absolute truths in the world, most things fall into different interpretations and belief systems. That leaves things open to a wide spectrum of what everyone thinks is right and wrong.
The decision the Boy Scouts made reflects this as evidenced by a few headlines I saw online. One was that they are allowing gay leaders, but “churches can still discriminate.” A common definition for discriminate is: “to unfairly treat a person or group of people differently from other people or groups.” This word is freely thrown around with just that understanding. The problem here is that most faiths do not discriminate. They have certain beliefs that they will defend to the end. If you do not believe in what a certain church teaches, then you should not be in it. It is that simple.
By the same token, the Rev. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said in response to the BSA decision, "It's hard for me to believe, in the long term, that the Boy Scouts will allow religious groups to have the freedom to choose their own leaders. In recent years I have seen a definite cooling on the part of Baptist churches toward the Scouts," Moore said. "This will probably bring that cooling to a freeze."
That is fine and dandy, but here is a case of using the same concept of discrimination to defend your position. Just like a church, the Boy Scouts’ rules and regulations did not allow gay leaders for a long time. For whatever reasons, they changed their rules, just as many different churches have. The funny thing about what Rev. Moore said is that from its inception, scouting units are, in essence, owned by its sponsoring organizations. Yes, the Scouts have a ton of rules and do exhaustive leadership training, but the churches, schools, civic organizations, etc. had the final say on the packs and troops they sponsored. As many beliefs about gays changed for those churches and organizations, so did the Scouts. All the Scouts seem to be doing now is actually strengthening the role those churches and other sponsors have. If accepting gay leaders goes against their doctrine, they do not have to go with it.
What is wrong with that? Absolutely nothing! What the Boy Scouts are doing is changing their policy without imposing their will on other organizations. Ok, it took them too many years to get their act together on this topic, but it is a lesson for all.
I think in this country, we need to differentiate between discrimination and this need for total inclusivity. America was founded so people can practice their own religion, not be regulated in everything they do, and feel free to voice their opinion. It seems too often that opinions are expressed in a way that does not respect our differences. Even in Christianity, how different sects relate to gays and lesbians is varied. The bottom line is that you may not agree with another faith’s beliefs, but that does not mean you can just discount them. As hard as it is to believe with all the vile rhetoric out there on most subjects, you can still respect someone or something you disagree with.
Whether it is the subject of gay rights, conservative vs. liberal, or having mustard or ketchup on your hot dog, we as a people have to respect each other’s beliefs. I cannot believe I am using a James Bond analogy here, but way too often folks do not have a Live and Let Live attitude. It is more like Live and Let Die. By all means, stick to your faith and your beliefs, but most of us can spend a little more time thinking through how we want to present them.
July 24, 2015
If my math is correct, we (the United States) are still seven months away from the first primary. With so many candidates on the Republican side, getting 10% of the votes in New Hampshire may be enough for a “frontrunner to emerge,” or at least until the next primary.
I hope on the Democratic side, perhaps two months before the primary, someone will emerge from that party to challenge Hillary. Maybe she will have déjà vu of Barack Obama emerging in 2008. (Though I pray for the country, we don’t get someone like him again.) I do not know if Bernie Sanders can generate enough support from voters to transform his rallies into enough of a push to dislodge Mrs. Clinton.
So what do we have until people…Americans…actually start using their voting powers to sort out the mess, and we have two candidates running for November 2016? From where I sit, something between mud wrestling and a carnival sideshow. For the last few weeks, Donald Trump is sucking up all of the air in the room for the Republicans. Look, the man is smart, built up a huge business empire several times in his life, and is a national celebrity. I cannot help and feel that he thinks he is in another reality show. The man speaks in grandiose terms, but I have yet to hear any concrete ideas of how he plans to bring about his pronouncements. In some ways, Donald Trump is the poster child (and I mean child) of today’s politics. Talk big with what people want to hear without absolutely no idea of how to make it happen. I mean, we are already six years into that type of Presidency.
I predict Trump will bow out before the first primary and blame everyone in the world for why he quit, while saying he knows the American people would have voted for him. He is too thin-skinned to hang in there when the other candidates start scoring strikes against him. I am curious how he does in the debate. The moderator will probably have to repeatedly tell him to shut up. He brags now how he is ahead of the polls. It reminds me in 2012 of how Newt Gingrich said at one point he was the prohibitive favorite to be the Republican candidate. We know how that went.
The rest of the Republican field is still a big mystery. Since we treat these elections like a sporting event, the parties should have a cap on the number of candidates on the roster. All the sports leagues have a maximum number of players you can have on the team. That may have made this process a little easier, but that is what America is supposed to be about. Anyone can run for office. That is exactly what we have this time around; everyone is running.
Ideally, this process will strengthen the candidates and we will know who plans to do what. Money is a big factor and we will see candidates start to drop like flies after the first few primaries. I just hope people get a chance to actually evaluate what the candidates say, and not rely on the spin from the media. The people in New Hampshire are spoiled. They actually get a year of candidates coming into diners and meetings and the citizens get a chance to talk with them. The rest of us are kind of at the mercy of what is filtered through the news. As I have written about in the past, in its efforts to BE the news and not just report it, the stuff we get through the media is as processed as the fast food at McDonald’s.
As for the Democrats, I don’t know enough about them to know what to say. The “inevitability” of Hillary played well in 2008, until it was no longer true. I certainly have no issue with a woman President, and Clinton probably understands how to run the executive branch better than any candidate in either party, but I don’t trust her. Her and Bill are the Teflon couple and they do seem bulletproof from any criticism. It gets old and I would have a sense of weariness if she were to win. Bernie is getting great crowds, but I am not keen on a Socialist actually running for President. I would enjoy seeing someone else emerge on the Democratic side that would be new and fresh and actually knew what he or she was talking about.
Iron sharpens iron. If there are a couple of good candidates in both parties, they are going to push their opponents and everyone would be forced to focus on issues, and not rhetoric. That would carry over to the actual presidential election between the two parties after their conventions.
For the next several months, I hope I can find out what the candidates think and how they would guide our country forward. That is what is important. Not the bluster or the name-calling or who the media decides should win. It is still up to us to decide. Work on being an informed voter. Even if your candidate loses, at least you know you did not take your responsibility lightly.
July 22, 2015
At my church on Sunday, we had an installation service for our two new pastors. Reverend Onay Lopez and Pastor Jean Arlea Erikson. It was a great service. The District Superintendent, Drew Dyson gave a terrific talk and Rev. Lopez had a double whammy of a day as his new son Matthew was baptized.
Rev. Lopez came to our church a few years ago from Cuba. I do not know all of the details how he managed that since this was before relations improved with that country. He is certainly a kind, devout man and one of the first things he did here was re-establish a Hispanic ministry in our church. It has grown nicely and I believe Sunday’s service was the first time we had a joint service. It was nice as singing and prayers alternated between English and Spanish.
The coolest part was when everyone in the church did the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish and English. Like a song with two parts that merge together in the singing, the “Our Father” filled the church in the same way. It struck me that with all of the rhetoric out there in the political arena and the news media about immigration and just some of the nastiness that comes out of people’s mouth, that all it takes is intermingling and getting to know people to calm everyone down.
As far as I am aware, there are no differences within our church between the Hispanic ministry and the “traditional” congregation. Don’t get me wrong on that score. It just hit me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with varied groups coming together to have a chance to celebrate, enjoy each other’s company, pray…whatever the occasion is.
It seems that in this world of 24/7 news, social media, and political candidates not afraid of broadcasting their ignorance to the world, that we are actually less connected than ever before. People hide behind electronic devices and the television and are afraid to go out and actually be social. It is amazing how you can formulate better ideas and opinions when you put a human face to an issue.
Church attendance is down in many faiths, and that is a shame. Churches use to fill that need of community that people thrived on. In a large city or suburban area, it was an oasis for many people. Churches would reach out into the surrounding neighborhoods and offer opportunities for folks to come check out a service or activity. They still do that, but it becomes harder and harder as churches have to compete with everything from kids’ sports on Sunday to people needing to be at work to make ends meet.
I encourage people who look down on others to make an effort to get to know those you do not understand. Immigration does need to have rules and guidelines, and I think getting to know other cultures is a way of producing sound policies. It has to be more than an “us vs. them” policy. Most of us come from heritages where we were the “them” at one time. Or as Bill Murray said in Stripes, “We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world.”
I challenge people to stretch their boundaries and seek out opportunities. Whether it be church or something else where you live that fosters that sense of community, look into it. As long as we sit back and spout opinions from a foundation of ignorance, we aren’t moving forward. Change is not going to take place at the national government level and roll down. (You know what rolls downhill!) The only real change starts in small groups and works its way up. I look forward to Rev. Lopez and Pastor Jean growing the church’s community. I also know it takes everyone in the church to support them and make that happen.