Archive for February, 2018

249 – “Kicking the CAN” – January 24, 2018

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

IN DEFENSE OF COMMON SENSE
By Hetty Gray

#249

“Kicking the CAN”

January 24, 2018

If you have any background in American lingo, then you recognize the phrase
“kicking the can.” While this is most often used to describe putting off an essential element of planning or action, it also has a more dangerous slant — one that bodes ill for our future.

To cite contemporary examples you have only to consider one of a number of commercials currently aired on national television. Pay close attention to the dialogue. The ad features two teenage boys at the side of a road at night. They have a flat tire. After a discussion of what is covered and which company has roadside assistance 24/7 (It’s an insurance company ad.), one replies to is father, “Of course I know what a lug wrench is…” Obviously, he has no idea and neither does his friend. Boys who don’t know a lug wrench? Ouch! That never would have happened when I was a teenager.

Those of us who grew up at a time when our fathers knew a head was not only a body part attached by one’s neck but also a critical component in the internal combustion engine. People my age find the whole scene laughable. However, funny as it is, the ad only showcases the disappointing fact that uncounted numbers of today’s teens and young adults have no idea how to fix anything.

Even the most basic chores are alien to them. I follow young girls in the checkout lines of grocery stores and see nothing but boxes of prepared food. Oh, there might be a jug of milk and juice, but traditional ingredients for getting a family meal are visibly absent.

Computer jobs beckon many of our young students, yet I wonder how many of them can conceive the mental ability it took to design the first one. I was not quite seven years in 1951 when the first huge computer was dedicated. Univac took up an entire room — a far cry from the tiny devices we carry in our purses and pockets today.

Sixty years seems to have flown by in the wink of an eye, reflective of comments I heard from my grandparents at about my age. Yet, the tactile and problem-solving skills of sixty years ago are most concentrated in those of us who were young at that time. With each succeeding generation, except for youngsters reared by do-it-yourselfers or those who grew up on a working farm, those skills rapidly disappeared.

How many of our grandchildren are prepared to take care of themselves in case of a major disaster? A hundred and fifty years ago it was not an uncommon site to see a twelve-year-old boy take over his family after one or both parents died. The base line here is that the parents taught their children to be self-sufficient.

While there are parents who still expose their children to basic tasks and how to do them, they are becoming more and more rare. I do not mean to shortchange in any way those youngsters who can work circles around me in terms of fixing things, but it worries me when I see how little many of them are able to do without calling someone else.

I task schools to reinstitute the “trades” classes. Dropping shop and home economics in favor or weight rooms and computer labs may appeal to the modern curricula directors, but it is very shortsighted.

We cannot continue to teach technology and ignore basics. People need to know how to fix things. People need to know how things work. That is the beauty of physics and science. A teacher can actually show students how things operate. Simple gears can be fascinating to young children, especially is they are allowed to put together the mechanism themselves.

For more than a decade my husband and I sat at the symphony with a retired Allison engineer and his wife. Both Gene and Mildred Dent volunteered at the Children’s Museum. Gene designed and built the simple devices that showed children the wonder of machinery. Every child should have that kind of an opportunity. Who knows the budding talent that could bloom as a result?

Today we have the wherewithal to transform education into something more than reading, writing (don’t get me started on eliminating cursive!), and arithmetic. Incorporating manufacturing techniques into a curriculum surely could not hurt.

Introduce children to the magic of electricity, the power of water and hydraulics, the importance of repairing something instead of purchasing new. In the end, the entire society will benefit. It’s not a lost cause — yet!

Working with one’s hands positions itself to be an invaluable talent considering the number of us able to do little or nothing. Entertainment and empty video games have taken the place of learning at the feet of a parent or grandparent.

We need more learning within the family and a focus on careers that are timeless — those of the building trades and home repair. Robots may be the future of factory floors, but they do not install floor joists, studs, and trusses. Men and women do that, and with considerable talent.

A lover of all things Apple (computer, phone, etc.), the simple lower case “i” preceding a product line is a dead giveaway to the manufacturer — iMac, iPod, iPhone…. That is a good thing, however, I suggest another twist on that nomenclature.

Kicking the “CAN” is what we have done for decades. Since its founding, this nation has been known as a people with a tenacious approach to learning, be it with hands or heads. I dream that the time will reappear — a time when the ages-old reply to a query, “Who can do this?” is a chorus of young voices shouting “iCAN.”

Would that it were so…. Think about it.

247 – “Ill Eagle”

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

IN DEFENSE OF COMMON SENSE
By Hetty Gray

# 248

January 20, 2018

“Ill Eagle”

After watching and listening to the blathering coming out our nation’s capital, I ponder just what this country is becoming. Once the bastion of individual accomplishment and the one place on earth where a person could start with nothing and end up with unimaginable wealth, we have morphed into a near nanny state where illegals are valued more than our veteran homeless. Yes, look among our cities and you will find military veterans living in squalid conditions while those who come across our borders without permission — illegally — qualify for all manner of federal and state aid. The monetary impact of “English as a second language” is immense, and insulting.

Someone needs to explain to me why one word is no cavalierly ignored. The word is illegal. In other words, it is a practice that is against the law. The persons of this ilk make statements that fly in the face of those beliefs upon which this nation is founded. They want everything we have to offer and have absolutely no right to do so.

When we get to the place where able-bodied people do not work and rely on the largess of those who do, we are in real trouble. Well, folks, we are there. Welfare to work is the path to self-reliance. There is dignity in work. There is no dignity in waiting around for a check in the mail.

The trouble is that we are on a third generation of children who may never have seen a father in the home. Many fathers work, but there are untold numbers of children who may never have seen their father go to work. How sad for the children, for the family, and for the nation as a whole.

Look back in our history to the time when thousands upon thousands of immigrants made their way to the United States via Ellis Island. Were they profiled? You bet they were. Health problems were sorted out and those who failed the medical exams were sent packing back to their countries of origin. Those who did make it through all the inspections and exams were determined to find work.

In the case of my grandfather’s family who came through New York City in 1895, my French forebears were tasked with learning English and finding work. Mastering the language was paramount, even though native tongues continued to be spoken among family members. It was not unusual to find ethnic areas in our large cities. The languages spoken at home were not English, but English was the path to success. Immigrants knew that.

Germans and Italians were just two among the many nationalities that thrived in our inner cities. Today, their restaurants, grocery stores and churches remain a bastion of their heritage. The term “Little Italy” was understood immediately. Good food, entertainment and hospitality ruled.

Lamentably, today’s American inner cities are better known for crime and gang violence than for ethnic flavor. That is not a good thing. A lot of this falls on the widespread problem that occurs when gangs take the place of the family unit. A fractured family is at high risk to fail its children. And when government steps in to provide what a family needs, the picture worsens.

We need to teach the value money and the dignity of work beginning in kindergarten. Children should feel the exhilaration of success in mock business ventures. They should internalize the old saying that “there is no free lunch.” They should understand both economics and saving by the time they are in middle school. If this were true, our national economic health would have a well-deserved shot in the arm.

Dreaming of starting one’s own business or achieving success in a chosen career should top a student’s list. We do every American child a disservice when we fail to train him or her to succeed in life.

What ever happened to math for living? I have met young people in their early twenties who do not understand interest, the danger of credit card debt, and the basics of borrowing money. A mortgage or car payment is not exactly clear in their minds either. This isn’t just sad. This is perilous.

It’s fine to enjoy entertainment and leisure time, but focus should be on achievement and earning a good living. We have shoved the trades to the side in favor of computers, but I haven’t seen an electrician or a plumber at the street corner with a sign “work for food.” There is dignity in every job. Pride is not something to ignore. It is something to encourage.

Our American eagle is sick. It sees English ignored as the nation’s language. Try going to a foreign country to live and work without mastering the native tongue. I am sick of going into major retail stores and seeing signs in two or more languages. For Pete’s sake, if people want to come to America, let them come legally, learn the language, and embrace the common values of hard work that built this country.

There is nothing wrong of being proud of one’s heritage, even if it is from a far-flung place. Celebrations and ethnic fairs can showcase the wide variety of backgrounds that underlie our population. However, if we allow a large group of people who came here illegally the same status that legal immigrants earn over years of effort, we set a terrible example and give rise to the reputation that our laws are made to be broken.

What an image to give to the rest of the world…. We can put a stop to this, but it will take work on behalf of every voter to demand that officials reflect the voters in the last election. Working Americans and “fly over country” spoke. Will they be ignored? I hope not, but if history teaches us anything it does teach us that nations that put extraordinary money into entitlements go broke. Look back as far as The Roman Empire. Too much government money given out to the masses brought down one of the most powerful entities of all time. It can and will happen again. My hope is that we are not the next example.

Focus on work. Focus on faith. It never hurts to know that there is an entity greater than self. Focus on fidelity, loyalty and love of country and of family. If we are no stronger than our weakest link, we are in trouble.

The federal system of government gives the ultimate power to the federal with the compliance of the member states. Sanctuary cities and states? Give me oxygen. If it weren’t so pitiful it would be laughable.

Yes, the national bird is an “ill eagle,” and that “play on words” says it all. We are in the midst of a government shut down forced by those on the left that value illegals more than American citizens. If you work hard and pay your taxes, do you want someone who does not work and is not an American to benefit from your labor? Well, that is happening every day coast to coast. Respect for law is shrinking and excuses abound for those who break our laws. This is your country. It’s time the elected are held to account for their votes. Think about it.

# 250 – “Cultural Change: Deadly”

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

IN DEFENSE OF COMMON SENSE
By Hetty Gray

# 250

February 15, 2018

“Cultural Change: Deadly”

It’s a given. I am a senior citizen. As such, on many occasions I have seen more of life than I needed to see.

Yesterday is a prime example. I remember Columbine. All of us do. I remember the Hoosier native, a teacher, who gave his life to protect his students. I remember it all.

Since that time, we have witnessed twenty-four more school shootings. How has this happened? It is a question many of us ask.

Well, turn back the clock — culturally. I am a child of the 1940s. Our parents’ generation fought and won World War II. Our grandparents endured World War I. The world they bequeathed to us gave my generation a stable start in life. Their sacrifice and hard work rubbed off on us. They knew the value of human life. They had seen too much of it destroyed. We learned respect for our elders, a strong work ethic, and the value of a good education, whether in the trades or via a college or university.

Our main entertainment was radio, and even today Radio Spirits, and similar companies, broadcast the old shows much to my delight. Movies featured violence, but it was quick and far less vivid than today. True, Edward G. Robinson was a gangster and his movies had guns involved; but there was a difference. The good won out over the bad. Bad was seen as bad.

And then there were the westerns, or “oaters.” Directors like legendary John Ford captivated America with his western movies. We watched Gary Cooper, Gene Autry, John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Tom Mix, Allen “Rocky” Lane, Andy Devine, and Chill Wills. One handsome actor reminded me of our neighbor across the street, local surgeon Norm Richard. That actor? Swashbuckling Glenn Ford.

Good guys wore white hats. They valued liberty and stood for truth. They used their guns to defend the weak and enforce the law. The bad guys, attired in dark colors, earned their names: bad guys.

My memories of those days flash vividly. We watched the “shoot ‘em up” films, but none of us took them too seriously. But, then again, we were not bombarded with violence from every corner. Our games were Monopoly, card games, and checkers. A few of our brighter peers played chess.

Guns were a fact of life for rural kids. Townspeople kept guns at home. In fact, it was not unusual to see guns in the back windows of pickup trucks in high school parking lots. In the 1930s high schools had shooting clubs around the state. Students brought their rifles to school and kept them in their lockers until they went to the shooting range with an instructor.

Yes, our high school experience was far different from today, but a gentler one in many ways. The occasional fight might break out among a few crude teenagers, but those were very rare. Discipline was not questioned. It was reality.

When Principal Jim Sharp walked down the hall of our high school, he parted the students like Moses did the waters. A swish and a clunk in the hallway meant that a cantankerous student was held, feet off the floor, up against a locker. He had rules. He enforced them. None of us got angry and went home for a gun either. And plenty of our houses had guns. I know mine did.

I graduated in 1961 before the hippie era. Our generation saw no drugs. We only read about “opium dens,” and that was in world history. We didn’t see illegal drugs or anyone that might have frequented them. We took drugs (medicines) only when we were sick. To do otherwise was unknown.

Once the specter of drugs, love children, and open sexuality hit the streets, the game was all but over. The transformation of entertainment nailed the coffin of American teenage innocent shut with a bang — no gun pun intended. When our youth became obsessed with games lionizing death and crime, seeds were sown more widely than a thunderstorm dumping Canadian thistle on an Indiana cornfield — easily sown, a constant battle to eradicate.

The evolution of movies from wholesome to insulting only added to the problem. Thugs wreaking havoc and carnage on city streets replaced strong male role models in actors like Robert Young, Ray Milland, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, and Joseph Cotton. The number of youngsters living in single-family homes began to skyrocket. None of us is better for that.

In the wake of Broward County Florida’s terrible events of Valentine’s Day, some will scream “gun control!” Well, guns don’t kill people. People kill people. A gun left alone in a room is harmless. In the hands of an evil person, a gun is a weapon of unimaginable damage. And so what do we do? Well, why not adopt the Israeli system?

Israel’s schools remain secure. Building security is high, and unidentified teachers carry concealed weapons. Despite the Palestinian rocket attacks on innocents that have gone on for decades, no school is Israel recorded a live shooting incident. True, Israel is a tiny country, and their culture is homogeneous; but their basic plan is solid.

Try to get into a courthouse or federal building in the United States. If you carry legally, your weapon will remain at the entrance under guard. You may be frisked or go through a metal detector. If we keep political and administrative offices safe, shouldn’t we do the same for our schools?

Just how much are our kids’ lives worth anyway? Are they worth a secure building with only limited entry? Are they worth anonymous conceal carry teachers? It’s only common sense, but — then again — that is nearly nonexistent today. Would that it were different….

I do not speak without experience. A 73-year-old grandmother with a lifetime permit to carry, I received my gun training at the FOP firing range by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department when I worked for then Prosecuting Attorney Jim Lisher in the early 1980s. Once in a great while mainstream news will air a story of a person carrying a gun who thwarts a robbery or worse or a mother who defends her home, but — sadly — the news usually concentrates on gun criminals, not citizens defending themselves.

The five million plus members of the NRA stand for personal protection guaranteed by the right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment is sacrosanct to them, and to me. It should be to you, too.

The Florida school shooting will bring out slings and arrows from both sides of the gun control issue. However, we do need to remember that the once widespread system of mental health hospitals so common in the United States was dismantled decades ago. Moreover, child rearing became a sporting event for litigious parents who threatened lawsuit if a child was reprimanded.

Once a strong social triangle existed, and it forged an important relationship key to a child’s success. As you know the triangle is the strongest form in geometry. The best example is a pyramid. Think Egypt….

That once strong triangle consisted of the school and the parents for the child. It has morphed, much to society’s loss, to the parent and the child against the school. With the school leg gone, the triangle collapsed — and with it the once strong bond that held the whole relationship together.

However, we cannot ignore the violence to which our children have been exposed. I shudder to calculate the number of murders and violent scenes today’s elementary school children have seen. Now extrapolate those numbers they have seen by the time they reach high school. Constant exposure to violence desensitizes. Empathy and sympathy evaporate. Jaded attitudes reign. Reality falls by the wayside. Everything begins again after the lights go up in the theatre or the commercial ends the episode on TV.

And what of the responsibility legitimately shouldered by video game manufacturers and Hollywood? Oh, celebrities are right up there on their pedestals when it comes to telling us how to live; yet, their medium erodes the very foundation upon which this nation was founded.

Oh, dear. God is the first in line here.

Talk show hosts and anchors mock faith in God as a weakness or as if it is a dread disease. Far from it, faith anchors your life when all else around you collapses. Trace the school violence back to the time when we took God out of the schools.

Exposure breeds mimicry. Undoubtedly, superhero movies will remain popular, but they are pure fantasy. In contrast, gang movies and gratuitous violence offer absolutely no redeeming social value.

Without moral guidance and authority, anarchy looms. When you add the problem of edited textbooks and leftist instructors who paint America as the pariah of the world, the recipe is nothing short of disaster. We teeter on the edge of just such a disaster today.

Prayerfully remember the families of students and staff murdered on February 14th. Each of the murdered went to school yesterday morning expecting to go home. They did not. Each of you has a local school board. Make your concerns known. Insist on security. Every school, large or small, is at risk. Big cities are not alone in their vulnerability. Sad, but true….

Think about Israel. Israelis are determined to keep their freedom and they are prepared to defend it. They safeguard their children and tell them the truth about the world around them. We sugarcoat it here. While it does take away a part of innocence that should be inherent in growing up, informing children about dangers around them is critical.

Every technology has within it an element of danger. The Internet we view as a wonderful tool, the criminal sees as a fast method of communicating evil. For all its good points, it harbors evil within.

Leadership does not end in the home. It extends to the federal level, or one would hope…. I fear that we have become a nation without moral clarity and respect for law. Cities and states that refuse to obey the law are criminal entities and should be treated as such. This bent view of authority must be nipped in the bud, to quote Deputy Barney Fife. Press your elected officials to support federal law. Don’t just sit in the kitchen and complain about it to one another. Voters have impact. Make yours known.

How much are 17 lives worth? Locked doors? Full time security guards? Contrast these costs with school athletic budgets. Today, speaking to a group of Sheriffs from around the country, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made this statement: “The right to remain safe is the number one right of every American and the responsibility of every one of you.” (Audience was made up of law enforcement officials.) He is right.

A lack of safety costs precious lives, lives to be forever unfulfilled, we must face a sobering fact. School safety is the seminal issue of our time. As a parent and grandparent, I want to see something done to assure that children are safe. Do you? All politics is local. Every locality has a school. Starting small is still a start.

Think about it.