Saturday, August 05, 2006

Voiceless

www.LuxuriousChoices.net
The Choice is Yours
Poetry and Polemics: The Choice Debate

For years, my mother has worked with disabled, special education, and mentally retarded children through the public school system. One of the most important memories I have is visiting her life skills classroom. That's where I met Crystal.

Crystal was about sixteen at the time. She had the personality of a sweet five-year-old. She was tall and thin and pale and wore a shy smile. She spoke with a slur and was difficult to understand. I was probably eleven and wasn't sure how to respond to Crystal. But she figured it out for me. In her personal drawl and in short sentences, she told me about her classroom. She showed me things like the stove where she was learning to cook. She brought me to the reading area. She gave me a tour of a grooming center with a big mirror on the wall, a sink, soap, toothpaste, and floss. Then she mumbled something about wanting to have her hair done.

My mother had prepared me for the hair thing. Crystal had long, brown hair that she loved to have washed, blown dry, and styled. Apparently, no one at home helped her with it because her hair was full of tangles. I enjoyed playing with hair, and I wanted to do something nice for Crystal, so I let her lead me to the sink where she had moved a chair. There, I helped her put on a plastic cape. She bent her head back into the sink, and I swept her hair under the faucet. I turned on the hot water and then the cold. I kept asking her if the temperature was okay. I remember how it felt to shampoo her hair, the nervousness I had that I might splash water in her face when I went to rinse. I used lots of conditioner to help detangle, but it was tough going. She made it through all right, and I wrapped her hair the best I could in a towel and then sat her in the stylists' chair.

Crystal didn't like having the knots combed out of her hair, and I remember her tearing up some. I told her I was sorry, and she shook her head that she understood. I still felt bad, though. She didn't seem to have much more to say. I didn't know what to say to her and was afraid to start any kind of conversation because, what if I didn't understand her? Then I would just feel stupid. So we were quiet through most of the blow-drying.

And after all, I wasn't a very good hair dresser. I attempted to use the curling iron on her, but the curls didn't take, and I didn't have enough experience to try much else. So I ended up gathering each side in a metal barrette, the kind that looks like a paperclip and bends the hair between the two sides. They were good barrettes. They would stay in. And Crystal really liked her hair. She smiled and smiled. I felt good about that. I didn't feel as awkward, even when she gave me a bear hug after.

I remembered Crystal yesterday when I was shopping at Target with my girls. We heard a howl from behind the shelves of lipstick and foundation. At first, we thought someone was laughing, and then we thought is was someone crying. In a few moments, a woman in a wheelchair emerged. It looked like she might have had cerebral palsy (I'm not sure), and she had a companion helping her shop. My girls started to stare.

Not wanting them to stare, I simply said my girls' names and they looked at me. "What's wrong with her, Mommy?" they wanted to know in wide-eyed concern. "Why is she screaming?" I explained that some people have a condition that prevents them from controlling their muscles, including their vocal muscles, so they couldn't control the sounds and words that came out. They nodded and understood.

They told me about some children in school who were in wheelchairs, too, but that they didn't really know what was wrong with them. They said they were thankful they could walk. My older daughter said she was thankful they could talk. My younger daughter, who has a speech and language delay, nodded. I said, "I know. I'm thankful, too. You know how frustrated you get when you can't seem to use your words? Imagine how frustrating it must be for that lady."

I started to think about all the times I couldn't find the right words or any words, all the times both my children have struggled with learning, and then I remembered Crystal. I wondered how much exposure mainstream kids got to the disabled in school, if they all went out to the playground together or talked openly about their disabilities or what. I wondered if in our attempt to create a safe, productive environment for our children if they are removed from people or situations that might be considered unsettling. I don't really know, because embarrassingly, I don't know enough about the programs for the physically disabled in our elementary school. I do know, though, how much I learned to appreciate people like Crystal, and I think it's important that kids of all abilities work and play together. And I think we need to give everyone an opportunity to have a voice, even if it's not through traditional dialogue.

I was enraged when I read the article about the mentally retarded residents in Washington D.C. who died because of neglect while officials scampered to cover it up by falsifying records. How could we have become so removed from one another that those who need us most, those who cannot speak for themselves, are simply "cleansed" from the record? It frightened me to think that perhaps we are moving backwards in the areas of health and human services, that our voiceless citizens are dying from being ignored, and that the message here seems to be, "It's okay. They are expendable."

Crystal is not expendable. And neither are the people whom we might believe have "lesser intelligence" or low IQ's or limited abilities. Some of the most exceptional people I have met in my career have been those who were considered disabled, and some of the most important lessons I have learned have been from the voiceless.

It's hard to hear the voiceless. They don't talk like "regular" people do. They are difficult to understand. It makes us uncomfortable. They sometimes can't speak up for themselves. But they often have the most to say.

We owe some unadulterated listening.

--Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

___________________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors. Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.

NOTE: To post a new topic, click the "Blog This" link at the top of the page. You may also respond and read other responses by clicking on the "comments" link under the original posting, but remember, this is a moderated blog. All postings must be approved prior to publication. We very much appreciate your continued, thought-provoking, professional posts and look forward to reading more!

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Luxurious Choices

www.LuxuriousChoices.net
The Choice is Yours
Poetry and Polemics: The Choice Debate

My husband, who is often the victim of my musings and on the whole, very good natured about it, made the statement that it is all very well and good to say we need to tax the rich to cover things like immigration law and implementation, educational reform, workers' rights, park expansion and development, healthcare, etc. But, even if that happens, the wealthy often take it out on the workers, the "little guys" who flip the burgers, ring up the groceries, and sweep the floors. The workers lose wages and benefits, and so while the public programs are enhanced, the poor still get poorer.

Now any good husband will make you think, and because I have a good husband (actually, a GREAT husband), I've been thinking. This might actually end up working against him in the long run when he comes home from a long day at work and I am revved up to discuss this again.

Let me start by saying that these comments are not meant as indictments of the wealthy. We don't believe the wealthy are evil or that money itself is evil. We aren't into suffering for the sake of suffering, and we are not minimalists. We aren't prejudiced against people who have more money than we do (if we were, we'd probably hate a good part of the population, and life is too short for hatred), and we aren't envious. I can say that with a clear conscience, even though we ARE critical of excessive materialism, commercialism, and vacant existences. We dislike inequality and injustice. This brings me to my "thesis." The problem doesn't seem to be money itself but what is DONE with money.

Where does all the money go? That's the real question. For example, we know Bill Gates is ridiculously wealthy, and while he is often criticized for creating a monopoly, it's well known that his Foundation takes on socially responsible endeavors, and it doesn't look like one of those cover-non-profits just housing a piggy bank for his family. HUGE APPLAUD FOR THIS! I don't know much about Bill, and I 'm sure I would be uncomfortable eating from his china which I bet is more expensive than anything in my home INCLUDING my home, but considering his contribution to technology and society, I don't begrudge him of his wealth in the least. But....he's not the only rich guy in town. There are thousands. Where does THEIR money go? And how does it relate to business?

Let's look at Wal-Mart. I openly admit to shopping there, and I don't believe it's solely a place for lower class consumers. I understand the idea that it's a self-perpetuation of poverty (the poor work there, shop there, and are paid little, so they become forever indebted to Wal-Mart). But heck, I have family members who work for the Wal-Mart Emporium! I take issue with human rights violations, child labor, healthcare and benefits negligence, etc. However, most of the stores I have been in have community programs designed to give back to the community in which the store operates. They fund scholarships and charities, and I think that's great. But what about the owners of Wal-Mart? I am talking about the board members who must be extraordinarily wealthy. Where does their money go? And why can't they afford to provide healthcare for all their employees? If they were to be taxed more, would they, in turn, reduce their employees' wages even further?

I think it's easy to slip into "corporate-think," viewing wealth as corperations or groups. But to me, the "wealthy" are people, individuals who have lots of money to throw around. So I start to ask, well if tax reform is not the answer, what is? And what I have decided is that it's more a matter of values.

If a wealthy person is generous, socially responsible, and empathetic, and if that person believes a healthy society benefits everyone, wealthy or otherwise, then he/she most likely will invest in society truly outside of personal interest. But if the wealthy person is not those things...well, then in my mind, we have a problem. I DO take issue with someone who purchases a BMW with cash but starves his own staff. And it galls me when I read that some wealthy folks look good on paper by investing in non-profits that benefit themselves instead of a legitimate need. I really dislike a "Scrooge." And hypocrites are even worse.

I would like to believe that there are very few people out there who actually fall into this kind of complete selfishness, but it's hard not to think about it, wonder, and become cynical when you see such extreme extravagance and poverty side by side in the media and in real life.

So how do you change it if laws aren't the end-all answers? I guess there must be a change in values, and that's not easy because values are something we are brought up with or that we learn. They are deeply embedded in us, and if they are enforced by society, then change becomes even more difficult. And we have to be careful about inflicting our values on others....not everyone believes the same things, and we have no right to demand conformity. We see all the time what happens when one particular religion or another tries to take over by force, and ideological warfare rips apart whatever semblance of a fair and balanced society we thought we had. So I am not suggesting we inculcate our youth with socialist teachings or send them to church or temple per legal mandate. What I am suggesting, though, is that people need to understand the value and importance of giving and act on that value.

I realize that people give all the time for many different reasons, and many of those gifts go unrecognized. Sometimes the donors are not recognized because they prefer to be anonymous. Sometimes, their religious or cultural beliefs deter them from being recognized. But in not recognizing donors, the illusion that "rich people don't care" prevails, and class conflict increases. And the truly selfish can more easily hide behind the myth that they are not expected to contribute to the society that has made them wealthy, that they can abuse whomever they wish and it will go unnoticed.

I'm not just talking about a plaque on a wall when I talk about recognition. I am talking about something like....I don't know.....a national financial report, a publication listing all the wealthy within a certain income bracket and their socially responsible endeavors. The publication could be a status symbol of sorts. To be listed, a donor would have to first be determined as taking care of his/her own employees and dependents. Then, the donor would have to contribute to socially responsible endeavors. The types of activities, donations and amounts should be listed. And the publication should be distributed to....everyone! Why? Because the public appreciates knowing who the givers are. People are happier when they know where all the money is going. People will want to work for people who operate under the assumption that justice, fairness, and kindness really can turn a profit. And people will want to invest in these socially responsible companies. That's how values are changed.

When we know where the money is going, how it is being used, and how everyone....every individual....benefits, then we will have achieved what "taxing the rich" is supposed to accomplish. In the meantime....well.... Just read the news.

--Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
__________________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors. Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.

NOTE: To post a new topic, click the "Blog This" link at the top of the page. You may also respond and read other responses by clicking on the "comments" link under the original posting, but remember, this is a moderated blog. All postings must be approved prior to publication. We very much appreciate your continued, thought-provoking, professional posts and look forward to reading more!

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Logical?

Logical Song Lyrics
by Supertramp


When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world's asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd but
please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say
or they'll be calling you a radical,
liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won't you sign up your name,
we'd like to feel you're acceptable,
respectable, presentable, a vegetable!

At night, when all the world's asleep,
the questions run so deep
for such a simple man.
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am.

______________________________________

Okay, so I like this song because that's how I feel about life sometimes, especially when I look around here and see.....Leggo Land. You know. Subdivision Land. Suburban Hell. Homogenized America. The land of, "we all have mansions that look the same," and if you can't afford a mansion, it's a townhouse or a carriage house or whatever they want to call these boxes we live in. I call it NO CHARACTER. For God's sake, someone PLEASE put an ugly, purple house on the corner and give us something to LOOK AT! And while you're at it, could you replace some of the TREES you knocked over in an effort to create this little paradise????

This gets me on my "tree rant." I love trees. Yards are great, but trees....now there's something. When we were little, we had these wonderful Spruce trees. They were huge. The underbottoms had somewhat thinned and we used to crawl into pine-bough caves in all seasons. In the fall, a blanket of reddened, fallen needles cushioned us and kept our behinds clean. In the summer, we were cool, and in the winter...well that was the best. We had a snow-hideout, a place to lurk with snowballs or just childhood thoughts. The spring was a little muddy, but that didn't stop us...at least, it didn't stop me. I didn't mind mud.

I used to sneak in the there with my notebook and a pencil and play Harriet the Spy and write about things around me. The problem was, living in a little town, there was never much to say if I just stuck to people coming by. LOL I mean, how many times can you write, "There goes Stevie walking up the street. Guess he's bored again" ? Besides, I wasn't a very good spy. I'd always crack. "Kathy, where WERE you????" (Only people who knew me prior to 1997 can call me "Kathy" by the way.) "Okay, okay, I was under the pine tree again." I don't know if I ever told them I was writing, though.

Harriet the Spy was one of my favorite childhood books. I read it and read it because even though I didn't REALLY know it until later in life, I wanted to be a writer. I say I didn't really know it because I just DID it. I didn't think about writing as a job or something people got paid to do or becoming famous or respected. Come to think about it, not much has changed since then. LOL I don't often get paid, I'm certainly not famous or respected, and I do it anyway, so what the heck? The only thing I am missing is my damn tree!

Speaking of Harriet, I recently let my kids watch the Nickelodeon version of the movie because I loved the book so much. Um....talk about ISSUES! I had no idea the movie version would be so middle-school. I mean, they had everything in that movie that is SO not right in American schools today, but Harriet is still sitting at her circa-1970's desk, carving names of her next rightful-victims-of-retribution into the wood. Do they even HAVE desks like that anymore? And that scene with the paint...isn't that called "bullying" in our contemporary system? And all the visits to the shrink? I don't remember any of that in the book....at least, not in such vivid detail. I remembered she was super-observant, she became a writer and made up with her friends and they all run off to play in the fields somewhere. That's what I got out of it.

You have to see the movie, though. The class reads Harriet's notebook and gangs up on her. She's miserable, and they are mean, and the dynamics are scary. It's disturbing. Maybe that's what my parents thought of ME--"disturbing." LOL...."Honey....she's doing it again...sitting under those trees....Is that normal?" Or did they even notice? I don't know, but at least I never lost my notebook. And really, I don't remember writing anything evil about my friends. My family, YES! LOL But nothing that we didn't rant about aloud at home anyway. There weren't many secrets in my family in that way. We were like the "the loud family" on those old Saturday Night Live skits. VERY embarrassing when the windows were open in the summer. Certainly not the best environment to raise a spy.

Where was I going with this? Oh yes. Trees. There's nothing worse than coming home from a lovely weekend in Colonial Beach and coming back to NO TREES. What we come home to is....surprise....more construction. We've been looking at it since we moved here. Roads ripped apart, half houses, dirt. I just want to shove an earth mover up the developers' butts. When we get to our loop, it does get better (thank God), and at least we have our little strip of trees in the "back yard" so I get to see green. I need green. I guess it's because I grew up around so many trees and learned to go to trees when I needed to re-group and re-calm and sometimes, to hide. Trees revive me. Birds and squirrels are our mischievous kin. Tree-creatures (and animals in general) are healing and magical. Okay, so I love woods. I'm a "tree hugger." So what?

Living in Colorado Springs was a drag. There was no green. People think of Colorado and think of pines, but I guess we were not into the mountains enough to see that kind of green. We had a view of Pike's Peak and NORAD from our front window, yes, and that was lovely in a strange kind of way. But there wasn't enough green. The fields were brown a lot. Prairie. I couldn't get used to it. I think I'd love to visit Colorado again, this time when I'm not pregnant and limited to prairie. God, I couldn't breathe there. There's no oxygen in Colorado. LOL Come to think of it, I had the same problem in Mexico City. It was a neat place. But there was no oxygen there, either.

So what does all this have to do with being "logical"? Hmmmmm. Well, how about, "Is there a REASON you have to knock down all the damn trees while you're building your SUBURBAN HELL????" And does it make me some kind of radical anarchist that I HATE it? I understand we need houses. And I see construction workers breaking their backs out there every day trying to do the best they can in spite of challenges--doing work that most of us couldn't ever handle. (You do NOT want to get me on my "undervalued-working-person" rant and how these folks often deserve better treatment than they get.) I also understand that planning is a difficult job. But when inadequate planning yields poor quality of life (i.e. environmental destruction, insufficient new schools and roads to handle the hasty development) I (and scores of other people) take exception.

So what if I'm waiting for the squirrels to evolve and rebel. I'm going to supply them with whatever they want to take back the land--sell them contraband acorns. Over the Hedge INDEED. I want a Part II: Squirrels' Revenge.

You've got your greenbacks. Now I'd like my green back, thank you very much.

--Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

_____________________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors. Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.

NOTE: To post a new topic, click the "Blog This" link at the top of the page. You may also respond and read other responses by clicking on the "comments" link under the original posting, but remember, this is a moderated blog. All postings must be approved prior to publication. We very much appreciate your continued, thought-provoking, professional posts and look forward to reading more!

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

There But for the Grace of God.....

www.LuxuriousChoices.net

The Choice Debate

Poetry and Polemics

We grew up with a saying in our home: "There but for the grace of God go I." No one had to explain it to us. My parents would say it after narrating some sad story or other, and we would thank God for all we had. And we believed we had a lot--not a lot of money, but a house and a dog and a yard and a neighborhood where kids could run safely from house to house, playing in this one's or that one's backyard. But that was thirty years ago.

Now, I would like to relay the story of how I came to live in my own, very first home, the home in which we still live. Keep in mind, this is an abbreviated version.


Of course, we toured numerous homes with our realtor, discussed pricing, location, and the needs of our family. At the time, we were newly married, and our children (from my previous marriage) were about ages four and five. Schools, play-space, and community were important considerations, and so was my husband's commute. But we didn't have a lot of money, so our choices were limited. We decided on a townhome being built in a newer development and were excited as we watched the construction.

As the week for closing on the financing and actually moving in came nearer, we worked to coordinate timing with the builder. We knew we were approved for the loan, but we needed a closing date. The finance company gave us a couple of closing dates previously, but those did not end up working out. Finally, in December, we got a closing date that was supposedly definite.

In the meantime, we had been trying to arrange movers, and the builder gave us permission to move our belongings in the week of the scheduled closing which happened to be Christmas week. We wanted to be in our new home for the holiday. The day before Christmas Eve, the builder's sales rep unlocked our door and let us in. The movers took our tree, fully decorated, and placed it in the front window. Boxes and furniture were strewn about, but we didn't care so long as everything was settled enough in time to celebrate.

Then, in the middle of moving, we got the call.

The closing date had fallen through....again. We were concerned, but since we had the builder's permission to move in our belongings, we thought it could be worked out. We were wrong.

Within minutes of hearing the news, the builder's sales office rep called the builder who informed us, via the rep, that we were not permitted to stay in the home and that we would have to remove our things. We explained most of our items had already been moved in. The builder's rep asked us to move them back out. We explained how much that would cost and refused.

After some more exchanges, the builder, still on the telephone, relayed the message through the sales rep that we could keep our things in the home but that we could not stay there. Dismayed because he had told us to move our things in, we called the police station to see if the builder had the right to "evict" us. The desk sergeant said if our belongings were there, we had the right to stay. We told the sales rep we were not leaving.

A few minutes later, three police cruisers and the builder in his shiny, red, Corvette, arrived to remove us from our home.

The exchange between the police officers and me was not pleasant.

Nothing I or my husband said seemed to matter, including the contradictory information we received from the desk sergeant and the builder. We were being thrown out. My husband took a few wrapped gifts with him to his gray Honda where I was crying hysterically. I knew the police officers were just doing their job, but how would we celebrate Christmas with the children, and how could we possibly explain this to them?

We managed somehow. That's about all I can say. We closed a couple of days later.

I do not relay this story out of any need for sympathy. I do not tell it because I feel sorry for myself or my family, because I want vengeance, or because I think it will change anything that happened. I relay it because I think the story illustrates a sad truth about our society.

Every day, people are displaced for one reason or another. In this case, the builder did not want to offer a lease agreement, a rent option, a discount, or anything else because he did not want to risk losing money or property value even for a few days. But I wonder what he was willing to risk in making this decision.

What might have happened if we were not responsible, educated people? What if we were violent, and/or unstable? And what if we were armed?

People want to know why crime happens. Sometimes it happens because criminals have no conscience. Sometimes it happens because criminals have no sense of responsibility. But sometimes it happens because people who are already downtrodden cannot see another way out. And the more people who feel this way, the more tendency there is for crime to increase.

Our family is not downtrodden. We are certainly not criminals. We work hard, and we have luxuries that some poor will never know. We don't have a big yard, but we do have a generally safe neighborhood, and that's important to us. But like many people, we are probably only one paycheck or so away from serious financial decline.

We hear complaints all the time about the effects of poverty--too many people living in a house, junky cars in driveways, graffiti, violence, ignorance, discrimination and the ugliness that goes along with it. Community leaders are shocked when someone is murdered and appalled at the increase of theft, sometimes labeling it a "crime emergency" when suddenly more affluent neighborhoods are affected. All the while, the chasm between the rich and the poor grows and grows, and poverty overtakes more than just housing. People are poorer in education. People are poorer in health. People are poorer in family. People are poorer in spirit.

And people want to know why.

I believe there is a simple answer, and it applies to all of us.

Too often, people overlook that what they do matters. People deny we are tied through a common bond of humanity, for better or for worse. People refuse to identify with human emotion and need. We ignore and abuse one another for the sake of personal gain. We forget that in spite of differences--racial, socioeconomic, circumstantial--we share a genetic sameness that demands our attention, respect, honesty and empathy.

Too many times, people simply forget, "There but for the grace of God go I."

--Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
_____________________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors. Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at
editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.

NOTE: To post a new topic, click the "Blog This" link at the top of the page. You may also respond and read other responses by clicking on the "comments" link under the original posting, but remember, this is a moderated blog. All postings must be approved prior to publication. We very much appreciate your continued, thought-provoking, professional posts and look forward to reading more!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stuck in the Middle Again

www.LuxuriousChoices.net
The Choice is Yours
Poetry and Polemics: The Choice Debate


As an undergrad, I was once "accused" of being middle class. I say "accused" because the term was not meant to flatter, and it was used after I suggested putting curtains up in our tenement to make it appear somewhat homey in spite of the cracked walls and peeling linoleum. Coming from a lower middle class home, I wondered at the time why "middle class" might be considered an insult, particularly in this impoverished setting, but apparently, I was one of the few living in the rooming house out of necessity and not choice. I guess some of the others lived there for artistic or reckless partying purposes. I don’t know. I just knew I was broke and wanted to go to college.

I never viewed being middle class as a negative, and prior to the accusation, I had never considered curtains an affront to, well, anyone. Curtains were a nice way to spruce up a room's appearance, to keep peeping Toms at bay, and most importantly, to conserve energy. To me, a house with no curtains symbolized a place that had been abandoned, that had no one to care for it, that lacked character, color and warmth. I guess to others, curtains represented a violation of an ascetic philosophical code or just money wasted that could have been put to a higher purpose....like purchasing a keg, for example. I never really "got it," but then, I don't "get" a lot of things.

Like I don't get some politicians. I don’t get why legislators would propose to spend
millions encouraging parents, teachers, and students to abandon efforts to improve public education by offering vouchers for private schools as opposed to using those monies to improve low-income public schools, schools that have been undermined, underfunded, and undervalued for years. Do I believe parents should have the option to send children to private schools? Sure. Do I sympathize and in some cases empathize with low-income parents? You bet. But as a tax payer and a thank-you-very-much-successful-product-of-mostly-public schools, I’m appalled--particularly when the bid for vouchers comes from some of the same folks who supported the No Child Left Behind Act which has left public schools with a push to teach towards tests, piddley budgets for academic resources and specialists, and a whole lot of legitimate griping from everyone concerned.

I find I am headed towards a rant, so I will, instead, request justification for neglecting public schools. Go ahead and try to prove to me that vouchers, no matter what you want to call them, are acceptable uses of our tax dollars. Tell me why we can’t afford more ESOL and special education teachers, but we can afford vouchers. Explain to me why elementary school classes of almost thirty students do not have paid teachers’ assistants, but we can afford vouchers. Clarify why counties severely limit the number of children who can be evaluated for learning disabilities when it is apparent those children need to be evaluated. But we can afford vouchers. Validate why schools cannot have full-day Kindergarten that supports the standardized testing requirements. But we can afford vouchers. Then tell me why every socioeconomic class is not entitled to quality public education when we have already paid for it again and again.

There is no excuse for abandoning our public schools, no matter what the income level of the parents. There is no excuse for encouraging exodus to private schools that, in many cases, have no resources for special education or ESOL.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just the last of the hopelessly middle class. But I doubt it.


I bet there are lots of people like me who still believe public schools are worth renovating. And I bet there are thousands who have worked too hard and paid too much to silently watch all that public money be tossed to the private sector. And I’d be willing to bet no matter what socioeconomic class they come from, some of them really, REALLY appreciate curtains.

I know I do.

--Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

_____________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers.

Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors. Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sex, Violence, and Video Games

www.LuxuriousChoices.net
The Choice is Yours
Poetry and Polemics: The Choice Debate'"



Mike Hernandez Writes:

Well I just finished Halo a little bit before Smackdown came on tonight. I have to say a few of the early levels in the story mode were kinda almost fun (the outdoor missions, all two of them), almost, but about half way through the game when you meet the Flood it's all downhill crap. In fact that's all the game was, fighting the flood...

Beginning: Oh there's a war going on, humans versus some aliens...

Later on in the Beginning: Oh no they shot us down let's land on that big ass ring...

Middle: What? You mean this ring is the death star?!...

Later on in the Middle: *Halo becomes a rip-off of the Riddley Scott directed classic Alien* Well I don't see any Covenant let's fight thoseother aliens, it's only there home and we're the intruders so it's ok...

Rest of the game: Fight the Flood, Fight the Flood, Fight theFlood... Hey what happened to the Covenant?

Ending: You mean there was an ending?! (actually they just copied off of the movie Pitch Black where they find a small escape ship or lifeboat if you will and blast off into space as the only two survivors and of course the Halo blows up cause they nuked the ship they were on from the beginningof the game and somehow that was enough to destroy the whole damn ring even though it's the size of a moon and they even had the same sound effect the aliens made in Pitch Black....I think the Flood made that sound. Lame!)

The game play was very repetitive and the enemies all had the same patterns. It was ok until halfway when I had to deal with the flood, and then it wasn't fun in the least and the lame ending just made me feel like I wasted my time. You can't even watch the cut scenes over in the options and there's no real extra's, just some previews for Halo 2. The only times it seemed fun was in the outdoor levels but they're almost non-existent in this game.

Oh yeah and if you beat it on legendary mode which I didn't, they add in a part where the drill sergeant is fighting over a gun with a covenant soldier until the ship gets nuked. They stop and look at the blast and he says, "Oh shit! This is it, hold me." Then they hug and the ending continues as normal. But there's no point in trying to get this ending because you can't save after you beat it.

I don't know why people like this game so much, the levels from the multiplayer aren't even playable in story mode. I guess people play it for the multiplayer but even that's not that great. The best thing about this game is that it's short. 10 levels that you can beat in a few days depending on how much you play. I beat it in 4 day's, would of been 3 but it was late one night so I only did one level that day. Really you can beat it in one to two day's but then again why would you want to. I only did it so I can practice for the next party so I won't get my ass handed to me by some little kid who talks shit like last time and to get Billy and Josh and everyone else off my ass about not playing through it yet. I'm going to do part 2 next then that's it forever at least until 3 comes out I guess...

Oh yeah and the acting was bad. Master Chief barley even talks. He doesn't seem like a badass to me. I don't see what's so different about him form the other soldiers other than the suit and the fact he didn't die at the end. Other than that nothing really. He doesn't even drop any good one liners. Samus could totally own him and anybody that say's otherwise is an idiot. I can't believe anybody actually thinks this is the best game ever. I played the game and think it's crap. And now that I've played it I have the right to bitch.

The movie is going to suck even with Peter Jackson because the story is almost non existent. It's 90% shooting things and only 10% story if even that and that 10% is a rip off of thefollowing movies...


> > > Alien
> > > Starship Troopers
> > > Iron Eagle
> > > Pitch Black

Those four films at least. The drill sergeant is a direct copy of this one guy form Iron Eagle, same voice look attitude status rank and everything. Grrrrrr...

Ok ok I have to go waste another few day's on Halo 2 now so I can go play something good.

Michael Mercurio Writes:

Very good Mike...You've described the game PERFECTLY. Welcome to the wonderful world of mediocracy...the place you reach when everyone must cater to the idiot. It's not that there aren't any fresh ideas...only that people are too afraid to express them.

For those that don't know, Halo is an INCREDIBLY popular title for the X-Box. It made "game of the year" when it first came out, as did it's sequel. "Mainstream" gamers still can't get enough of the franchise, and frequently hold "Halo Parties" over their X-Box networks. A third title is in the works, as is a movie. I'm sure both will do astoundingly well. I can hear the applauding already, much in the same way that occurred during the Silent Hill movie (if you don't know, don't ask...it was rather traumatizing...especially with half the audience being children aged 10 and under with their parents right there next to them). It went a little something like this:

"Mommy? Why is that woman's body cut in half?"

"Because it's a movie about a video game, honey. This is what a
video game is. Doesn't that look neat? Maybe one day you can make one yourself."

"Hah hah! Yeah it does look neat! Weeee! Hey, can I play the game from this?"

"Maybe when you're older sweetie...you're too young to be playing all that gore. Now settle down and watch the movie...here, take your meds...you're a bit hyper today."

*The above conversation is imaginary of course, however if it were true it
would take place at this point. A girl is picked up by the head, stripped
naked, and her skin is ripped from her body. Every adult and child in the
theater APPLAUD. I am NOT making this up.*

*2 years later*

"Heeey...this game sucks! It's not ANYTHING like the movie! That movie was WAY better...."

*Play along at home! Insert the rest of the child's life here!*

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt Writes:

That IS disturbing. I have to wonder at parents letting their kids watching violence like that....and PLAYING violence. Do you think parents who let their kids under 10 watch violent movies/play violent games are.....

a. stupid?
b. just not paying attention?
c. violent themselves?
d. numb?
e. something not listed here?

Mike Hernandez Writes:

I want to say B but A could be a logical answer as well.

I'm not going to pretend to know this one either but it could be a number of things. They could just be stupid or have something wrong with them (they could be psychotic). Maybe they had a troubled upbringing. Then again some people just get off on hurting others or watching them suffer. Of course it could be none of the above.

I think the ones that don't do it are just more in touch with morals and values and have more common sense. But again there's just so many possible variables that it's hard for me to give a real answer to this one. I guess you could say that when dealing with nature versus nurture, the parents don't always entirely have a direct influence on how they're kids turn out.

1. common sense: sound practical judgment - WordNet
2. common sense: beliefs or propositions that seem, to most people, to be
prudent and of sound judgment, without dependence upon esoteric knowledge -
Wikipedia


Basically I meant common sense in the form of the knowledge of right and
wrong. It's the same principal as someone not wanting to touch fire cause
they just know what will happen, they'll get burnt. It's common sense.

Let's say "John" is told by his friends to take candy from a baby. This
action would obviously be wrong, it's so obvious it's common sense. So if
John does the dirty deed he either doesn't have any common sense or doesn't
care. Well that's how I meant it. Common sense isn't the only factor in the
original topic though so a lack of common sense may or may not be the answer
here but you see where I was going with this.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt Writes:

Do you think the games or the movies are more violent?

Mike Hernandez Writes:

Ok let's start with your question about which is more violent, movies or the games they're based on. It really depends on the movie/ game. Silent Hill was a lot more graphic in some aspects in the game but the movie was a lot more gratuitous about the violence and gore. The game was all about the atmosphere and suspense. Yeah it showed some disturbing things but nothing in that game was gratuitous, it all happened for a reason and everything was connected and explained in a philosophical and psychological way.

The movie was just sick gratuitous gore. There was a seen which DID NOT happen in the game where the ghost of a 7 year old girl in an act of vengeance for her murder appeared before her murderess in a floating hospital bed with barbed wire tendrils and slaughtered everyone. She started with the one who actually did the deed, she basically picked her up by the arms with the barbed wire and shot a few more barbed wire tendrils up her "hoo hoo" through her clothes. This lasted for about a minute before the barbed wire eventually started bursting out of her body in different directions and ultimately split her perfectly in half long way's.

This was nothing like the game mind you. I'm a big fan of the mysterious Silent Hill game series but I hated the movie. Right after this scene everyone applauded. It was so badly done and unbelievable that it was almost laughable to see but it was sick and probably offensive to some people. It was because of this and the fact that a lot of teenage couples on dates were there that night and just trying to have fun that there was an applause at all though. But yes there were parents with little kids in the audience that saw this.

Getting back to the point here, this movie was more violent than the game. This isn't always the case though. Sometimes it's the other way around. The game Mortal Kombat is WAYYYYYYY more violent than the movie ever was. As far as Tomb Raider goes, I haven't played all of them but I'd say as far as violence goes they're probably about the same despite a lot of inaccuracies in the movie adaptation concerning plot but in the game you shoot more people/animals than in the movies.

Hollywood has a way of messing up adoptions of books, videogames, TV shows, and some comic books (though they did a good job on some of them). It just seems that videogames in particular always seem to get butchered when they make a movie out of it. But yeah I'm getting off topic here.

As far as what I think about those people who bring little kids to violent movies, it's there right though they are not always right. I don't think you should bring children that young to a movie that shows a woman getting ripped in half by barbed wire through her privates. I just don't feel it's appropriate but then again maybe it didn't bother the kids to see it. Maybe the parents didn't think it was a big deal or that the world sucks right now and what you see in a movie isn't as bad or much worse. Maybe common sense isn't really a common agreement. Maybe it really wasn't such a big deal. I still say that some things are just written in stone for common sense though even if this isn't one of those things.

____________________________________________

References to philosophies, religions and beliefs represent personal experiences and perceptions only and are not meant to categorize, interpret, endorse, or defame; these statements are not intended to promote prejudice towards or to support any particular religion or belief, nor should they be interpreted as statements of intolerance towards individuals or groups of believers. Opinions expressed on this page reflect only those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, site owner, or other contributors.

Respond to this posting by e-mailing us at editor@luxuriouschoices.com or see the note below.NOTE: To post a new topic, click the "Blog This" link at the top of the page. You may also respond and read other responses by clicking on the "comments" link under the original posting, but remember, this is a moderated blog. All postings must be approved prior to publication. We very much appreciate your continued, thought-provoking, professional posts and look forward to reading more!

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