When did life change so shockingly for some of us that we did not even realize it was changing? There was a time past when we would get off our donkeys and help some poor stranger in distress – no questions asked.

Those days are over, and I certainly slept through their passing. But what happened between the time when we stopped and helped the sick, the poor and those in distress to the present time when we now take pictures of the sick, the poor, and the distressed instead of helping them?

In this age of electronics when everyone is busy recording every little detail of every little public and private action and every word spoken around them, it is no surprise that the Good Samaritans have disappeared.

A few years ago I was in the Yucatan Peninsula climbing pyramids and ancient monuments when my foot slipped and I began rolling down the last six steps of a pyramid. No one came to my assistance, but everyone in the immediate area was recording my fall from grace. Cameras or phones or whatever else their hands held were busy recording my descent if not my demise.

Even after I hit the bottom, and the drama was over, no Good Samaritan came to help me get up. Everyone walked away with fabulous pictures of an adventurous woman rolling down the pyramid – I hope. If those electronic tourists had followed me back to my hotel they would have gotten some great colourful pictures of my blue, black and purple body – blue arms and black legs, purple back and front, and even a little blue and black on the forehead.

Three years ago I was in Madrid, and in the broad day light of the middle of day three women attacked me. I had just left the Prado and was waiting at the light to cross the street. At least 15 to 20 people were waiting at that light. These women were trying to relieve me of my handbag which was across my shoulder. I don’t know where I found the strength, but I held on to my bag for dear life. In the meantime, some of my fellow pedestrians waiting for the green light began recording the incident.

This did not please the three barbarous women, so they left me and turned on the picture takers trying to seize their equipment, and so my handbag was saved. I ran in the opposite direction and left the women and the pedestrians to fight it out.

The reason I recalled these incidents was because of the following incident. In January I slipped and fell off a ladder and hurt my right foot and right shoulder. Twenty-four hours later the foot was blue and swollen and I could hardly move the shoulder.

I went to the doctor, he sent me for x-rays. I drove into the parking lot of the lab, got out of the car, and was walking / dragging myself to the entrance of the lab when I slipped and fell again. My right foot was painful, I could hardly put my weight on it, the ground was icy and slippery, it was winter, and I lost my balance and was on the ground again in an awkward position with my left foot under me, the knee twisted at an awful angle.

Two people were exiting the lab and saw what happened. Two people were behind me about to enter the lab and also saw what happened. All four of them came to my “rescue”. However, they did not help me to get up. One man asked if I wanted him to take pictures of me sprawled on the ground. He said I would need the pictures to sue the lab. I shook my head negative. The other man said I should stay on the ground (the cold and icy ground) while he went inside and get a nurse or a doctor. Again I shook my head negative.

I wiggled my toes, they wiggled, I was okay, but in pain. I started to get up by myself and was able to accomplish the task without help. The woman who was about to enter the lab brushed and straightened my coat, and asked if I was okay. I said yes, thanked them, and we parted.

It is inconsequential that I ended up with two taped ankles and drove home with a pain and a prayer. The doctor gave me permission to drive. It bothered me that instead of helping me, someone would want to take my picture while lying flat on the icy asphalt so I can sue the lab.

It is true that electronics have helped expose crime and provide evidence when innocent people were accused of crimes, etc. But whatever happened to the good old days when people helped people – just helped them.

We need more Good Samaritans in the world. Not electronic Good Samaritans, but ordinary people who just help someone when they fall down, or they need a hand to help them get up!

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The Electronic Teenager

April 23, 2013

Has anyone noticed that (most of) the 21st Century teenagers are people of very few words? Is it just me as a teacher and an aunt who has discovered this startling phenomenon? What happened to those teens who used to know everything by the time they were 18? Who used to argue to the death? Those teens who were changing the social and cultural order of the world? Where are they?

After observing my teenage nieces, nephews, and friends’ kids between Thanksgiving (2011) and Christmas (2012) I am wondering what happened to their social skills. In that thirteen month period we met socially ten times. After greetings we automatically divided ourselves into two groups. The older people’s group was talking, talking, talking – politics, world affairs, religion, family affairs – and the teenagers’ group was sitting quietly, deep in concentration, tiny little things in their hands – click, click, click, busy, busy, busy.

The teenagers rarely made eye contact, spoke only when spoken to, and answered in one word replies as follows:
How are you? Good.
Would you like something to drink? Aha.
Would you like something to eat? No. Yes.
Some more of this or that dish? Yes. No.
How’s school? Good.
How’s college? Good.
You have a major in mind? What?

They generally ignored the company around them. Is this the new social order?

A lot of parents used to complain that their teenage kids argued, grumbled and complained much too much. I did! This was in the mid-70s to mid-80s. I’m not sure about the 90s. My three sons not only argued, grumbled and complained about chores around the house, they argued about their clothes, grumbled about the home cooked food, and complained bitterly about having to go to bed (with a book) at 9:00 p.m. on school days.

The two things they did not complain about were junk food on Fridays, and a trip to the book store. At the dinner table we talked about all sorts of things including world affairs and those boys could talk – or argue.

As a high school teacher I have spoken to many parents who have complained about the opposite behavior. When and how did teenagers’ behavior change so drastically?

Many, many parents with whom I had contact did not know what time their kids went o bed or if they did their homework. They gave their kids money to buy their own clothes. It seems as if parents these days have very little say in their children’s lives and even less control on their activities. One question many parents used to ask me was how to wean their kids off the computer and other electronic gadgets. I told them to stop buying them, to buy books instead.

Some months ago I read in the New York Times that parents in Silicone Valley did not allow their kids to use electronic gadgets until a certain age. Wow!

Recently new kinds of schools have been opening up. For example, (1) school for etiquette, (2) school for job interview skills, and (3) school for social inter-action skills. Wow!

These schools are good for business, but they are a sad commentary on the social order of our society. It seems to me that the more ways we have to communicate with each other, the less we have to say to each other. I love a good conversation or argument, face to face or via phone.

Democracy For Sale

April 20, 2013

Democracy is such a pain in the neck concept. I have been trying to figure it out for the past 44 years and I can’t say that I have made much progress. Recently, I have been wondering if there is such a thing as democracy, because if there is, perhaps it is not an American thing.

The thing that confuses me the most is voting. I have a right to vote and every two years I religiously show up at the high school and vote. And this is where my confusion begins. On Tuesday I vote for some poor slob, and on Wednesday the gun lobby, or the bank lobby, or the insurance lobby, or the pharmaceutical lobby, or some other corrupting lobby buys my congressman or senator and I am left without anyone watching out for my interests.
Of course in a few years my congressman or senator leaves his poor house in my neighborhood and moves into a mansion in some exclusive neighborhood. He has to move up in the world, after all lobbyists pay big bucks for small favors. I don’t think any congressman or senator started out poor and died poor. From the day they win the office to the day they leave, their coffers swell and swell and swell onto infinity or death. Greed is the name of their game. Perhaps term limits should be the rule, and then we can see how much they love the poor voters.

The other thing that confuses me about the democratic system of government is the level of corruption at every level of government. It’s as if these people – these elected officials – seek public office to swindle the people who voted for them. Plain and simple, they fill their pockets with our money. They want power just to steal. The fact that some of them get caught is inconsequential because first their pockets are filled, and second the majority of them run free.

Another thing that really, really confuses me is congress. What is the purpose of congress? They get nothing done! They are owned by lobbyists. They are disconnected from the population – the people who voted for them. They have no clue about poverty and the minimum wage; about education and public schools (their kids go to private schools); about a family without health insurance; about a person living on social security; about struggling to pay the mortgage or losing your home. The people in congress are so disconnected from reality, one wonders if they live in the same America as the rest of us.

Now here is the crux of the matter. We are exporting democracy to some very unlikely places around the globe. Whether it is the Middle East or Latin America, the African Continent or Chine and Russia – we want them all to be like us, a democratic empire. But all those places already have power hungry, money hungry, corrupt regimes and democratic leaders like our congressmen, so why waste our time and money. They are already like us – we taught them well. Iraq is our best example of a democratic state. We created them in our own image. So we want the world to be democratic which would mean world wide corruption, lobbyists for every corner shop, a disconnected congress or parliament, voters with no power, and votes being the path to power and corruption, rags to riches, vice and scandal.

Perhaps I am misinterpreting the term democracy as it is practiced in America today. I hope I am. Because if I’m not, then I’ll be terribly ashamed of my president, congress, the elected officials, and all the people who are looking after my social security, my health benefits, my grand children’s environment, food prices and food chemicals, drug prices, etc. etc. etc. Yes, ashamed of them all and disillusioned by their definition of the word democracy.

Perhaps I should revisit the concept of democracy in another 44 years. Things do change!

Dear Mr. President:

April 10, 2013

Dear President Obama:

Twenty babies died on Friday. A gun man who enjoyed his 2nd Amendment rights used a gun to kill them. He killed a total of twenty-six pupils and their teachers.

As this heartbreaking horror story unfolded, I burst into tears twice. I am a teacher, a mother and a grandmother.

That night I went to bed but could not sleep. In my sleeplessness, I realized one thing. My sorrow and my tears will not change anything. No amount of sorrow and not a million gallons of tears will change anything – or bring back those little kids.

The time for tears is past. The time for heart felt sympathy is past. The time for letters of condolences is past. The time for memorial services for gun victims is past.

When babies are not safe in their kindergarten classrooms, students in high school, students in college, people in houses of worship, legislators at meetings, shoppers in stores and malls, people in theatres, and in parks; when people in a society can no longer feel safe in their public spaces and their private homes, then something is seriously wrong in that society.

I am talking about our society of today, American soil, 2012.

We go to Afghanistan, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and look for terrorists and drone them to death and kill thousands of women and children for no reason. Well, let’s clean up our own house first before we waste our resources – time and money and the youth and lives of our young men and women – on foreign terrorists. Leave them to kill each other. You see, while you are worried about Muslim terrorists, we have our own terrorists here. Our terrorists belong to a party called the National Rifle Association.

Well Mr. President, it is time for you to stand up to the NRA. We voted for you to protect us, not the NRA to kill us. The NRA is not in charge of this country. You are. If you and all those people in Congress who we voted for are owned by the NRA, then where do we go? Who do we turn to? How many more dead babies do you need before change comes? Can’t you and Congress and the Supreme Court fight the NRA? Can’t you see we have our own civil war here?

How many more lives must the NRA take before you all defend the people of this land?

Something is seriously wrong in a society when guns have rights and babies have none. Please, Mr. President, create an amendment that would give us ordinary people – teachers, babies, nurses, plumbers, retirees – the right to live. The right to live without fear of guns!

We are no longer safe in schools, theatres, prayer spaces, work places, shopping malls – how would you describe our quality of life, Mr. President?

Sincerely,

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UK

Written on the 16th December, 2012, and posted on 10th

English: List of NRA weapons

English: List of NRA weapons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

April, 2013, as the gun debate continues.

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