Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Making America Good Again: The Joy of Sex

Can we talk?  I am so tired of the daily stream of news about Trump's vulgar language and sexual conquests. I'm equally over the rehashing of the rape allegations against Clinton and his extra-marital affairs.

For the media, or any of us, to feign outrage at these events while embracing the vile stuff that permeates our culture is the height of hypocrisy.

And it's not just in the media and entertainment.  It’s what we see and do every day. There are few, if any, men or women who have not at some point used or abused their sexuality to get what they wanted from someone else. We use sex as a weapon or as a reward. Admit it.  Our sexuality does not always bring out our better selves, does it? 

Sex is the most wonderful, pleasurable and powerful aspect of our humanity.  We can use it well to our joy and benefit, or abuse it to our despair and detriment.  We do a bit of both. 

In my lifetime (I'm 58) the boundaries that determined what is right and wrong in regard to sex have changed.  The rule these days simply seems to be this:  as long as sex is between consenting adults, the rest of us ought to mind our own business.  

So what has 60 years of consenting adults gotten us?

We need to take an honest look at our country's problems and admit that many of them have a direct correlation to our 'anything goes' sex lives.  Because we live in a world where consent is all that matters, we've lost sight of the consequences. 

We tolerate those who abuse their power and fame for sex, be they politicians, CEOS, athletes or celebrities.

What we used to call pornography is now main stream entertainment.  This forces us to offer sex education in schools earlier and earlier, robbing children of the innocence of childhood.  Date rape is commonplace as teenagers and young adults work out what sexual boundaries are in real life. 

Work places are fraught with “he said/she said.”  Sexual tension interferes with job advancement and workplace productivity. 

Divorce is just another means of changing partners.  Why marry when you can live together and avoid the hassle. Sexually transmitted diseases and free birth control tax our healthcare system. 

The most devastating consequence of our new sexual morality is its impact on children.  "Consenting adults" have unwanted children who are often abused, neglected or put into foster care.  The murder of unwanted, but yet unborn, children is celebrated as an acceptable means of birth control.  Welfare rolls increase.

A brief word to the Christians who say that many of America's problems are because we've legalized same-sex marriage:  our problems aren't because a gay couple wants to make a commitment to each other and raise children.  Our problems are because an increasing number of people - straight and gay - move from partner to partner and fail to be accountable for the consequences of their sex lives. 

What's the solution?  We need to take a long, hard look at how we define sexual morality. 

Consent is still important.  Sex is the most intimate of actions and should only be entered into willingly.  But sexual morality is about more than simply saying "yes" or "no” whenever the opportunity comes along. 

Sexual morality should also embrace the importance of long-term, loving relationships to our sexual health and well-being.  We won't be perfect at it, but this should be the goal. 

A couple, committed to each other, is less likely to be on welfare, less likely to avail themselves of abortion or have unwanted children, less likely to have an STD and less likely to divorce.

A couple, committed to each other, is less likely to sexually abuse each other, their (or other people's) children or view pornography. 

A couple, committed to each other, is less likely to tolerate the immoral behavior of the famous and powerful.

But, you say, ‘That’s no fun!  What a prude you are!"  

"You might want to think so,” I reply.  "But part of the lie that the "consent" folks have foisted on us is that sexual pleasure doesn't happen in long-term, committed relationships like marriage....but it can and it does."

A couple, committed to each other, finds more joy and satisfaction in their sex lives than they would with multiple, casual partners.  

I wish married couples would hold hands, kiss and hug in public so their children and society would get the hint that good sex happens at home. It doesn't only occur with perfect strangers or during steamy affairs as TV, movies and music would like us to believe.  A little shame and guilt for those breaking the commitment boundary wouldn't be a bad thing either. 

To make America good again, let's promote the joy of sex within long-term, loving relationships.  Sexual morality should not be defined merely by consent; it must be grounded in commitment.  Perhaps chastity and marriage can be a new trend?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Making America Good Again: The Truth about Lying

Americans used to believe honesty was a virtue.   We taught our children the story of George Washington telling his father, "I cannot tell a lie."  We learned from the boy who cried "Wolf!" the consequences of lying repeatedly.  We said to each other:  "Honesty is the best policy."  We still give honesty a polite nod, but only when it is expedient. 

I feel a bit like the Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes who went through his town in broad daylight with a lantern looking for one honest person.  He was a Cynic.  I'm becoming one. 

Where can we find honest people these days?  

Not among our politicians for sure.  Lies are part and parcel of what they tell us to sway us to support them. Ben Carson, one of the Republican candidates for president this year, said he would rather lose the election than lie.  Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump would even consider saying such a thing.  How sad. 

We don't even expect the news media - through the main stream or social outlets - to tell us the truth.  Like with the politicians, truth has taken a back seat to profits and political agendas.  Even the fact-checkers have their own motives.  In response, we choose to consume what we want to believe. 

But lying is not just epidemic in politics and the media.  One of the most frightening places I see a lack of truth these days is in our justice system.  What happened to witnesses, as well as the judges, attorneys and law enforcement officers to whom the system is entrusted, actually telling "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"?  Justice can only survive when the truth is told.

A culture of lying can have earth-shattering consequences.  There's a great little book by Andy Andrews:  "How Do You Kill 11 MILLION PEOPLE?"  The answer:  "You lie to them."  His example is the Holocaust. What will the consequences of lying be in our generation?

Americans used to agree that a basic value we shared was the importance of truth.   One of the 10 Commandments is:  "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."  Don't lie about the other guy.   Jesus said, "But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’" Simply tell the truth.

And that is hard to do.  It's not just the politicians, journalists and lawyers.  We all lie because we are all selfish. Sometimes we tell "white lies" to cover minor indiscretions, sometimes we tell "big lies" that cost others their lives and livelihoods. We spend lots of time justifying ourselves, splitting hairs about when it might be OK to lie, or when lies don't really matter, or when we think lies are essential. 

We have moved away from the idea that lying is a WRONG thing to do.  Lying is now a tolerated, everybody-does-it kind of thing.  When we accept as normal the daily dose of lies we get from our leaders, our news, and even from our friends, the easier it becomes for us to stop telling the truth as well. 

To start to put an end to the cultural epidemic of lying in America, we need to stop lying ourselves. 

Here's today's challenge.  Go 24 hours without telling a lie, not even a little-bitty white lie.  No lies at all. 

Start by being truthful with yourself and those closest to you. Before you speak, decide if what you want to say must be said.  Even if it is true, it might not be necessary.  If it is, say it in a loving way.  Do it with the other person's interest in mind.  Do it in a way that is kind and compassionate.  

Your goal is to avoid telling lies, big ones and little ones. 

Then go the next 24 hours without telling a lie.  Repeat each day until it becomes a habit!  Not lying, or tolerating the lies of others, will go a long way to Making America Good Again. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Making America Good Again: Personal Responsibility

John Smith, echoing the words of the Apostle Paul, told the colonists in Jamestown, "he that will not work shall not eat (except by sickness he be disabled).

Personal responsibility is part of the bedrock of America's goodness

I live in Florida. There is a hurricane bearing down on us. Many Floridiantake responsibility to prepare beforehand.  We do our best to keep our families safe and not burden our neighbors and emergency services during and after the storm. 

By taking care of myself and my family, I am not saying,  "I've done my part, so screw you."  In thcase of Hurricane Matthew, many will find themselves overwhelmed.  History tells us that millions of people will donate time and money to help those impacted by this and other disasters. 

As John Smith acknowledged, personal responsibility always includes both self-reliance and charity. How are you handling your obligations to yourself and others in need

Let's start with your financial responsibilities. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, taught that we each have a duty to "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can."  

Earn money.  Work.  It may not be your dream job, but do what you must to put food on the table and a roof over your headTake care of yourself and your family. Do your job to the best of your ability and look for opportunities to improve your situation.

Save moneyPay for what you need but don't be reckless in your spending.  Stay out of debt. Save for the unexpected.  

Give money.  Help those who can't help themselves. Set aside part of what you earn to help others.  

But personal responsibility doesn't only involve money.  Here are some examples:

You are responsible for taking care of your health.  Think about the impact your health has on insurance premiums and other healthcare costs.  

You are responsible for your sexual choices.  If you can't afford to raise a child (who is your personal responsibility until they are an adult), don't get pregnant.  

You are responsible for your stuff.  A car or home in disrepair is a danger to you and to other people.  

You are responsible for your behavior. Follow the law, watch your mouth, be kind. 

You have a responsibility to help othersRead to a child, take a meal to an elderly neighbor, visit someone in the hospital. Share your time and abilities

You get my drift and could probably add to the list.  Self-reliance AND charity are what personal responsibility is all about. 

Look at your life.   Are you responsible for yourself and for helping others

When we do a better job of taking care of ourselves, government doesn't have to. A little more personal responsibility would go a long way to making America good again.