Saturday, July 21, 2012

Americans: Spoiled brats at best

I'm going to say something right now that may make me kind of unpopular, but it weighs on my mind quite a bit. Maybe it's the guilt of my Catholic upbringing; maybe it's the senseless acts that seem to be happening in our country over and over again; maybe it's the ignorance of the greed that my kids seem to have for all things material, no matter how I try to make them thankful for what they have. Whatever the reason, the recent shooting at the Colorado movie theater and all the heated op/eds that have sprung up regarding gun control lead me to just get this out:

Americans, for the most part, are a bunch of spoiled little brats.

And here's my rationale:

Back in the 1700s, a bunch of top shelf Americans decided to adopt this really cool document called the Bill of Rights. Mind you, at the time, it only applied to white men, not women or African Americans, and was created to specifically define what freedom would look like in this country.

What I'm betting is that James Madison and his posse couldn't have possibly imagined that our nation would evolve into the train wreck it is today. And if they would have been able to see into the future, I'm thinking there would have been a few more caveats to those Bill of Rights - a few more asterisks and disclaimers. Because I'm wondering - is James Madison rolling in his grave right now? Do you think maybe he's screaming "Hey! You guys took this too far!  This is NOT what we meant!"

I say, with my signature eye roll, "Perhaps."

But back to us. It's always about us, isn't it? We selfish Americans, all puffed up with our Bill of Rights stuffed in our back pocket - right next to our guns, our free speech, and our fair trials. We're free Americans. We're entitled. We're DESERVING. And we want MORE.

Because "the Bill of Rights says so", we've taken what our founding fathers gifted us as a privilege that we should thank God for each and every day and tortured it like a CIA official interrogating a Saudi terrorist. "Freedom of speech" has turned into "it's suddenly OK to show sex and hear curse words on TV during prime time" and "it's fine to glamorize killing in movies - and the gorier the better - let's just make sure we squeak by with a PG-13 rating so we can get those impressionable kids in here and make some real money."

"Right to bear arms" has morphed into this sociopathic mentality that it should be morally OK for everyone to carry a firearm because "guns don't kill people; people kill people"; that getting a FOID card should be as eventful as getting a library card, and a three-day waiting period is the answer to all these psychos who are hell-bent on killing innocent people, because we're sure that once they have a couple days to think it over, they'll reconsider and just head out to the backyard and shoot some beer cans off the back stoop.

You know what this all reminds me of? The incredibly selfish tendencies of ignorant children. Children - not unlike we adults so many years ago - who think money grows on trees. Who are too immature to fully realize that what they have - no matter how sparse or how abundant - has been worked for. Who have no clue that the steak they just threw in the garbage could feed a family of four in another country. Or that the cable going out isn't a crisis in a third-world nation. See, there's so much more for them to HAVE. To WANT. And it's their God-given right to have it. Why? Because it's HERE. And because WE TOLD THEM SO. And we have this whole life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mumbo jumbo that we continually shove down their throats.

And what do the enabling parents do? They GIVE. They GIVE and they GIVE. They give to keep up with other parents. To keep up with society. Here's a cell phone, son. Not good enough? Oh, here's a 16GB 4G smart phone. Goodness, you only have a PS2? Let's upgrade you right away to the PS3 - and we should probably throw in a Wii and an Xbox just to make you popular with your friends. And here - I don't want to seem uncool so you can go to this R-rated movie with your buddies, even though you're only 15. And by all means, let me give you full access to the internet and all its dangers, because hey, as long as you're in your room I know you're safe. So how are kids being raised? To feel ENTITLED. To feel as if they DESERVE all of this - simply because it EXISTS and their friends have it. 

Back to us. We're no better than these ignorant spoiled children. We should be able to have guns, because the Bill of Rights said so. No matter that they couldn't have possibly in their wildest dreams suspected that the world would be the free-for-all arsenal of death that it is today, with pickup trucks sporting bumper stickers that say, "You can have my gun when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers." Naw, that's not egotistical and righteous AT ALL. We should be able to SAY whatever the HELL we want - in movies, in television shows, on the internet, in press conferences. Free speech in 1791 = NO FILTER in 2012. WE'VE TAKEN IT TOO FAR.

To me, this is what we're saying to our children:
Say whatever you want. No one can legally stop you, and if they try to, make a big stink and play that "free speech" card.

Eat as much as you want. That's why they've supersized everything and created these bulk grocery stores - for your enjoyment and gluttonous pleasure. Doctors are making a killing (no pun intended) on diabetics, heart patients, and bariatric surgery. Knock yourselves out.

Guns are OK to have because EVERYONE is morally responsible and has completed intensive safety training and would NEVER use them for anything other than their intention. (Wait - their intention? Guns were created for target shooting, right? That's all, right?)

Smoke and drink as much as you want. Even though there is absolutely no physical or mental benefits to smoking, we continue to advertise and sell these cancer sticks because they're money makers. What we'll do instead is keep them around so we can keep taxing them and make even more money for our government. Same with alcohol - we'll plaster beer and hard liquor signs everywhere so you won't be able to WAIT to look old enough to get your drunk on. And if we catch you driving, we'll give you a DUI and another chance. And maybe another after that. So don't worry. 

See as much as you want no matter what your age. No parent can possibly police you from the violent, graphic, sexual and otherwise inappropriate images on television, the internet and in the movie theater. Oh, and if they try? Here's a tip - go over to your friend's house who has a more lenient parent. Works every time.

P.S. Make sure you grow up to be a good law-abiding citizen and a pillar of the community.  

And commenters, don't give me that bullshit that we were the same way when we were young. I don't buy it. Yes, we were ignorant, and yes, we were selfish. But not to this degree. And we hadn't raped the Bill of Rights like we're doing today.

It's a sad state of affairs, how we've become spoiled children with a chip on our shoulders; narcissistic squeaky wheels who demand what is "rightfully ours". Then when something bad happens - like the Colorado shooting - we suddenly become all defensive and blame it solely on the killer, and poo-poo any influences that we as a society have made acceptable to everyone - no matter what their age and ability to handle it all.

What if when we had decided that instead of television and motion pictures becoming a sex and gore free-for-all, we would have required a proportionate amount of comedies, dramas, crime shows and documentaries of Liberia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia? What if we would have limited the right to bear arms to military personnel and police officers? What if we would have made it a law that all restaurant foods had to comply with nutritional guidelines and within RDAs?

Lemme guess. Unconstitutional!!!! What a crock. I wish I could have an hour with Mr. Madison and ask him what he thinks of this whole "Bill of Rights" fiasco. I wonder what he'd say. What do you think he meant when he said, "Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power"?

A premonition, perhaps?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I'm not the woman I used to be...

You can tell a lot about a person by the condition of their home.

Mine here at home pretty much reflects the state of my life right now - organized chaos. My $35 ReStore desk and haven to most of my creative writing serves as the foundation for a laptop, an extra monitor (how did I ever type with one monitor?), a hoops and yoyo musical birthday card from my kids (from last November), two coasters, a glass of water from yesterday that is resting on neither coaster, coupon books, some unpaid bills, a LEGO magazine and a manila folder filled to the brim with school papers that need to be filed right after I get around to the three years worth of other school folders. I'd add a handful of Chex mix in there but the dog just took care of that.

I used to be so neat. So meticulous. OK, so OCD. Even after kids it was hard for me to wear shirts with spit-up stains, or to see jelly smears on my cabinets. I had file folders for everything from household appliance manuals to the kids' monthly weigh-ins at the pediatrician.

Slowly, though, I think I just gave up. My first clue is my desk. Five or ten years ago, never would I still have a Peoria Park District Playbook from the 2012 Winter/Spring session. I mean, really????? That was so five months ago. And what is this - an expired Kohl's flyer with a 30% off coupon???? What is my problem???

My second clue is my nifty new vacuum cleaner with the clear canister. I can actually see firsthand the filth that has been accumulating on my carpets for the past two weeks or so since I've plugged this little gem of  a machine in. It grosses me out to see the results yet gives me an odd satisfaction at the same time.

I even used to organize my dishwasher. Cups had their own lane in the upper deck, Tupperware was stacked neatly so as not to pool water. Plates were assembled by size. Now it literally looks like I bundled all my dishes in the tablecloth and threw them in. And I wonder why I have to run them through twice sometimes.

In a former life, the clothes in my closet were segregated by style: everyday shirts, dress shirts, capris, dress pants, skirts, dresses, jackets and blazers. Seasonal clothes only. Opposite seasons were stored elsewhere. Now it looks like Wal-Mart's Faded Glory section threw up in the corner of my room. The shoe box that once housed "peep toe pumps" now holds a pair of old flip flops. The box marked "strappy black sandals"? Fuzzy slippers.

What has happened to that neat and tidy, "a place for everything and everything in its place" girl I used to know? She's certainly not the one who puts dog treats in the same cabinet as the marshmallows and the water balloons. Not the woman whose meticulously-planted edible herb garden now looks like a small forest after a nuclear winter. Not the same person who, instead of washing her front door clean of fingerprints a couple of times a week still has a crayon drawing from last March of School House Rock's "Bill from Capitol Hill".

Maybe I've just run out of time. Maybe it's just not a priority anymore. Maybe I'm just too damn tired to think about filing bank statements when I could be watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or finally reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

Rather than lament my demise into the world of clutter and chaos, I'm going to embrace it. Chalk it up to the new, laid-back me that lives by the old adage that your kids won't remember if your house was clean or not. Now my motto is, "Dull women have immaculate homes."

Now if you'll excuse me - I have a book to read.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My light, my joy, my sweet baby boy...

Fifteen years and nine months ago, I became something I never thought I would become.


Fifteen years after the birth of my first child, I see pregnant women; hear them talk, and in a way feel wistful and almost envious of this incredibly magical time in their lives, and in another way thank GOD that I'm not in that position any more. Because  - if it's their first, like this was mine, they have NO idea.

NO idea that the saying about moms is true - that being a mom is forever having your heart go walking around outside your body. NO idea that being a mom means experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows - sometimes within the same day. NO idea that when you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts - you have to think twice, once for yourself and once for your child. And NO idea that as a mother who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, will promptly announce that she never did care for pie.

I never thought I'd be a mom. I had no real aspirations in the maternal arena. In fact, after my son was born, I didn't feel that overwhelming joy and sense of completion that I thought I'd feel. I felt... overwhelmed. Anxious. Scared. And completely inadequate. 

My oldest son came into this world fifteen years ago the way he lives in this world - taking his sweet time to get where he needs to be and making an entrance his own unique way. He is the only person who, aside from my parents, has been a constant in my life for the past 15 years. He has made me laugh harder than any comedian; he has made me cry harder than any tragedy. He is the first time I have not known, not even deep in my core, the answer. 

When I was pregnant, I had what could be considered an odd wish for my children - I wished that they be average. Just average. Blend in, no drama, no uber-overachiver, no developmental delays. No surprises - just even keel. I even considered naming my firstborn "Joe" - in the hopes he would be "Joe Average".

I should have known better. No child is average. My child is not average. He is breathtaking. He is inspiring. He is insightful. He is perceptive. He is kind. He is inquisitive. He is fearless. He is unique. 

And he is 15. I was 30 when I had him - and I've probably grown and learned more in the past 15 years than the 30 before that. My son has taught me patience. Selflessness. Understanding. Compromise. And the one trait he has taught me that has probably served me best - that there is not just one path in life - there are many. Some paths are straight - like those who are born knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives and walk straight to that goal without wavering. Others are a bit more winding - sort of like that kid in the Family Circus comic strip. They'll get there eventually - they just have a lot they want to see and explore along the way. And it's my job to know when to lead the way and when to follow a few steps behind.

When my oldest son was born, I wrote this to him: "You are my light, my joy, my sweet baby boy. You are the sunshine of my life, and I love you today, tomorrow and always, more than words can say." To this day, no matter what has come our way together, I still look at him with awe - awe that I brought him into this world. Awe that God gave him to ME. And so very, very proud that he calls me "Mom".

Happy 15th, Son.