Tolerance, Compassion and Offense

“Tolerance is not the same thing as acceptance, and acceptance is not the same thing as an endorsement.” - Larry Alex Taunton, The Atlantic

Such a simple truth…

In this country do we not have the simple right to be offended? Isn’t it okay? Isn’t it enough? Can’t we simply be offended by something someone says or does without becoming intolerant of their right to an opinion or position? Do we really need to silence and punish those who disagree with us or think differently? I’m not talking about any sort of right to protest on someone’s front lawn but simply the right to have personal beliefs and principles and to share them when appropriate.

Why is this relatively simple concept so difficult for so many to understand? I seem to remember guidance and direction from my childhood that is pertinent even in this day and age. After my feelings had been hurt by something someone said to me I was told, “just don’t pay them any mind, they simply don’t know any better.”

It is entirely possible to abhor sin in all it’s forms without hating the sinners themselves. This is very fortunate since we’re all sinners.  Choose compassion and don’t compromise your morals. As a result you will live a happier life and our society as a whole will benefit.

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Perspective: Government Shutdown

I am a federal employee.  My coworkers and I are the program managers for the in-service aircraft carrier fleet.  Certainly sounds important but we are also considered “non-essential” during this government shutdown meaning we can’t go to work and we aren’t getting paid.

So, I’m not “technically” unemployed…I’m not “technically” fired either…BUT I’m also not working nor am I getting a paycheck.  So what exactly is my employment status?

I could go out seeking a temporary job but what am I supposed to tell a potential employer?

“Yes, I would love to come and work for you BUT as soon as the government wants me back I have to leave immediately.”

I have a pretty good idea how the rest of that interview would go.  Even if I were to find someone who would bring me in under those circumstances I wouldn’t be anywhere close to matching my lost income because, after all, it would be a temporary position.

At this point there is no end to the government shutdown in sight and, as the primary wage earner in my home, I now have the responsibility to work out what I’m going to do to provide for my family.  Collect unemployment?  Seek out temporary jobs?  Try some freelance work?  There are always options but no matter the direction I go I’ll only be able to slap a band-aid on the problem until I’m either back to work in my government position or I find another full-time job.

It’s inspiring to listen to the news and hear how the government shutdown is having little impact.  I’m glad because otherwise I might wonder what I’m going to do to put food on the table until I’m allowed to go back to work.  Seems to me that this shutdown is actually a risk for loss of my security clearance…after all, you never know what I might do to feed my starving family.

Regardless of your position on the Affordable Care Act I would hope that you recognize that our representatives in Congress are more interested in furthering their agendas than they are about any particular segment of the population.  They intentionally take actions that will divide us as a nation so that we can never develop the mass public opinion needed to force them to do the people’s business.

The framers intended for government to answer to the people however our government currently keeps us divided and focused on “shiny objects” to distract us from what’s really happening behind the scenes.  The result is that we’re never capable of organizing and making them to do what they’re supposed to do because we’re always too busy lashing out at one another.

I do not want the government running my life.  I don’t want them to tell me what kind of insurance I have to buy…it’s none of their business.  I don’t want them telling me how fuel efficient my car has to be or anything else that isn’t specifically called out as a federal responsibility in the Constitution.  I don’t want them reading my email or listening in to my telephone calls.  These issues are all just distractions that our government uses to divert our attention from the “deal-making” that goes on in Washington.

Our representatives need to realize that the “Good Idea Fairy” never comes with a checkbook.  Good ideas always seem really great but, if there’s no money, then the good idea needs to wait.  In my house, a new good idea has to be balanced with the old good ideas already in the budget and, if the new good idea is good enough, then we drop a previous good idea to support the new good idea.

Our Representatives need to stop coming up with new ways to spend new taxes and learn to be responsible with the taxes their already collecting.  A new good idea on how to spend our money should be delivered with a list of things that have to be dropped to support the new good idea.

Individual calls and letters to our representatives seem to have little effect because ultimately they don’t care about us individually.  Individually “I’m” not part of their agenda.  Collectively we can do great things but we all have to get involved.  Call, write, and email on a regular basis and tell your Representative where you stand. Hopefully you’ll be telling them to (1) stay out of your life and (2) stop messing around and get back to work.

In the meantime…


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Just Another Day at Work…

Very much a day like no other. Everything started like a normal Monday but a little after 8:00 am we were coming out of our regular Monday morning meeting and heard the fire alarm going off in the building next door. Shortly thereafter we heard rumors of a gunman followed by announcements to take cover.

Many of us, being Sailors, were looking for ways to help but the right answer was to stay put regardless of what we wanted to do. There was a tremendous police presence the likes of which I’ve never personally seen before.

I visit the cafeteria in Bldg 197 once or twice on most days. I’m not sure what they will do now because I’m not so sure that people are going to want to sit and socialize there any longer. It will definitely be a tough recovery for all involved.

Personally, I’m fine. Yesterday was a long day but I eventually made it home. I didn’t witness any violence myself but just knowing that people with whom I work everyday were going through the horrible events that transpired is rough for me. I’ll be fine but my heart truly goes out to the families that lost love ones, to those injured, and to those who witnessed what happened.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead there will be no limit to the debate. The problem will be attributed to guns in one interview, security posture in another news article, and mental health among many others. From my perspective, the problem will ultimately come down to issues much closer to home and much more personal.

We cannot let the evil that was made manifest yesterday triumph over all that is good in the world. We can’t stop caring about people and turn this nation into a police state where everyone is treated with an equal level of distrust. Security checkpoints, metal detectors, x-ray machines, and armed security are all great but they are intended to catch people who have already made a decision to do something violent. We need to prevent things like this before they ever get to that level.

Situations like this and others have never caused me to believe that slamming the door in the face of gentleman entering the building behind me is the right answer. Access badge scanners are great for tracking people but they are not security measures. This man most likely came into the Navy Yard with hate and anger in his heart and it’s likely that badge scanners and security guards were nothing more than minor annoyances as he was planning his attack.

We all want to find things that can be changed to make us feel more secure and less threatened. That’s okay and perfectly natural but the technology options and brute muscle already mentioned are not what is going to give us the power to feel safe in the world in which we live.

The world in which I’d like to live offers many a “hello,” “good morning,” “thank you,” and “let me give you a hand.” It’s a world where parents rear children in solid homes with a mom and a dad who love and care about each other. It’s a world where parents hold their children responsible for their own actions so that those same children grow up learning to be responsible citizens in the societies in which we live. Children who learn at home how to give selfless service to those around them are far less likely to fall into the weakness of character that leads to these violent actions.

It’s entirely possible that the events of yesterday could’ve been stopped years ago by someone who simply thought to be kind to a young man who needed some help and guidance. I didn’t personally know the man who committed this terrible crime but I do know that no one is born evil. We come into this world with talents and abilities intended to be used for good purposes, the Lord’s purposes.

Daily we are in a battle of good against evil. This battle has been raging on since before we came to this earth and it will certainly continue. Contrary to popular opinion evil will not ultimately triumph. Jesus Christ has already defeated that evil and we must not allow anger and fear to turn us from that which is good and right. We cannot allow our inner light to turn dark as a result of these terrible events.

As we move forward from here ask yourself what sort of world you’d like to live in. Don’t back yourself into a corner and allow fear and anger to control your thoughts and actions. Don’t be so willing to turn over your rights to the state in the belief that they can make you safer. The state can only make attempts to protect us after parents, home, family, and faith have failed.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, church leaders, scout leaders, youth group leaders, and others form the front lines in this war. We are all responsible in building up our youth to be strong in choosing things that are right and worthy. With careful and thoughtful leadership and meaningful guidance we’ll see those youth who need a helping hand and hopefully be able to give enough of ourselves to help keep them from ever making these terrible choices as adults.

I have faith that this can be done. I know however that regardless of our efforts that somewhere in the world the process will fail and terrible things will happen anyway. We do not need to feel defeated by these events. We must instead double our efforts, reach out to those in need, love our neighbors and draw closer as communities. Our strength lies in overcoming the evils of the world and striving for that celestial standard where we all glory together in goodness and righteousness.

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I am Important as an Individual…

“You cannot be passive in life, or in time the natural man will undermine your efforts to live worthily. You become what you do and what you think about. Lack of character leads one under pressure to satisfy appetite or seek personal gain. You cannot successfully bolster a weak character with the cloak of pretense.”

- Richard G. Scott “The Transforming Power of Faith and Character

I am important as an individual because of those things of which I am a part; marriage, family, congregation, community, nation, etc.  I am a son of God and the greatest value in that connection is found in service to others.  No matter how I choose to live my life it has value; be it to me or to those that care about me.  It has significantly greater value when I choose to make sacrifices for the benefit of others be they family, friends or strangers. When we choose to live our lives in emulation of the Savior all the goodness we hold is magnified and we grow beyond that which we could on our own.

The true power in the agency we’ve been granted as children of our Father in Heaven is in overcoming inertia.  Too easily we sit where we are in life and make either no or half-hearted attempts at growing beyond the creature that looks back at us in the mirror.  We simply need to stand up, take action, and follow the divine guidance we’ve already been given.  We will grow as we act on the light and knowledge we already hold.  As we choose to do so and act definitively on those choices we will receive greater light and knowledge and grow to our full potential.

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