Every day of the year we are reminded how divided America has become. We are divided along political, religious, racial, sexual orientation and gender lines and from there we are further divided into countless subgroups. The sad truth is we are hard pressed to justify calling ourselves the United States of America.
Thanksgiving should be appreciated as a bipartisan holiday. The origin of Thanksgiving is not based on politics or religion, and this year Thanksgiving coincides with Chanukah, reminding us that this is one of those rare moments when we can all come together as Americans to give thanks and like the early settlers, celebrate what we have in common – not what separates us.
Actual documents may not provide solid proof of specific details of the first Thanksgiving, but notes passed along through history describe the first Thanksgiving. In 1621, the new settlers from England and Native Americans came together to give thanks for the first harvest in the New World. That first Thanksgiving was celebrated by 90 Native Americans and about 53 Pilgrims. It is believed that Native Americans helped the new settlers survive in the New World and the settlers were grateful.
Pilgrims and Native Americans were two totally different groups with different customs, appearances and lifestyles. If those two groups could come together to give thanks – then I would think conservatives and liberals, whites and blacks, Christians and Jews, male and female and straight and gay can all come together on this Thanksgiving with the same spirit of unity.
Daily we are reminded through the media all that separates us, and it is through the accent on our differences that attracts attention for the media. It might not be sensational and it might not generate a lot of buzz on the airwaves, but it is important for us to step back from the harsh debates that separate us and take time to appreciate all we do have in common. We may see different paths to our goals of happiness, but we all essentially share the same goals in life.
Even if it is for just one day – Thanksgiving Day – let us come together as families, friends and as a nation for the simple purpose of giving thanks. It’s a human flaw to always think about what we don’t have in life, but it is an important human quality to appreciate all the blessings we receive. Look not at those who have more – look at how much you do have.
P.S. If we do come together this Thanksgiving like the Pilgrims and Native Americans did in 1621 – let’s hope and pray in the years to follow that we treat each other with a little more respect than they did!
The conventional vision of a traditional Thanksgiving gathering includes family and friends gathered around a table with a turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, yams, pumpkin pie and whatever else is part of your Thanksgiving feast. The setting is one of reflection where thanks is given for the feast and the company of family and friends who are gathered at the festive table. But that thankful, peaceful image is far from the chaotic reality most experience at Thanksgiving dinner!
The ordeal begins with just getting there. If traveling by plane – a winter storm leads to delays and cancellations. This is also the time of year when amateur travelers board planes – many with kids who don’t know how to act on a plane. For the record, it’s not that society has become less tolerant of children – it’s that society has become less tolerant of parents who can’t control their kids while traveling. DO NOT let your child kick the seat of the passenger in front of them. DO NOT allow them to lie in or run up and down the aisle. And we all expect your children to be courteous. It’s simple – control your children or stay home! Other cultures do a better job than Americans when it comes to controlling children in public settings.
If traveling by car – prepare your children for the reality of the trip. With today’s phones, tablets, etc. and games, movies, Facebook and texting - no child should complain about sitting in one spot for hours - isn’t that what they do at home? If your child does complain about being bored – use that opportunity to teach them that life can be boring at times – learn to deal with it! Teaching kids to deal with being bored sometimes is preparing them to deal with life. You might actually use the opportunity of being together in the car to have a real conversation with your kids and give them a chance to talk to you. Make time to just talk with no distractions from electronic wizardry – and that means you stay off the phone, too! Talk about the trip, the sights and talk about America. Tell them things you think about and ask them what they think about. You might be surprised what your kids are thinking.
And then there’s the madness of the Thanksgiving dinner. The house will be crowded with family members, who don’t see each other often and family members that don’t get along. Not everyone in the same family shares the same views on political and social issues. Political ideology is thicker than blood!
Watch football, and if one of those commercials promoting Obamacare comes on during the game – run to the bathroom, check the turkey or do anything to stay out of the impending discussion that will erupt! Everyone will want to tell you what they think.
There are countless things that will inspire debates about politics at the Thanksgiving table… from the price of the turkey…to someone asking for “the rightwing” or the “left wing”…to the fact that the cranberry sauce is the color of conservative states! Relatives feel the need to set other family members straight on their political thinking, and the longer it has been since you’ve seen a relative – the more they want to set you straight. Beware – you cannot change their minds and they probably can’t change yours. So, admit that the only result of those Thanksgiving debates will be strained feelings and ill-will. No matter how right you think you are – and I’m sure you are right – DO NOT engage in political, social or religious debates during the annual gathering that is supposed to be a peaceful moment to be thankful.
Try to be tolerant of the relatives who feel the need to brag about their lives and their kids. And, though it’s terribly rude, try to tolerate even the family members who must talk loudly on their cellphone to make sure everyone hears their conversation. And since you can’t train their children during this brief gathering, and you can’t give them a lesson in parenting, ignore the behavior which makes it obvious they really have no control over their kids. Whatever you observe will make for a great conversation on the trip home.
In life, our expectations often supersede reality. Rather than envision that traditional, peaceful Thanksgiving setting with family, friends and a bounty of food spread on the table, be realistic. Prepare yourself and your family for the collision of differing personalities and opinions that you inevitably encounter once a year.
The phrase we use when a storm is approaching may be good to remember this Thanksgiving – “prepare for the worst and hope for the best!”
Passionate feelings lead to intense debates that often reveal an extremely judgmental society.
As the Saints and the Who Dat Nation anticipate the game against the arch rival Falcons in Atlanta, the mood before the game is decidedly different than what we were all expecting it to be at this point in the season. The Saints are on top the NFC South with a record of 8-2 and the Falcons 2-8 and tied for last place in the division. This was the year Falcons fans believed their team was going to the Super Bowl. The Falcons imploded, but that still does not take away the intensity of the heated rivalry between these two teams and their fans.
Especially considering the Falcons dwell at the bottom of the division right now, it’s important for all Saints fans to try to open up their hearts and understand that this controversial debate in this country should not cause us to lose sight of the idea that Falcons’ fans were born that way. Considering the season the Falcons are having, it seems more obvious than ever that no one would choose to be a Falcons fan. There is no conclusive scientific evidence to support this, but the question is - why would any fan choose to live a life that is so unacceptable to others?
I realize many Saints fans judge Falcons fans based on their belief in the Saints and the belief that being a Falcons fan is an abomination. Should you be so quick to judge people you simply don’t understand? Let us try to look beyond our personal prejudice and judge all Falcons fans as people too.
There is the growing controversy about whether Falcons fans should be entitled to the same rights as Saints fans. There has been a heated debate over same-Falcons fans marriages. Should Falcons fans be allowed to marry each other? Many are concerned that such unions will only lead to children being exposed to the Falcons and are then likely to become Falcons fans themselves.
Another controversy surrounds the bars for Falcons fans. Some people don’t want to associate with such fans and many are afraid that a Falcons fan may actually hit on them in the bar. But Falcons fans do not try to push their way of life on others who are not Falcons fans.
The growing acceptance of Falcons fans has caused many to believe that these fans feel free to openly show their love and affection for each other in public places. Parents are deeply concerned that this open display of Falcons love will cause their children to ask questions like: “Daddy, why are those two Falcons fans holding hands?” or “Mommy, why are those two Falcons fans kissing each other?” That would be an understandable nightmare for any parent who is simply trying to raise their child in a world where they don’t have to be exposed to such deviant behavior.
Many argue that the acceptance of Falcons fans will lead this country down an immoral path. If, for example, same-Falcons fan marriages are legal and accepted – what is to stop a Falcons fan from one day marrying his dog – or God forbid a Saints fan! There are actual cases of Falcons fans and Saints fans living together as domestic partners and the biggest concern--these mixed-fan couples raising children in an environment that totally goes against the traditional values of Saints fan families.
It is time for Saints fans to be more tolerant and understanding of Falcons fans and not be so judgmental of their team-orientation. I understand the outrage over their lifestyle, but we should accept them, even if we don’t understand their love for their team. Many are critical because of the way they dress, walk and talk. In the Bible it says that we should not judge others, but remember, all Falcons fans will ultimately one day be judged by God!
I have heard heartwarming stories on the air from Saints fans that were harshly judgmental of Falcons fans. It was their children’s generation that introduced them to their first Falcons fan. When their teenagers brought Falcons fans over to their house to watch a game, they got to know them and judged them not as Falcons fans, but as human beings who were born to love that lifestyle.
So, when you are sitting with your family watching the Saints – Falcons game, try to be accepting of the flamboyant, and sometimes disgusting behavior of Falcons fans in the stadium and realize that life is not easy for them. Sure, we all don’t understand what they do in the privacy of their lives, but that should not be any of our business as long as they are not hurting anyone else. I say, “Live and let live!”
I hope we can get behind the campaign promoting the greater acceptance of Falcons fans and realize if you raise your children with good values, they will not come out one day as a Falcons fan – even if they are exposed to open and public displays of love for the Falcons!
As a Who Dat Nation, we should strive to be accepting and tolerant of those who live a lifestyle that contradicts our belief in the Saints!
Any doubt that the exaggeration of reality is the life blood of the news media can be erased by several current stories in the news.
News Story #1: Tom Brady drops the F-bomb!
That headline, along with a picture of New England Patriots’ QB Tom Brady scolding an official, appeared everywhere in the news media clearly suggesting that following the Patriots’ loss to Carolina Panthers Tom Brady dropped the F-bomb live on television in front of a national audience. Technically, it is true that Brady dropped the F-bomb, when he was expressing his frustration over what many believed was a missed call by the officials, which ended the game and the Patriots’ chance to score and win. But this was more the news media’s depiction of the incident rather than an observation based in reality.
To be fair – Brady was simply venting his anger over what he thought was a blatantly missed interference call in the end zone. The ESPN cameras followed Brady as he was walking off the field and caught up with an official. Brady did use profanity, but it was intended only for the official. The profanity was barely audible, but it could be heard and Brady’s lips were easy to read – so it was obvious he dropped the F-bomb.
For the subtle use of the F-bomb in that moment of emotion and in that context to be described as “Brady drops the F-bomb” clearly demonstrates the media’s propensity to exaggerate reality for the sole purpose of grabbing the attention of the audience.
Sadly, much of the audience will accept only the headline as an accurate reflection of the moment without considering the overall context in which it was barely uttered. Through social media, the headline will spread and since the use of profanity contradicts the general public image of Tom Brady, the story generates more human interest – which is the primary goal of the news media.
News Story #2:“Exclusive interview with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
I can’t fault the media for sensationalizing this story because it is sensational on its own. But I do want to expose the fraudulent use of the word “exclusive” by the news media.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word exclusive is defined as “restricted orlimited to the person, group or area concerned.” Several news networks promoted their interviews with Mayor Ford as exclusive interviews – meaning that it was an interview only that network or news source secured. But there were interviews with Mayor Ford everywhere. So how could they be exclusive?
The fact is the interviews were not exclusive and prostituting the word exclusive should cause audiences to no longer respect the use of that word by the media. This is one example and observing the news media will reveal frequent misuse of the word exclusive.
New Story #3: Jeb Bush promotes that he is a real conservative
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said he is a “practicing” conservative during a question-and-answer session before the 92nd Street Y in New York City last night. That led to several news stories comparing Jeb Bush to Chris Christie, who has been portrayed as a more moderate Republican in the wake of his overwhelming election victory in New Jersey.
Since the news media’s primary goal is to attract the largest possible audience, it is motivated by the instinct to create conflict and drama – two important elements in any compelling entertainment. The recent national buzz about Chris Christie being the savior of the Republican Party, because he is perceived to be more moderate than many high-profile conservative Republicans, presented the news media with the perfect scenario to continue exposing what has been described as the civil war within the Republican Party over more conservative or more moderate ideology.
In his recent book, “Informing the News,” author Thomas Patterson quotes linguist George Zipf in describing the news media’s tendency to imply the “principle of least effort,” when creating conflict in news stories. Patterson addresses the news media taking a comment from one politician and then finding a strongly opposing opinion to establish conflict about an issue. The news media, in most cases, fails to add context or depth to the newly created debate and further fuels the flames of the conflict.
Since the news media is trying to grab our attention in its goal of attracting a mass audience for every news story, it is imperative that we, the audience, understand this underlying motive and not be so quickly swayed by the sharp divide which serves to create drama in the news.
We, the audience, should also become cognizant of the fact that the news media will destroy the meaning of words like exclusive in a self-serving attempt to promote the brand of the news outlet. And the news media will go to great lengths to create controversy over an incident like Tom Brady dropping the F-bomb live on a national broadcast to stir the emotions of those who are convinced that America’s morality is lost forever!
The audience is eager to blame the media for the very strategy that does attract their attention. But, shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the audience to better observe how and why the news media presents its content?
Since there is a tendency to define the world we live in by headlines, sound bites, Facebook posts and tweets, it is easy to create hysteria in America.
Recently, two different headlines might enhance the fear that the government, in particular a liberal mentality, is removing God and patriotism from our society, thus escalating the downward spiral of American values.
In New Jersey, the Bordentown Regional School District posted a message online announcing a ban on all religious Christmas music. The banning of Christmas music in public schools in the interest of respecting separation of church and state becomes an annual holiday controversy. And every year there are those who protest such bans on religious Christmas music. However, those who do protest also spread the fear that the evil government is removing God from our society.
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, veterans asked for the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance from elementary schools through high schools. This week, the School Board approved the request for elementary and middle schools, but not for the high schools because since high schools do not have homerooms or regular assemblies, it would be difficult to find the right time to have the Pledge recited every day.
Those who protest the banning of religious Christmas music, or reference to God or Jesus in public places, and the veterans who protest omission of the Pledge of Allegiance do more than protest that absence of God or patriotism. Aided by the media, the protests actually attempt to promote an alleged widespread national conspiracy to strip American society of its moral values, and this fuels the hysteria about the immoral path this country is headed down.
I have talked to many listeners on “The Scoot Show” on WWL about their perception that the government is taking away America’s moral compass. But in all of those conversations, not one person has adequately explained precisely how the government has taken away their moral values. Because of the deep political divide in America, we are now a nation that seems less focused on our own lives and more focused on the lives of everyone else.
Whether it is God or patriotism, I have seen no government-level attempt to prohibit belief in God or country. I support Christmas music in public schools and Nativity scenes in public, but I also understand that if Christmas is allowed, all religions must be allowed, and it might be easier to separate Church and State in the interest of fairness. Remember, freedom in this country is tested not by what we know and understand, but by the things we don’t know or understand.
I still hear the irrational argument that it was the removal of prayers from public schools that marked the beginning of America’s decline. If only it were that easy to explain! In the early 1960s, when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools, as government institutions, could not direct or lead prayers in classrooms, there were many changes simultaneously taking place in American society.
The attitudes that were changing in America became the foundation of the anti-Establishment rebellion in the mid-60s, which was the collective action of today’s Establishment. The battles over birth control, integration and other social issues were part of a changing America. Pointing to the removal of prayers from public schools as the flashpoint in time when America was launched into immoral space is just the simplistic argument of those who would like the government to adopt Christianity as America’s official religion. The myth that it was the banning of prayers in public schools is to blame for the lack of moral values in America today perfectly fits into the perceived fear that America is becoming a Godless nation.
Before you buy into the hysteria that the government is robbing America of God and patriotism, ask yourself: how has any government action diminished your moral values or your patriotism?
We are so preoccupied with how everyone else will be affected by banning Christmas music or the Pledge of Allegiance, that we have lost sight of the fact that as a Nation, we are nothing more than a collection of individuals. Regardless of what is allowed in schools or on public property, no one has the power to take away your core beliefs or your ability to pray and recite the Pledge of Allegiance! Students can pray in school, the Supreme Court only ruled that schools cannot lead prayers. If your children are not praying, can you really blame the government? Or is that something you should be teaching your children?
If our nation is nothing more than a collection of individuals, then as a nation, we can only be as good as the individuals that make up this nation. If we all focus on being as moral and patriotic as we can – then we will live in a moral and patriotic nation!
The question “What’s wrong with America?” may be a question that has been asked through the decades, but it always demands an answer in the era in which it is asked. There are a lot of things America can improve on, but occasionally there are incidents that show us what, indeed, is wrong with America.
Two West Mary High School football players were arrested for allegedly getting into a physical altercation with a referee during a game on November 1. Traci Landry, spokeswoman for the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the teens, ages 15 and 16, were arrested last Friday on warrants for battery of a school or recreational athletic official. The names of the teens are being withheld because of their ages.
The alleged incident occurred on the field of play during a home game against Erath High School. The investigation revealed that the teens punched a referee in the head and the shoulder areas.
Earlier this year, there was a high-profile case of a teen soccer player who punched a referee during a soccer match when the referee called a penalty on the teenager. The referee, 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo, was in a coma for a week before he died. The 17-year-old soccer player pleaded guilty to a charge of homicide by assault. The teenager said that he became “frustrated” with the referee over the penalty call against him and then punched him in the head.
The incidents involving the two Louisiana teen football players accused of physically assaulting a referee and the Utah teen soccer player who pleaded guilty to punching a referee who died are isolated incidents that symbolize a growing problem with a lack of respect for authority.
Liberals can’t blame conservatives and conservatives can’t blame liberals for the lack of respect for authority. This is a problem that is manifested in the home. There are societal contributions, but parents have the responsibility to teach and demand respect for authority and there are too many indications that respect for authority is diminishing in America.
It is not surprising that we are witnessing a growing lack of respect for authority in young generations because the parents of those generations practice a lack of respect for authority in society and reinforce this disturbing trend.
I hate to use the cliché “when I was growing up,” but it does provide a first-hand perspective on life’s changes.
When I was young, it would have been unheard of for ANY young athlete to assault a referee over a bad call. Even the bad, rebellious students would not have even considered physically assaulting a referee over a bad call. The reality that young teenage athletes would instinctively react with violence during a game demonstrates a gross lack of basic respect for authority.
We hear about teachers who have been assaulted by students and teachers who fear physical violence from their students. When I was growing up, even the unruly students in class would never have considered crossing that line of respect for authority. The blatant disregard for authority in teenagers is something that is born at home – with parents. But in fairness, that is something that is also supported by the behavior of adults in society.
The parent who becomes verbally abusive with a coach or a referee at a kids’ game, or the parents who deny their child’s guilt in misbehaving at school, and even the lack of respect for the office of the Presidency, all reinforce a sense of defying authority.
As Americans, we have all witnessed disagreement over political ideology used as an excuse to disrespect the office of the presidency. It has never been more obvious than it is now with President Obama in the White House and when President George W. Bush was in the White House. As a nation, there is a difference between political disagreement and disrespect. We should all respect the office of the Presidency, but we can vehemently disagree with the person who is President. Many of those who are quick to say they cannot and will not show any respect for the office of the President because Obama is President are the same Americans who told those who hated Bush that there should be respect for the office of the President even if there is total disagreement with the man who is President.
The examples of incivility in America among adults sets a negative example for young generations who are already not being taught the art of civility. The idea that civility is a sign of weakness is the result of Neanderthal mentality. It takes more strength and courage to control the primal instinct to use force when reacting to situations that challenge us than it does to punch a wall or a referee.
I understand that some bad teens are raised by good parents in good homes, but there was a time when even the bad teens understood that there were consequences for defiance of authority.
If parents fail to teach their children respect for authority, then the burden ultimately falls on society. Unfortunately, when it gets to the point of becoming society’s responsibility - before we administer our punishment – others may have suffered at the hands of a frustrated teenager who was never taught the skills to deal with conflict or their emotions.
In the case of the 17-year-old soccer player in Utah, the teen pleaded guilty, but his moment of rage leaves 3 young girls without a father.
The single thing that we as a nation should demand is that parents act as parents and not only teach, but also practice civility and respect for authority. The great thing about this simple requirement is that it costs nothing and it’s something every parent can do and failure to do so cannot be blamed on liberals or conservatives – only oneself.
One of the oldest and most-debated questions surrounding entertainment is whether any medium (TV, radio, movies, Internet, etc.) influences audience behavior or reflects the behavior of its audience. While there may be a degree of truth that it both influences and reflects society, there has always been an argument about which it does more; influence or reflect?
Conventional wisdom seems to place much more emphasis on the media’s influence on society, rather than its reflection of society. Tragic school shootings and random violence, especially involving teenagers, lead to the media rushing to establish any relationship the shooters may have had with violent video games, violent movies or any form of violent entertainment.
Defining the evil that is to blame for tragedies is an instinct for both media and society. Like with any medium that is driven by the goal of attracting the largest possible audience, the news media strives to provide a script that conveniently identifies the villain or the evil force against which society can rant. A well-defined script, or news story, has a better chance of capturing the attention of an audience that is bombarded by thousands of flashes of information, images and storylines every day.
Over the past year, I have addressed this issue in several blogs. When tragedy strikes, humans innately need to know who or what is to blame. By understanding who or what is to blame, the immediate focus turns to the solutions that will prevent future tragedies. Through society’s desire to define the evil source that has inspired a tragedy, the general public becomes satisfied that the next step is to work on a solution, but if the problem is inaccurately defined in haste, then any proposed solutions do nothing to actually solve the real problems.
Politicians are often too willing to settle for a perceived problem that the public easily accepts, instead of addressing the truth, or the actual problem, which is more confusing for public comprehension. It is always in the best interest of any politician to find an evil influence that is tangible, since that is something they can address and then attempt to satisfy voters by supporting legislation that will either ban or control the evil influence – for example, violent entertainment. The idea that violent entertainment is to blame for the unacceptable level of violence in society is a more tangible and far less complicated than addressing the issues of parenting, education and mental health. Those issues do not allow for the easy solutions demanded by society.
The new study showing that gun violence in movies rated PG-13 tripled over the last 20 years will lead much of the media and the audience to the quick conclusion the increase in violence in movies explains why there is an increase in violence in the real world. That is the convenient and simplistic conclusion, but is it the right conclusion?
The National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993-2011 shows that gun incidences, victims and the gun crime rate have decreased. If, in reality, gun violence is down – then why is there so much talk about the dangerous influence of violent entertainment on society?
Beginning with my days sitting in a Communication Theory class (which was the toughest and the most enlightening course I had ever taken) it has been my belief that the media more reflects society than dictates behavior. Even television commercials will not inspire viewers to do something they don’t really want to do. Can you think about a commercial that persuaded you to do something you really didn’t want to do – or if you are honest, you will probably admit that if a choice you made as a consumer proved to be a wrong choice, then you were predisposed to make that decision to buy and the suggestion presented in the commercial appealed to even a deep subconscious predisposition. Persuasive car commercials will not convince you to go out and buy a car, however, if you are in the market for a car or if you have even thought about getting a new car, then a persuasive car commercial could inspire you to select a particular make and model.
If a new study shows that gun violence in movies rated PG-13 has tripled over two decades, the general conclusion will be that the gun violence in movies is inspiring gun violence in the real world. But, if gun violence in the real world has actually decreased, then why will blaming violence in movies for real violence attract so much attention?
If it is true that the media reflects society – its audience – then the media would reflect society’s tendencies. The widespread belief that violence in entertainment is to blame for violence in the real world is reflected in the way the media covers gun violence stories. We may not be able to pinpoint which came first – the media’s infatuation with blaming violence in entertainment for real world violence, or the audience’s belief that violent entertainment is to blame for real violence – and it really shouldn’t matter. Today, the media reflects and feeds on society’s instinct to blame violent entertainment for inspiring real world violence.
Audiences are quick to condemn the media for the selection, slant and substance of the stories it covers, but if the media more reflects the audience it entertains and informs, then blaming the media is equal to blaming the reflection you see looking into a mirror on the mirror. The mirror is just a medium reflecting that which is looking into it. And so it is with an audience that does not like the image it sees through the media.
An elementary school teacher was suspended for requiring a 4th grade student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class. The teacher, Anne Daigle-McDonald, placed the student’s hand over his heart twice when the class was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The school district in Florida suspended the teacher for 5 days without pay because the young student was a Jehovah’s Witness, and based on his religious beliefs, he did not want to recite the pledge. The teacher admitted she was aware of the student’s religious beliefs, but said she did not know he couldn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance.
Should every student in class be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance - or should a student’s religious beliefs be respected? One obvious argument is that if a student is in a public school in America, then he or she should be required to recite the pledge to our flag and our country. Most of us grew up at a time when there was little, if any, respect for religious beliefs or individual rights. If you were in class at school you would recite the Pledge of Allegiance – period.
We may have an intrinsic desire to rebel against change as we seek comfort and security in our routines and traditions, but should we be so quick to resist change that extends the respect and freedom that is inherit in America’s freedoms? Allowing a student the right to not participate in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance would have no negative impact on the other students. Forcing a student to defy his or her religious beliefs by reciting the pledge does do harm to that student by momentarily taking away their religious freedom.
There are times when many Americans put too much emphasis on tangible things, rather than focus more on what lives in our hearts and minds. I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness, so I can’t speak about their specific beliefs, but just because a student of that faith does not recite the Pledge of Allegiance does not mean that student is not a good citizen who respects America. Any Jehovah’s Witness should respect the freedom to walk door-to-door, freely promoting their religious beliefs.
Reciting a pledge does not make someone patriotic or a good American, in the same way that recitation of the same prayers every week in church does not make one religious.
The tendency to dictate beliefs continues to be a dangerous trend in America. Many of the most controversial debates in this country center on a battle over individual beliefs and the need to direct the private lives of others. The debates over the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage are essentially debates about individual freedom.
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school provides no assurance of shaping young students into model citizens. I wonder how many hard-core criminals or people who became unpatriotic activists said the pledge at the beginning of every school day.
Respect for the individual rights and beliefs of others should not be mistaken for political correctness gone wild. Appreciation for diversity in America is not our weakness – it is our strength.
The Boston Red Sox won the World Series, and there is a shared feeling that the Red Sox were destined to win because the city of Boston rallied around the team after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Do sports teams absorb the attitudes of the cities they represent? Before the Red Sox played their first home game at Fenway Park just days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Red Sox star David Ortiz told the crowd to “Stay strong!” The public address announcer said to the crowd, “We are one. We are Boston Strong!” and a new spirit was born in Boston.
Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, did the strength and resilience of the city of New Orleans contribute to the Saints becoming an elite NFL team? Drew Brees and Sean Payton joined the Saints in 2006 and that began to spark a new attitude with the Saints and their fans, but talent alone was not always enough to alter the culture of a winning attitude. Throughout sports, there are endless examples of how the passion and inspiration of less talented teams and athletes led to victory over greater talent.
The major challenges that cities and communities face and overcome often seem to inspire teams to new levels of greatness. Not to take anything away from the impact of Brees and Payton have had on the Saints, but their talent was also provided a unique stage in a city that displayed remarkable courage and resilience. The Saints fed off the city and the city fed off the Saints!
In September of 2006 when the Superdome reopened 13 months after it was a microcosm for the magnitude of the disaster caused by Katrina, the Saints faced the Atlanta Falcons in a nationally televised game. U2 and Green Day touched not only the Saints and their fans, but also a nation when they sang, “The Saints Are Coming!” On that night and on that stage – the talent of the Saints players met the passion of a city and a nation and no challenger could have beaten the Saints in that moment in time.
As the city of New Orleans continued to rebuild its structures, as well as its soul, a nation watched and there was new respect and appreciation for New Orleans. The Saints became a symbol of the city overcoming astronomical odds and went on to win the Super Bowl in 2010!
Every year since Katrina and the Brees/Payton presence has not led to a stellar year for the Saints, but one thing is obvious – the Saints have become a better team as New Orleans has become a better city and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The Saints and the city of New Orleans have become respected winners.
The Boston Red Sox are another example of a team that fed off the challenges and resiliency of a city in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Tragedies and disasters provide humans an opportunity to prove their strength and courage. When tested – we rise to the occasion. Individuals, teams, cities and nations demonstrate the depth of their character and will when faced with a challenge.
In 1977, Queen Elizabeth was celebrating her Silver Jubilee and there were celebrations throughout Great Brittan. That summer at Wimbledon, Virginia Wade, the British player, seemed destined to feed off of the pride of the United Kingdom by winning Wimbledon – and she did!
In 1980, the young U.S. Olympic hockey team shocked the world by beating the Soviet Union, a team that had dominated Olympic hockey since 1954. Sports Illustrated titled the US victory – “Miracle on Ice!” The US hockey team was comprised of amateur and collegiate players and the Soviet Union team was essentially a pro team equal to an NHL team.
The Cold War with the Soviet Union had reached one of many peaks in 1980 and tensions between the U.S. and Russia were a serious threat to world peace. The 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York – on American soil. Just a month before the start of the Olympics, President Jimmy Carter had issued an ultimatum to the Soviet Union – withdraw troops from Afghanistan or the U.S. will boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow. Russia did not withdraw troops within the timetable given by the U.S., and America, along with some other nations, did boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
With the odds against them, the young U.S. Olympic team seemed to personify the strong sense of American pride and they beat the Russians, which inspired exuberance throughout America!
Passion and motivation may be even more important than talent and we see examples of that throughout our lives. Most of us can think of the times when we felt that it was our passion and motivation over our talent that led to winning a game, landing a big client or even attracting a companion. I have always considered the human element of emotion to be an integral factor in determining which team might win a particular game. Emotion is a greater force than statistics and physical talent.
If sports are a metaphor for life, then we learn how important it is for us to find the passion and motivation it takes to lead us to our peak performances. Passion and motivation are the intangible elements that produce peak performers in life.
And if a city or a nation can inspire a team to reach a higher level of performance – then we all have the ability to inspire ourselves to reach higher levels of performance – more through passion and motivation than talent.
If you consider the music of the 80s to be your music, do you take comfort in knowing that younger generations are now singing and dancing to your music?
I first noticed the phenomenon of a twenty-something generation seemingly adopting 80s music as if it were their music at a small club in downtown Denver in 2002. The club was packed on their 80s night, and the majority of those who were there appeared to be in their twenties and they were not only dancing to groups like Duran Duran, Human League, and The Cure, but they seemed to know all the words to the songs. I recall standing next to a girl when the D.J. played “Holiday” by Madonna and she said, “Oh, I love this song! It reminds me of when I was 6!” – I said, “Yea, I love it, too. It reminds me of when I was 34!” Then I realized that a generation gap was being bridged by music!
This past weekend, I was again reminded of how different generations share a musical bond with the music of the 80s. Kid Rock had just finished his performance at Voodoo Fest on Sunday and the next group up was The Cure, the band that has been labeled a goth-rock, alternative band that gained mass popularity in the 1980s. The stage crew was breaking down Kid Rock’s equipment and The Cure’s crew was setting up for their show, when some of the die-hard fans of The Cure began to move through the crowd to find the best position near the stage before the show started.
It was a younger crowd that was excited about seeing The Cure. I noticed teens – some as young as 15 and 16 making an effort to get as close as they could for the show. The audience was demographically diverse, but there was definitely a large proportion of young people who were not even been born when The Cure were hitting one of their peaks in the late 1980s. It was obvious that a young generation was celebrating the music from an iconic 80s rock band.
Another reminder of a younger generation’s passion for 80s music happened Saturday night when I took a friend and his wife to 80s Night at One-Eyed Jacks in the French Quarter. Since Halloween was on a Thursday night this year, the weekly 80s night had been moved to Saturday night. I go to that 80s night often, but my friend and his wife were there for the first time and he was shocked by the number of twentysomthing people who were there dancing and singing some of the great songs from the 80s.
While witnessing the phenomenon of younger generations meeting the music of the past, I thought about growing up in my household and how I didn’t share any of the musical taste of my parents – and my parents didn’t share my taste in music. My Dad, who was into the big band sound of Glenn Miller and the melodic sounds of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, was highly critical of The Beatles and all of the music that was part of the British Invasion of the 1960s. I remember him expressing his opinion that all of that music wasn’t really music and that it was not real singing. He was convinced it was all a passing fad.
It is comforting for my generation to still see so many of the rock stars we grew up listening to still performing today – The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Rod Stewart. It is also great to see how the music I was playing on B97 in the 80s has been embraced by younger generations. Watching The Cure at Voodoo Fest, I consciously assessed the crowd and realized I was next to some people about my age, but much of the audience was made up of younger generations that had no personal relationship with the music.
Since first recognizing the embracing of 80s music by younger generations, I have wondered why they had a connection with the music. Music is the soundtrack of our lives and there will always be songs that remind us of where we were, who we were with and what we were going through when certain songs were popular. So, I find it interesting that younger generations with no actual memories from the songs of the 80s, would have developed such a passion for the music of that era.
For those of us who experienced the 80s, the music brings back memories of those years. When I listen to the general sound of the 80s, I hear music that is upbeat, fun to dance to and music that carried positive energy. Music is a product of the social and political climate at the time it is created. For the Baby Boomer generation and the generation that was going through its pre-teen and teen years, the music we call 80s music reflected good times. The economy was strong, Ronald Reagan was a popular president and the world was generally at peace. One of the top TV shows of the 80s was The Cosby Show, which was a departure from the Norman Lear shows, like “All in the Family” and “Maude,” which had dominated the TV ratings with heavy social and political messages. Overall, the 80s was a fun era!
Like every era, the 1980s were not without controversy and tense moments. The early music on MTV, which hit the air in 1981, included Duran Duran, Rick Springfield, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Human League and many other groups that produced upbeat music. But there was also the music that reflected the fear of nuclear war as the crusade to collapse communist nations gained momentum. Songs like “Shout” by Tears for Fears and “99 Luft Balloons” by Nena were thought to contain messages about the cost nuclear war would have on humanity. In general, however, 80s music was fun!
For the younger generations that are stressed and concerned about the world they live in today - from terrorism to the economy to paying back student loans and trying to find a decent job to the many controversial issues that plague society, perhaps the music of the 80s is a great escape from their reality.
As I watched The Cure Sunday, the music brought back good memories of playing the songs on the air and dancing to the songs at clubs – but for the younger generations, The Cure and the music of the 80s transported them, not to the past, but to a momentary safe place void of their problems.
When you use a ticket to enter most major sporting events, you actually assume responsibility for being injured in the stands.
The Missouri State Supreme Court is expected to decide on whether a legal standard that protects sports teams from being sued by fans injured in the stands during a game, or during any game time activities, applies to a fan hit with a hotdog!
A Kansas City Royals fan, John Coomer, sued the Royals after he was hit in the eye by a foil-wrapped hotdog that was thrown into the crowd by the team’s mascot 4 years ago. Coomer said he had 2 eye surgeries and suffers from permanent damage to his vision. The Royals argue that the team should be protected by the legal standard that fans assume the risk of being hit by a foul ball when they use their ticket to go to a game. The team believes the legal standard also covers any injuries that result from a game or any activity involving a mascot or team personnel during game-related activities.
We have all been to games when mascots, cheerleaders or team personnel have thrown or launched items into the stands, and usually fans are on their feet waving and shouting and trying to get the attention of whoever is offering the freebees, hoping something will be thrown in their direction. I don’t know specifically what is printed on the back of a ticket to a Kansas City Royals baseball game, but most, if not all, tickets to professional games have a disclosure explaining that any fans using the tickets assume risk in the event a baseball, hockey puck, football, basketball or anything from the court or the field of play flies into the stands and strikes a fan.
In the case before the Missouri State Supreme Court, the Kansas City Royals are arguing that due to a disclaimer on the ticket used by the fan, the team is not responsible for any injuries resulting from the actions of a mascot or any team personnel.
Did you know that when you go to a Saints game, you assume risk if an injury results from an incident generated from the field of play? Here is the legal standard printed on the back of every Saints ticket: Ticket holder assumes all risks incident to the game or related events, including the risk of lost, stolen or damaged property or personal injury.
It is not uncommon for fans to sue sports teams after being hit by foul balls or hockey pucks, even though there is a presumed understanding that a ball, a hockey puck or an object from a game could fly into the stands while attending the game. Should there be more publicity about this assumed risk that many fans are not aware of? And would awareness of the risk of injury while watching a sporting event discourage you from going to a game?
Disclaimers are an interesting part of our litigious society. Disclaimers protect businesses from lawsuits, but are you paying attention to the disclaimers that you are accepting by using a ticket to enter a game?
The most absurd legal disclaimers presented to consumers are the disclaimers that appear on TV commercials for car deals and for financial institutions. I’m sure you have noticed that the actual disclaimers that qualify what the announcer is promoting are displayed in font that is too small to read and even if you could read the words, they are usually too long for even a speed reader to read given the brief time the disclaimers appear on the screen. Yet, these small, blurred disclaimers protect companies from lawsuits. So why have detailed disclaimers if they can’t be read by the consumer?
The need for disclaimers, in general, seems to be the result of a collective failure to use common sense. In the case of a sporting event or a NASCAR race, any fan attending should know enough about the event to understand that an object could fly into the stands. Common sense dictates that is reality, but as we know, common sense is nearly extinct in our society.
In fairness to fans everywhere, there should be an attempt to draw attention to the disclaimers that appear on the back of tickets to sporting events. However, I don’t believe any fans would decide not to attend a game because they do assume a risk. And that raises the other issue – if you are aware that there is a disclaimer printed on the back of your ticket and you are willing to use your ticket, then don’t you essentially forfeit your right to sue should you suffer an injury from a game or a game-related activity?
We know that accepting risk will not prevent some people from suing over an injury sustained at a game. The diminishing respect for common sense and personal accountability continue to contribute to a society that is unwilling to accept responsibility, but more than willing to fault even those they agreed not to hold accountable.
Let’s be honest – none of us like to take the time to read the fine print – but if we don’t - aren’t we to blame for not reading it and understanding our responsibility in society?