Saturday, February 28, 2004
Paying the Terrorists to Shoot at Us?
Excerpt from a Reuters report today:

The informant who helped lead the U.S. military to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's two sons has been paid most of a $30 million reward for the tip-off, the State Department said on Saturday.

"The informant who gave us information on the whereabouts of Uday and Qusay Hussein has been paid the bulk of the reward within the last couple of days, and has control over payment of the balance of the reward," said State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore. "The informant and his family have been relocated."

Hopefully, the new location doesn't end up being a cave somewhere in Afghanistan. It is a scary thought, brought to my attention late last year by a young friend of mine, that Saddam and his boys might be sacrificed as certain losers who were worth more dead than alive. The money could go a long way toward buying more weapons.

Again, as my young neighbor asked, could we be paying the terrorists to shoot at us?

Thursday, February 26, 2004
"Talk to your kids--they'll listen." This is just about all the advice the folks in charge seem to have for us these days regarding drugs, alcohol, smoking, and sex.

The commercials they put on TV, with a few exceptions, present a simple and naïve approach, such as the one in which a mother stops her son on the way out the door to ask where he's going, who he's going with, and what they'll be doing. After giving her a satisfactory answer, she smiles contentedly and tells him to have a good time.

In another, a mother and teenage son are riding in a car when the subject of the son's new girlfriend's smoking comes up (revealed by an annoying little brother). The mother, suddenly concerned, asks about and is told that the girl tried it once but didn't like it. When she asks the son if he has ever smoked, he answers, "Mom, remember--we talked about that." She then has an "Oh, yes" moment, followed by a reassured smile, as they drive on.

One could think that's all it takes, and that other parents have problems because they just don't ask. In our experience, such advice has often come from people who didn't yet have children. It is normally far more difficult than that.

They are absolutely right in the sense that parents and children must have an ongoing relationship built as much as possible on respect, communication, and interested involvement. I commend the ad campaign for stressing that critically important need. However, most parents who have struggled through their childrens' teenage years know the more likely truth that children make a lot of mistakes through bad choices in spite of their parents' best efforts. When our family was younger, a well-seasoned older parent told me something I have found to be very true--that in spite of all of one's efforts, much of the fate of a child is out of our hands and is subject to just plain luck. It is a scary thought, but I believe it.

We had one of each--one who was so mature and responsible I sometimes think she could have raised herself, and the other who couldn't seem to make any choices that were beneficial to his own well-being. Worse yet, he seemed to have no difficulty finding friends who, as a group, reinforced their self-impairing behaviors. Often, we felt like we were throwing a rope to a drowning person who would promptly toss it back to us. Fortunately, both made it to adulthood intact. As is usually the case, they both seem to understand their parents better now that they have children of their own. In fact, having the responsibility of parenthood has brought the greatest single improvement to our son’s life.

Predictably, the well-behaved one is still due a substantial amount of attention that we will never be able to make up to her. During that preciously short span of years, the child who caused few problems unfortunately had to stand by while the other one's misfortunes were attended to. The same impact on other siblings often occurs when a child has a serious chronic physical illness.

I do believe that the ads fall short of the message that should be sent to parents when their teenagers have ample ammunition for trouble, but little judgment in how to avoid it. Urging abstinence alone will not suffice. Neither will just chatting it up about the issues. The kids certainly need to be talked to, but perhaps most importantly, they need to be listened to. Surprisingly, they often have more of the answers than we do, if we pay attention to the problems they are up against.

They should be educated about the resources available to them through their schools churches, community service organizations, and public health organizations. Failing to do so could deny them access to vital help they may need. By the time these life-changing issues are upon them, they can no longer be treated like children.

Peer pressure is probably the greatest single challenge they face, and it impacts almost every choice they have to make. They should be reassured that they don’t actually have to do what everybody else does—that they may discover the empowerment of leading, rather than being led. There is much more prestige in setting the trend instead of following it. Also, I think that it is important to stay in character as a parent, and hold to firm boundaries no matter how much they protest. Often they may be relieved to have an unyielding parent who is willing to take the blame as the bad guy.

So maybe the message should be “Listen to your kids—they’ll talk.” It might help more than we think.

That, and some plain old good luck.

Saturday, February 14, 2004
Another Sermon on the Mount
As is often the case for me, I somehow manage to get behind in my newspaper reading. I am envious of those who claim to run through several different papers while having morning coffee, since I can barely get through one before I must move on to my daily duties. If an article relates to human interest, technical matters, or other non time-sensitive topics, I will tear it out and toss it into a little tray on my desk for later reading.

This morning, I took the time to look through them and catch up. One was a story about the little three year-old girl who survived the auto accident that killed her mother. The child miraculously stayed alive on crackers and water for several days before the car was seen from the highway. Nighttime temperatures had gone as low as 28 degrees. Another dealt with healthy benefits of living the Amish lifestyle.

But one that I don't even remember saving caught my eye: "Muslim Cleric Condemns Terrorists As Affront to Faith", by Rawyah Rageh, of the Associated Press. It was published on February 1 in our local newspaper, tucked away in the upper left corner of page A6, next to the ads for car lots and department store sales.

The reporter described a sermon at Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia by the country's most respected Muslim cleric, in which he addressed an estimated 2 million of the faithful. The event marked the climax of the annual trek to Mecca, the Hajj.

It is often remarked that Muslims around the world, both clerics and rank-and-file followers, have not done enough to condemn violence and encourage peaceful resolution of social and political conflicts. I agree that this is an essential element in moving the cause of peaceful human existence forward during these turbulent times. I also believe that the terrorist attacks we have experienced worldwide are born of hopelessness and frustration, rather than an evil plot to take over the planet in the name of religion.

Taking the first steps in cleaning one's own house requires faith that such an action will please God. After all, isn't that what we are all supposed to be doing during our time here on earth? Unfortunately, there are few of us who can get beyond the idea of protecting our lands and possessions, resources of commerce, material wealth and political power in order to focus on the rewards of eternal communion with God. In the end, all that we try to preserve in this life is inconsequential, so we should not be afraid to risk sacrifice.

It is encouraging to know that some of those who should really be leading the faithful are speaking out. We need much more of this, and it should be met with a willingness to listen and to reciprocate.

Read the article using this link.


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