I’m probably overreacting. It’s probably no big deal. This too shall certainly pass. Still, I’m genuinely concerned about the direction our country is heading. What direction, you ask? Increasing violence? Decreasing human rights? Social security running out? Healthcare in limbo? The economy? The threat of terrorism? These are all extremely valid concerns, but I’m most troubled by how we seem to be losing any interest in kindness and mutual respect, and seem to get off on being hateful. 

For the record, I’m not attacking or blaming any one group. I can point a finger at Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, Jews, athiests, jocks, freaks, nerds, and geeks. Oh, and even me. We all seem to be on the bandwagon of hate — even if we don’t see it, or worse, somehow justify it. Is this magnified and blown out of proportion by the media? Definitely. However, is it real? You better believe it. 

We live in a time when our president tweets hateful messages on a daily basis, religious leaders post discriminatory messages on Facebook, and the news media is on the constant lookout for any controversial, disappointing, or downright hateful news. We are possibly as divided nationally as we’ve been since the Civil War, and there is little evidence indicating improvement anytime soon. I truly fear that in the not too distant future it will be considered acceptable for bank tellers to look us in the eyes, smile, and say, “Thanks so much for banking with us, and go fuck yourself.” 

Despite our very serious problems, all hope is not yet lost. I know for a fact that there are great people doing incredible things every day. We may not all share the same political, religious, or economic views, but there are people putting kindness first. Every single day. It’s not sexy, it’s not popular, but it’s happening, and it needs to get noticed. It needs attention so it can gain traction. This matters — maybe more than anyone realizes. 

It’s not always easy to be genuinely kind and respectful. In fact, it’s damn hard. It’s far easier to lash out, to try to prove a point, to try to make someone feel small, while we make ourselves feel clever. I struggle with it regularly. Taking the high road is sometimes an agonizing climb, but I’m always proud of myself for getting to the top. What people forget — or maybe haven’t learned — is that it feels good to be kind, even to people you disagree with or simply don’t like. If we truly gave everyone a chance, we might just discover that we get along with far more people than we thought. 

I think I was born a realist. I know we will never see eye to eye on everything or be just like one another. Man, I’m glad because life would be awfully boring. I’ve chosen to be an optimist, partly because it just feels better, but also because it forces me work at being a better person. I hope we (and we includes me) can put an effort towards being kind and respectful, because we are all in this together. This is life people, it’s not a drill. Can we agree to stop judging those who are different? Can we let people — as long as they are not directly harming anyone — do what makes them happy? Can we not only accept those who are different from us, but actually wish them the best, and then expect the same in return? 

We all think our opinion is right. We all have beliefs we think others should follow. Many see this as conviction, a positive, the only way. I will continue to do my best to make my conviction kindness. When I’m kind and respectful I always feel like I’m doing what’s right. 

If we care about our nation’s well-being, I hope we will not just agree to disagree, but learn to sincerely respect each other and be honestly kind to one another. This isn’t easy and won’t happen overnight. It takes practice. It requires trying to see the world through the eyes of others, even if we don’t always like the view. We can choose kindness. Don’t jump ship — we can change our course — it’s not too late. However, it’s a big ship, it’s a pain in the ass to steer, and we all must have a hand on the helm. 

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Girl Power!

May 1, 2016

  
I believe one of the most important responsibilities I have as the father of a daughter is to instill a sense of confidence and belonging in her. Sadly, we live in a world where women are still often treated as second-class citizens. Even in the good ol’ USA, women make less money than men, still can’t join certain clubs and organizations, and continue to be the butt of inappropriate (yet widely accepted) jokes. I hope things change by the time my six-year-old is an adult, but I want her to be prepared to stand up for herself and expect nothing less than equal treatment in the future.

My son is twelve. He’s a great kid, but he’s also at an age where he tends to occasionally be a jerk. As a matter of fact, he’s usually a jerk and is exceptionally good at it. As older brothers (and sisters) tend to do, he picks on his much younger sister quite often. I picked on my little sister at that age (and maybe still do a little now), so sometimes I don’t do as good of job of getting on him about it as I probably should. I do, however, try to consistently remind my daughter that she should stand up for herself at all times, regardless of the circumstances. That being said, she typically gets upset and simply tells on her brother when he is mistreating her in some way.

Today was different. My youngest hadn’t even had a chance to take a bite of the banana with peanut butter (a rare healthy snack that she actually loves) that I had just made for her, when the jerk grabbed it and took a bite. My daughter stood up from the table, narrowed her eyes on her big brother, and sternly said, “Listen, if you want some of this there are bananas and peanut butter right here in the kitchen. Make yourself one, but stay away from mine!” My son and I were both totally taken off-guard. “Um, okay, I’m really sorry,” he genuinely muttered. I was just speechless. Slowly, my daughter turned her fierce gaze towards me. “This is girl power, dad. Get used to it.” Luckily I was able to keep from laughing — as it was very funny — but I couldn’t hide my pride. This kid’s gonna be just fine. 

There’s a quote By William James that I like to keep in mind when it comes to parenting:

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

I truly hope my fellow fathers of daughters are doing all they can to empower their young girls. Our generation has an opportunity to make great strides towards equality for our children. Let’s work together to make it happen.

“I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say, ‘Yes, women can.'” – Dilma Rousseff

Hillary Clinton is running for president, and I couldn’t be happier.  Wait, don’t stop reading!  This isn’t a political endorsement, per se.  I’m glad she’s running because I have a wife, sister, mother, step-mother, mother and sister-in-laws, aunts, female cousins, nieces, and many female friends; all of whom I respect and want the best for.  More importantly, I have a five year old daughter, and I believe a female presidential candidate can help her, and all women, have a better future.  I’m hopeful that the more our society is exposed to women doing things traditionally seen as “men’s work,” the more likely we are to embrace gender equality.

Although it is still not frequent enough, I am noticing more and more discussion about gender inequality in the workplace.  This is much-needed conversation.  Depending on the source, women earn about $0.77 for every $1.00 earned by men.  Last year, the United States (a country that we Americans like to think of as the best at everything) was ranked 20th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.  If you’re wondering, no, this ranking is not good.  We are lagging behind some real powerhouse countries, including Rwanda, Nicaragua, Latvia, and yes, even Canada…  This is a national disgrace, and I personally don’t understand why it continues.  Is it male insecurity, ignorance, fear?  I’m not trying to belittle men at all (I’m usually on your side), I just sincerely want to know what a man can do better than a woman, other than fertilizing eggs and peeing standing up (not necessarily in that order)?  Sure, some guys will make an argument about men being physically stronger, but this is rarely relevant, and not even always true.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my wife can occasionally open jars that I can’t (although I do suffer from some minor arthritis…).

Pardon me, this really isn’t something to joke about.  I spent 19 years working with men and women in the construction industry — both in the field and in management positions — and see no reason why a capable man should make more money or have more opportunities than a capable woman working in the same role.  Heck, maybe women should earn more?  I’ve experienced firsthand some of the positive traits that women bring to the workplace, which men typically don’t — or won’t.  For example, a can-do attitude, a more competitive drive (perhaps both of these can be attributed to a chip being on many women’s shoulders, and who can blame them?), and, thankfully, more compassion — something many guys seem to have been taught to hide for some reason (but all secretly want).  Plus, it is proven that women have a higher pain threshold than men, which could result in fewer sick days.  What is a debilitating hemorrhoid to us fellas, may just be little more than an annoying pain in the ass to our female counterparts. 

We have many societal problems in the U.S. that need to be addressed.  However, I am a stay at home dad with a young daughter, so gender equality is very high on my list.  My wife’s earning potential is very important to our family now, and my daughter’s right to unlimited future potential — both monetarily and opportunity-wise — will never cease to be important to me.  I look at this girl and see all the promise in the world; just as much as I see in her older brother.  I want them both to be equally successful (however “success” ends ups up being defined by them), and expect that any other dad with both a son and daughter would agree.

Win or lose, I hope that Clinton’s presidential bid is at least a catalyst for narrowing the gender gap.  Unfortunately, we may be years away from ending inequality, but putting women in powerful positions under the media spotlight could go a long way towards helping make equality the norm.  In the meantime, I implore all parents, but particularly fathers, to let your daughters know they can do anything they set their minds to; certainly anything their male counterparts are capable of.  Let’s empower our young girls as early as possible so they learn to believe in themselves.  Let’s help give them the confidence to stand up to inequality — for their sake, and for the sake of our nation.

Say it with me men:  “Yes, women can.”

My daughter can do anything she sets her mind to.