Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Olympics Are Over - Here's How We Know...

I suppose I should have gotten to this sooner.  If I had, though, the "rest of the story," would not have presented itself.  I would have been stuck writing purely about The Games of the XXX Olympiad.  That, as we all know, would have been exceedingly boring, right?  Yes, I jest.  For it was in these games that we saw history made or rewritten repeatedly.  The most obvious example was Baltimore's own, Michael Phelps.  After assuring the entire world this was his last Olympics, we watched him become the most decorated Olympian in history.  Yes, he chose a sport that allowed him to be in a position to do so, however let's not forget - he had to perform to win the medals.  The final tally, as we've all been told, is 22 total medals.  Of those, there are 18 Gold.  Let's not forget the games in 2008, either, when Phelps challenged Mark Spitz's record of 7 Gold medals in a single Olympiad...and came home with 8.  He twice became the only man to win a Gold medal in the same event at three separate Games.  The list goes on...yet we've (supposedly) seen him for the last time swimming competitively.  There are many that hope, myself included, that he might consider Rio in 2016, yet another part of me wants him to ride off into the sunset so he can retire on top.  I liked his attitude, too, when told there would be many that would hate to see this particular retirement - "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."  Perfect.

We also got to watch the "Fab Five," in action.  Five young women dressed in leotards, their hair pulled back, looking ready to take on the world.  They were only teenagers, though they carried themselves with grace, dignity and confidence while exemplifying 'sportsmanship' to their competitors. Honestly, did our collective hearts not break for Jordyn Weiber?  She qualified 4th overall for the Individual competition, yet could not compete because only two athletes were allowed form each country.  Silly rule - change it.  We want to see the 24 best athletes perform.  We watched McKayla Maroney absolutely NAIL her vault for the team.  It should have been a perfect score...yet, we watched as she went for her individual medal and, though she is the undisputed 'best in the world' on the vault, she landed on....well, she sat down.  We gasped.  Still, we watched Gabby Douglas win a Gold in the All-Around, while Aly Raisman won for the floor exercise.  We were diggin' it.

There were other stories, lesser-known and told, that grabbed our attention, too.  One in particular that was aired on the Nightly News focused on one of our female weightlifters.  This young woman has always been big.  She had been teased and people made fun of her.  She also lived on $400/month while training and, at times, had to live in her car.  Why would anyone do that?  Why would they sacrifice so much?  Because, as she pointed out, she can call herself, "An Olympian."  It's a small, select group...and she is one of the few.  I respect that.  She wanted to represent her country...our country...on the world's biggest stage.  Impressive.

The most impressive story of these Games, however (I don't even need to say it, do I?) was a South African athlete...with no lower legs.  Oscar Pistorius.  Tell me again how bad your day has been.  Tell me the problems you have in life.  Tell me, again, how difficult things are and how hard it is to get motivated.  To watch him run was amazing, yet to hear the stories of his youth even more so.  His mother's words echoing, always, in his mind - "Disabled doesn't have to mean disadvantaged."  Powerful?  Absolutely.  I really enjoyed her brand of motivation when she told his brother, "Put on your shoes.  Oscar, put on your legs.  That's the last I want to hear of it today."  The most amazing part of this man, though, is illustrated in the picture.  He has become a symbol of hope for many small children and, more than many adults using empty words, is teaching them that there are no limits to what they can do.  It was, in short, an amazing Olympiad and all of England should be proud.  The world thanks you.

Then, however (and the rest of the story), we get an illustration of how that perfect harmony created every two years is only an illusion in the 'real' world.  It was a story written today regarding discrimination and harassment.  28-year old Imane Boudlal, a naturalized US citizen from Morocco, has filed suit against the Walt Disney Company.  In the suit, she is charging harassment and religious discrimination based on her Muslim religion and ethnic origins in North Africa.  She began working as a hostess at Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Resort in 2008.  She claims, too, that she was harassed by fellow workers and that Disney refused to accommodate her request to wear a traditional Muslim headscarf, a hijab, at work.  Ultimately, this caused her to leave Disney in 2010.  No, I do not have the dates wrong.  She left in 2010 and she is NOW filing suit.  Why it took two years to file this suit is beyond me...though I can imagine it might have something to do with the ACLU and an ambulance-chasing lawyer catching the story.  Okay, this is where I feel my constant disclaimer must be placed: I have nothing against practicing Muslims or, for that matter, anyone of ANY specific religion, race, creed, or color.  I just think that's a long time...don't you?  So...Boudlal claims the harassment began, "as soon as I started working there.  It only got worse when I decided to wear a hijab.  My journey towards wearing it couldn't have been more American; it began at my naturalization ceremony. I realized that I had the freedom to be who I want and freely practice my religion."

Wait.....let's revisit that for a moment.  If I read that correctly, she did NOT always wear a hijab.  She decided to do so at her naturalization ceremony.  She had been working without the hijab, then decided at a later time it was appropriate.  Disney, for their part, sought a compromise.  They offered her (with 4 separate choices) headwear that would both compliment her uniform, as well as allow her to accomplish her goal of covering her head in observance of her religion.  In addition, if she absolutely HAD to wear the hijab (something that she apparently did NOT), they offered her other positions that would be in an area in the back of the restaurant.  My point being - they tried to accommodate Boudlal and her religion.  They specifically made head coverings for her that she rejected. Why, if wearing the hijab initially wasn't an issue, would she reject their attempts at compromise?  I think we know why...and is an issue that is bothering many of us.  To all that want to practice their religions here, we are fine with that.  For those that beg our tolerance, we hear you.  For those that want us to accommodate your wishes, I have a few questions.  Why did you come here when you could have stayed in your homeland and worn this whenever you wished?  Why is it we always have to, "Press 1 for English."?  This is America and we are proud of the fact that we are a 'melting pot' of so many different societies, however we are Americans.  Period.  I wonder, as I have often in the past, what kind of tolerance we would receive if we were to go to your former countries and brought legal action against someone being intolerant of our religious beliefs or customs.  Yes, that's rhetorical.  We all know the answer...which is, quite honestly, why you are here.  Disney is an American company.  They have rules for their employees and should not be forced to bend to threats or legal actions.  The rule applies to all AND they offered a compromise.  Seriously, though...was it a compromise you wanted...or an opportunity to sue Disney and, like the new American Dream, rake in unearned millions?  When our ancestors came to Ellis Island, they came with a few dollars in their pockets.  The only real thing they had was hope and all they asked was an opportunity.  They did not come demanding we would do something for them.  They, rather, wanted to make something and help build this great nation.  Word of advice - you might want to try that...and see if the tolerance increases.  My bet is it will.  I'll stand beside you and help build 'our' country again...........

Until next time...................

Friday, August 3, 2012

True Colors - More Than A Cyndi Lauper Tune...and The Olympics

I have purposely waited, yet again to weigh in on this issue.  As with other issues, I chose not to have a 'knee-jerk' reaction, and to see how people on both sides of the issue acted and responded.  I am amazed.  Amazed, quite honestly, at how we treat each other, especially those that will tell you they are only pushing to 'be accepted for who they are' and are 'all about getting along equally'.  I'm calling bullshit.  Excuse me, but that is how fed up I am with the way people are treating each other and the so-called issue of hate.  Yes, by now you know I am speaking of the Chik-Fil-A situation and the comments made by Founder Dan Cathy.  First, let me clear this up and go on record - I have friends that are gay, both men and women.  I respect them and treat them no differently than others.  I had a cousin that was gay.  He died, not of pneumonia, but of AIDS, I think.  So you know I am not setting this up to be either pro-anything or anti-anything, there is the preface.  Okay...let's set the record straight, AGAIN, for those of you who simply want to push your agenda and twist people's words and actions to benefit your cause.

Dan Cathy was being interviewed by a Baptist magazine when he uttered those now famous words:

Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position.

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

"We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that," Cathy emphasized.

"We intend to stay the course," he said. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

So there it is.  I have read those statements, read them again, and read them again.  I have looked everywhere, however cannot seem to find the part where they say they HATE anyone.  The man was speaking of the values of his company and his personal  beliefs.  They are Pro-family.  Please help me understand - I have read the list of organizations to whom they have donated money (their right, I believe) and I am struggling.  They gave money to the Family Research Council who has been controversially labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Okay, let's just suppose for a moment they ARE, in fact, anti-gay.  They may be - I do not know.  HOWEVER, we have to flip the coin to see the other side - gay and lesbian rights groups are upset because this group pushes an anti-gay stance....but wait, THEY'RE allowed to push a gay stance the same way?  Wait...I'm confused.  They are condemned for doing....the SAME THING you are doing?  What the.....help me, please.

I have heard that the groups to whom Chik-Fil-A donates are spewing vile, hateful messages.  I have to say, folks, that for the past few days I have heard more hate and vile spewed FROM the gay and lesbian community as they preach their own intolerance.  Again, let me restate - you will not see me being either pro- or against- either side.  I am merely stating observations.  They sell chicken sandwiches, believe they ought to be closed on Sundays, and are religious.  Why can we not accept that?  I hate to overstate the simplicity of this, but...If you don't agree, DON'T eat there!  You see, it isn't about what Dan Cathy said, nor is it about his restaurants.  One of my other observations is that, while certain groups are begging our understanding and our acceptance, they only want to do so with a fight.  There it is.  You have to admit, in the grand scheme of things, the gay and lesbian community has already gained far more acceptance than many wanted to give.  Compare this to 30 years ago.  Hey, compare it to 20 years ago.  Think you haven't made strides?  You have...but it isn't enough, is it?  Will it ever be? Let me ask the million dollar question - what is it you REALLY want?  You want the discussion, let's have it.  What would it take for the parades to stop?  What would it take for you to stop telling me (or us) we are inconsiderate of you?  Marriage?  We're getting there - do you really want me to give you the whole, "Rome wasn't built in a day," speech?  Oddly, the friends I have that are gay or lesbian never seem to be the people that are involved in these protests.  This, like the Pro-Choice/Abortion issue, only ever seems to attract the people that need to grandstand.  Yes, you folks really hurt Chik-Fil-A yesterday, huh?  They had record sales.  Today, however, when you staged your Kiss-A-Thon or whatever it was called, there were about two dozen people that showed up to kiss their significant other.  Know what Dan Cathy did?  Shook his head in disapproval...as he handed over another twenty sandwiches to the public.  Yesterday should have told you something and it goes back to my question - what do you really want?  If tolerance is the answer, then stop pushing your agenda on everyone.  Can you not see by yesterday's sales that there are still MANY people in this country that DO believe with Mr Cathy?  Listen, we are more than willing to be accepting...if you'll agree to stop making everything a fight.  You think you have to, however you might try actually having a conversation first.  Honestly.  Give it a try...then we'll talk.  For now, though, heed the opposite of Nike's words - JUST DON'T DO IT! (eat there, I mean).

While we're at it, I don't want to hammer the gay/lesbian coalition solely.  Next up?  Bob Costas.  Yes, Costas worked his media magic last night when sweet little Gabby won her gold medal.  Costas had to note that Gabby was the first black to win this medal.  As I've said before, I cannot be politically-correct so I will still say 'black' which, as far as I can tell, my black friends that did NOT come from Africa are okay with.  Costas also noted that, "Tomorrow, there will be young African-American girls all over this country wanting to take gymnastics now because they know they, too, can win the gold."  Bob, you're an idiot.  Personally, after three consecutive gold medals for the young women of our gymanstics team in the All-Around portion, I'd say there are scads of young women - white, black, yellow, purple, green - ALL knowing they can do it.  This is not about black or white.  This is about Red, White, and Blue.  I sat on my couch watching a young woman my daughter's age, having left her mother and move half way across country to be with strangers....JUST so she could be the best in representing her country.  As a matter of fact, you could take the entire "Fab Five" and paint them any color you want - I'd still be amazingly proud of the way they represented us.  Let's start with Jordyn Weiber - she got left out of the finals even though she placed in fourth in the preliminaries.  She is the reigning World Champion but the two-finalists-per-country rule (which needs to be changed, by the way) kept her out. Instead, we had a 4-way run at the title while others placing far lower competed.  is THAT the Olympic Spirit?  Jordyn, though, after a few moments of sadness, rose to the occasion and cheered her team on.  Rules, after all, are rules and she abided by them.  When Aly Raisman tied for third and was placed in a tie-breaking fourth position (another NEW rule from earlier this year) she accepted it...and said she was okay with being 4th in the world.  I've seen our swimmers congratulate those whom they've beaten and others do the same.  This is absolutely not a black and white issue, Bob.  This is an American issue.  Sadly, race relations will NEVER get better as long as we have the media continuing their sensationalizing of each and every moment...just for the sake of ratings.

I know this has been somewhat rambling, though I hope it is coherent.  I've jumped around but these issues ALL matter today and I wanted to touch on all of them.  The 'jumping' is what happens when there are too many thoughts...and my fingers cannot type quickly enough.  Please, folks, seriously...can we not treat each other with a little bit more care?  Can we not truly be more understanding and accepting?  I know we have differences - we always will.  Either we learn to accept our differences and get along or it's going to continue to be a bumpy, hateful, unkind road.  I know which I'd prefer...and which would be best for us all.  Let's try, if even for a little while, what do you say?

Until next time..............