Ambidextrous Thoughts

This site is intended to offer research and commentary on current events covering a wide scope of topics. Over and over again, I see social media offering quick access to the latest news or trend, but often with very little thought or fact-checking put into it, which lends itself to misleading half-truths. The intent here is not to take a political side, but to discuss the differences expressed by many who use social media as their source of news and information. My aim is to look at both extremes of a topic, and try to find a way to come together. I welcome input and suggestions on subjects that you’d like to know more about. Some conversations may have a political theme, but I hope to discuss issues that affect our everyday life, whether it be what kind of education our children are really getting, why are medication prices spiraling out of control, are unions a help or a hindrance to our workers today, or what “entitlement” really means. Bookmark this spot and see how we do as we try to make a fair place to open discussions on the subjects that interest you most. By – JRBecker

I Turned My Coworker In To HR When She Gave Me A Christmas Card, And She Changed My Heart

Posted by on Dec 19, 2017 | 0 comments

I Turned My Coworker In To HR When She Gave Me A Christmas Card, And She Changed My Heart

I Turned My Coworker In To HR When She Gave Me A Christmas Card, And She Changed My Heart

A person who gives a gift featuring his or her sacred religious iconography is reaching out, showing kindness and sharing his or her faith with others.

By Chad Felix Greene
December 18, 2017

For years I have been one of the only Jewish people at my places of employment. I am currently the only Jew who wears a kippah at my office every day. In my heavily Southern Baptist and rural town, one would think I would be quite familiar with the consequences of being such an outsider.

But, as any honest minority will tell you, that singular idea of what America must be like simply is not accurate. This image often lives exclusively in the minds of those intent on viewing the world as a hostile place, filled with bigotry

This reminds me of a woman who illustrates this disconnect perfectly. For a long time, in my early working years, I felt extremely uncomfortable around Christmas time. I was far more liberal then and far more suspicious of Christians around me.

I would walk around listening to Christmas music while attempting to block out all religious connotations. I would drive past Nativity scenes on public property and scowl at their imposition of Christian faith on everybody. I bitterly frowned at the lack of Chanukah-related decorations at the local stores. I felt completely outside of society, looking in from the cold at happy families eating their large Christmas dinners,

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

An older woman who worked with me then gave everyone a personalized Christmas card each year. The card even had a small, hand-placed candy attached. The first time she gave me a card, I instantly frowned with disapproval, as the cover featured a glittery Nativity scene. I tossed the card aside and shook my head at her utter lack of respect for my religious beliefs.

She did not seem to notice. The following year she did the same, with another new religiously inspired card bearing another carefully placed candy, and a rosy smile as she handed each out.

In secret, I wanted to enjoy her gifts. I would even sneakily eat the candy hoping no one would notice. I instinctively smiled inside only to force a frown on the outside on pure principle. I often convinced myself that even if I wasn’t that offended, other people might be and it was my responsibility to speak up for them.

I felt a social obligation to educate her on the inappropriateness of her actions, while inside I intermittently felt envious of the others who so fully enjoyed them. In my loneliness her act of kindness gave me a moment of comfort. I chose to replace that with resentment.

She was otherwise a lovely woman whom I generally enjoyed, but I viewed her as an object of validation to my belief in a totalitarian and fascistic Christian Right attempting to take over the country. Her sheer audacity in providing me with a clearly religious symbol felt like an intentional assault, and in the third year I anticipated it with hostility.

When she once again presented me a hand-signed card, I stood up and marched to Human Resources, waving it in the air as evidence of being discriminated against. I angrily complained that her intentions did not matter as long as I felt the offense and the act itself made working there feel unsafe. So they spoke to her about the issue.

Overcoming Narrowness with Generosity

Although many of the other employees enjoyed her yearly gift and scorned me for complaining, I felt justified in my actions. She never confronted me, but she avoided wishing me a Merry Christmas for the rest of the season. I felt validated. But I also felt profoundly empty.

I watched each of my coworkers laughing and fully enjoying the spirit of the holidays, sharing gifts and treats with one another completely unburdened by self-consciousness. As I sat at my bare desk, the bright colors, glitter, and celebration of all things Christmas taunted me. My lone Chanukah teddy bear did not comfort me.

The last year I worked there, she once again presented everyone with a Christmas card. This time the cover was a Christmas tree with no religious iconography. I was busy when she approached my desk and I remember her pausing, smiling down at me, and saying, “I hope you have a lovely holiday,” before setting my hand-written card on my desk.

I stared at it for a long time before finally reaching for it and opening it. It was a simple message, and she wished me happiness and joy in her own writing inside. As I held the card I felt a tingle of recognition of what she did for each of her coworkers every year when she did not have to. I felt a pang of guilt.

A Coworker I Can Never Forget

I left for other opportunities, and over the years as my conservative worldview came into focus and the heavy cloaks of victimhood shed to the ground behind me, I often thought of her and her kindness. I have worked with many people who chose to give everyone at the office a personalized gift, which were often religious in nature. Despite HR warnings against religious imagery or politically correct scolding on diversity and religious tolerance, many chose to offer kindness anyway. It took me a long time to recognize that I was choosing to be offended.

That wonderful lady passed away this week, and as I lit my Chanukah candles I thought of her. Despite my cold and bitter temperament, she tried to warm my heart with a small and simple gift every single year she had the opportunity to do so. She provided a moment of joy and happiness to so many people with a small act. I remember her kind face and perfume as she walked by. I remember her soft voice and wide smile. I remember how nice she was to absolutely everyone she encountered.

Curious onlookers often ask me about my religious beliefs, and every year as Chanukah approaches I receive many an enthusiastic inquiry into the precise dates and practices. People always want to make sure they give me a gift at just the right time. They don’t want to miss the holiday and make me feel left out.

Sometimes those Chanukah gifts have images of Jesus on them. Despite what our media presents and my younger self firmly believed, this is not an act of aggression but one of innocent compassion. A person who gives a gift featuring his or her sacred religious iconography is reaching out, showing kindness and sharing his or her faith with others.

I’m a Jew, Yet I Love Christmas

These days I find myself loving Christmas and the cheer, colors, sounds, and small acts of kindness surrounding me. People love to make other people smile and they do so with hand-crafted gifts, treats, and homemade goods. They relish in watching the people they engage with daily partake in delicious candy and cookies, and they eagerly post cards they have received all around doorways and on walls.

That kind woman could have ignored me after the first year when I threw her card in the trash in open sight. But she didn’t.

I still receive Christmas cards with Nativity scenes on them, and they line my desk and my doorframe with pride. I appreciate the gifts others give me now, and I know it is always with the best of intentions at heart.

It is so easy to be offended, so easy to feel hostility and suspicion. Victimhood is attractive because it gives people permission to be judgmental without consequence and feel superior in doing so. It creates a sense of being special, enlightened, and above it all. But this merely traps people in a cycle of bitterness and loneliness as they fight the urge to simply enjoy the holiday season with everyone else. Ironically, the fact that they receive the same gift as everyone else demonstrates their inclusion in the group rather than highlighting their difference.

As a Jew, I can say that I appreciate Christians’ gestures during this time of year. Although it has become more risky over time, I encourage Christians to continue providing them. That kind woman could have ignored me after the first year when I threw her card in the trash in open sight. But she didn’t, and that matters.

Kindness matters. Even when the objects of your kindness reject your efforts, just know that deep down you are touching a part of them that they will hopefully come to appreciate in time. Not everyone will, but just enough of us can be rescued to be worth the effort. Your small act of generosity means more than you know. – END

 

Chad Felix Greene is a political and social writer focusing on truth in media, conservative ideas and goals, and true equality under the law. He has written and illustrated Jewish children’s books and writes for online publications.

 

 

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WHAT IS A PLATFORM AND HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND IT?

Posted by on Dec 14, 2017 | 0 comments

WHAT IS A PLATFORM AND HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND IT?

WHAT IS A PLATFORM AND HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND IT?

I’m starting to hear rumblings about the need for candidate platforms soon, to help guide us in our voting in the 2018 elections. One problem has been we haven’t had a clear picture of just who’s running. Now that the filing date for running in 2018 has passed, maybe we’ll get some answers.[Correction: the deadline for filing to be on the ballot in Illinois and Texas has come and gone. Other states have later dates, with the latest being New Hampshire on June 15, 2018. https://ballotpedia.org/Filing_requirements_for_congressional_candidates.] It might be a good idea to watch for a rash of new candidates as many unknowns are looking into filing procedures. So let’s look at what a platform is all about, and what to look for from our candidates as they emerge.

Every major party puts together a platform to describe what their goals and plans are for the coming election period. This is done every four years. Below are two comparable excerpts from our two major parties, covering the period from 2016 to 2020. Each party writes short passages like these about their major tenets, then provides outlines for planning, with a longer description called a “plank” for each subject. Note that these are the platforms we are all operating under right now.

Quote from the 2016 Democratic Party Platform: https://www.democrats.org/party-platform

“It’s a simple but powerful idea: we are stronger together.

Democrats believe we are stronger when we have an economy that works for everyone—an economy that grows incomes for working people, creates good-paying jobs, and puts a middle-class life within reach for more Americans. Democrats believe we can spur more sustainable economic growth, which will create good-paying jobs and raise wages. And we can have more economic fairness, so the rewards are shared broadly, not just with those at the top. We need an economy that prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking, rewards the common interest over self-interest, and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.”

From the 2016 Republican Platform we see: https://prod-cdn-static.gop.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL%5b1%5d-ben_1468872234.pdf

“Republicans consider the establishment of a pro-growth tax code a moral imperative. More than any other public policy, the way government raises revenue — how much, at what rates, under what circumstances, from whom, and for whom — has the greatest impact on our economy’s performance. It powerfully influences the level of economic growth and job creation, which translates into the level of opportunity for those who would otherwise be left behind. Getting our tax system right will be the most important factor in driving the entire economy back to prosperity.”

The full preamble, outlines and statements can be read by following the links above if you want to see the specifics.

To a lesser degree, candidates at all levels usually have their own platforms, based loosely around that of their preferred party. If they’re running for United States Congress (either Senate or House) they’re likely to hug their party line more tightly. But they should also be concerned with issues that directly affect their state and its population. This would mean something like keeping a strategic military base in their district, securing needed infrastructure repairs, or maybe some local concern with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Some candidates take on special priorities, as well. They may have interests in foreign policy, economic trade policy, law enforcement or education, to illustrate a few. Incumbents will have a voting record that they may use to show their effectiveness (or lack, thereof). Even if they don’t mention it, you should go to the government website and check it to see if they’ve voted as they portray themselves.

This link shows all recorded voting per each bill. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes

This is the link for general “report card” information, and is really useful in checking to see how your representatives are performing. It lists bill sponsors, committees and so forth: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/report-cards/2016

In addition, most Senators and Representatives have a webpage that contains their individual voting records.

The webpage of each Senator or House Representative should tell you several things. First, it should tell you a little bit about the person – age, basic education, family status, military experience, previous job experience, etc. Then it should tell you about any special experience, education or talent that might give his or her qualifications an additional boost. Lastly, it should provide the platform, or at least a few paragraphs on what the intended accomplishments will be if elected to office.

Here are some ideas on the topics that might be covered in a party platform:

  • Do an evaluation on redundant social programs, merge where possible.
  • Rate needs and set a plan for infrastructure improvements, including nuclear plants, dams, the electrical grid, oil pipelines and water / sewage plants.
  • Send engineers and project managers to all Territories and evaluate their infrastructure needs – especially the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as relates to recent hurricanes.
  • Consider adding Puerto Rico as 51st state.
  • Develop a stronger Bureau of Indian Affairs / Reevaluate and strengthen tribal agreements.

It’s not just Congressional Senators and Representatives that we need to follow. We also elect Governors, State Legislators, and other state officials such as Treasurer, Secretary, etc. In addition, we should do our due diligence on the lower levels of government, as well. When we vote, we are choosing the people who will determine how our taxes are raised or lowered, what businesses our community attracts, how educational needs are addressed, and so much more. We elect officials to our county, our city or township, and even to our school boards, as well as local judges.

Each one of these people should be presenting an overview of their positions on all the current concerns – A Platform. Most will only be a paragraph or two after a short bio. Many states send out a booklet prior to elections that list the candidates and an abbreviated platform to save us from having to do a lot of research. Some of us simply don’t have the time to look everyone up online. That’s when these booklets can come in handy. If we want to know more after looking that over, then we can go look up someone or something specific that we need to investigate.

The candidates who hold town halls or speak at rallies will have “talking points” which are the more popular considerations in that given area. On the west coast, a talking point might be innovation and technology. In the Midwest, it might be farming subsidies. On the East coast it could be climate concerns, and in the south it might involve oil rigs in the gulf. These may or may not be part of their actual platform.

In today’s world, we’re fortunate to have the Internet, and the ability to read and research without going to the library or waiting to hear a speech. But we must use it! If we vote blindly, we risk setting our own needs back by years because we didn’t find out first what the person we want to vote for will do with the power we give them. It’s our job as constituents to hold them to their promises, and vote them out if they don’t follow their own platforms. – END

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