Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bring back "The Golden Rule"

4/11/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Like many of you, I grew up and raised my family in the now maligned TV era of “Leave it to Beaver,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Father knows best,” and “The Donna Reed Show.” Today’s critics say the shows were too simplistic and they modeled a lifestyle that wasn’t realistic.

I disagree. At that time, Dad went to work and Mom stayed home. Children were sheltered from the ugliness of life. We were taught to live by the Golden Rule. We respected our elders; practiced our manners; and arguments were settled by saying, “I’m sorry.”

I also grew up in Los Angeles and attended multi-racial schools where everyone got along without lectures, guards or bars on the windows. The police carried guns not students. It never occurred to me that my fellow students or neighbors would carry a weapon until the Watt’s riots in 1965. And then times changed.

Today, 45 years later, a quick look at the news will tell you that an overwhelming number of our citizens don’t respect either themselves or their elders. They have forgotten their manners and the Golden Rule. They settle their disputes with guns not words.

Quite frankly, I don’t get the guns. Yes, sometimes they are necessary. Military and police use them for our protection. Hunters use rifles to kill their prey. Property owners use them in self-defense when someone is stealing from them. They have their place in civilized society. A very small place.

I don’t understand the escalating stories of spouses killing spouses with guns. I don’t understand parents killing children with guns or worse. I don’t understand students killing fellow students with guns. I don’t understand arguments on a street corner being settled at gunpoint instead of a handshake. Where is the Golden Rule?

I am appalled at the proliferation of child abuse by parents at all levels of society. Other eras seemed to have weathered the stress' of unemployment, poverty and depression without resorting to torturing and killing their loved ones. How is this time different?

The horror of teenager Jeanette Maples’ tortured death at the hands of her mother is a case in point. One can only wonder what demons drove her mother, Angela McAnulty, to kill the child she birthed. There was no “Father knows best” in that family. The husband turned his head in denial as this girl was abused, starved and tortured.

Schools used to be the safest places in the world for our children. Statistically, they probably still are, but that’s hollow comfort for those who lost a child in Columbine, Thurston, Virginia Tech or most recently at Oikos University, in Oakland, Calif.

Certainly parents of my era never thought of elementary school children bringing weapons to school or accidently  shooting each other. Pushing and shoving—yes. Killing—no. But today it happens.

Amina Kocer-Bowman, the third grader who was critically wounded at a Bremerton, Washington school, will take a long time to recover physically and psychologically from her gunshot wounds.

The day after her classmate dropped his backpack and the gun fired, he wrote a letter to Bowman saying, “I’m sorry I hurt you because I brought a gun to school. I did not mean for anyone to get hurt. I wish everyone was okay. I made a bad choice...I did not solve my problem well. I will stay away from guns.”

The boy’s mother and her boyfriend (who left a gun lying around for her son to access) pleaded not guilty to felony assault. Not guilty? In my book it’s very guilty to severely wound a child and traumatize a soul!

I remember when divorce was an ugly word. In fact, in my neighborhood, when a couple got divorced, no one told the children. It was all hush-hush. Secrets aren’t good but they were a whole lot better than the lengths people go to today to punish their partner.

I don’t think any of us will get over this year’s killing of the Powell boys—Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5. In 2009, their parents, Josh and Susan Powell weren’t getting along. Susan mysteriously disappeared after Josh took the boys on a midnight camping trip. Josh moved to Washington, the grandparents had custody of the boys and the senior Powell went to prison on a variety of charges. Josh had supervised visitation rights with the boys.

This year, Josh killed his boys in a double murder-suicide that involved a hatchet, a gas explosion and a hot, fast burning fire. Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said, “What happened here was an act of evil. Do not call it a tragedy because that sanitizes it. This was a terrible act of murder involving two young children.”

Most recently, Trayvon Martin, a young black teen, was killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed (unofficial) Neighborhood Watch person in Florida. All the facts have yet to be revealed as to why Trayvon was shot and killed. But one thing is sure—if Zimmerman had not been carrying a weapon there wouldn’t have been a shooting.

So where am I going with this dismal, dark subject? We can’t turn back the hands of time and change any of these scenarios. Gun violence is not new in the United States and greater minds than mine have wrestled with it. But with a growing population of 313 million there are now more people and more weapons to be had.

Perhaps our best hope is simplistic—prevention and educational programs that will encourage children to stay away from guns and parents to store guns safely. To teach children how to live at peace with themselves and resolve disputes without resorting to violence is a challenge for every generation. Right now, we’re losing the battle.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a common thread in all religions. It leads to compassion, kindness and a peaceful life. Let’s put away our guns and bring back the Golden Rule.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Complicated computer era continues to confuse

3/28/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

It’s that time of year again—tax time. Time to peer into the depths of my so-called filing system and pull out all those important documents that will make or break us on April 15. Ugh.

Accessing my files system seems much more time consuming than when my receipts were written with pencil and paper. “A place for everything and everything in its place” was my motto. And then along came those formidable boxes called computers and I’ve been confused ever since.

One of the things that sold me on the computer world was the claim that we were entering “A paperless society that would save time.” Well, that was a blatant lie if ever I’ve heard one. I now buy and file more paper than an IBM executive secretary because everyone needs a ‘hard copy’ in addition to an email file.

At first, I was pretty excited when I learned my way around this brave new world. In 1996, one of my jobs in the front office of the Sentinel was to balance the accounts payable at the end of the month. Doing it on the computer was faster and simpler than gathering figures and adding them up on the adding machine. This was good.

Learning to do billing on the computer was another story. I was the office dummy. The one wearing a paper bag over my head that said “In training.” Honestly, for months I thought I would have a nervous breakdown. I longed for the days we hand wrote invoices and could look up accounts payable in a nice notebook.

Silly me, I didn’t know that I had entered a vast maze from which there was no exit. This computer stuff was here to stay and I’d better get on board or be left behind.

Thanks to some very patient teachers in the former Springfield News accounting department things slowly began to make sense. Shortly after Finn John hired me in the newsroom, Jeff, my computer genius son, stepped up to the plate and tutored me in all things “computer.”

Once I learned word-processing, how to set up email accounts and get on the web, I thought I was done. Oh, no. Every door that opened led to a maze. This was an on-going education with secret words and I was dragged screaming and kicking into this new world.

I learned that the computer had to be ‘rebooted,’ when it crashed (crashed?); documents had to be saved. It took years for the meaning of words like defrag, widget, browser, interface, domain, bandwidth, firewall, Webmaster, virus and zip to sink into my pea brain. But I was determined to learn and learn I did.

Somewhere in this time frame I realized that people were walking around talking loudly to themselves while holding something called a cell phone up to their heads. I remember thinking how ridiculous they looked and annoying they sounded. Then telephone booths with 25-cent public telephones started disappearing.

One day I needed a phone booth and there was none in sight. So I became one of “them” by default. I bought a cell phone…just in case. My kids say it’s useless because I mostly leave it in the car. I call it peaceful. They call it weird. But they taught me how to text and take pictures and videos…just in case.

YouTube was my next learning curve. To play their videos we needed high-speed connections. Out in the country we only had dial-up. I finally broke down and subscribed to Satellite just so I could see what people were sending. I thought I had moved into the 21st century.

Not so. Just as I was getting comfortable with this new world of communication some newcomers reared their heads. Twitter? What’s that? In my dictionary it’s a bird singing. I ignored it.

Then came a GPS. Our daughter thought it would help her dad navigate when we’re out in the RV. (Don’t want the old folks getting lost, you know!). He promptly handed it to me and suggested that since I was “so good with these things,” it should be my responsibility to program it, etc. I’ve been in charge ever since.

I was feeling pretty smug about my modern self and then along came Facebook. I have to tell you that I dug in my heels and said, “No, I’m not doing this.” And so far I’m sticking to my guns. I’ve turned down so many offers to “friend” people that I’m surprised I have any friends at all.

Everyone has his or her own reason for signing on to Facebook. Most say, “it helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” Grandparents say, “But it’s so easy to keep up with the family. Otherwise, I’d never know what my grandchildren are doing.”

I say, that’s why we have all of these other gadgets. You know, like the telephone, cell phone, email, cards and letters. Letters? Do people still write letters? Well, I do. Guess that shows you what a dinosaur I am.

And who wants to know what the family is doing every minute anyway? I don’t care what you had for breakfast and I certainly don't want to hear the latest gossip or family tragedy via a public information agency.

The kind of information I need right now is hopefully filed away from prying eyes in Quicken. The IRS is waiting and we all know how impatient they are. Wish me luck!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.