Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Other 1%

Today at home, my father received the most recent issue of Time Magazine and I got my hands on it first.  On the cover there were soldiers pictured in what looked to be a night vision-esque style and inside the index had a story entitled "The Other 1%."

This article was not about the typical 1% we are used to hearing about from the Occupy Wall Street protest but was about all of our men and women who are slated to return from Iraq.  How ironic I think that "The Other 1%" was the title because these Occupy Wall Streeters are probably very against the war so it essentially is an insult to call these soldiers "The other 1%," but that's just my opinion.  Anyway, these men and women have served our country since the Iraq war began in 2003 and some even earlier since 2001 when the war in Afghanistan began, yet to them it seems like they are returning home to a place they have never been to before, a land as the author of the article calls "foreign" like the deserts and areas they have spent time in during their tours.  Some may argue that it is because of the separation now seen so widely between our military families and the rest of the country because of these "super-bases" they live on, which have everything they need so why leave the gates at all.  Others also may say that it is because many of our bases are located far from the heavily populated areas and found in more remote regions like the southern states.  Finally, the reason that I believe gives rise to this great separation and the author mentions as well, is that there is this great divide between the values that our men and women in the military are trained on and engrained about compared to those values we as the American public embrace.  Those values are of HONOR, RESPECT and LOYALTY and they are what make our men and women of uniform who they are and represent ever so heavily why they do what they do.  They serve with HONOR, they RESPECT authority and they are LOYAL to each other and the units they serve.

Meanwhile, back here in the land they are serving so proudly through their volunteer to service, we, in my opinion, have lost those values those men and women serve with and have actually become entangled in ourselves.  There are the people absorbed in these protests of Occupying Wall Street or Occupying this city or that city.  Then you have the people who are all worried about the economy and "Should I buy this stock or that," "Should this person be laid off today and that person face the pink slip because we lost this amount of money this quarter?"  Beyond those two groups you have the college graduates who are solely concerned with finding jobs and doing something with their college degree because that's what Mom and Dad want and that's what my college instilled in me that "I HAVE TO BE SOMEONE."  You also have the groups of people who are only concerned with "ME" I have to get here in an instant because "I WANT THIS OR I NEED THAT," and have 0 concern about anyone besides themselves and their bubble.  Finally there is that last group of people who "JUST DON'T CARE."  Beyond those groups of people there are the military families or families who have family who have passed away who fought in the military or there are those other families that have people who put on uniforms daily and work in Civil Service, and all these families are the ones who still hold those values engrained by the military in their lives or try to instill those values in their children. 

Obviously I could easily be generalizing, but let me explain why I feel the above descriptions are rational and why I believe that these men and women are right in saying they are in a foreign land.  Here we have kids who are getting younger and younger drinking underage, not having any parental oversight because mom and dad are too caught up in their own worlds so it leaves the kids not obeying authority and acting outright DISRESPECTFUL.  I see it daily and weekly, from the 18 yr old high-school grad who instead of volunteering to help do chores tells their elders (elders in terms of 29 to 35 yr olds) to "GO F**K Themselves," to the kids who brag saying "We got so wasted last night and drove home and oh the cops stopped me but I got out of it because of my mom and dad."  Where do the kids see this from?  One place and that is HOME and MOM and DAD.  Driving my delivery truck around I see a lot and hear a lot, and one thing I notice daily is how much people are CAUGHT UP IN THEIR WORLD AND THEIR WORLD ALONE.  Drivers talking on their phones and blatantly driving slow and irresponsible because "Hey my conversation is more important than the safety of myself, the other drivers around me and well where I am going and who I am talking to is all that matters not that I am out doing an errand meanwhile this delivery driver may have stops to make before places close but I don't care."  At home, mom and dad are on the computer or talking on their smartphones not paying attention to little Tom crying in the corner because he just tripped on a wooden block or Sally sitting at the kitchen table struggling to solve a simple math problem because it's just too hard.  When Sally goes to school the next day and takes that Math test and can't answer a question and gets a bad grade, do mom and dad care, probably not because well they are caught up in work and their smartphones.  Do these stories sound familiar?   Am I generalizing?  Maybe just a bit but to be honest I am not going to lie it probably started earlier than my generation, but now as I keep growing older and I keep seeing kids grow up I see a sharp decline in those values that the Military ingrains in its members. 

Teenagers and young adults today are not RESPECTING each other, they are constantly thinking about their own benefit and not the benefit of those around them.  They are not HONORED to have a life where they can go to the market freely and not have to wear a certain type of clothing and act a certain type of way because the government said so, they just expect this lifestyle.  Finally they are not LOYAL, loyal to themselves keeping true to their word, loyal to their friends because they constantly backstab and talk smack about them behind their friends' backs, and loyal to others in general because they are two faced talking one to a person's face and a complete 180 to another person's face about that person.  How then can you ask our soldiers most of whom are young adults themselves to come home to a place where the age group they are supposed to relate to does not share a single thing in common with them?  Those kids their own age have no idea how to RESPECT AUTHORITY like they have been taught while serving, how to BE LOYAL TO OTHER MEMBERS OF THEIR AGE GROUP BECAUSE IF THEY AREN'T THEY WON'T BE THEIR DEFENDING THEM THE NEXT DAY, and finally how to HONOR THE FREEDOMS THEY HAVE BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW HOW BAD THEY COULD HAVE IT.  Not only do they not share these values they also do not share the experiences these men and women are carrying home with them such as seeing a friend they have spent the last 4 months with day in and day out get their arm blown off by an IED or watching their roommate die because of a sniper attack.

Let me just end by saying this, appreciate what these men and women have done for us.  Appreciate that they have spent 4 tours in Iraq and have now gone from having maybe a full working body to now having a prosthetic arm or leg or both.  Appreciate the sacrifices they have made for us even if you don't agree with them being overseas, they still have volunteered to do it, because maybe just maybe they weren't as fortunate to have all the blessings you have had so they saw joining the armed forces as a way to get themselves a better life by serving their time and having the military pay for them to go to college because if they stayed home they were likely to end up in a poor life. 

I ask each person reading this to just think for a second and say to themselves "Do I share the values of HONOR, RESPECT and LOYALTY with our soldiers? If I do then how can I show others how to do the same?  And if I don't how can I begin to make a change to share these values with these men and women and help change society to make these changes as well?"   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What If.....

Those two words "What If" are two words that bring so much fright and fear to my mind and body yet to many others they are just two words.  Think about it for a second, think about those words "What if" and now put another few words behind it like "What if I don't wake up tomorrow morning?"  "What if the things we think are the truth are actually the worst things we could be doing?"  "What if I say the wrong thing?"  "What if I commit to something and it isn't what I want or what I imagined?" What if? What if? What if? The What If's could go on and on and on.  Their story lines and plots could also just keep flowing like a dam with a hole in it, but in reality many of these what ifs never come to fruition because it is the mind playing games.  What if the mind isn't playing games and these thoughts actually are the real thing?

Why do I bring this up you may ask?  

Well, this morning when I woke up I saw a book on my kitchen counter with the title reading "What If," it happened to be my dad's book about something to do with what if history didn't turn out the way it has, yet it immediately got my mind moving to what if questions.  Then Coldplay's song "What If" kicked in next, with the initial lyrics where Chris Martin asks What If questions and the second versus ends with "What if you decide you don't want me there by your side?"  I didn't let it stop me, though, because I made my chocolate chip pancakes and continued on with my morning with Coldplay's song still stuck in my head.

"What if they did stop me?"  "What if all these thoughts became so intense I became paralyzed by them?"  You may be reading and thinking, stop this isn't possible how could someone become so paralyzed by two words that are part of a thought?  In fact in the world that we live in, it is possible people are paralyzed by their thoughts.  For those people who do succumb to these "What if" thoughts ruling their lives, they suffer from one possible mental illness called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).   I say one possible illness because I am no psychiatrist or psychologist and have no idea what other mental illnesses can be associated with "What if" thoughts, but only know of OCD because I happen to suffer from it.  No I don't suffer from the typical kind of OCD people think of, the one of constant hand-washing or physical rituals, nor do I let my OCD get in the way of everyday life, but I do suffer from a unique kind of OCD.

My OCD is the one where my mind says "If I think thought X then it must be true" and then that causes me to worry that thought x is going to be the be all end all.  You probably are wondering "How is that OCD?"  

Let me explain: For me, when my mind thinks thought X and thought X is something that I'm not familiar with then my mind starts to panic saying "Oh my goodness this thought is true and it is going to happen to me, AHHHHHHHHHHH"  Then my mind obsesses about it constantly and fears that is going to happen.  Now if I had the type of OCD that had physical rituals then my mind would say "What if I didn't lock the door?" then I would go home and check the door to make sure it was locked and it would be all better;  however I don't have that.  For me my ritual comes in the form of a mental movie and picturing thought x through from beginning to end and then my anxiety from the OCD goes down.  This pattern is by no means true for every single thought I have, but it happens frequent enough that it throws many curve balls my way yet with the constant help of friends, and therapy I am working on conquering this.  

So how then does this relate to seeing things through a different light, like I have described this blog to demonstrate?  The reason why it does relate to the subtitle of my blog is because with every action I do, I always think "What if I was in the other person's shoes how would I feel if the action I am about to do is done to me?"  I may have mentioned this before in my post on RESPECT, but this question of being in the other person's shoes is the way I live my life.  It, in all honesty, is probably the one "What if" that does not cause me anxiety or OCD much of the time because it has an answer and a piece of clarity to it.  Reason being is because I am able to think to myself about how I would feel and that enables me to give a concrete answer to the action, word, or thought I am about to do.  Does this way of thinking become paralyzing?  I admit it definitely does, but in my mind I would rather be consumed by thoughts like this and reach out to friends about it, rather than thoughts getting stuck and constantly playing them over and over and over in my mind because I am so caught off guard and frustrated with them.  

To conclude, I want to end with two points: 

1.) The brain is a very understudied organ.  Each and every one of us carries this machine on top of our bodies in this cavity called the skull, yet we really don't know how it all works.  Yes we have made great progress in terms of the brain and understanding it, but as great as modern medicine is the brain is one of two places that we really are lacking study on.  Why do I say this?  Well, it gets to my second point which is:

2.)  Mental health and well being is probably the biggest area where improvements need to be made in terms of modern medicine.  As someone who has struggled with OCD now for 6 1/2 yrs I know all too well how hard its been for me.  I am not saying this to have people feel sorry for me, or think of me in any different light, because that should not happen.  If people do come to think of me differently then they aren't true friends.  I am saying this because for all of my friends out there studying to be doctors I am hoping one of you takes on this challenge of understanding mental health and its relation to the brain.  What I am trying to say is I am hoping someone is able to pinpoint exactly what inside the brain is wrong with a person who has OCD or someone who suffers from any other mental illness.  Is it something hormonal?  Is it something that a little repair through surgery could fix?  Is it something related to a person's DNA?  Is it genetic?  If it is genetic how then do you help these people?

Next time you hear a "What if" just think that may be just one day someone may be able to understand how a person is stirred up by this "What if" and bring them back to reality!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where's the Line Because I think You Crossed It

Yesterday was officially the first day Verizon Communication Workers were on strike, but I have Mondays off so I wasn't at my place of employment yesterday.  So today was my first day in, and my place of work is situated in between 2 Verizon buildings, one for maintenance vehicles and the employees there and the other I don't know what's in the building but it's a smaller Verizon owned building, and my workplace is down a driveway directly past the bigger building.  As I was driving in today, it was my first experience driving through a strike atmosphere, and to say the environment was peaceful would be a very false misrepresentation.  The striking workers looked at me and my coworkers with disdain.  Now my job is not unionized one bit, the only people in my company who are union are the pilots who fly our planes, so I was not in any way crossing any picket lines, but those striking workers looked at me as if I was.  I got into my place of work and was standing around the time clock waiting to punch in with my fellow coworkers and two of them were saying these striking workers became hostile with them while they were driving down the driveway this morning.  Did me or my coworkers cross any picket lines or do anything that provoked these workers to cross the line this morning to behavior in an aggressive manner? Absolutely not. 

The morning routine continued on normally for us, but then it came time to leave the building to be on our way for the day which began without a problem, however once myself and the caravan of other trucks from my building left with me that's when it became interesting.  The picketing workers had increased in number, and it was also time for their replacements to be on their way to do the jobs these workers were not doing.  They had the entrance to their workplace human blockade as they protested in a circle to not allow the trucks to leave and then at the intersection of the road, they had workers situated in the right hand turn lane blocking any of their trucks and any of my coworkers from making that right.  One of their trucks had managed to get out of the lot and went to make this right and that is when all hell broke lose.  The picketing workers were harassing the hell out of the person operating the truck.  They were cursing him and calling him a traitor, saying he had a flat tire to try and get him out of the vehicle so they could do what to him I could only imagine.  At this point I was in the left hand turn lane, and they were still harassing this man, so I pulled my truck up and was about to make the left but traffic was to heavy to allow for the turn, in the northbound direction so I had to sit there like a lame duck blocking one lane of southbound traffic.  However sitting like the lame duck did provide my coworkers with the ability to swing around these picketing workers in the right lane and make the right to go southbound.  Finally I was able to make the left and be on my way.  

You probably are now wondering why I am sharing this experience today.  Well for the past few weeks on my way to work, I have been seeing people picketing at another place of employment, a hospital, stating that they are opposed to unionization of their hospital.  It is quite interesting to see the two contrasting opinions making all this noise, because on the one hand you have people fighting for their unionization to remain and for their unions to keep protecting their rights as workers, then on the other side you have group of people fighting hard to prevent this unionization from occurring.  Both of these actions are freedoms of speech and don't get me wrong I have no problem with people demonstrating for their rights, but when it comes to harassing people just trying to do their jobs or be on their way to work, that is a whole different ball game in my opinion.  

At this point in time with the current state of the American Economy and even the world economy, those of us who are employed should be grateful we even have a job in the first place.  I understand it to be a "sin" to cross the picket line but in all honesty with the current situation out there in the job climate, shouldn't these people both union and non-union be grateful they have a job that pays and provides them with benefits in the first place?  I mean I do get that the union does not want to have to pay for healthcare, but really be happy you have it at all and have the job that is giving it to you.  I know we have a crisis on our hands in so many areas and its a result of what many believe to be "irresponsible actions" by the government, but the one thing I think these striking workers and those protesting against unionization should see is that we have many men and women overseas in harms way fighting for us to have these abilities to have healthcare and jobs, yet these people protesting find it more important to not do their jobs or protest against an ability to protect their jobs because its all about them and not the greater good.  I do realize that there are people not paying their dues and that also isn't fair by any stretch of the word fair, however, I do believe it is time to stop thinking about "ME" and think about how the bigger picture.  

On this night, as our 30 downed service members returned to our United States lets remember them and the many blessings they have given up to protect us and keep us free, so that tomorrow when we wake up we can go to our jobs and have a place to work to pay us and give us benefits.  Let's not cross the line by harassing those trying to just do their jobs, or get to their places of work and instead just let them be and if protesting is going to achieve anything just do it peacefully.

Monday, July 25, 2011

We Need More Passion and Energy

Last night at this time I was standing on the floor of the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ listening to Taylor Swift in the midst of playing her last show in Newark on this leg of her Speak Now Tour and for me it being the culmination of the last of three events of a very relaxing weekend.  Now many people know I love Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and seeing them live and in person is something that will always be at the top of my list, but let me say this: This being the second concert of Taylor Swift's that I have seen she comes very very close to Bruce's level of performing.  Indeed they are two very contrasting crowds with two very contrasting styles of music but they share two things: PASSION and ENERGY.

Webster's Dictionary defines energy as "A dynamic quality, the capacity of acting or being active, or a usually positive spiritual force." They then define passion as "Ardent affection, sexual desire, an object of desire or deep interest, or a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity object, or concept."  We know these two words on many different levels and these definitions or pieces of them are just small bits of their entire meanings to each individual, but I picked out these parts because of their appropriateness to the title of this post.

For both Bruce and Taylor, they draw their energy for their performances from the passion of their audiences.  I am by no means saying I have 100% proof of this, because I for sure don't, however what I do want to say is that the reactions of these performers to their audiences is what gives me this premonition.  Whether its the 13000 teenage girls at Prudential Center screaming at the top of their lungs as Taylor sings "You belong with me" or its the 48000 or so people at Giants Stadium simultaneously letting out a deep roar of "BRUCCCCCCCEEEEEEEE," its because of these people that these performers put on such a great shows.  For example, last night, Taylor just stood at the edge of the stage with a big smile on looking all around just taking it all in, and she even pulled the ear piece out at one point to hear the screams and the passion.  That just goes to show how this performer views her life and job not as a job, but as something she LOVES to do and is not doing it because she has too but because she wants too. 

How many of us can we want to go to work? We want to crunch numbers all day or want to be in an office all day or want to sit behind a counter serving food all day?  I for one can say I have yet to find that passion and energy to want to go to work each day and not just have to go to work because that is what society tells us to do and if we don't we will be poor and not able to get by.  Imagine how nice it would be to wake up in the morning and do what you actually wanted to do? I am not saying living life like Bruce, Taylor, Gaga or any of the other performers is a cake walk because it certainly isn't, but what I am trying to say is that they bring their energy and passion each night and into each of their albums because they LOVE what they do.  As hard as it may be to do this for us the normal folk, how nice would it be to see work not as a Stress but as something we LOVE to do.  I know some people who are in school right now see their studies as being something they want to do, and I envy these people because they have it figured it out to some extent.  Now again it sounds much easier to those of us not living or walking in these peoples' shoes, but how nice would it be to wake up each day and do our jobs with just PASSION and ENERGY and not because we have to do them to make ends meet and live a life. 

So the next time you go to a concert, whether it be a main stream artist or someone off the beaten path, see if they bring this same ENERGY and PASSION that I saw in Taylor and Bruce to their shows.  If they do bring it then they are the real deal and not just doing it for the money!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"What Is Courage? Is it Brave?"

The words in the title to this post are the opening words to the Five For Fighting song, "Two Lights," which if you have never heard it definitely worth taking a listen too.  It tells quite a story that explaining it on this blog would not do it justice hence why I am refraining from going on any further about the song itself and instead going to focus on those two words; courage and brave.  So what do those words, courage and brave, really mean?

Webster's Dictionary defines brave as "having or showing courage."  They then define courage as "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty."
To every person on this Earth that definition may be the same, yet how we actually view its use in our lives is what makes it so different for each one of us.  For one person a courageous person may be a little kid who just goes up to a lonely person at their school and starts talking to them because they feel bad seeing them alone.  To another person a courageous person may be their neighbor who goes each week to the homeless shelter and meets with the residents there to try and help them improve their lives.  Each of these acts of courage are small and may be meaningless to some but to others they see these actions as something that would take a lot of umpf for them to do. 

Now for me, courage and brave are synonymous as the definition basically implies, so I am not going to separate the two because essentially every action in my book that I find courageous also is brave.  For me, though, nothing made the definition of these words clearer than the events of September 11, 2001 and the military operations to follow.  What we all saw on that day and now almost 10 years later with Operation Enduring Freedom almost completing 10 years of active military operations in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the midst of its 7th full year of active military operations, is what I define as brave and courageous.  

Be forewarned, I am not here to preach anti-war, or pro-war, pro-Bush or anti-Bush, or pro-Obama, anti-Obama, that stuff is all nonsense and just presents a much bigger distraction on the topic at hand, courage and bravery, so if you want that stop reading and find somewhere else to read that stuff.  

First off, I do believe every soldier is brave whether they have gone overseas in the heat of the hot desert sand or not, just to take that oath and go through the rigorous training is enough for me to believe that our men and women in uniform are courageous and brave.  But really what I want to focus on as brave and courageous as those soldiers are, are those soldiers behind the scenes, the doctors, medics, nurses, and field hospital staff that have to see our men and women come in wounded yet remain as cool calm and collected as they were the moment before these wounded soldiers arrive.  Just take a second and imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, knowing that you are trained as best as you can be to help these men and women, yet to know that your training could never ever have prepared you for what these hospitals saw and continue to see.  Soldiers constantly are arriving with injuries never seen before in combat or even in the civilian setting, such as amputations or limbs torn to shreds by the shrapnel, embedded body parts from the suicide bombers that could be potentially carrying infectious diseases like Hepatitis or HIV or burns to portions of the buttocks from these plates specially designed to rip the undersides of the Humvees to shreds.  What's courageous in all of this is to hear of stories of these patients surviving and making it back to the US where they are able to receive even better care and be even more courageous themselves to fight to become part of the American life again.  They survive because the staff in these field settings stay calm, and remain focused, they stay courageous and brave and keep pushing because they see their fellow soldier on their gurney fighting to stay alive.  If that whole situation whether it is the injured soldier or the team treating them is not the ultimate definition of courageous then what is courageous is beyond me.  

A few months back I met one of these soldiers who was on the frontlines treating those injured and let me tell you it was the most humbling experience of my life.  He enlisted in the army at 18 and went through basic training. He finished his original enlistment assignment and signed up for more as he saw the opportunity for the Army to pay for his education in college as a bright spot, so he was able to go to college and then the Army was able to offer to pay for med school so he was able to continue his learning.  During the September 11 attacks, it was his first day of residency and he vividly recalled his story to me on that day.  He since served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan as trauma surgeon with a specialty in burns and is currently back in the US potentially heading back over to Afghanistan in the near future.  This man had the unmarked scars of war on him, he was quiet and humble, disciplined like no other, and yet he was in my mind a HERO someone who along with his fellow soldiers and doctors is allowing me to live each day in freedom and peace because of his courage and bravery. 

Not every action of the words courage and brave have to be as bold yet subtle as serving in the Armed Forces.  For me the other people in uniform, the PD, FD and EMS, are the courageous ones here on our home soil.  Yes admittedly I am an EMT and volunteer my time at a place here in my home county, so I am in some ways tooting my own horn, but in all seriousness even being one of these people I still look at all of my fellow people in the emergency services and think to myself, "These men and women enter peoples' homes not knowing if they are entering a place of danger, just going on in because they have received a call for help and want to help a person in need."  When I am on the job, though, just like everyone else who is there with me, we are not thinking about the potential dangers we are just thinking about the one person, or place, that is in distress and thinking that we need to get them out and safe as soon as we can.  Is it courageous or is it stupidity?  Many people would like to believe that when they see their neighbor in need or distress they will step up and do the right thing, but in reality how many of these people will actually dare to do it day after day, week after week, or volunteer their time when they are able too because they like doing this.  

Lastly, the other form of being courageous and brave is standing up in the face of adversity whether it be in an interpersonal situation or a social setting.  To be able to go to an event where you have had a fallout with someone and  stand in the same room as them and not be discouraged or let emotions get you is courage.  To try and make up with someone after a fight is courage, to get back on the horse after falling is courage.  

As you can see courage has so many different meanings.  So what then is the real meaning of courage? Is it brave? I'm not quite sure but what I do know is that next time you see someone who you think has done something courageous give them a pat on the back and try then for you to do something courageous yourself.  If we keep trying to push ourselves to get over these fears and be courageous like those doctors and soldiers overseas we may not be so bad after all.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Give me Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Find out what it means to me. Thank you Aretha.

All joking aside, the word RESPECT is something that has lost its punch in all aspects of this great land, besides for one place at least in my mind and that is the military.  In my mind, from what I have read and seen the military still has that order of RESPECT for their ranking officers, no where else can that be seen anymore.  Not in homes, not in public service jobs, not in Volunteer Agencies where there are officers and most definitely not in society in general.
Reason why I bring this up tonight is because of again multiple examples I have seen in recent days in my life.  From work, to friends, to where I volunteer I have seen such examples of lack of RESPECT that it is just incredible.  

In the workplace, I don't know if it's just me and my old school ways, but people who hold the titles of managers and senior managers or are just above of you in the workplace whether it be in years of experience or their title deserve RESPECT from the people below them even if the people below them are not great fans of them, they still deserve that RESPECT from them.  Friday while doing my thing at work, the senior manager came over to the other side from where I was working and was talking to the guys there asking why they did something.  Once they finished explained what happened and the senior manager stated his piece, he stood around for a while longer, and at that time one of my co-workers started saying to him "If you are done here, you can leave now," and he repeatedly kept telling him this.  Finally my senior manager stated "Today is not the day to mess with me" and just walked away.  Now I am still fairly new at my place of work, but if that interaction had gone down in the corporate office setting that co-worker of mine probably would have been written up or even better let go because of his disrespect for my senior manager.  I understand not everyone has to like each other and be friendly but if a person holds a ranking position above you that means that they typically (not always that's for sure) have done something to gain the respect of the upper echelon to receive that promotion, so it should go without saying they deserve some RESPECT.  I do feel that treating people as you want to be treated is an unwritten rule everyone should go by, and it for sure is the leading viewpoint and characteristic to which I lead my life, and I know for sure this senior manager has a reputation that is not well-liked because he is a hard-nosed leader, but still talking to a boss like that is unacceptable.
Officers of volunteer organizations hold positions because they have opted to give up their time to try to help the organization further itself along.  Very commonly these people run unopposed during elections because not many people care about anything more than themselves, but still that does not mean these people do not deserve RESPECT, in reality that should increase the level of RESPECT these people deserve.  Where I volunteer my time as an EMT, the officers of my volunteer organization are constantly being scrutinized or disrespected by the same members of the organization and it is quite frustrating to see.  The way our fine society has made us today those of us who want to do the right thing are stuck in between a rock and a hard place reason being is as follows:

On one side if a person stands up to those disrespecting the officers then that person taking the stand will more than likely be written up by the one doing the disrespecting, or the one disrespecting will make fun of the person standing up and thus talk about that person behind their back saying "Oh this guy is a jerk, he thinks he's an officer or he's favoring x y or z officer or he's friends with this person, that's why he's standing up for them" or they risk loosing a relationship with the person being the "Bully."

On the other side, if no one says anything no corrective or disciplinary action will be taken thus the person who is being disrespectful and talking negative about people who have stepped up to the plate will continue to disrespect.  

Where is the middle ground? That is the question I am asking, how can someone do the right thing and not be scrutinized or ridiculed for it?

What irks me the most is lack of RESPECT between people.  Lady Gaga says it best in two songs off of her recently released "Born This Way" Album: "Born this Way" and "Hair."  In the song "Born This Way," sings "No matter gay, straight, or bi, Lesbian, transgendered life, I'm on the right track baby, I was born to survive, No matter black, white or beige, Chola or orient made, I'm on the right track baby, I was born to be brave, I'm beautiful in my way, 'cause God makes no mistakes, I'm on the right track baby I was born this way, Don't hide yourself in regret Just love yourself and you're set, I'm on the right track baby, I was born this way."  In the song "Hair," she sings "I just wanna be myself, And I want you to love me for who I am I just wanna be myself, And I want you to know, I am my Hair, I’ve had enough This is my prayer, That I’ll die living just as free as my hair, I’ve had enough This is my prayer That I’ll die living just as free as my hair, I’ve had enough I’m not a freak I must keep fighting to stay cool on the streets I’ve had enough, enough, enough And this is my prayer, I swear I’m as free as my hair." 

I'll come back to Gaga's lyrics in a bit, but just tonight, and what actually sparked me to write this post, I was speaking with a friend of mine and was being told of the great amount of disrespect this person received this weekend from members of the opposite sex.  They did not see this person as a person or someone who had feelings or someone's friend but rather as an object something they could play with and not worry about come the next day.  I am no activist for rights or anything like this, but to hear of people thinking of members of the opposite sex as objects and wanting to do things with them because they are attractive and not because they have a connection between them is just incredible.  How can we as humans go about treating each other as not having feelings but just as being physical objects that give us pleasure or bring retaliation to our Exs' for actions they have done to us.  Remember when they did it to you and how you felt when you found out, yeah I know you want them to feel that same exact pain you felt, but DAGNAMIT for once in your life take the high road for goodness sake and be the bigger person.  More commonly than not, us men do objectify women and I am not saying I don't do this because I do in more subtle ways than normal, but to get back to the point to treat a woman like something that can be used and abused and left on the street once you have had enough is just absurd.  They deserve, and you ladies, should DEMAND the same level of RESPECT, if not more from the men around you because you are a person too and at one time you know we men did have to show much more RESPECT than we do today to the women around us.  We did have to hold the door open and let them enter a building first, we did have to stand behind them in line, or we did have to have respect for their parents before we could move on to becoming more than a date to them.  

Enough of that soap box, to get back to Gaga's lyrics she says it right, she says it all "We are all beautiful in our own way" and "We are as free as our hair that blows in the mid-summer's night wind." She is most definitely doing the right thing by trying so so hard to get the people who listen to her music to realize there is such a need for RESPECT to re-enter our lives that it's quite remarkable how off course we have become.  Time and time again we don't respect one another and more often than not we don't respect people of different races or creeds or sexualities.  Again I am guilty of this judgement as well at times, but when it comes to face to face reactions you NEVER EVER KNOW when you may need that person to come to your aid so why not treat them with RESPECT. 

RESPECT something that was at the core of my high school education and at the core of my up-bringing and makes me who I am today.  It is something that is lacking greatly at home today.  I could go on and on about that aspect but I won't.  What I will say is I am grateful for all of the great lessons I was taught about respect and hope to continue to show that RESPECT to everyone who I meet.  Lets try to bring it back to our everyday lives whether in between our friends, our co-workers, our officers, but more importantly it starts with ourselves.  Show ourselves RESPECT and hopefully it will emanate out beyond ourselves to those around us.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What's With Society and Ethics?

I could easily write for hours and hours on this the subject that is the most intriguing to me, but I'll spare the boredom and write just about my run in with ethics at 3 different points in the day today:

The first run in was at work where this morning while waiting around for our daily stretch and flex routine, one of my coworkers was retelling his story of the weekend and was saying how he got with this chick while he was out over the weekend.  Now this wouldn't be so bad, but my man has a child with his girlfriend!  I know what people do with their own life is none of my business, but what irks me is this lack of ethics to think about someone other than themselves.  Yes I could be asking myself how much of this story is actually true (because I know I for sure am gullible) but honestly, how can someone in their right mind put their relationship with their daughter in jeopardy?  Am I really that much of an old school thinker to see this as wrong?  It just bothers me that there are so so many people out there whether in relationships for years and have children in those relationships, or single, that jump from partner to partner or are unfaithful to their partners.  Why must we humans always think about ourselves as number 1?  Ethically speaking shouldn't we be looking in the mirror and saying "How would I feel if I was on the receiving end of this news?" "If I was the one finding out that my partner did something with someone else" instead of thinking "Oh it's ok this one time won't hurt," or if they do find out "What's the worst that could happen? I lose my daughter because my ex takes her away from me, oh wait that won't happen though because she won't find out."  These are just some of the things passing through my mind as I hear story after story like this of guys or girls cheating on their significant other with someone else because they think oh they will never find out.  Let's stop and think how would I feel if I got news like this instead of thinking about what I want all the time.  

That's run in number 1. 

The second run with ethics today was at Dunkin Donuts in Mt. Kisco while at work today.  I had just gotten my order and was walking out the door back to my truck when I see this older couple heading towards the door of Dunkin Donuts so I hold the door open for them.  As they walk towards the door seeing it being held open, they let out a big "Thank you" and in what I saw and heard was a very surprised tone.  Their reaction to me holding the door took me by quite surprise as I realized has it really become such a big deal to hold the door for people? Again ethics.  Has it really been washed away from the teachings of parents today to teach respect to your elders or to teach respect for guys to girls and hold doors open for them?  Again it goes way back to my old school ways and I mean this could all stem from being raised in Catholic school until going to Cornell University for college, but RESPECT is something that does mean so much to me.  It is something that is long gone from the everyday lives of the people who live around us.  I hope to seriously touch on this in a future post, but for now, next time you gentlemen or ladies for that matter walk through a door and there is someone behind you or in front of you, please hold the door open for them because you never know when you may not be able to grab the door for yourself that one day.  

My second run. 

My final run with ethics today was here at my house.  My neighbor (who is also my really good friend) just had his driveway paved by a paving company whom I had never seen before in my life.  I figured nothing of it, but then when I went to cut my other neighbor's grass I smelled diesel fumes coming from somewhere.  I looked down the catch basin in front of my neighbor's house and what do I come upon but a sheen of diesel in the water below.  Immediately it strikes a chord within me as one of the things that eats at me the extreme most is pollution to waterways.  In junior year of college I did a project on storm water remediation more specifically about Jamaica Bay watershed here in Queens and Brooklyn that sits adjacent to JFK Airport.  Needless to say, that class changed my life forever, I learned more in that one semester that has paid off for me in the long run than the first four semesters of school previously had.  Again I hope to touch on storm water and green issues in future posts, but in regards to today, these two catch basins where the diesel was dumped into drain out to a stream which eventually drains out to the Long Island Sound.  So I continued to cut my neighbor's grass but as I was going about it, the fumes of the off-gassing diesel kept getting stronger and stronger.  Finally it got to me and I called the Dept. of Environmental Conservation at two different numbers and got no response, so then I said let me call the City's Water Dept.  Well that triggered a great response, the cavalry came storming in.  First the police showed up, then the water dept sent a truck out and finally the fire dept showed up.  When all was said and done the fire dept deemed the diesel to not be of a great risk and diluted it and flushed it down the drain with large amounts of water.  Ethics again, where was this contractor's ethics? Today we as a society, nation, world are in a much greater environmental conundrum than we have ever been before due to our increase in reliance on some natural resources (all the environmental activism stuff aside I do believe that we need to work on being green as it will help us in the long run) so doing stuff like dumping diesel down a drain that leads to the ocean is a bit uncalled for.  Yes there are millions upon millions upon millions of gallons of water in the ocean and that diesel would have been cleaned out in no time, but think of the little pieces along the way that don't have those millions of gallons of water to clean out the contaminant.  These catch basins drain to a stream that at points is no wider than a foot and deeper than 8 or so inches, so that area would become inundated with diesel when the diesel finally moved out.  I hope that these contractors even if they don't get any fines or anything from this learned a lesson from today.  Will it all make sense to them? I doubt it and will they have learned from it again I doubt it, but hopefully I opened up the responding departments eyes to these malpractices that go on each day that get overlooked and hopefully they will make a change to see that something like this doesn't happen again. 

Alright enough on ethics.  Sorry to bore you to death but there is something to be said with the misdirection that is occurring in so many areas today.   

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do You Believe in a Promised Land?

Not to sound morbid or anything, but why do men usually die first?  With today being Father's Day, and yesterday being a huge moment in music history with the death of "The Big Man" Mr. Clarence Clemons, and knowing so many men who have passed on who were fathers or grandfathers, it makes me ask the question of why do men usually pass away first?  

Yes, Clarence had a stroke which ultimately became the real cause of death, but what was the underlying cause of that stroke? His high blood pressure, or poor eating habits? My grandfather who passed away in 2010 died from smoking for years and years and his lungs just rotting away to something worse than Swiss cheese.  Yes smoking was his cause of death due to the deteriorating lung health, but what led him to smoke?  My other grandfather who died in 2003 died from poor cardiac health, having had multiple cardiac angioplasties and both a pacemaker and defib implanted, he lost his life to a poor heart and which caused him to pass away from an infection that his body couldn't fight off, but what caused that heart condition to form?  In seventh grade, one of my classmates' father passed away from a massive heart attack, this man had suffered from polio in his childhood age and wasn't in great health but loved life and was a huge loss to see him pass when we were so young, why was he taken away so early?  In high school, in senior year, one of my friends, his father passed away after a battle with an ailment (I am failing to recall the exact ailment), but what caused that to happen to a man with a loving wife and three children? Lastly, our soldiers overseas, how many men (and women too but I am sticking to men right now) have we seen pass from defending our country?

Reason why I ask all of these questions, is because right now on this another Father's Day I am listening to one of my many Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band DVDs and am pondering why so many men have seen this Promised Land so soon and their wives and children are left to suffer from their loss?

I do believe we are all created equally, ask anyone of my good friends and they will tell you I do not tolerate people who think they are hot stuff, so I am just asking the question why if we are all created equally do men usually die first and witness this Promised Land so much sooner than women?  In the history books, we are always told the men are the hunters and have to be strong and work to survive and keep their families afloat, but much of the time these men are taking away first and this role reversal occurs, where the women now have to become the hunters and the gathers in one.  What causes this increase in male deaths to occur first? 

Is it the pressures of trying to keep the family afloat and make the ends meet? 

Is it the stress of having a family? If this is the case then why is this the way all the creatures are wired? To desire this family and want to share lives with someone else when in the end it just drives a man's health to deteriorate because of the increase in pressures? 

Do men bring it upon themselves by being "unable to share their feelings and keeping stuff inside" thus increasing blood pressure and cholesterol because they are not releasing these feelings and trying to suppress them by eating the foods that make them happy but cause much more harm than good? 

I know witnessing this Promised Land is an inevitable thing, no matter male, female, old or young, I just am curious as to why it routinely happens to men before women? I am no science buff so I have no facts to back these assumptions up, but I am just basing this off of my personal life and my experiences.  

The loss of all the men I have previously mentioned in conjunction with the loss of Clarence Clemons makes me wonder why these respective people are taken many years before the good that they can do on this Earth can be recognized and completed.  For me, my grandfather who I lost in high school, never got to see me complete college, he would have loved to have witness Cornell and its majestic glory and my grandfather who I lost last year left me with the message of "Mike will you please find a lady to marry" (This quote was in some form or another what he said I can't remember exactly but it was the last night I saw him alive and before I left he said this to me and my uncle respectively) because he never got to witness his son marry anyone so he would love to see his family live on, but he is not here to witness that.  Again I am speaking from assumptions, but after reading Clarence's book and knowing what I know about him, I think he would have liked to have performed one more time for his fans and not be taken from them so unexpectedly.  Sure he did leave them with a legacy in performing on Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" track, but still that does nothing to prove his wonderous talents he had with the E-Street Band and his brother Bruce.

Many say these people still are looking down on us from Heaven like Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men say in "One Sweet Day" and P-Diddy says in "Missing You," I do believe they are looking down on us and watching us each day, but I am just wondering what they would say if they got the chance to be here to see these things.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The News That Broke A Man's Heart

Tonight, after spending an evening with friends watching the NBA Finals, I checked my iPhone for new tweets in regards to the Mavs beating the Heat and scrolled down a bit to see the tweets I had not read since the last time I checked Twitter.  As I was scrolling down I came across this tweet:

E-Street Band's Clarence Clemons suffers stroke; said to be 'seriously ill' - Rolling Stone

I am a huge Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band fan, turned on to them by my mom, I cannot stop listening to them.  Their songs never get old, their covers are usually infinite times better than the original songs, and their energy in a live concert setting is just incredible.  I've seen them in their last three tours, The Rising being my first concert of the Boss and the Band live and they just blew me away.  To compare them to any other concert I've seen is just unspeakable, they play with the best energy I have ever experienced, their fans the most faithful and energetic I've ever seen, and most of all they don't play for the typical hour and a half or so like every other concert I've been too, they play for 2.5 to 3 hours non-stop.  From beginning to end, they bring the house down and everywhere in between they keep it going.

To read the above news tonight just breaks a piece of me down.  Bruce and Clarence have an unspeakable bond, that if you have had the chance to read the book, "Big Man" by Don Reo and Clarence Clemons, like I have, you would see that their bond is just unique.  Since the start of the E-Street Band in the 1970s, Clarence and Bruce have been a unit, like two brothers separated at birth and joined together again by a passion for something they both love so much, MUSIC.  To watch them perform early on in the DVD they just recently released in their "Darkness" box set, to their most recent "Working on Dream" tour DVD "London Calling, Live from Hyde Park," the whole band plays with such a vibe and family like energy, and to watch Bruce and Clarence do their thing is just something else altogether.  Bruce calls Clarence "The Big Man;" for what reason I'm not quite sure off the top of my head, but it is just something that sets their relationship apart.  Yes, Bruce does call Steve Van Zandt, "Little Steven Van Zandt," at times, but Bruce and The Big Man just have some bond, some friendship, some something, that is just so real and genuine, that is not just a stage act, but something in real life terms on and off stage.  

Reading that book, hearing this news, and feeling how I feel, I have to say I can't even begin to imagine how Bruce and the Band are feeling.  Being an EMT, and having experienced patients who have had strokes and experiencing the reaction of their families to these events, I can just continue to replay over and over in my head what is going on right now with Clarence and his wife, and how much it is affecting Bruce and his family.  Imagine having your long time brother whose been at your side day in and day out, not out of being blood relatives or married to someone in the respective family, but out of genuine friendship be there for you.  That's something we in today's society are missing completely, that genuineness.  Some may argue it's there, especially in the public service sector, and the job setting, but no where is it clearer in the relationship between Bruce and Clarence.  They came together because of their love for music and have shared that bond for years now and continue to do so day in and day out.  At times like these, that's when those relationships are tested beyond belief, but like Kanye West says "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," that's what they are going to get out of this.  It is going to make their relationship stronger.  

Clarence Clemons, I hope to the Lord on High, that you are able to come out of the woods and see the Darkness that is on the Edge of Your Town right now lifted, to see that dream you have been working on continue to be fulfilled. 

Feel Better Soon Big Man!

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