Monthly Archives: January 2013

LANCE ARMSTRONG’S ROAD TO REDEMPTION

Lance Armstrong is starting out on his road to redemption; he is seeking forgiveness.  He apparently has taken step one,  owning up to what many have known, to what most have suspected and to what he has denied for years, that he took performance-enhancing drugs.  His interview with Oprah will air tomorrow and then we all will hear the full extent of his mea culpa; we will hear how sincere it is and how deep it goes.  I hope that we will hear him own the damage he has done; I hope that he will not evade full personal responsibility by shifting blame to others.  Recognizing that he alone is responsible for the choices he made is critical – it is not enough to say, yes, I did it, but; there is no room for “but” on his road to redemption.  People will not forgive him if he does not own full responsibility for the choices he made.

We will also hear why he has decided to confess now, after all these years of vehement denial.  I think his motivation for doing so will carry a great deal of weight with the public’s perception of him; his motive will matter. I sincerely hope his motive goes deeper than simply the desire to compete again, as some have suggested; I hope his motive to tell the truth comes from knowing that the many people he denigrated and harmed while he was dishonestly defending himself deserve at minimum his public acknowledgement that they were telling the truth.  Asking for  forgiveness is important but it will be difficult to forgive him  if he does not acknowledge and take responsibility for the negative impact his choices have had on other people’s lives, not just his own.

Lance’s cheating and lying over the years have hurt so many people, people who were personally very close to him as well as fellow athletes.  He has hurt his foundation, “Live Strong.”  He has disillusioned millions who admired him. Sadly, he has turned his own heroic story into a sad tale of disgrace.  Not only did he lose friends and admirers, not only did he lose the trust and respect others had for him,  he lost his self-esteem, his self-worth, his image;  with his overwhelming desire to win at any cost, he paid a very high price –  he lost himself.   

If the athletic community and the public forgive him and allow him to re-enter the world of sports, that will certainly give Lance the opportunity to regain doing what he loves, competing.  If those closest to him forgive him that will certainly give him a measure of inner peace.  However, the forgiveness Lance needs in order to reclaim all that he lost of himself is his own; he needs to forgive himself. 

Regardless of how sincerely remorseful he is over what he has done, the consequences of his actions may always include a life without professional athletic competition, a life without having legions of adoring admirers.  Lance will never be able to reclaim all that he lost from the outside world; no matter how contrite and sorry he is, he cannot turn back the clock and regain his life as he knew it.  Losing so much through acts that were completely of his choosing is self-sabotage on a grand scale. Getting the forgiveness of others will not be easy; getting his own may be his biggest challenge of all.  

Lance has started on a path that in order to travel well will take a great deal of personal soul-searching, will and integrity; it will certainly not be without difficulty and it may not end where he now hopes; his former life will not be restored.  How he inhabits his new reality matters.  If he handles the challenges he surely will face with dignity, if he creates a life of meaning out of the debris of his old life, if he lives his life in accordance with the true sentiment of “Live Strong,” he will have the ability to face and overcome the obstacles on his path towards redemption.  I do not know if he will succeed, but I wish him well on his journey.

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REFLECTIONS ON 2012 – HOPES FOR 2013

I love New Year’s Eve. I love celebrating the year that has ended; I love the anticipation of the New Year about to begin. I love contemplating the possibilities and potentials of the coming year and I love not knowing what lies ahead; the unknown intrigues and entices me with its mystery. As we close the book on the year gone by, the next adventure begins. New Year’s Day is only the first day of that adventure; it is the first page of what will become the book of the year 2013.

The book of 2012 is written; it is history. By all accounts, 2012 was a tumultuous year, filled from the beginning and throughout with dark and light chaos and uncertainty. Personally, for me, it was a very good year, a year of fun and adventure, filled with the love of family and friends and the safety and security of knowing I am loved, of knowing I belong. Sadly, for many, it was a very difficult year; a year filled with crisis, of financial hardships or tragic personal loss. For far too many, it was a year of unspeakable pain and unbearable sorrow; too many hearts were broken; too many dreams were senselessly shattered. Some overcame the year’s numerous challenges with grace and aplomb, elegantly circumventing obstacles in their path, while others valiantly struggled to hold on to their dignity as they stumbled or fell into every obstacle along their way. Political animosity reached a fevered pitch, and the quality of the discourse among politicians, as well as the electorate, deteriorated into contentiousness and acrimony; communication too often disintegrated into partisan posts on Facebook or rancorous tweets on Twitter. The important work of electing our president often became a silly farce; politics and politicians suffered a severe lack of gravitas this year, as the ridiculous all too often replaced the serious. It would have been funny had it not been so sad.

The senseless war in Afghanistan continued, as did the turmoil and violence in the Middle East and Africa. The war of violence against women around the world also continued, most notably in Afghanistan, Pakistan and witnessed most recently in India. In the United States, the self-anointed righteously superior used religion as a moral justification for truly immoral behaviors including verbal and legislative assaults on the rights of the LGBT community, the rights of voters, and the renewed and reinvigorated attack against a woman’s right to have self-determination and dominion over her body. In the fight to win battles women thought we had won years ago, this past year felt like déjà vu all over again.

In 2012, the working poor were shamed and union workers were demonized, while corporate titans greedily reaped the benefits of those working poor and union workers’ labor. Corporate insatiability for bigger profits was condoned in the name of “free enterprise,” while those seeking a share of those profits in the form of a decent, living wage were condemned as union thugs. This year, the disparity between the rich and poor grew wider and deeper, and sadly all too often the blame for this disparity was placed by the rich on the poor – the poor just didn’t try hard enough or want success badly enough; they were lazy and let’s face it, they were “moochers,” wanting something for nothing. The social safety net that so many Americans rely upon, and contribute to, including Medicare, social security, unemployment benefits, and food stamps, was vilified; “entitlements” became a dirty word and one more thing to disparage and ultimately, dismantle. The American middle class shrunk as the ranks of the working poor grew. Millions of children went to bed hungry. The effort to grow the middle class and enhance the lives of the working poor was frustrated every step of the way by a few self-serving politicians who were willing to pursue their own personal political agenda to the detriment of millions of Americans and the entire country’s economic recovery. The energy expended by the political few on behalf of the corporate few was simply astounding.

2012 was a year where we witnessed in so many ways the worst of humanity; however, it was also a year where we witnessed the very best. Around the world, there were amazing acts of individual courage and sacrifice. People, despite personal hardship, continued to show kindness and caring towards one another. People, despite threats to their personal well-being, continued to fight for greater freedom and stand up against tyranny. People continued to work selflessly and tirelessly on behalf of the less fortunate, providing shelter, food, medicine, emotional support and comfort. People steadfastly worked for the protection of the weakest and most vulnerable in society, defending the voiceless and the marginalized and the forgotten. There were human rights activists, animal rights activists, LGBT activists, union activists, environmental activists, anti-bullying activists; if there was a worthy cause, there were decent people ready to fight for it. People came together to provide emotional support and financial aid for those devastatingly impacted by natural disasters. And when horrific, unimaginable violence was inflicted upon 26 innocent lives, the whole world wept in sorrow with the families of Newtown.

Yes, 2012 gave witness to both the worst and best of humanity, but 2012 is done; it is now history. Today, within the still lingering resonance of all that was the year 2012, we look to the future; we each begin writing the story of 2013.

I do not know with certainty how the story we write of 2013 will evolve, and certainly, not how it will end. However, I do know some things. I know what I want our story to be – I have desires, I have hopes, I have dreams, for myself and for my world. I know that these things will help shape the form of 2013 – my personal energies, my imagination, my creativity- they will have impact, they will matter. I know that although there will be darkness, there will always be light to take that darkness away. I know that for every act of cruelty committed, there will be thousands of loving acts of kindness. I know that for every harsh word spoken in anger or hate, there will be many more spoken with understanding and love. I know that the path each of us has chosen to travel is ours alone; I also know that we do not have to travel our path alone. These things I know reflect the very best of humanity; knowing these things to be true fills my heart with an abundance of gratitude.

2013 is a book filled with blank pages, waiting for us to write the story that we together will create. I hope that the pages you write will be filled with a joyous spirit of adventure. I hope you fill your pages with kindness, compassion, caring, peace, joy, and gratitude; I hope you fill them with your passion, hopes and dreams. I hope you dare to fill them with love.

TIME FOR SENSIBLE GUN LEGISLATION

In the aftermath of the gun violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there has been a resurgence of discussions centered on the issue of gun control.  Some argue that these discussions must not be about guns, but must be about issues of mental health and violence in the media and in video games.   It is true that these are serious issues confronting us and society needs to address them. However, these are separate complex issues, which have merit in any conversation about violence in America but sadly are being used by those with a vested interest in the gun industry only to distract and divert attention from the pressing issue at hand, which is gun violence. They know that it will take time and financial resources to deal with the issues of mental illness; they know the depiction of violence in the movies or in video games is a 1st Amendment issue that would certainly not be resolved quickly.  They insist we need to take the time, that we can’t do anything quickly.  That is simply not true and they know it.  We can do something sensible right now about gun violence if we focus our attention on guns.  We can talk about mental health and violence in America, but we need to talk about guns – it is time for common sense regulations.

 

What most people want, including the President and his Administration, is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable, children, and criminals and to keep guns that have the capacity to kill large numbers of people, and whose only purpose is to do just that, off of our streets.  Mandatory universal background checks and a complete ban on the purchase of military style weapons (guns capable of shooting multiple rounds without the shooter stopping to reload), and high capacity ammo clips (more than 10 bullets) by those not in law enforcement, are two practical ways to accomplish what most Americans believe is sensible and needed gun regulation. 

 

While this makes sense to me and to most Americans, I know there are those on the extreme, the survivalists, who argue against any such regulations of the gun industry, fearing the government is out to “get them” and their guns.  Gun manufacturers oppose such a gun and ammunition ban because selling these guns and high capacity ammo clips is highly profitable and they fear a loss of revenue.    The NRA does not support such a ban because it fears losing the financial support of the gun manufacturers.  Some politicians do not want to support such a ban for fear of losing the financial support of the NRA.  Are any of these manufactured “fears” more worthy of consideration than the authentic concerns of those in favor of such a ban?  Should the fears of the paranoid few who believe they need guns to protect themselves against a tyrannical government outweigh the concerns of the vast majority of Americans who seek sensible regulations?  Should   any industry or organization’s greed for bigger profits carry more weight than the concern Americans have about the safety of the product producing those profits, whether that product is oil, cars, or guns? 

 

 

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

 

The 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms and neither universal background checks nor a prohibition on purchasing assault rifles infringe upon that right.  President Obama never had, nor does he now have, the intention of taking away everyone’s guns.  To believe otherwise is to believe the lie perpetrated by the conspiracy theorists, the NRA, the gun manufacturers or some politicians – all who have some personal, most often financial, stake in maintaining the status quo.  Imposing sensible regulations on the sale and purchase of guns is well within the purview of the federal government; it is not an overreach and it does not mean all guns will eventually be banned.  Every product made and sold in America is subject to regulations pertaining to that product’s safety; guns should not be exempt from such regulations simply because of some people’s contrived fears and other people’s greed.   

 

This cannot be said often enough – the 2nd Amendment is not being threatened.  Nevertheless, the 2nd Amendment has always been open to interpretation.  What exactly did the founding fathers mean by a “well regulated Militia”?  Whatever they meant back in 1791, the words imply that some form of regulation was considered appropriate; regulations in and of themselves do not infringe upon the 2nd Amendment.  Regulating who can purchase a gun and regulating what kind of guns are available for purchase by the public are not in violation of the intent of the 2nd Amendment and do not threaten it.   Should policies restricting the purchase of some types of military style guns become law, the 2nd Amendment will still exist and all adults who are qualified will still be able to purchase a handgun for protection and a rifle for hunting.  A ban on the so-called “assault weapons” will not take away this fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution,  a right most recently upheld in 2009 by the Supreme Court.  It also will not prevent all gun violence.  However, it can go a long way to prevent the kind of violence that devastated the children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

There are those who argue guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  This argument says that guns are not to blame for the violence in society, people are.  That is true – violence is not the by-product of owning guns; violence is the tragic consequence of complex psychological, mental, emotional, economic and sociological causes.  The typical profile of a mass shooter is a young man who feels totally alienated from society, who feels invisible and voiceless; he did not become this way because of guns.  However, the ability to obtain certain guns with high ammo clips makes it possible for him to turn his personal anguish and alienation from society into a vengeful attack on society in horrific, catastrophic ways, ways that would not be possible without those particular guns.  Yes, with a handgun or a rifle he could shoot and kill a few people, but not 20 innocent children, each shot multiple times, within a matter of seconds.  This kind of carnage cannot happen without these types of rapid-fire guns and high capacity ammo clips. 

 

People behaving irresponsibly can do all kinds of damage with all types of means.  Drunk drivers kill innocent people almost every day, proving that a car can be lethal; however, a car is not a lethal weapon whose only purpose is to kill; a car’s purpose is to provide transportation and that is why there is no ban on cars.  A person can kill with a knife, but that is not the singular purpose for knives, and that is why we do not ban knives.  The singular purpose of these rapid-fire, multiple shot rifles and guns and high capacity ammo clips is to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible – there is no other purpose for these guns and there is no other purpose for these ammo clips – that is the only reason for their existence.  They are not used for hunting, they are not used for self-defense; they are used for combat.  For a soldier engaged in military combat  there is good reason and a justifiable purpose to have such a powerful weapon and the ability to keep shooting and killing without stopping to reload his gun.  However, what good reason or justifiable purpose would anyone not in combat ever have to own such a lethal gun and to have such a deadly ability? 

 

According to the head of the NRA, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun. That does not make sense to me – that sounds like a return to the lawless Wild West and with the availability of today’s lethal weaponry that cannot be good for society; that will not make us safer.  We do not need to arm teachers to protect our children from the type of devastation a seriously deranged person can inflict with a high-powered, rapid-fire rifle with ammo clips that shoot 100 bullets.  I would argue that the only sensible non-violent way to prevent such a bad guy from committing such carnage is to prevent him from having that gun in the first place.

 

The Vice-President will be making his recommendations on Tuesday.  I hope his recommendations include mandatory universal background checks for the purchase of any gun, as well as banning the sale of high capacity ammo clips.    I also hope his recommendations include some regulations restricting the sale of rapid-fire multiple shot rifles and handguns; they simply should not be easily available to the public.  These three measures while not addressing – and certainly not solving – the causes of violence, would go a long way to protect society from the devastating effects of this particular kind of gun violence – the kind that kills numerous innocent children and adults, within minutes, and without pause.    This is the kind of sensible gun legislation Americans deserve and I hope that this time they get it.  I hope that this time common sense triumphs over fear and greed.