Friday, October 21, 2005

A National Emergency

When it comes to clothing, it seems that these days, less is more. The average parent, and indeed, the average reasonably sane person over the age of eighteen, find themselves baffled by this puzzling phenomenon. High-profile teenybopper clothing manufacturers such as Abercrombie and Fitch rake in multibillion dollars in annual clothing sales through the use of catalogues which feature -- rather counterproductively, one would think -- naked people. A $120 price tag accompanies what is ostensibly a bathing suit but more closely resembles two polka-dotted shoelaces trailing from a very expensive spandex napkin. A single article of clothing seems to serve multiple functions: is it a miniskirt, a tube top, or an ultra-chic 80's-style sweatband? You decide!

One is compelled to wonder, when navigating the aisles of the juniors' department of your friendly neighborhood local department store -- is there an urgent national fabric shortage, shielded from the eyes of the public by a vast right-wing conspiracy? And if so, what can we do to help clothe these poor American teenagers?

Clearly, the predicament is a portentous one. Flaunting belly button rings and blubber alike, teen girls cavort in public wearing transparent lacy garments which, two hundred years ago, would have made Hester Prynne blush. One is tempted to mass-produce iron-on scarlet "A"'s to accompany these so-called "shirts", but it is highly doubtful whether they even boast material enough to accomodate such an accessory.

Skirts, too, have become as superfluous as Queen Elizabeth II, and as a whole, seem to be designed to best accentuate the wearer's pallor, cellulite and other such charming figure flaws. It seems that teen girls today must either have mastered the art of never bending, stretching, kneeling, crossing their legs, or sitting, or must have an inexplicable fascination with exhibitionism.

Shopping for a formal dress unveils further evidence for the fabric drought; those designed for teenage girls are currently strapless, backless, and frontless. As one might guess, these don't stay on very well, and duct tape is recommended to avoid unfortunate accidents.

In the wake of this newly-released data, it is clear that we will soon have a national crisis on our hands if something is not done about this dilemma, and quickly too. Teenage girls all over the country are at daily risk of death by exposure, or even by asphyxiation, for if today's jeans get any tighter, they threaten to seriously impede a growing girl's oxygen intake.

One can only decipher the mysterious glittery screen-printing on their clothing as a tragic and desperate cry for help. So the next time you see a blonde in cheer shorts with "HOT" loudly proclaimed in sequins across her derriere, just remember to have a little compassion. It clearly is an acronym for "Help Our Teenagers".

Write your local congressman today to see what you can do to help combat the Great American Clothing Crisis!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Being A Dad: Trade Secrets

I always wanted to be a dad. Part of the reason for this is that I had two dads.

There was my father-father, the patronymic, the progenitor, the original source. Although he and my mom split up shortly after I was born, he was not an absentee father. He lived near my brother and I, and shared responsibilities for us with my mom. He really loved us. When he was dying of cancer it probably ripped his heart out to know he was leaving his two boys.

My father-father was always there for us. He was present at all the family events. He was our soccer coach and cub-scout leader. He read the Tolkien books to us and told us all kinds of stories from his childhood in Indiana He taught us how to swim down at Sanders’ Lake, and taught us how to shoot with a BB gun in the woods behind his cabin.

Then there is my dad, who married my mom when I was twelve and raised my brother and I the rest of the way. He is a straight shooter who taught by example. He is an engineer and a scientist, impressive as they come but hardly aware of it. He is a stoic man, the type who declines the pain killer when he visits the dentist.

So I lucked out and had two very good examples of how to be a dad. I realized how important it was to others to do a good job as a dad. So that is something I wanted to be, and this desire became stronger and more clear as I grew up.

There were other examples of fatherhood that I ran into along the way, good ones and bad ones. The ones that really stick in my head were the sons of failed fathers who were determined to be good fathers to their own children. What struck me about these guys is how evident the importance of fatherhood is even for these men who were scarred and disfigured by what they had experienced. For them it was the best revenge. They had suffered things that no child deserves to go through, and to get back at the world for it, they were going to be the fathers that their own fathers were not.

So by some miracle I met Rebecca. We were married and after a year and a half I got my chance at fatherhood. It has been almost eight years now and we have four children. I think I am finally starting to get the hang of it. Two things, really, seem to be the trade secret to being a good dad. The first is simple: be there. I cannot articulate it more than that. Just be there. You do not have to take them all kinds of places. You don’t have to be a super hero. You don’t have to have lots of extra money. They just want you. They just want you to listen. They just want you to be happy to see them when you get home from work. All they need you to do is read a book to them or throw a ball around with them in the back yard. As much of your time and energy as possible needs to be reserved for these small things. Because in the life and mind of a small child, they are bigger than Mount Everest.

The other trade secret is holiness, and that really feeds back into the first secret. If you allow God to lead your life, the way becomes clear. All the worries and misguided priorities are wiped away form the places in your mind they were cluttering up. And that allows you to see clearly how infinitely more precious the small things are. It allows you to appreciate the magnitude they really possess.

I think a lot about my father, both of them, and what it was that made them such great men to me. Part of it is that I think they realized in their own way these two trade secrets of being a dad.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sex-ed and The Left's War On Faith

After reading a piece by "Arthur Caplan, Ph.D."(1) on MSNBC entitled "Abstinence-only sex ed defies common sense", it became clear that a response was in order. Rather than label differing approaches to dealing with the issue of teenage promiscuity (or sexually transmitted diseases, depending on what your agenda really is) "silly", as Mr. Caplan does, we will take an honest look at the differing approaches, the motives behind those approaches, and their results. First, we will accept, for the sake of argument, the statistics mentioned by Mr. Caplan.

"Recent surveys show that 70 percent of U.S. teens have engaged in oral sex by the time they reach 18, and more than 45 percent have had intercourse at least once. More than 70 percent of young women and 80 percent of young men approve of premarital sex, according to a study published recently in the Review of General Psychology."

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly half of the nation's new cases of STDs each year occur among adolescents and young adults."

It is safe to sum up the main thrust of Mr. Caplan's argument as, teenagers think sex is OK, and we need to cut down on the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, so lets hand out condoms and teach children how to have "safe sex". He argues that there is no evidence of abstinence based programs cutting down the rates of sex or the transmission rates of diseases, he states "there is no reason to believe that this form of sex education is even on the same planet as those it is intended to reach."

Caplan then goes on to the typical "reality" argument. He argues that kids are going to have sex, and the only approach based in reality is to arm kids with condoms. He goes so far as to say "The message that sex must wait until marriage is not the right message to send to a young person." He then argues that "young people" agree with him.

First, let us address the issue of Federal funding of "sex ed". The constitution does not explicitly mention "sex ed" or anything even remotely close to it. Therefore, it is safe to say that federal involvement in sexual education is yet another gross and blatant violation of the constitutional limits all elected federal representatives swear to defend.

Now, we move to "sex ed", as engaged in by the states. By allowing the state to teach our children about sex, not just biologically, but morally, and practically (how to engage in sex, and what is called "safe" sex), we abdicate our responsibility as parents. But, its worse than that. We harm each other. Lets take religious people as an example of those that are harmed. Now, in most cases I am aware of, students can be opted out of sex-ed, so by parents that do not agree with what is taught by the public schools. However, what of those funding the school system, that disagree with what is being taught? They may disagree on a religious, moral, or other basis, yet their money, taken from them under threat of jail, is being spent on something with which they take great issue. It is morally wrong to take someone's money, and then use it to "teach" a way of life to anyone, let alone impressionable kids, with which the tax payer vehemently disagrees. One could say that "sex-ed" is one of the great examples available today which illustrates why "public" schools ought to be fazed out of existence. But, I don't want to be distracted by that argument today.

Lets look at "sex-ed" from a practical angle now. When a teenager is told, "don't take my car for a drive, though, since statistics suggest you might, use my keys here in the drawer, I don't want the dash broken where you would have to hot wire it", what are we telling the teenager? We are telling the teenager that its OK, as long as you don't get caught, and don't leave any evidence. When we tell a teenager, "don't shoot-up with heroine, but since statistics suggest you might, use the clean needles in the pantry so you don't get HIV", what are we telling the teenager? Again, don't get caught, and don't get HIV. That brings us immediately to the real point and agenda of the "hand out condoms crowd", a point that Caplan stated clear as day. He is not opposed to teenage sex. It isn't clear how young he thinks sex is OK, but we will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is not suggesting we allow sex between 8 year olds. Just the same, the message is, "teenage sex is probably not a good idea, but since you will do it anyway, here is a condom." If thats the message you want to deliver to your kids, then do it. I will shake my head, and tell my kids not to associate with yours, but you go ahead and do it. If thats a message you try to deliver to my kids, I will put an end to it immediately.

Indeed, science, the altar at which Caplan appears to pray, teaches us that the only way to prevent pregnancy, and transmission of sexual diseases, is to not have sex. Condoms fail, other contraceptives fail as well. If one wants to teach science, one should do it, not speak of it and then engage in some fantasy world where actions have no consequences. Many of us, that favor teaching abstinence, do so not only because it is the only way to actually stop pregnancy and the transmission of disease, but also because we are morally opposed to promiscuous life styles, and some of us even to sexually monogamous ones that are pre-marital. Whether we engaged in such activity prior to our current point in life has no bearing at all on what is "right" or "wrong". Were I a recovered coke-head, I would expect my warnings about the dangers of cocaine would be even more powerful when delivered to the young, than the warnings of someone with only a text-book knowledge of the pathetic life of a drug addict. Indeed, those of us that made mistakes are in a particularly excellent position to lecture others on what to avoid, and why. Will such lectures and teachings be successful 100% of the time? Of course not. Humans make mistakes (what we religious call sin). But if we do not at least teach what we believe to be "right" our entire belief systems are compromised as we undermine the very image of the person that we strive to be, and strive to teach our children to be which is their real agenda. Asking someone with morals, to allow condom centered sex-ed to be taught on our dollar is like forcing an environmentalist communist to subsidize an anti-union logging company.

As a final point, it makes sense to bring up track record. This is something that is extremely important to do when looking at social issues. It may not be fair, because its so decisive and clear, but it is important, if one want to take an honest look at America's social problems. Do you want to allow people, who have, since the 60's and before, systematically destroyed the fabric of American life, to continue on their reckless course? Are we going to allow those, who lack values and morality, to take us even further down the path to social anarchy? The very same people that support condom distribution to teenagers, are the people that seek to ensure abortion is available up to the moment of birth (some even after birth)(2), they are the same people that have murdered over 40 million American children since the 70's. They are the same people that engage in religious cleansing, trying to ban God from America. They are the same people whose teachings have led to a culture of divorce, one where commitment is no longer measured in lifetimes, but now in temporary phases of "love". They are the same people that, in their quest to make women and men interchangeable, seek to destroy concepts of femininity and masculinity. They are the same people that want both you and your spouse to go to work outside the home, so they can raise your kids. They are the same people that believe kids need to be drugged when active and kept in "school" year round, 8+ hours a day. They are the same people that believe anyone who votes other than Democrat or Green is an uneducated, blinded by religion, idiot redneck. They, whether they realize it or not, and most of them probably do, have declared war on people of faith. Their goal is the ultimate destruction of "organized" religion. One can usually be certain that people will live up to, or down to what is expected of them. By setting our expectations for our children, to behave no better than mildly intelligent animals, we will give the enemy of what we believe is "right" victory over our children's future, and the future of religion in America.

The easy solution is to do away with public schools altogether, but those that are trying to destroy morality will fight that to the end, as it undermines their goal of bringing all mankind to the lowest common denominator. Until we win that battle, we must not allow them to further corrupt America's youth with hypocritical, confusing messages about sexuality and health, by providing easy access to a lifestyle that is most certain to end in tears.


(1) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9504871/

(2) http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html see section "III. The Sanctity of Human Life"

Monday, October 17, 2005

Is American Girl Trying To Change American Girls?

In this day and age, parents know how swiftly childhood disappears. Before you know it your son or daughter is demonstrating decidedly un-childlike behavior. Young girls wear clothing designed to make them look far older. “Tweeners” (the popular name for the pre-teen group) sing provocative songs, learned from the popstar du jour. Kids trade in the dolls for makeup, and toys for belly rings and baggy trousers. Even if you think it’s bound to happen, you can likely recognize that it doesn’t have to happen quite as early as it now does.

There are few companies left whose goal has anything to do with helping kids remain kids (and frankly, not enough parents who care enough about the stolen moments of youth)…partnering with parents to preserve our children‘s innocence, so that they don’t have to grow up before their time. American Girl has long been seen as one such company. The motto found on its “About Our Company” page (http://www.americangirl.com/corp/index.html) is: “American Girl is one of the nation’s top direct marketers, children’s publishers, and experiential retailers. American Girl’s mission is to celebrate girls. Our age-appropriate, beautifully made books and playthings foster girls individuality, intellectual curiosity, and imagination.” American Girl (AG) sells classic dolls and clothing and accessories to go along with them. They sell matching daughter-doll dresses, and have a magazine whose advice column includes things along the lines of “my brother is pestering me…what can I do to make him stop?”

Now, however, it seems that American Girl is partnered with an organization called Girls Inc. (which used to be Girls Clubs of America). The two are partnered in a fundraiser for AG‘s “I CAN” bracelets (think the Lance Armstrong Livestrong bracelets, with a large decorative star attached (See:http://www.girlsinc.org/ic/ or http://www.americangirl.com/ to see the bracelets). AG will be donating seventy cents for every dollar of sales of the bracelets, on top of a sizeable lump donation to Girls Inc.

At first glance, the organization looks generic and positive enough. If you dig deep enough into the “take action” and other sections of the website, though, it becomes evident, that this nice, generic “yay, girls” (The actual motto is “Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold”) site is not quite so generic in its political and philosophical views, *or* particularly interested in preserving childhood innocence.

Here are some quotes from the Girls Inc. site:

====
“Sexuality
Girls Incorporated encourages all girls to develop positive sexual identities and to function comfortably as responsible sexual beings. We recognize that the family is the primary source of information about sex and we help girls and young women communicate with their families about sexuality.
To make responsible decisions about sexuality, pregnancy and parenthood, girls need and have a right to sensitive, truthful sexuality education; convenient access to safe, effective methods of contraception and protection from disease; and referral to comprehensive information, counseling, clinical and other services that support their responsible decisions. We recognize that any sizable group of girls includes those who face issues related to their sexual orientation or that of a family member and who face discrimination based on this sexual orientation. Girls have a right to positive, supportive environments and linkages to community resources for dealing with issues of sexual orientation. “
http://www.girlsinc.org/ic/page.php?id=4.3.4
====

http://www.girlsinc.org/ic/content/GirlsandSexualHealth.pdf

“The emergence of lesbian identity is an ongoing process, rather than an event”

====


"Over the past decade, the Court has ruled on many cases with direct
influence on girls' health, education, and future opportunities.
Specifically, the Court has voted to increase protection against
sexual harassment in school, preserve reproductive choice, uphold
affirmative action, and affirm critical Title IX protections. The
Court has also ruled on cases involving violence against women,
male-only admissions policies, and the juvenile death penalty."

http://www.girlsinc.org/ic/page.php?id=4.8

=========
Rep. Istook sought to increase funding for "abstinence until marriage"
programs by $33 million, taking the money from the Centers for Disease
Control and the Child Care Development Block Grant. Abstinence funding
was already slated to increase by $20 million in FY 2002, which is $10
million more than the President requested. In a report released in
June, the U.S. Surgeon General found insufficient evidence that
"abstinence until marriage" works.

Girls Inc. opposed this amendment.

The amendment was defeated 106-311."

http://www.capwiz.com/girls/issues/votes/?votenum=379&chamber=H&congress=1071



========
Girls Inc. also has connections with Planned Parenthood:

http://www.girlsinc.org/ic/content/AnnualXReportX1998.pdf (page six
and seven)

==========

Here’s a quote from Yahoo! News

“American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel Inc., said the "I Can" initiative supports three specific Girls Inc. programs — building girls' skills in science and math, developing leadership skills, and encouraging athletic skills and team spirit. All of these aims are appropriate to our 7- to 12-year-old American Girl fans," the company said. "The American Girl brand exemplifies the values of wholesomeness and responsibility that we would expect any organization to commend."“

How can you donate money to an organization, and ignore what the organization stands for? Now, absolutely, American Girl can donate wherever the company decides to donate. The company’s money doesn’t grow on trees though, and there’s an old saying about not biting the hand that feeds you….

One of my oldest daughter’s friends is a little girl named Claire. She asked her mom to ask all of her friends to write a letter to the company. Please consider doing so and asking them to sever their connection with Girls Inc. Here’s the contact information:

American Girl
P.O. Box 620497
Middleton, WI 53562-0497

Phone (for United States and Canada) 1-800-360-1861
Phone (outside U.S. and Canada) 608-831-5210

Email addresses (obtained from the www.afa.net site):

Mattel Chairman Bob Eckert - Jules.Andres@mattel.com
American Girl President Ellen Brothers - ellen.brothers@americangirl.com
Public Relations Susan Jevens - susan.jevens@americangirl.com