Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Observe the rite of passage

When I was 15, I walked into my very first high school pep rally. Along with my friends, I found my way to the section designated for freshmen and sat down, eager to take it all in. As part of the ritual, the cheerleaders asked each group of classmen what the “Trojan battle cry” was, and we were expected to answer with “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” When our time came to spell victory, booing ensued and the seniors held up diapers in our direction. My friends all looked around in disgust, muttering how rude and disrespectful the upperclassmen were being. I simply smiled and enjoyed the tradition I had become a part of. After all, I wouldn’t be a freshman for long. Exactly four years later, you can bet I booed the incoming freshman as hard as anyone else when they gave their battle cry. (And, as a side note, I also spelled victory ‘S-E-N-I-O-R-S,’ as so many before me had.)

I tell this story to show that rites of passage are important to getting all you can from your experience, event, group or job, and, maybe more importantly, to gain the respect of those around you. Rookie receiver Dez Bryant should learn this lesson.

Bryant recently signed with the Dallas Cowboys, and in the first few practices, he refused to carry veteran Roy Williams’ pads, as Cowboy tradition dictates. As a form of mild hazing, veterans have the rookies carry their pads to the locker room after practice. At first, Bryant refused to participate, saying instead that he was drafted to play football, not to carry pads.

What good ole Dez did is he showed the Dallas Cowboys program that he doesn’t respect its customs, and he’s showing his players that he’s too good to participate in their rite of passage. Each Dallas Cowboy great -- and the non-greats for that matter -- carried other players’ pads as a rookie. Suck it up and participate. Not only can it enrich your experience, but it promotes team building, both by showing respect to your elders and banning together as rookies in misery.

And honestly, is carrying pads really going to hinder your football playing capabilities?

Of course, now Bryant is coming out and saying that he didn’t know it was tradition and that, of course he would participate. Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that no one told him and that he didn’t notice all the other rookies carrying veterans pads. I can’t believe it was news to him when the story broke that Bryant was a party pooper. I guess this was not only a lesson for Bryant in humility, but also a lesson in dealing with the media while in the pros. Who said learning ends when you get out of college?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Think tolerance. Think 'to each his own.'

I subscribe to the thought process of “to each his own.” Do what you want with your life, your choices, your faith. My moral compass works just fine, and if yours points in a different direction, well, who am I to say if yours is faulty. Just to clarify, there are some things – murder for instances – that should always point the same way on everyone’s compass. But in general, you are in control of your actions, and if it works for you, then it has to work for me.

But religion has a tendency to make people feel that they know what is best for everyone in every situation. That leads to judgment and intolerance without the perpetrator even realizing it. And what I didn’t realize until recently was that religious intolerance works across the board, even in an area overwhelmingly dominated by one religion. There’s always people discriminating for or against a religion, non-religion or sect.

Our Founding Fathers wanted to create a country where religion was open and free, and separate from government. That’s, of course, never been the case. And I’m not even sure we are working in that direction. Separation of church and state cannot occur. One can not separate religion from who they are or the decisions they make any more than he or she can change the color of his or her skin. The fallacy in all of it is that religion is a choice. If you choose to believe one way, then you don’t really believe it, do you?

So because of this, you can’t expect someone to make a personal, professional or public decision separate of their faith. It will be present in everything they do, always. So by faulting a person’s religious beliefs or choices made directly related to their faith, you are faulting them as a person. No wonder people take religious attacks so personally.

The lesson to take from all of this is to remember to love one another, which includes a person’s religious beliefs. And to please remember that someone with an opinion different from yours does not necessarily make them wrong. It just means they’re just coming from a different direction.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

True patriotism flourishes independent of tragedy

Of course we remember. Every American over the age of 15 remembers the moment he or she heard about the planes crashing into the World Trade Towers, and the hours, day and weeks that followed. Yes, we remember.

Flags shot up in every house on the block. It united the country like it hadn’t been united in decades. People weren’t jaded and cynical about their government – no, they were proud to be an American.

But, it didn’t last long. As soon as the footage stopped airing daily, it started to leave the mind of those not directly affected. The War on Terror again divided the liberals from the conservatives – the Bush supporters from the non-supporters. And unfortunately, the world – which stood behind us from the morning of Sept. 11 – began to again pull away the country.

The secret is that the feeling hasn’t actually left us. Christmas, tax forms, school, work, family, everything instead got in the way. A few weeks ago, I read a story about Sept. 11, and I’ll tell you, I wasn’t halfway through it before I was bawling. Today I sat in a room of about 60 or so Oklahoma adults, watching a video slideshow full of photos of soldiers and American flags. There was no mention of 9/11 or photos of the attacks, but after the three-minute video ended, I looked around to see almost everyone wiping tears from their eyes. Patriotism still lies deep within us.

So, why get so emotional? Many of us didn’t know anyone who has died overseas, so it wasn’t from a personal loss. We cried because deep down, we love the United States. We love the country for everything it stands for. And most of all, because we are so grateful for the young men and women fighting overseas and those who have died to gain and maintain our freedom. Whether or not you feel like we should be in war, you should whole-heartedly support our troops and the sacrifices their making.

Salute your flag every chance you get. Remind yourself why you choose to live here and remember those lost. Do it every day -- not just on national holidays or each year on July 4 and Sept. 11. Be proud to be an American. God Bless the USA.

Note: This isn't the video I referenced in the post. I looked for it because it was so heart breaking and heart warming all at the same time, but I couldn't find it. This is a substitute.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

France isn't offering freedom, instead prohibiting it

Islam accounts for roughly 10 percent of the population of France. Many of those individuals believe women should wear the burqa -- traditional dress that covers the entire body, leaving only the hands and eyes visible.

The Parliament in France is working to push through a ban on the burqa. If the law passes, women can be fined 150 euro (about $180) for wearing their traditional dress in public. Not only that, but women will then be forced to take a citizenship class. Proponents of the legislation say it is designed to liberate women because many western thinkers consider the burqa an oppressive.

France is trying to make a progressive move in the direction for freedom for its citizens and to promote a more secular country, but instead the ban would move the country backward toward religious intolerance.

Trust me, I’m completely against oppression. But I’m also all for religious and personal freedoms. Has it occurred to anyone that some of these women may prefer to wear the tradition burqa? Many of the women believe that it’s simply modest dress and exactly what God wants of them. Shouldn’t they be given the freedom to choose to follow their religion? To hold true to their culture? That’s what women’s lib is really all about: Choices. Not allowing someone to wear what they want to wear is equally as oppressive as forcing someone to wear something they don’t want to wear.

What’s next? Citizens will be forced to wear sleeveless shirts in the summer? OK, I get that that’s probably going a little too far, but this is the start of a country-wide dress code. I thought we moved beyond that after high school.

There is, however, a clause in the legislation that would evoke a harsher punishment to anyone who forces a woman to wear a burqa. Women of adult age should be given the right to choose what to wear. France should pass only that law, and make sure there are social programs available for women who do not want to wear the burqa but feel forced to do so by a husband, brother or anyone else.

To take away someone’s right to dress as they please while at the same time taking away their right to practice their religious, cultural and moral beliefs is everything but progressive. And it just may lead to citizens feeling to ashamed by their force immodesty to go outside their homes. That’s not quite what you want, France.