Monday, March 10, 2014

I Have Issues. Let's Talk About Them.

One of the many things I have grown to love about my retirement is the quiet.  After thirty years of generally talking all day, listening to other people talking, or being subjected to hallway noise of yammering and shouting, the relative silence is a true pleasure.  It's rare that, in the course of a usual day, I hear a single voice that is not my own.

Think of it! For days and days, from seven in the morning until four in the afternoon, aside from me chatting with my cats, there is not another human voice to be heard.  Unless my mother calls, unless Rick calls, unless a sister calls (all of which could happen, but seldom do), no voice interrupts my day.  I don't turn on the television or a radio.  I wallow in The Quiet.

Another part of the reason I enjoy the quiet might be that it's apparently difficult to have a sane discussion with people anymore, about anything.  It's terribly tedious when grownups link every little thing to The Politics and blame everything on their pet issue du jour.  I do it about the republicans for humorous effect here at the Dept., but Out There, it's reached a level of sheer idiocy.  I'm going to try my best not to add to the circus as I answer today's question, which is:

What is one political or social issue that drives you crazy when people talk about it?

(This question also adds the gentle and civilized note:  You don't have to give your opinion; just tell what the issue is.  Honestly, in this format, I don't know if that's possible.  Readers here know most of my opinions anyway, though, so it's not an issue.)

All of the Issues drive me crazy anymore, especially when David "Gregorius Interruptus" Gregory tackles them on Meet the Press.  Do not get me started.  That show should start with Rachel Maddow giving him a good, smart smack in the mouth every single week.

But I digress.

Firstly, the Affordable Care Act.  I hate like a root canal that Everyone calls it "Obamacare."  Yes, I realize that President Obama himself claims to embrace the term, but that was a political move to take the sting out of the term, I think.  Certain people speak about the ACA as if it were a product of The Great Satan--as if it says that, at some point, all the elderly among us will have to go to the woods and live off the land with only a backpack of dried fruit and a Swiss Army knife.  The most rabid detractors have no idea what the ACA even says.  Or does.  Or will do.  They just want Sarah Palin to run for president and drill for oil in snowy game preserves.  And shoot things.  From her snowmobile.  Named Prak.

Next, guns.  Chiefly, gun control.  This is an issue fraught with so much conflict.  The US has a very distinct gun culture, and within it are separate gun cultures.  Some of them are historical and go all the way back to our earliest regional heritages.  Some are simply violent and macho gangster posturing.  I'm not pretending to understand any gun culture; it's all alien to me.  But I will never believe that what we need are more guns, as in NRA president Wayne LaPierre's quote about the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with one.  And I worry a great deal that all the rhetoric about beefing up mental health initiatives instead of legislating commonsense gun control will only serve to further isolate, stigmatize, and harm those struggling with mental health problems.

Finally--I'm going to confine myself to three or I'll get too fired up--public education in general and teachers specifically.  The amount of teacher-bashing and outright disrespect and belittling of the profession and individual teachers is both astonishing and breathtaking.  Wait--add "heartbreaking" to that list.  There are actually people, and a great deal of them, who think that a teacher is someone who gets paid way too much to work only nine months a year, then retires to a cushy salary for doing nothing.  These are the same people who, when they find out you are a teacher, say, "Oh, I could never do that job!" or "You couldn't pay me enough! Kids today...!"  These are the same people who want inexperienced kids from government programs to teach cheaply in public schools, but then raise hell when all teachers aren't perfect in the classroom.  "These are our children you're talking about!  That teacher is in a position of Trust! We expect the best for our kids." Basically, what they want is ... I have no idea.  Honestly, I don't know what in the hell they want.  They have free schools.  Teachers get paid little, comparatively speaking. It's painfully obvious that education is not a national priority, and nothing gets cut more on the national, state, and local level more often and more deeply than education budgets.  My entire career, I did more with less, year after year.  There was never a year that we didn't hear the phrase "Because of budget cuts...".  Teachers are Heroes.

Dammit.  Now I'm fired up.  Your turn in Comments.



  1. Ha! Just TODAY I corrected a fellow teacher when she used the term Obamacare because I hate the misnomer as much as you do! Too funny, except that I just now got pissed off again! And I leave the radio off in the car a lot more now for the same reason as you mentioned: I want some peace and quiet. I LoVe teaching, but I treasure the quiet more than I used to. Thanks!

  2. I could have written this myself, so I don't know if it's even worthwhile chiming in. Well, except to say that everyone I work with is a citizen of a European country and therefore always comes to me to ask why my country is full of dumbasses. ( I apologize for the harsh language, but that's basically what they say, although in German and more tactfully.) They can't even begin to comprehend not having health care or not being able to afford it (they didn't believe me when I told them that it's not unusual for people with gravely ill or dying family members to have to come up with schemes like bake sales and spaghetti dinners to raise money so they can afford treatment without losing their houses/cars/life savings) and they think it's so bizarre as to be hilarious that some Americans think the answer to our gun violence problem is even more guns(and, yes, I did have a few children tell me last year that their parents would not let them go on a vacation to the US because it was 'so dangerous.' We may think that's silly, but it gives you a good idea of what the rest of the world thinks of us.) As far as teaching goes: all I can say is, my colleagues all have essentially the same education I do, but they have *far* better salaries and working conditions. 30 hours per week is considered full time and you only have to be there when you have a class to teach - for example, our sport lessons are all in the afternoons, so most sport teachers do not even come to work until after lunch - of course, they are there until 5 or 6 - we have a 10-period day and you may teach an hour and then have 4 periods off before your next lesson. You may not have any classes on one day, or just one or two. Teachers move in and out of the classroom, the kids stay put (except for things like music and sport)so the class teacher (I guess, sort of what we would call a homeroom teacher, except the kids are a class that stays together as a group of 20 or so with their own main teacher) is not chained all day with the kids like a babysitter either - they may teach some core classes, but not all, depending on what areas of specialty they have - and they get extra pay that the subject teachers (like me) do not get, because they have to do the extra supervisory work with the class. What I love the best about this system is the tacit understanding that you are a trained professional and you will be where you need to be when you need to be there. No signing in by a certain time, no proving that you spent 30 minutes after school 'planning' before you leave (ha, as if anyone could possibly do everything in 30 minutes anyway), none of that. They realize it's impossible to do your job and do it well without planning, so obviously you're doing it at some point - why force everyone to sit around for 30 minutes after school just to check some imaginary and paternalistic box? It has been a real eye-opener for me, working in this system, and I think it will be very difficult for me to ever return to an American school without quite a bit of resentment. Sigh. Apologies for the diatribe, but you really did hit *all* my political hot buttons...; )

  3. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Ditto what you said. Plus what MsCaroline said. I'm sure that I must have more issues, but you've hit the big 3. Thank you for venting for me.

  4. Ally Bean--Oh, you're so welcome! As long as you feel better! Hee hee.

    MsCaroline--You can rant away in my comments section any old time. I'm glad for it. I know the drill from foreigners. I hear it all the time when I stay at my favourite inn in Canada, which attracts all sorts of foreign nationals. "What in the hell are you playing at over/down there?" is what I usually get. When the government shutdown happened, one Canadian referred to it as the country "being on strike." We are looking more and more idiotic to the international community.

  5. Rose--It was years and years before I could listen to anything in the car. You're doing far better than I did already.

    I always loved teaching, same as you, but my job stopped being about that so much that when I hit my 30 years, I was ready to go. A teacher in Ohio was recently published in the Washington Post, describing why she is ready to leave for much the same reason. Here is a link to that article.

  6. Like the rest of the commenters: what you said.

    In addition:

    One other issue that pisses me off is the abortion issue. Also the gay marriage issue, which, in my mind, comes from the same self-righteous right-wing/ultra-religious mindset. Just because YOU believe it, doesn't make it true for everyone else. Opponents of both abortion and gay marriage act like any ability for anyone to legally do these things will automatically force them to do it as well. They can't stand the thought of someone else living a life that isn't just exactly like their own. The condescending attitude of these people is beyond nauseating and just makes my hand itch to smack the crap out of them.

    Abortion is a medically safe procedure. Marriage (gay or not) is ONLY between the two individuals involved. If it doesn't concern you personally, butt the hell out. If I don't know you from Adam, how dare you tell me what to do--because I can absolutely guarantee that if the roles were reversed, you'd be screaming bloody murder about my interference in your life.

    Fired up indeed!

  7. Yep, those are on my list too. I have to warn people not to bring those topics up, but every now and then I can't help getting on my soap box for a few seconds. Especially with my students who are about to go out into the workforce, and have been brainwashed by gun-toting, ignorant tea-baggers and think socialism is a dirty word. And what do they think Medicare is? And Social Security? How about our taxes paying for education because, uh, it's a birthright, but health? Oh no, that's not a birthright. Geez. So they all can go and live in one of those dirty socialist countries for a couple dozen years like I did, and see how it feels when all they have to do is pull out a card when they go to the doctor. No co-pay, no insurance forms, no spending hours on the phone to explain that your doctor said the lab was in network, but actually now you find out it isn't, no mortgaging (or selling!) your house to pay for a phantasmagorical hospital bill.

    And education. Well, I read the article you linked to. That says it all. (I won't go into Budget Cuts because you know them only too well.)

    (Quietly stepping down from soapbox...)

  8. Climate change deniers.


    People who think the rich pay too much in taxes.

    Teen abstinence proponents.

    People who take the stories in the Bible as actual facts. Uh, hello, the Bible wasn't written down until hundreds of years after the death of Jesus. Except, of course, for the letters of the Gospels. However, anyone who has played a game of "telephone" knows that some things weren't handed down with 100% accuracy.

  9. Gina--Good list. I might also add, Rabid Right-to-Lifers. Last night we were watching the news, and there was a horrific child abuse case being reported about a three-year old boy. I was devastated. I think all these Right-to-Lifers should have to go with the police or CPS on home visits and abuse investigations so they see what kind of Life these kids they insist on bringing into the world have to lead.

    Ortizzle--But the care they get in those countries is SUBSTANDARD, UNAMERICAN CARE. Duh.

    It is hard not to engage with the Ignorant, but I am working hard to learn to say, "I have a great many opinions on that topic, but I won't talk about it anymore. It is too inflammatory for polite conversation." And to say it with nothing more than a polite, noncommittal tone. Aarrgghh.

    LaFF--Very well said! That is the part I don't understand, and I have said as much to some family members who are against gay marriage. It doesn't threaten my marriage. It doesn't threaten any marriage. What I feel threatens marriage is when Britney Spears (hetero) gets married for 36 hours to a childhood friend (hetero) in Vegas, and then she gets a divorce. That says plenty about the value of marriage in this country already. Did it threaten MY marriage? No. I bet that there are already thousands and thousands of gay marrieds all around the USA. I have no idea. That last statement shows exactly how much they have affected both MY marriage and the country. Period.

    Thank you!

  10. Ditto ditto ditto ditto - what you said & what they all said :)

    And I'm from NC & am ready to weep about the state of the teacher there - NC used to be proud of its educational system! The one good thing is that my conservative & liberal friends are all as one on this issue.

    Coming from a conservative religious background I can say that I understand a little bit why they oppose abortion & gay marriage so much - it's that Great Commission - go forth & save the world business. They can't let people go to hell if they can legislate morality. I don't agree with them (either about the going to hell OR the political strategy) - but I understand them. And don't think that doesn't terrify me! But we just have to make it very clear that we aren't going to accept their legislation of morality. They can pray for our souls instead. :)

    (Keep in mind that the above does NOT address crazy hater people, or power-hungry people - it's just about the people who genuinely "vote their conscience.")

  11. Bug--Thank you for that little bit of clarity as to what goes on inside the mind of some of the religious right.

    I understand voting one's conscience; I understand voting as a true representative of one's constituency.

    But I am scared of both of them when it comes to the people who want a theocracy. You're in a unique position, as you described. I wish you'd write about it in depth on your blog, but I know you'd probably rather not deal with it.

  12. Somehow I missed your comment back at me in this one. Ha, ha. I'm so glad I had 5 sub-standard plastic surgeons sewing my face together (150 stitches, 4 hours of surgery) after I put it through a windshield. At no cost; I was still on a tourist visa at the time and my work permit had not been processed.

  13. The Republicans are especially good at calling government programs or political issues by names that instill hate or fear.

    I think it started at work. We started calling the complaint department "customer care." Garbage workers became "sanitation engineers" and customers became "guests." But those new titles were attempting to make someone sound more positive, not worse.

    By calling "The Affordable Care Act" Obamacare, if makes it sound like a presidential pet project instead of a way to make health care affordable to those who couldn't afford health care if employers didn't provide coverage. By calling Social Security and Medicare "entitlements" instead of "earned benefits" it gives them a negative taint. By calling the "inheritance tax" a "death tax" and making it sound like everyone will have to pay a tax that is actually reserved for the wealthy few, it sounds so much more ominous than it is. By calling "pro choice" advocates "pro abortionists" it makes them sound like they want to kill all unborn babies. Bill Maher had a recent commentary about this. He was suggesting that Liberals need to do the same with Conservative pet projects. I can't remember what his specific suggestions were ---many were suggested for a laugh ---but we could call the "pro life" people "anti choice" and call those advocating a bigger military budget "war mongers" or "imperialists."

    However, I'd be happy if we would call everything by its proper name and stop trying to make things more negative or positive based on our political leanings.

  14. You talk about loving the quiet. I ran into a woman who had spent her career as the lone graphic artist in a small company. Except for a few hours a week, she spent her working life in a room by herself. When she retired she started volunteering at a half-way house for mentally challenged people. She loved the social interaction and the do-good feeling it gave her. I, on the other hand, had spent my career as a teacher around rambunctious, noisy children. Although I enjoyed teaching, as soon as I retired, I wanted peace and quiet and nothing to do with needy people. I would love to sit an an office by myself doing graphic artwork.

  15. CJ--Your point is well-taken. It's all in the spin. Like calling a hot dog a "Tube Steak." I'd like to think The American People are smart enough to understand, but we all know that they are not. Evidence abounds, and we only have to look at television to find it: Kardashians, reality programming, Duck Dynasty, and I could go on and on. Don't make me.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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