Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

The Choice of Parenting

Late last week, the three-year old niece of a longtime friend died, after being in a coma for several days.  From all accounts the circumstantial cause of her death involved some very poor choices made by a parent.  As it happened, the day she died was also the birthday of a young woman who is the birth-mother of my daughter, a woman who made the brave choice to not be a parent.

These two coincident events inspired me to think about what “pro-choice” means.   That is, to be, or not to be, a parent by intention and not by accident.  The pro-choice label has a fluid meaning, depending on who you are speaking with and the tenor of the times.  For me, a simple fact is a the heart of the meaning of the term “pro-choice”:  I have a daughter because a young woman who was not ready for parenthood made a very difficult choice to carry her baby to term and place her daughter in our hands, to raise as our own.  Abortion was not the right choice for her.  She could have chosen to be a parent, and, knowing her fairly well I am certain she would have been the best mother she could be given her limited financial resources.  Those are all valid choices that embrace the daunting responsibility of parenting, when considered with reflection on one’s own personal limitations and place in life.

Unfortunately, too many young people choose to be parents through sheer self-delusion, believing that “love and the Lord” will make them good parents, dogma leading them inexorably to parenthood.  Some people may quibble that following dogma is the only moral choice.  I disagree, for action based solely on dogma is not choice.  To accept dogma, as most believers would attest, is an act of faith.  When faith motivates a person, they act without considering alternatives precluded by dogma.  True choice, on the other hand, is action based on consideration of all options.  In short, a “choice” based on dogma is not a choice.

But, at least the faithful parent embarks on parenthood with, we hope, their heart in the right place.  Most kids born through an awkward act of faith will probably end up doing ok.  Far worse fates await the children of those parents who, failing to recognize their own limitations, neglect  the responsibilities of raising a child.   From all accounts, the mother of my friend’s niece allowed an abusive man to live with her, a man now in custody and under suspicion of pushing the child down the stairs.

I know domestic violence is a complicated dance.  Women stay with abusers for psychological and financial reasons that baffle those closest to them, and even learned experts.  But when there is a child involved, should we make excuses because of abuse?  Should we accept a child’s death as collateral damage in a psychological war we can’t understand?

I don’t have answers for these questions.  My only thought as a parent is to share this advice:  parenting is a choice, an act of intention and great, life-altering consequence.  Don’t take that choice lightly.


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Old book stack

Books, Books, Books!  (Photo credit: Palmerston North City Library)

I’ve completed updating my 2012 List-o-Books, an enumeration of all fifty-five books I read last year.  As per my usual practice, the list is a hodge-podge of books with no particular theme,  a preponderance of non-fiction, and a few by some of my favorite authors.  The list includes one classic, 1984, a book I had somehow managed to escape reading until now.  A  number of books about food – particularly seafood – appear, but also a book about olive oil that knocked my socks off, and one about frozen food, or rather frozen food’s iconoclastic inventor, Clarence “Bob” Birdseye.  Throw into the blender one delightful road book about the Weinermobile, and it all added up to a fun, if scattered, year of reading.

There are two books I read that were a cut above the rest, absolute must-read books that I highly recommend.  Both books are  profoundly distressing, sobering windows into the darkest areas of man’s inhumanity to men.  These aren’t light reading, but worthwhile and engaging nonetheless.
Read on…

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10 for the Fourth

A day late, as usual.  For the 4th of July,  I wanted to post ten books I’ve read that have expanded my understanding of America.  Learning about our country didn’t stop in eighth grade for me, and I think we would do well as a nation to better understand our history and culture.  But history need not be boring, and none of these books are.  In every case, the authors are frank and opinionated, but any author claiming 100% objectivity is lying.   So, without further ado, 10 for the Fourth.

  1. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose.
  2. American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 by Sally Denton
  3. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
  4. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Lowen
  5. Made in America by Bill Bryson
  6. I’m A Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away by Bill Bryson
  7. Where Men Win Glory:  The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
  8. The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto
  9. A Home on the Field: How One Championship Soccer Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America by Paul Cuadros
  10. American Beach: A Saga of Race, Wealth, and Memory by Russ Rymer

These books can’t possibly tell you everything about America, but they will each in their own way show you a new perspective on our history and culture.

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When you throw your hat in the political ring, as my colleague Mark Enloe recently has, the media come calling.  A  recent interview for the Raleigh Public Record, a non-profit Internet news outlet, gives a good sampling of the issues that Mark is promoting in his campaign. 

It is interesting to compare Mark’s answer to the incumbent mayor’s answer to one question in particular:  what brought you to Raleigh?  Enloe states that N.C. State University brought him to Raleigh after growing up in Moore county, and he planted roots in the community after college.  In contrast, Charles Meeker states that Raleigh is close to the beach in his RPR interview.

A mayor is a city’s ambassador, and when a mayor says he likes his city because it is close to something else, what does that say about the city?  Maybe Meeker should consider running for mayor of  Wilmington, Hatteras, or Kill Devil Hills.

Truthfully, Meeker has a point.  Raleigh, and RTP as a whole, is a pretty boring place.  The schools are pretty good here, the economy is pretty steady, and our three universities draw a wide range of cultural events to the area.  And, yes, we are close to the beach.  But is there anything here that is really world class?  When we have guests from out of town, we are often hard-pressed to recommend anything for them to do.  Certainly, there are no you-must-see-this-before-you-die attractions here, in my opinion.

Can Enloe, Meeker, or anyone else change Raleigh’s, or the Triangle’s, boring image?  Maybe, maybe not.  But if you start from the premise that Raleigh’s best attribute is it’s short distance to the shore, I don’t think you are the right person to really change things.

A few years ago, a group of Durham up-and-comers started the Durham, Love Yourselfcampaign.  When you love your city, warts and all, that is a really good place to start from to change things.  Enloe has that kind of spirit, I believe.

On a completely different note, REI staff take note:  Mark is one of  your best customers, so it wouldn’t hurt to pony up some campaign cash…or at least give him some new threads.

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Besides being adept at SQL queries, Mark Enloe has built a reputation for telling it like it is around my office. So it comes as no surprise that his quixotic bid for Mayor of Raleigh has managed to ruffle a few feathers, as David Bracken reports in his WakeWatch blog with the  News and Observer.

The Raleigh Chamber of Commerce had no intention of causing a stir by extending an invitation to their retreat in Pinehurst to Raleigh’s mayoral candidates.   Candidate Enloe declined the invitation, as he noted in his blog, because it didn’t seem right for Raleigh’s movers and shakers to meet for a planning retreat in Pinehurst.  Not to slight Pinehurst, but these retreats do generate a certain amount of economic activity, and Raleigh needs that now as much as any city.

The Chamber’s spokesperson contends that meeting in Raleigh would be a distraction.  By getting out of Raleigh, Chamber execs will be away from normal routines and interruptions, an argument that seems a little thin.   Are we to believe that these business executives will be leaving their cell phones and Blackberries at home for the retreat?   Are we to believe that they won’t be checking their e-mail?

There are plenty of good reasons to conduct the business of Raleigh in Raleigh.  As Mr. Bracken notes, there is only one good reason to conduct Raleigh’s business in Pinehurst: golf.  The Chamber ought to  take a Mulligan on this one, and reconsider its traditions.  If not this year, then in the future the planning retreat should be held in Raleigh.

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Enloe for Mayor

My colleague and friend Mark Enloe recently threw his hat in the ring for mayor of Raleigh.  Jumping into politics is a bold move, and I have tremendous respect for anyone who ever runs for public office, even if I disagree with his or her views.

I live in Carrboro, on the West side of the Triangle, as this area is known.  As a Triangle resident, I’ve followed Charles Meeker’s mayoral career.  I don’t think he has been a bad mayor, but there have been some key missteps on his part over the years that have adversely affected Raleigh.  More importantly, he has missed opportunities to take Raleigh, and by extension the Triangle, in bold new directions.   For Meeker to be rewarded by this lackluster performance by having an unopposed run for a fifth term seems, well, un-American.

I’ve known Mark for a number of years, as a colleague at work.  He is a North Carolinian through and through, a graduate of N.C. State, an environmentalist (although he might not use that term) and has a very good understanding of technology.  All of these traits combine to make him a great candidate for our times, when North Carolina is poised to be a regional leader in the new, green economy espoused by Barack Obama. 

I’m glad Mark has taken a courageous step into Raleigh’s mayoral race, to challenge Meeker’s hop-scotch back into office.   Mark says that he aims to unseat Meeker.  Perhaps that is an unlikely outcome, but even if he only helps shape the debate, that is good news for a healthy democracy.

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Witnessing History

There are only a few times in my life that I really have understood that I was living in a historic moment, that I was witnessing history.   Today is one of those days.

I often am cynical about our country, and our jingoistic leaders masquerading as patriots.  Today,  Barack Obama’s inauguration speech reminded me that there is something special about this country.  We can come together, we can overcome our past, and we can build a new future.

Congratulations, President Obama, congratulations America!

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