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Father's Day

"Fathers linked to healthy families"...

Headlines such as the one above this essay should be relegated to the "Keen Sense of the Obvious" files.

What cadre of nescient dolts does not already know fathers are essential to healthy families, and who among us would waste good money on a study to affirm that which is so abundantly clear?

Alas, certain enlightened folks out there insist holding the institution of fatherhood in high esteem is tantamount to misogyny. For the past four decades, many insisted mothers can do it all. Gloria Steinem, once declared, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."

Maureen Dowd's book, "Are Men Necessary?" may have become the manifesto of the man-hating movement.

Academicians spend tax dollars to research this very question, despite the plethora of family research, which indicates children raised in homes with their biological fathers have a much higher chance of succeeding in life.

Unfortunately, some 25 million American children live absent or apart from their biological fathers. One in three children—and only one in five inner-city children—are in homes with their fathers.

Many moms have no choice but to do it all because many biological fathers have abdicated their responsibility for proper love, discipline, teaching, support, moral guidance and protection for their own family.

"The lack of effective, functioning fathers is the root cause of America's social, economic and spiritual crises."  ~ Dr. Edwin Cole.

The disastrous social consequences of this abdication are clearly evident and well documented. Though many single moms do manage to bring up relatively well-adjusted kids with the help of extended families, churches and schools, the correlation between social deviancy and fatherless homes is irrefutably linked.

"The lack of effective, functioning fathers is the root cause of America's social, economic and spiritual crises," writes Dr. Edwin Cole.

To wit, the truth—and it is a hard truth for men who have abandoned their families, but a harder truth for their children: According to the CDC, DoJ, DHHS and the Bureau of the Census, those 30 percent of children who live apart from their fathers will account for 63 percent of teen suicides, 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71 percent of high-school dropouts, 75 percent of children in chemical-abuse centers, 80 percent of rapists, 85 percent of youths in prison, and 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders. In addition, 90 percent of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.

Children born to unwed mothers are 10 times more likely to live in poverty as children with fathers in their home.

"[The causal link between fatherless children and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime," notes social researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, adds, "[The absence of fathers] from family life is surely the most socially consequential family trend of our era."

So, fathers do matter—as if that were a recent revelation.

In 295 BC, Mencius wrote, "The root of the kingdom is in the state. The root of the state is in the family. The root of the family is in the person of its head."

Of course, the traditional family model is clearly ordained by God as evidenced throughout the Old and New Testaments. Every major religion anywhere in the world recognizes an identical family order.

Tragically, the pages of history—especially 20th-century history—are rife with terrible misdeeds of those who were raised without fathers, or with abusive fathers: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, etc.

A strong case can be made certain social policies are directly responsible for generations of fatherless children—particularly black children. Does one political party depend on a vested interest to keep blacks and other "victimized" constituencies dependent on the state.

Sunday, many American families will observe Father's Day. To consdier the irreplaceable institution of fatherhood, we hope these families might also determine how their fathers might extend their roles in outreach to fatherless children:
By mentoring through Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, youth groups, Boys Clubs, and Girls Incorporated;
or by coaching little-league sports,
or teaching in Sunday school,
or becoming a school tutor,
or volunteering to work with high-risk kids through inner-city ministries, to name just a few.

(For more information and resources on parenting, visit First Things First.)


First Things First   423 267-5383 F 423-267-8876
  620 Lindsay Street, Suite 100 Chattanooga TN, 37403 #EZ.27717 Exp 06-20
    Website Link:   firstthings.org
    Ref:   Nixon, Don  
 
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Take your time

Take Your Time  -   Anjula Razdan

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. - Virginia Woolf

Lately, I've been approaching bedtime the way, I assume, marathoners approach the finish line, which is to say, exhausted and in need of a nourishing IV. Buoyed by the frenetic pace of what philosophy professor Al Gini has called the Everydayathon of modern life, I leapfrog from errand to errand, desperate to get my unwieldy to-do list under control.

No longer do I have time in my overbooked life for the kind of roomy, deep-focus activities that used to sustain me.

The bookcase behind my bed is a shrine to my aborted attempts at reading novels, my e-mail inbox a painful reminder of the nurturing friendships I've let drift away. I even have a slow cooker I've never used.

Indeed, many people these days seem to suffer from what comedian Ellen DeGeneres has termed TBS, or Too-Busy Syndrome. We speed date, guzzle Red Bull, race to yoga, schedule Cesareans, and, in the ultimate catch-22, engage in faux-leisure activities such as scrapbooking, which requires us to pack our schedules ever more tightly in order to glean experiences worthy of scrapbooking. Quips DeGeneres: It's enough to make you miss Mayberry, isn't it?

It's a joke, but an apt one. Many Americans, worn out by what former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins calls this culture's mad theology of speed, have started to cast their minds back to the rural values of simplicity associated with small towns like Mayberry, the famously easy and slow setting of The Andy Griffith Show. In fact, four months before the 2004 presidential election, renowned Republican pollster Frank Luntz revealed that lack of free time was the biggest concern among swing voters. Not the economy. Not health care. Not even the war in Iraq... The issue of time matters to them more than anything else in life.

...Perhaps a retreat from modernity and a return, however regressive, to a simpler time is exactly the point for many overworked, overscheduled, and exhausted Americans. After all, Americans are busier now than they've ever been. We work more and vacation less than any other industrialized nation (even Japan, which has a word, kashori, that roughly translates as death from overwork). Global competition, corporate downsizing, and a shaky economy have demanded that we step up our productivity. And, in the ultimate bait and switch, supposed labor-saving devices like computers, cell phones, and BlackBerrys have instead enslaved us, forcing us to be on 24/7 and pushing us to accomplish tasks faster and faster.

Technology, observes Robert Kamm, author of The Superman Syndrome, forces Americans to live at speed, not at depth.

...In truth, we've always been suckers for the promise of a simpler life. Take the popular new reality television show Amish in the City. In a witty analysis in The Washington Monthly (Oct. 2004), Sasha Issenberg claims that we have long romanticized the Amish for their plain ways.

In living Amish culture, [we] see both the purity of a simpler past and a promise of a more virtuous present, Issenberg writes. Americans lionization of the Amish is part of a broader tradition the reactionary anti-urban, anti-consumerist vein in our national life that had its roots among America's first Puritan settlers and has lasted well into the modern age in communities ranging from the crunchy back-to-the-land hippies of the 1960s to the right-wing survivalists of today.

The busier we get, it seems, the more we make a fetish of the simple life. Like Depression-era audiences who lapped up Busby Berkeley's lavishly produced, exorbitant musicals, we'll make do with fantasy if we can't attain the reality.

We weren't always so lost. Aristotle's famous view that we work in order to have leisure held up well into the 20th century, according to Ben Hunnicutt, professor of leisure studies at the University of Iowa. For more than a century prior to the 1930s, American workers successfully lobbied for higher wages and shorter hours, most notably the eight-hour workday and five-day workweek, and there was a widespread expectation that leisure would increasingly come to dominate our lives.

Back then, Hunnicutt says, the American Dream consisted of two things: more wealth and more time to live. And it wasn't just put-upon workers who defined progress as having more leisure time. Liberation capitalists like W.K. Kellogg and Lord Leverhulme (one of the Lever Brothers) viewed the coming age of leisure as the finest possible accomplishment of industrial capitalism. Kellogg even put his money where his mouth was and, in 1930, instituted a six-hour workday in his Battle Creek, Michigan, cereal factories. The result? Not surprisingly, workers spent more time with their kids and in their communities, strengthening both family and civic ties.

So why didn't this utopian experiment spread across the country? The answer is complicated, Hunnicutt says, but one factor is consumerism and the birth of marketing in the 1920s. There was a great deal of pessimism in the 1920s that the economy was not going to grow anymore because people had all they needed. Then this new view comes along that it's possible to convince people to buy things they never needed before, he explains.

That idea of scarcity, that there is never going to be enough, many observers agree, created our desire to have it all and is a big reason why we feel so busy today. We're taught from birth that there's always more to have, more to need, Hunnicutt says. We've created a Frankenstein, a monster that requires us to work continually.

...Perhaps time (or lack thereof) is the ultimate moral issue. That's one of the ideas behind Take Back Your Time (www.timeday.org), a nonpartisan national campaign that aims to lobby Congress with a multi-pronged legislative agenda...Time is a family value, observes national coordinator John de Graaf. Americans talk a lot about family values these days but often leave [that] one out. ...Time, he observes, is an overarching issue that cuts across ideological lines and draws interest from a diverse mix of people. [As Carl Honore says, it's] all about balance.

Be fast when it makes sense to be fast, and be slow when slowness is called for, he writes. Seek to live at what musicians call the tempo giusto -- the right speed.

...Of course, no one says the revolution can't begin at home. There are a number of things we can do as individuals to carve out a sanctuary from our busy lives:

Embrace solitude. Loneliness is the poverty of self, poet May Sarton declared. Solitude is the richness of self. It is only in those quiet, empty moments of repose, when we are finally, blissfully alone, that we can daydream, stare out a window, talk to ourselves, or engage in random thoughts and the luxury of being bored.

Cultivate your inner Dilbert. Use all of your vacation and sick time (even if you're not sick). Overall, American workers gave up $21 billion last year in unused vacation time. Look out for your self...

Focus on the moment. Grate a radish, rub your dog's belly, or simply savor that first glorious sip of morning espresso, and you will understand what novelist Henry Miller meant when he said, The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Cancel your plans with someone. He or she will love you for it.

Reconsider your dream job. Leisure professor Ben Hunnicutt says we have unreal expectations about fulfilling our creative urges and realizing our humanity and changing the world through our jobs. I see very little hope for a reevaluation of leisure until our expectation that the American Dream is fulfilled by a job that is rewarding, has a good salary, and so on, begins to change, Hunnicutt says.

Engage in proactive television watching. Television, many experts say, is a big reason we feel crunched for time. We park ourselves on the couch intending to watch only one, maybe two, shows, and hours later, we're still there...

Learn to say no. Be mercenary about your engagements.

Reject e-mail's Pavlovian ping. Train people to expect a response an hour, a day, or even a full week after they e-mail you.

Grating a radish or e-mailing someone a week late may not exactly seem revolutionary. And yet, making our nation's collective fantasy of slowing down a reality could ultimately save us. As Mark Slouka writes in Harper's Magazine (Nov. 2004), Idleness is not just a psychological necessity. . . . It constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space . . . necessary to . . . democracy . . . by allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it.

...Perhaps it's too much to hope for, but taking on the modern culture of busyness may be one way to bridge our ideological divide. Lack of free time, after all, is an everyday civic issue that affects us all. Busyness remains our national theology, but if we slow down and allow ourselves to just be, we may start to heal.

As the monk Thomas Merton said, It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am, the more affection I have for them. . . . Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.

[Anjula Razdan is a senior editor of Utne. Edited from an article in the January/February 2005 issue of UTNE: www.utne.com ]


  #EZ.24795 Exp 06-20
    Ref:   Nixon, Don  
 
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You don't have to attend every argument you're invited to....

◝Arguments needn't be about shouting or imposing your will on someone. A good argument shouldn't involve screaming, squabbling or fistfights, even though too often it does. Shouting matches are rarely beneficial to anyone.

◝The aim of an argument - or of a discussion - should not be victory but progress. Make sure you know essential points you want to make. Research facts you need to convince your opponent.

◝Before starting an argument think carefully about what it is you are arguing about and what it is you want. This may sound obvious. But it's critically important. What do you really want from this argument?

◝Do you want the other person to just understand your point of view? Or are you seeking a tangible result?

If it's a tangible result, you must ask yourself whether this result you have in mind is realistic and whether it's obtainable. If it's not realistic or obtainable, then a verbal battle might damage a valuable relationship.

◝Spend time thinking about how to present your argument. Body language, choice of words, and manner of speaking all affect how your argument will come across.

◝You should spend more time listening than talking. Aim for listening for 75 percent of the conversation and giving your own arguments 25 percent.

◝Think carefully about what arguments the other person will listen to. What are their preconceptions? Which kinds of arguments do they find convincing.

◝There are three main ways to respond to an argument:
1) challenge the facts the other person is using;
2) challenge the conclusions they draw from those facts; and
3) accept the point, but argue the weighting of that point (i.e., other points should be considered above this one.)

◝Arguments are not always as good as they first appear. Be wary of your opponent's use of statistics. Keep alert for distraction techniques as personal attacks, red herrings. Look out for concealed questions and false choices.

◝Keep it simple and clear. Be brief, don't rush.

◝Always choose clarity over pomposity! Be short, sharp, and to the point, using language easily understood.

◝Be creative to find ways out of an argument that's going nowhere. Is it time to look at the issue from another angle? Are there ways of putting pressure on so that the other person has to agree with you? Is a compromise possible?

This is absolutely the key: What do you want from this argument? Humiliating, embarrassing or aggravating your opponent might make you feel good at the time, but you might have many lonely days to rue your mistake. Find a result that works for both of you. You need to move forward. Then you will be able to argue another day.


  #EZ.35230 Exp 06-20
    Jonathan Herring   Ref:   Tom Jackson  
 
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