Love Honor Cherish

15975072_10211601975865667_328586816067567646_oParenting is one of the most difficult tasks that we humans attempt to master. It pains us to see our children hurting, but we know that we will never be able to completely eliminate struggles from their lives, so we teach then how to effectively deal with both trials and tribulations. We hope that our foundation will help them when we launch them into the adult world. Mostly we pray that they will know how to surround themselves with good people who love and care about them as they begin their independent journeys without us. So it was with my two girls.

Like any other parent I did my best and hoped with all of my heart that my efforts would be enough. My eldest Maryellen had always made me proud, and she appeared to have a good head on her shoulders as she left our home to become educated by others at the University of Texas in Austin. There were some shaky moments in her early days there when I received phone calls and heard the strains of uncertainty in her voice, but she managed to make it through the rough patches and secured a place for herself among friends both new and old. Along the way she met a young man named Scott through the encouragement of one of her more gregarious friends.

At first Maryellen was tentative about being more than just a good pal to Scott, but before long she was drawn to his good nature and his intellect and they began to date. Her face would light up whenever she spoke of him and I could tell that her relationship with him was far more special than any that she had ever experienced. He had a way of understanding her and treating her as an equal that pleased her. Even his gifts to her at Christmastime were astutely thoughtful and romantic. I found myself believing that she had found the man of her dreams and when I finally met him I was pleased to sense that he was a truly good person who respected and cherished her as much as I did.

Maryellen and Scott enjoyed a delightful courtship at the university, peppered with serious study sessions and fun times with a group of remarkable friends. They cheered the Longhorns at football and basketball games and enjoyed the same music and movies. Mostly they talked and realized how neatly their hopes and dreams meshed with one another. They fell in love.

I was quite pleased when they announced that they were engaged. They were both mature and thoughtful individuals who had transitioned well into adulthood. They both were within striking distance of earning degrees in the respected fields of business and engineering. Their futures were promising and together they were certain to be a power couple, but more importantly they shared values that would help them to build a life of love and devotion.

Twenty five years ago today they exchanged their vows at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church. It was a beautiful service shared with a crowd of friends and relatives. Maryellen glowed with the flush of love and anticipation and Scott had “the look” in his eyes that assured me that he would be forever faithful and loving to my daughter. Our family priest John Perusina said the mass and Scott’s Lutheran minister assisted with the proceedings. The bridesmaids wore blue and one of Maryellen’s childhood friends sang Sunrise, Sunset like an angel, making everyone in attendance cry as we recalled how quickly the years had gone by since the bride and groom had been children. It was a gloriously happy day that bode well for the future.

Maryellen and Scott moved to Beaumont after a memorable honeymoon in Yosemite National Park, yet another idea of Scott’s that was so perfectly suited to Maryellen. They set up housekeeping in a cute apartment and began their careers. It was a fun time and it was wonderful to see how happy they were and how well things were going for them.

Eventually Scott received an offer that he couldn’t refuse from a firm in Indiana and so the two of them were on the move. They purchased a lovely house in Lafayette and began to explore the midwest during their free time. They were only two hours away from Chicago and so that exciting city became a frequent destination. It was a time filled with new adventures and new confidence for them when all of us realized that they had indeed become a powerful team.

Four years after they married their first child, Andrew, was born and our visits to Indiana became ever more frequent as we enjoyed visits with our grandchild. I always felt so intensely happy to see the relationship between Maryellen and Scott growing ever stronger and thus it would be as one year flowed into the next and three more children joined the family as they moved again to Beaumont and finally back to the Houston area.

Maryellen and Scott have been models of love and dedication. They are beloved pillars of of their community known for their dedication to being exceptional parents and generous neighbors. They inspire others with their devotion to each other and to their sons. Together they have weathered the rollercoaster ride that is life and managed to overcome every challenge that appeared on their horizon.

In a very troubled world where it almost seems old fashioned to hold tightly to values and traditions Maryellen and Scott Greene have proven that the power of love is still one of the most priceless treasures that any of us might possess. For twenty five years they have steadfastly honored one another and passed on their mutual love to their sons who are growing in the same wisdom and age and grace that they have so beautifully exhibited.

Somehow I am overwhelmed by the rapid passage of time. In my mind they are still the twenty something young adults with so much hope in their eyes and a whole lifetime ahead of them. They have done a remarkable job of cherishing the promise that they made on that day in the glow of tiny lights from the Christmas trees on the altar. They have fulfilled all of their vows and done the hard work of keeping the flame of their never ending love alive. It makes my heart burst with joy to know that they are such incredibly fine people.

Happy Twenty Fifth Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Greene. May you enjoy many more wonderful days together as you share a special love. You are a blessing to all of us.

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The Number Line of Our Lives

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Last week I was at the University of Houston where I was planning to have lunch with a student who is considering returning to Texas from his out of state college. Our first stop was at the offices of transfer counseling services in the Cougar Village. I waited near the reception desk while he met with a representative to outline his needs and learn how to proceed in making the change. It was somewhat quiet in the office and my chair was right in front of the receptionist who was a tiny young woman who appeared to be quite businesslike but nonetheless polite and inviting. I thought of my own experiences with academic counseling at U of H in the long ago and remarked that I truly appreciated her kind demeanor, relaying a bit of my own experience when I too was little more than a slip of a woman.

My initial contact with the university had been quite a discouraging affair that almost sent me running. I sat for well over an hour before I was even seen by anyone. When my moment to garner information finally came I was greeted by a surly woman who literally barked the obvious fact that she was behind schedule and had very little time for conversation other than that related to the business at hand. There were no warm greetings, not even a tiny smile. Instead her angry demeanor set a tone for the interaction that left me flummoxed and almost as ignorant about policies and procedures as I had been before I came. My session ended on such a rushed note that I felt as though I was being pushed from the office. I somehow maintained my composure in spite of how I was feeling until I reached the ladies room down the hall where I found a stall and proceeded to cry for at least five minutes. Luckily once I got past the bureaucratic arm of the university it was smooth sailing. My classes were challenging and interesting, and my professors were always accommodating and determined to help me navigate through the years of my college life. I grew to love the University of Houston, but shuddered at the thought of having to deal with the business and paperwork associated with entering and exiting.

I joked a bit with the student with whom I had outlined my story and then she in turn relayed hers. She was from Asia and was majoring in mathematics. There were a number of career pathways that she was considering, but she was most interested in applying math in the business sector. She was excited about graduating in the spring and spoke of the many people at the university who had supported her when she first came and knew so little about the city or even our country. It was apparent that her efforts to be hospitable to those who visited the office had stemmed from her own experiences and the appreciation that she felt for those who come to the university attempting to make life changing decisions. She delights in the fact that she is now the one who greets so many of them. She wants their first impression to be be positive because she understands their fears.

I enjoyed my little talk with this stranger who now seemed a bit more like an acquaintance. I appreciated that she had taken the time to relate her own story with so much candor. I felt the kind of bond that two people enjoy in that brief moment when their worlds collide and they are willing to approach each other with mutual respect. It amazed me that even though our collegiate ties were separated by many decades we had both felt the same sense of apprehension and hopefulness as we imagined our lives stretched out before us. I was now viewing mine from the rearview mirror of nostalgia and she was just placing her foot on the accelerator to forge into unexplored territory full speed ahead. Both of us felt a kinship and gratitude for those who had helped us to reach our respective points in life. In particular I understood that her lovely demeanor toward everyone who walked into the office would set the tone for a wonderful experience that might encourage even those who felt lost to take the risks that most certainly would lie ahead.

Eventually the student with whom I had come for a lunch date finished his own appointment and we headed to a restaurant on campus. I saw in his eyes that his meeting had not given him the answers that he had hoped to hear. He felt a bit discouraged by all of the hoops through which he would have to jump if he decided to transfer his work from one university to another. It would be almost like starting over and losing all of the time that he had already invested. He was caught in a quandary that I too have faced, and so we began a quiet discussion of his options over a lunch of grilled cheese and tomato basil soup. The fact that it was a grey and cold day did little to help his mood, and I could see the wheels turning in his head as he calculated the cost of staying put in a place that made him miserable versus changing to a more positive environment where he has friends who care about him and encourage him to make the move as they have already done.

Time feels very different to me than it does to a young adult barely entering his twenties. I have the advantage of knowing how quickly it passes. i have experienced enough to know all too well the importance of being happy. Our minds tell us when something is wrong and while it may be challenging to extricate ourselves from certain situations in the long run we will always land on our feet and find the contentment that we seek. I have learned all too well that life rarely follows a straight line. Instead it is a series of curves looping back and forth often throwing us off balance. It is a high wire act that is both frightening and exciting. If we take a deep breath we learn that most of the platitudes that we hear have some merit. We won’t fail as long as we follow our hearts and keep trying. The clock will keep ticking but we soon learn to ignore it as well as the unsolicited advice and critiquing from well meaning people who think that they have a better understanding of what we need than we do. We almost always find the confidence that we need to be the person that we want to be regardless of what others may think, Our happiness comes from discovering a sense of purpose rather than pursuing a job and concerning ourselves with wealth. In the process we often find that we get exactly what we have needed all along.

I can’t help thinking about the continuum on which we all fall in a kind of curvy number line of life. As long as we are breathing the ray of hope shines ahead. There is always time for adjustments to our trajectory. I am at a far end, but still aware that unknown challenges and joys lie ahead. The young lady in the office is both ending one phase and beginning another. The student with whom I had hoped to convey some wisdom is stopping and starting and making circles as he attempts to come to the right conclusion that will work for him. None of us is a fortune teller capable of predicting exactly what will happen once we make a choice, but based on what lies behind I understand perhaps a bit better that the secret to a full and rewarding life begins with a little spark that tells us when we are heading in the right direction and when we are not. We learn to alter our course and adapt more and more quickly on our journey. We become like  race car drivers whose muscle memories react quickly to bumps and turns in the ever changing environment. Somewhere along the road we also become proficient in rejoicing in our uniqueness and gain confidence in the choices we have made. We ultimately realize that when all is said and done it is in the people we have loved and the lives that we have touched that we have found the keys to our puzzling searches. 

A Matter of the Heart

automaton.jpg.pngWhen I entered high school placing students in particular tracks had become all the rage. Based on grades and an entrance exam I ended up in what was known as the Honors group. Things were a bit nerve racking for me because the principal inserted a caveat to my designation in a face to face meeting in which he indicated that I would only be part of that cadre on a probationary status. In fact he suspected that I would be removed within the first grading period because I was barely qualified for the academic rigors to which I would be subjected. Through sheer determination I hung on for four years and graduated with an Honors designation. It would not be until I was an adult that one of my former teachers would reveal that my peers and I had been part of a grand experiment that did not work as well as the adults had hoped.

Educators have a tendency to be constantly searching for what I call a magic bullet, a way of doing things that will transform the way we teach our children and result in dramatic advances in knowledge and critical thinking. Sadly as such attempts take place there is always a risk that they will not bring the hoped for advantages and may actually do damage to the students who become living guinea pigs. Thus it was with me and many of the other people in my class. Each of us became known more by our labels and less as the individuals that we were. We tended to believe that sets of numbers defined us, and in my own case I worried that everyone would learn that I was a fraud. Because the principal had so clearly indicated that I did not have the intellectual acumen to be a member of the elite Honors class, I was constantly stressed and uncertain of my abilities. Little did I know until that fateful reunion with my teacher that I was not alone in the emotional trauma that the untested methodology unleashed. The fact that the plan that had driven the daily routines of my class was eventually changed to address its blatant problems was of little comfort. The damage had already been done and it bothered me even though most of us had managed to overcome the difficulties perpetrated by faulty methodology.

As a teacher I understand the need to find the best practices for reaching students. Still I have watched a parade of bandwagon theories that have ultimately been rejected long after they have had an ill effect on the youngsters who were used to determine effectiveness. I don’t suppose that we are able to tell whether or not something will be successful until we try it, but for the group that is subjected to massive changes it can be disastrous. We watched the new math of the seventies be rejected because it never really clicked with either the teachers or their pupils. We worry about that the constant standardized testing and the thirst for hard data has somehow ignored the heart and soul of each individual. We sense that numbers alone are incapable of measuring the content of a mind. We try different styles of note taking, tutoring and delivery of lessons, only to realize that there is no one size fits all way that works for everyone. We labor to individualize learning and teaching but then insist on scripting lessons. We’ve tried cooperative learning, behavioral modifications, and on and on. All are noble and well intentioned efforts but instead of taking an entire group and radically changing the way they are taught, why can’t we try such interventions in small doses until we are certain that they are effective?

There is a trend in many schools today to modernize teaching by using technology with a nod to B.F. Skinner. Students watch educational videos or read lessons at their own paces. If they fully understand the concept they are free to keep moving forward. If they are confused they ask questions of the teacher who becomes more of an interventionist and less of a direct instructor. Interactions between teachers and their pupils are thought to be more targeted and thus more effective, but for many it has become a frustrating venture leading them to confusion and a loss of self esteem. As someone who has always understood that there is never one best way, I have to wonder what proponents of such radically different systems were thinking when they decided to abandon all of the traditional ways in favor of a grand experiment. Why not instead insert such changes in small doses and then measure their effect on each student? It would make much more sense to see what happens in a trial run rather than simply accepting that all of the old ways should be left behind. It really is possible to teach in a number of different ways and still get phenomenal results.

I would like to propose that teachers select the methods that work best with a particular set of students rather than tossing out the baby with the bath water in favor of new ideas that are still untested. We should instead tread lightly with innovations, use them sparingly until it is evident that they truly are effective. It’s never a good idea to overuse any practices. They can become too routine and boring to students. Variety truly works well and provides opportunities to try the latest educational ideas. The most important thing is for teachers to still be teachers, not just conduits of information. In other words the goal is to help every student to attain mastery of concepts. That takes patience and creativity because sometimes the secret to unlocking a mind lies not in how information is presented but in how an educator touches a heart and turns on the magic that lives inside everyone. There are truly some aspects of learning that have little to do with data points.

We have rubrics and measurements for literally everything today, neglecting to take our differences into account. Students who don’t quite fit the mold often feel that something is wrong with them. Only a talented and sensitive teacher knows how to help them to find themselves in a world that seems so intent on judging their worth based on numbers. We really do have to move beyond the test scores and grades to encourage our youth to see learning as a magical and exciting experience rather than one that places daily stresses on them. If a student does all of the steps correctly to find the equation of a line when given two points but then accidentally multiplies wrong to reach an incorrect answer, we need to be willing to give that person credit for what they did right and use the mistake as a learning tool. All too often we instead slash a big red mark over the entire effort and leave the child feeling inept. That borders on educational malpractice.

There are those who speak of today’s students as snowflakes, kids who can’t handle conflict or difficulties. Nothing is farther from the truth. Today’s children are busy checking off boxes that indicate that they are moving steadily toward success. It is an almost robotic atmosphere in which they must complete so many requirements just to move from one phase of education to another. Square pegs have to fit into round holes no matter how painful the process of doing that may be. Universities make it more and more difficult to land an acceptance letter. Students must have resumes that include rigorous courses, leadership roles, extracurricular activities and even community service. They work from before dawn until well into the late hours of night attempting to accomplish all of the expectations. Many of them are enduring mental distress in the process and questioning their worth when they falter. It is as though we have embarked on a nationwide experiment with their very lives and souls. We have become Tiger Adults who push and push and push without thought of where all of this will lead. It is little wonder that so many young adults are pushing back on the system once they come of age to make their own decisions. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to demand that schools take a long hard look at the effects of what they are doing.

I made it through my high school and graduated as the Valedictorian in spite of the negativity and pressures that were placed on me by well meaning adults. Not everyone is so fortunate in such highly charged situations, and we have to take every person’s needs into account. There are indeed great teachers who have found the keys to reaching students without destroying their confidence and we should observe them and learn from them. Isaac Owoyemi teaches mathematics for mastery, providing students with multiple opportunities for learning concepts in an encouraging environment. Seng Dao Keo understands the necessity of starting from the point where students are on the learning curve rather than failing them for not being ready for a particular idea. Chrystal Hunter deconstructs the most difficult aspects of mathematics and simplifies them so that her students will comprehend and feel accomplished. Dickie Written reaches the imagination of his pupils by making literature relevant and exciting. Lisa Sandifer understands that many students need the arts to reach their full potential. Jenny Brunsell brings the heart of an angel to her kids and they always respond. Such educators realize that while there is an element of science in teaching it is in the execution of its art that the true miracles happen. They do not rely on scripts or preplanned lessons or the latest fads, but instead select what is needed in a specific time and place. This is the trend that we need to follow. Until our children feel the joy of learning all of our efforts will have been in vain. We reach them first through the heart and then the mind follows.

Facing Our Failures

Failure.jpgThere is a trite little platitude that goes something like this, “Failure is not an option.” In reality it is a very human trait to fail at something even after exerting great effort to succeed. We all find ourselves in the midst of a fiasco now and again. It is part of who we are as people. We may fail a class even though we thought we were prepared. A relationship may sour in spite of our efforts to save it. We find ourselves being fired from a job or unable to successfully complete an important project. We wreck our car in the split second of a careless moment. We say and do exactly the wrong thing in a situation with our children. We fudge on a diet or exercise program. We inevitably make mistakes in the course of living our lives.

Perhaps instead of suggesting that there is something innately wrong in failing, we should instead concentrate on how we will behave once the genie is out of the bottle, the milk is spilled, the horse is out of the barn. Our character is often defined more by how we react to failure than how we reach success. It really doesn’t matter how many times it may have taken us to achieve a goal as much as how resolved and persistent we have been in getting there. Our willingness to keep trying often determines the trajectory of our lives. Those who adapt optimistically to their circumstances are likely to ultimately overcome even the most challenging situations. In addition, we need to teach ourselves and others how to identify toxic situations and to recognize when to walk away from them.

I know a man who literally spent almost a decade attempting to earn a college degree. He had to work to pay his tuition and the coursework was sometimes quite difficult for him. He would joke that he was going to be the oldest graduate ever. Nonetheless, he kept his eye on the prize, never giving up, even when it seemed hopeless. The day came when he held his diploma in his hand. Ultimately it was his unstoppable tenacity that earned him a great job and his willingness to keep trying against all odds has become his hallmark. He has risen to the top of his profession, admired by peers and bosses alike as someone with a dogged willingness to get the job done. He is the go to man when the situation gets tough. Everyone knows that he will not take no for an answer.

Beethoven composed symphonies even after becoming deaf. Thomas Edison had to create hundreds of prototypes before finally finding a lightbulb that would work. Albert Einstein was thought to be a slow learner at school. Abraham Lincoln was initially seen as someone incapable of achieving much of merit. Walt Disney was told that he had no creative instincts. The list of so called failures who eventually became famous for their contributions to the world is long because the reality is that we all hit walls from time to time.

Too often we dwell on the things that we have done wrong rather than just picking ourselves up, deciding how to improve and then moving on. When we become captive to the negativity associated with failure we give up, run away. We assume that there is no reason to keep banging our heads against walls. We end up with regrets. We think of our might have beens. The go getters, instead, dust themselves off and get back in the saddle. They learn from each unsuccessful iteration and apply their new found knowledge to improving their lots. They remain unafraid to take risks.

I sometimes wonder if our society creates individuals who give in to failure because of the ways that we speak of it and react to it. In schools there is linear progression of learning with tests along to the way provide evidence of accumulated knowledge. Students mostly move in lock step from one skill to the next. For those who may take a bit longer to master concepts the process becomes a series of failures that all too often result in a feeling of hopelessness. I all too often heard the refrain, “I’m just not good in math.” The truth was that everyone of those who uttered such remarks was more than capable of becoming adept with numbers. They just took longer to grasp the ideas. With a bit of effort and encouragement they were eventually able to achieve a high level of comfort with very complex algorithms. They felt a sense of accomplishment that in turn lead to a greater willingness to explore even more difficult ideas.

When I was in middle school a gym teacher told me that I was the clumsiest, least athletic person that she had ever met. She ridiculed all of my efforts to please her. As a result I mostly traveled through life thinking of myself as a total klutz, unable to even catch a ball. It was not until I met a professor in college that my attitude changed. He convinced me that I too could be skilled if shown the proper techniques. He insisted that my old teacher had been remiss in expecting me to possess natural born abilities in sports. He taught me the fundamentals and my world as well as my attitude was transformed.

We certainly value the child who is capable of taking the school team to the championship. We send our finest debaters to the competition. Still we must be willing to provide opportunities to shine for those who are not as gifted. It is up to us to model behaviors that will teach them that improving is just as important as winning the prize. We have to let them know that they will ultimately find their pathways by participating in many different experiences.

I am particularly taken with the attitudes of my twin grandsons. They are incredible athletes but they do not measure success by the number of medals or trophies that they earn. Instead they focus on being their personal best. Their goals always involve moving just a bit closer to a better individual record. If doing so happens to give them a championship it is wonderful. If it only demonstrates that they are getting closer to their goals they are just as happy. They have already developed a way of thinking that is going to take them far. Would that we might be able to do the same for everyone.

Failure never feels good. It is a downer that we don’t want to experience but it sometimes happens. If we can analyze our situation and make improvements our mistakes will not have been for naught. We are all on a journey. How well we do depends on our ability to adapt and become stronger. That requires a positive willingness to keeping trying to find our way. If we keep the faith it will happen. Perhaps our new mantra should be, “Giving in to failure is not an option.” We would be wise to teach that to our children as well.

Speak Out

censorship-1.gifAttending college was one of the most exciting times of my life. My professors challenged the status quo of my beliefs and taught me how to think critically. They were never satisfied with having me simply regurgitate what I had learned. They insisted that I show evidence of having considered the pros and cons of every argument or theory. They showed me the importance of viewing the world from multiple points of view. I remember attending events featuring some of the most controversial speakers of the era. It mattered not whether I agreed with them, but rather that I allow myself to widen my own horizons. Some of those that I heard were brilliant and I wrote others off, but always there was the sheer enjoyment of becoming familiar with new and intriguing philosophies.

When I became a teacher I was enthralled with the idea of showing my students how to become critical thinkers. Even in mathematics classes we compared and contrasted differing methods for solving problems and began to discuss the merits of each. I once prefaced such an exercise by having my students read accounts of a Revolutionary War battle written by four quite different individuals. One was the eyewitness account of a patriot, another was from a letter written by a British soldier. Still another was penned by Winston Churchill for his famous history and the last was from the point of view of a bystander who had little interest in choosing sides. The students immediately realized that how we see the world is influenced by all of the complexities of our lifetime. They began to question who had been in the right and wondered if we ever get a totally unbiased reporting of events. It was quite rewarding to watch the scales fall from their eyes and to experience their enthusiasm in being able to engage in a debate.

I am and always will be a staunch proponent of free speech. Unlike many people that I know, I actually enjoy hearing from individuals whose opinions are diametrically opposed to mine. When in their company I listen with as open a mind as I might possibly muster, realizing that my own thinking is rooted in the totality of my lifetime. My goal is not to catch them in mistakes but to truly learn from them. It is rather amazing how much I derive from even the most ridiculous sounding ideas. I have always felt that we tend to spend too much time composing our responses and not nearly enough attempting to understand why people believe as they do.

Obviously there are many instances in which I am not even minutely swayed by someone’s beliefs, particularly when I sense that they are evil or violent. I have read Mein Kampf not because I am a follower of Nazi propaganda, but because I think it is important to know what lies in the minds of such people. Perhaps the biggest mistake that too many make is running away from the rants of those who would impinge on our freedoms. In truth we should make ourselves aware of even their most rancid and unbearable thinking. I agree with the Godfather that it is important to keep our enemies close.

I abhor censorship of any kind. Free speech is perhaps our most important right as citizens. When I write my blog each weekday I am fully aware that I will annoy or even anger some who read my words, but I will fight to the death for my right to state what I believe. I will do the same for anyone else, even those with whom I totally disagree. The hallmark of totalitarianism is the tendency to eliminate the written or spoken words of those voicing alternative points of view. A free nation insures free expression of ideas in all phases of society. If someone urinates on a cross and calls it art I may choose to disagree and even feel offended, but I will never insist that the offering be destroyed.

I am somewhat befuddled by the current trend to shut down free speech at universities that were once bastions of open expression. I don’t personally like Ann Coulter but I have no problem with having her speak on the campus of any college including my alma mater. I don’t have to attend the event and I certainly don’t have to agree with anything that she says. What I should insist on is that she have her opportunity to speak her mind without interference. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but her words will never hurt me. In fact, I suspect that her audience would be rather small if not for all of the unearned publicity that she gets each time a group of students threaten violence if she shows up to give a speech.

The history of the world is filled with instances of book burnings and executions of people whose thoughts and words seemed controversial. The Spanish Inquisition was a dark time of squelching ideas. Members of ISIL destroy anyone and anything that is offensive to them. Surely the examples of Nazi and Communist oppression should teach us that it is in an open society that we progress as humans, not one in which we refuse to allow alternative points of view. Unfortunately I fear that we are presently on a razor thin line between wanting to be inoffensive and becoming unthinking censors. It is my love of liberty that tells me that we must be very careful in protecting our rights as free men and women. All of us should be loudly complaining any time that there are attempts to silence any among us, regardless of whether we agree with that individual’s beliefs or not.

With regards to what I am presently witnessing I am reminded of the now famous words of Pastor Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

Speak out loudly and clearly. Let no one take away the free speech of any among us.