No Tongue Can Tell

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Imagine living in an island city filled with beautifully colorful buildings that look almost like doll houses. The streets are filled with smiling happy people who bask in the sunny days and enjoy the ocean breezes. Along the shore on a pier out in the ocean there is a huge ferris wheel that citizens reach on a train that transports them over the water. There is a port that brings goods and money into the area from all over the world. It provides jobs that make the citizens some of the wealthiest in the nation. This is surely a place that must be paradise, a dream come true for all who dwell here.

Now consider that news arrives of a coming storm. Reports differ as to its potential strength. The local meteorologist does not believe that it will be particularly harmful. The signs from the ocean appear to be mild. There is no reason to panic or leave. It’s simply time to batten down the hatches, get together indoors with neighbors and celebrate good fortune. You watch as the ocean asserts its power and the sky grows dark. The streets of your town begin to fill with water, but nobody is particularly worried. They’ve seen this kind of thing before. It will blow over and the sun will return. Maybe the wind will create the need for a few repairs, but nothing more.

By nightfall you become a bit more concerned and invite frightened friends to your more substantial house. Things should be just fine, but as the squalls come ashore something is very different about this hurricane. It is more frightening. Too many things are blowing past the windows. The water is inching rapidly toward the front door. You and those with you climb to the second floor to wait it out. The tension in the group becomes more palatable. Your heart begins to race and you have thoughts that you want to wish away.

Something slams into the side of the house. Suddenly there is an open hole the size of an entire room. The place is breaking apart and everyone becomes hysterical. You see water raging past filled with flotsam and jetsam and people who do not appear to be alive. The floor on which you are standing begins to crumble. You grab at a portion of your once fine home that has suddenly become the foundation of a makeshift raft. You carefully place your children on the flimsy lifeboat and search for your spouse who has suddenly disappeared under the water. You are in a panic, not knowing what to do. Should you dive under the darkness in an attempt to find her, or is it best to look after your children? You pray to God for strength and protection. You want this horrifying night to be done.

You float aimlessly for hours. As far as you can see  there is unspeakable destruction. Little do you know that it is far worse than you imagine. Perhaps it is best that you are ignorant of the true extent of the terror, because you might lose all hope if you know what has really happened. You calm your children and wait for the sun to rise. You want to cry, but know that now is not the time.

When the day dawns the winds have ceased and the waters have begun to recede. The vision before your eyes is unimaginable. You want to shield your children from the truth, but the death that surrounds you is so massive that there is no possible way to keep them from knowing what has happened. Your once majestic city by the sea is gone, never again to be one of the most important places in the country. A later accounting reveals that more than six thousand of your friends and neighbors and fellow citizens have died in the hurricane, a count that will not be equaled even a hundred years later.

The task before you and other survivors is daunting. Some have already decided to just leave, but you want to stay in this place. It has burrowed into your heart, and even with all of the pain that it has created you can’t bear to go somewhere else. You join the building process and silently hope that you will find your relatives and friends who are missing, but you never do.

Your city will become a small town, no longer destined to be as glorious as it once was. You help to build a seawall designed to keep the raging waters at bay. You work to raise the entire island, a modern marvel of engineering. You are proud of those who work to bring things back to a semblance of normalcy. You are a survivor of something so terrible that you will never be able to adequately speak of its horror. You don’t want to talk about what you lost. You try not to think about the orphanage that no longer exists, or the tiny souls from there who were eventually found buried under the sand with their caretakers next to them. Yours is a story for the ages that you will never want to repeat.

This is a true account of the great storm of 1900, a category four hurricane that moved right over Galveston Island in Texas. To this day there has never been another natural disaster in the United States that claimed so many lives. In the course of only a few hours the once thriving city was decimated, and would ultimately be reduced to a sleepy place that mostly attracts tourists and brave souls who find themselves in love with the tropical atmosphere. Many of the homes of 1900 still stand, reminders of a time when some of the most powerful and wealthy individuals in America lived and worked in the once bustling city. On a sunny day it is easy to imagine how wonderful life must have been before the true danger of being there was revealed.

The ghosts of a magnificent time and place lurk along with those who died so tragically in a single night. There is something indeed special about Galveston that can’t be described until someone has spent time there in the changing seasons. It is easy to fall in love with this town, but those who choose to make this island home must understand that danger is always possible.

After 1900, the improbable happened. A swampy little place called Houston became the titan that Galveston had been. The people there dredged a channel from Galveston Bay inland to create one of the busiest ports in the world. Houston would grow to become the fourth largest city in the United States, and until just this year would not experience anything resembling the tragedy that befell Galveston in 1900. Hurricane Harvey flooded the streets and homes of Houston, but thankfully did not even come close to killing the number of people who died long ago in the place just fifty miles south. Still those of us who have lived in Houston and visited Galveston understand better than ever the need to respect the storms that form in the Atlantic from June to November each year.

Now that hurricane season is over we have some time to relax before considering what we must do to make this area less likely to crumble under the brunt of a killer storm. The potential for disaster will roll around again just as it does each year. It’s important that we try to imagine the possibilities so that we will plan wisely and take precautions when danger becomes imminent. We more than most know what it is like when Mother Nature grows surly, and we understand the we can never be complacent about her power to change our world in an instant. Ours are the kind of stories that no tongue can tell.

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Looking Forward

SupplierDiversityLBack before there was DNA, ancestry.com, or genealogy or libraries sponsored by the Latter Day Saints families often told tales of ancestors that may or may not have been true. Sometimes the stories were so compelling that they were handed down from generation to generation, thus spreading unfounded myths about the folks who were long past. Thus it was with my own relations who had all kinds of theories about who we were and from whence we had come.

One of the more popular ideas was that my maternal grandfather had actually been born in Cleveland, Ohio of Slovakian parentage, and that only my maternal grandmother had been an immigrant from Eastern Europe. With help from a first cousin I have determined that both of my grandparents were born in the Slovakian territory of what was once the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I have seen their names on ship manifests and now have proof that they entered the United States at the port of Galveston, Texas. My grandfather eventually became a naturalized citizen and I have copies of the document detailing when and where that happened as well, Oddly enough there are still relatives who refuse to believe the evidence that my cousin and I have gathered, preferring instead to insist that Grandpa was in fact an American citizen by birth. Some family fables refuse to die.

I recall a time when a Jewish friend of my mom’s declared her certainty that we were the descendants of European Jews. Her only clue to the veracity of that statement lay in our appearance and mannerisms, as though there is some stereotypical methodology for determining such things. Imagine my surprise when a DNA test revealed that I do indeed have a trace of Eastern European Jewishness tracing through my veins. It was a rather exciting discovery and one that my mother and her friends seemed to believe even before I had found the grain of truth.

It’s far easier in today’s world for me to learn that I am not a descendant of Native Americans as my paternal grandmother had always claimed. My high cheekbones are more likely derived from my Slovakian family members than from some Southeastern tribe. Still the stories of our Native American ancestry were part of my Grandma’s repertoire, and I suspect that she truly believed that they were true. The fact is that the bloodlines through her go straight back to Great Britain and then lead to Normandy and Norway. There are no Native Americans anywhere, but I grew up thinking that I must in fact be from one of America’s earliest people simply because my grandmother always told me so.

I bring this up because Senator Elizabeth Warren has been skewered again and again for claiming that she is of Native American descent. If her family is like mine she no doubt heard these things while growing up and had no reason to believe that they were untrue. We listen to our elders and we buy into their tales, never really thinking that they may be telling us falsehoods. I suspect that they actually believe those half truths themselves, leading to even more certainty that their stories are indeed true. It is little wonder that Senator Warren took the word of her relatives and saw herself as a true Native American, especially considering that she haled from Oklahoma where it was far more likely that her ancestors might have intermingled from many different groups.

I had an aunt who often noted that we were a biracial family from some point in history when our ancestors might have been African American. She would gaze into the mirror and see her jet black hair and brown eyes so dark that they almost resembled nuggets of coal. Somehow she decided that her physical attributes were indicative of blackness. She went to her grave feeling certain that she was a mixture of white and black ancestors, and I have to admit that her tales were so exotic that I half believed them even though the skin of family members from that branch is almost colorless save for the splotches of freckles that dot their arms and legs and faces. Eventually my DNA test totally squelched my aunt’s idea, but there was a time when the uncertainty made me wonder.

We all long to know our histories, but in many ways they don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. It is what we are now doing that determines who we really are, not the stories of people that we never met and maybe don’t even know about. The most important thing about each of us is how well we have evolved into kind and just individuals who use our talents to the best of our abilities. It is in the attitudes and ethical values that we learned from our parents and pass down to our children that we find the essence of who we are. In fact I often think of how my mother always felt that knowing one’s genealogy was of far less importance than gazing into the future. She had little or no desire to look back or to define herself by ethnicity or race. She truly believed that we are all essentially the same with only minor variations over which we have little control. It was the human mind that fascinated her and the potential that we all possess to use our intellect well.

Each of us is the sum of our genetics and our environment. How we approach the world is determined in a large part by our most immediate interactions. Unfortunately we have a nasty habit of dividing ourselves into groups and even attempting to rank them as though there are actually superiors and inferiors. Such stereotyping can lead to the ugliness of racism unless we avoid its pitfalls. While there is nothing wrong with taking pride in our family heritage, it is a slippery slope to believe that our family trees somehow define us as being either better or worse than our peers. We simply are who we are at birth and then it becomes up to each of us to take our mix of DNA, history, family life, and education and forge our own individual destinies.

It really is time that we be more intent on living together with open hearts and minds rather than playing classification games. Much of the trouble that the world is experiencing is derived from an illogical hatred of differences, whether they be religious or ethnic or racial. So much blood has been shed in the name of “isms.” Sometimes we humans devolve into the same kind of thinking that creates wars between rival gangs. It is illogical and even hateful. When it comes from those who are supposed to be our leaders it borders on evil.

The truth is that few of us will ever know our backgrounds for certain, and that is okay. It’s fun to find out a bit of who we are, but more important to move forward and be ourselves. We need not define who we are by the branches of family trees. Instead it is crucial that we all be allowed to develop all of the components of our makeup into the best possible versions of ourselves. At the same time, if we are right thinking, we will embrace the lovely variety of mankind, and rejoice in our differences. When we encourage the many disparate groups to offer their unique ideas and talents to the betterment of us all, the world becomes a safer and more dynamic place. Let’s celebrate our wondrous variety in all that we do.

Christmas Treasures

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I love decorating my home for the holidays, but it is always a somewhat bittersweet time. I don’t do coordinated colors and high fashion. Instead my Christmas ornaments come from a varied collection that dates back to a time even before my children were born. This year I have three trees in different rooms of the house. Each of them is filled with memories more than loveliness. They include trinkets made by my children and elegant china and crystal pieces. I have things that I purchased on vacations and at least twenty years of Hallmark ornaments that have tickled my fancy. Friends and family members who have gone to heaven gave me a number of the things that hang on the green limbs of my trees and I recall the times that we shared each time that I take the treasures out of the seven boxes that store them for eleven months out of the year. I shed a little tear here and there as I think back over the people and the years that each piece represents. Setting up my trees is a nostalgic time that requires just the right music or Christmas movie running in the background while I work to place each ornament just so.

I laughed this year as I hung the proof of my longtime loyalty to the Houston Astros front and center on the big tree in my great room. I have two ornaments celebrating the team that I purchased so long ago that I can’t recall exactly when or where I came upon them. Other teams are represented as well. Of course I have one from the University of Houston, but I also boast a little sled from Purdue and a bauble from Oklahoma State University that I purchased on the occasion of my brother’s graduation on a bitterly cold December day. Perhaps my most unusual team decoration is a Houston Oiler blue football player made out of yarn emblazoned with the number of the kicker Tony Fritsch. I bought that one at a craft sale long before the Oilers had moved to Tennessee and changed their name. Perhaps it’s time for me to find a J.J. Watt.

My first Hallmark ornament was a replica of Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie. It portrays him whistling and steering his ship so contentedly that I smile every single time I see it. To this day it remains my favorite among all of the members of my now extensive collection. I have an obvious preference for all things Mickey or Minnie. Various renditions of them dominate my selections. This year I added a metal lunchbox with Mickey’s image that even includes a tiny thermos inside. That one takes me back to my youth and the warm milk that I drank along with sandwiches that were always a bit stale after sitting in my locker for several hours. I can almost smell the aroma of all of the homemade lunches that my classmates brought and I hear the clink of the lids at they clattered open on the long tables where we sat never dreaming that we would one day grow old.

I also have a thing for Snoopy and Charlie brown. I can’t seem to get enough of those delightful characters. My favorite in the mix shows the whole gang singing in front of a scraggly tree. It makes me think of some of the fresh trees that we had when I was a child. It took a bit of work and a great deal of tinsel to transform them, but when they were finished they were so lovely. I used to lie on the floor gazing above at the lights and the shimmering icicles. Our mother gave us very serious lessons on how to distribute the silver slivers so that they hung just right. I haven’t seen any of those of late and wonder if they are even made anymore. They were almost as messy as the needles that fell from the limbs of the trees, but they were enchanting as they reflected in the glimmer of the colored lights.

For several years now I have purchased the annual Swarovski crystal ornament, a tradition that I began in 2005 after visiting the factory in Austria. Each year is celebrated with a different snowflake crafted in beautiful glass and marked with a tiny silver date plate. They hang so delicately and catch the light in their gorgeous facets. I have made it a yearly ritual to purchase the newest one around the time of my November birthday. I suspect that the lovely creations will one day become heirlooms along with the china gingerbread men that I collected for many years.

When I was still working I signed up to purchase a set of Victorian houses that came to my house once a month for at least two years. They are quite delightful to me and represent the kind of home that I often dreamed of owning, but was never quite able to do. They remind me of the structures in the Houston Heights, a neighborhood where my grandparents lived when I was very young, and where my father-in-law now resides. They literally speak of Christmas to me and the gatherings that we shared each year when my daughters were growing up. We always drove to my in-law’s house so excitedly in anticipation of a great feast and lots of love and laughter. My mother-in-law eventually passed the holiday tradition down to me when she found the efforts needed to cook for so many to be too taxing. Even though I have done my best to create a new tradition, I suspect that everyone who once went to her home misses the feel of that old house and her special touch as much as I do.

I’ve got Harry Potter and Cinderella, golden aspen leaves and glittering pine cones, marshmallow men and gnomes, angels and nativity scenes. The story of my Christmas life fills the trees, telling of fun and friendships and memories. Tying all of it together is Santa Claus who laughs and smiles and glitters with glee. I’m a sucker for anything prtraying the jolly old man. I so vividly recall the magic of his visits when I was young. I can still feel the excitement of trying to sleep on Christmas Eve so that his sleigh might land on our roof to deliver toys for me and my brothers. I never quite understood how Santa did all of the wondrous things that he did each year, but I believed with all of my heart, and I still do. Christmas is truly a time for family and friendships and love and maybe even a miracle or two.

It’s been a tough year for so many in Texas, Florida, California and Puerto Rico. Many of us  have lost loved ones and worried over those who are very sick. I suspect that we need Christmas a bit more than ever. It seems as though we are rushing it here in Houston, but I understand why. Our trauma has been great and we are still reeling and recovering from the floods. Things appear to be back to normal, but there are many who are not yet back in their homes. They may be spending Christmas in a hotel, an apartment or in a room in someone else’s house. Many of their own Christmas treasures washed away in the waters. I thought of them even as I gazed at my own collection that made it through unharmed. My tears of joy and nostalgia were tinged with a touch of sadness for all that has been lost. Still, the real message of Christmas is one of hope. The reason for the season is still about a baby born in a humble manger who came to provide us with the promise that we are never alone. Perhaps this year it is more important than ever to remember what our celebrations should be all about. It doesn’t really matter what our religious beliefs may be, but that Christmas is all about love.

Focus On the Good

gallery-1447109043-thanksgiving-movies-indexThere are people who seem to be intent on making virtually every tradition that we enjoy political, including the Thanksgiving holiday. Some even refer to it as a day of mourning rather than a way of showing gratitude, because to them it represents a time when land was taken from the indigenous people who originally roamed freely across North America. I suppose that they have a point, but I believe that this day should be honored as a way of focusing on bringing family and friends together in a spirit of gratitude for the blessings that we have enjoyed instead of decrying the injuries and insults inflicted on us and on previous generations. The truth is that if we keep going back far enough in history we find violence, subjugation, theft of property and egregious acts in virtually every society. A quick review of today’s world events reveals evidence that as people we humans still have work to do. While there is nothing wrong with admitting that we have erred in the past, there is something a bit sick about continually beating ourselves up over things that we did not do and cannot change. Our only recourse is to learn from the mistakes of history and move forward with a more inclusive determination to live in a world as just as possible. To turn our backs on the very healthy idea of being grateful for any and all good that we have experienced is to lose the spirit of a celebration whose intent was to inspire the very hope that we most need.

We humans used to wander from one place to another searching for food and warmth. We had little need for ownership of land. It was a free range world for the most part because there weren’t that many of us. From time to time our ancestors clashed and we have the evidence of skulls cracked by manmade implements to prove that even then we didn’t always get along so well. Once we quit following herds and found a way to settle down and grow crops the idea of the survival of the fittest really kicked into place. We had not yet thought of the concept of contracts and deeds to prove ownership, but that would eventually come and as populations grew there were those who rose to power and took advantage of their positions to accumulate wealth. The social strata has almost always included haves and have nots. Even the most communal groups appear to have individuals running things and possessing just a bit more than everyone else. Over time there were land grabs taking place all over planet earth, with fighting and enslavement sometimes occurring even among and between indigenous tribes.

When the New World was discovered it appeared for all intents and purposes to be a land of opportunity and resources. Princes and potentates all over Europe made claims and sent adventurous citizens to help stake out ownership. More often than not the people who agreed to relocate to uncharted territory were those who had little reason to hope for good lives in the places where they were born. They tended to be poor and were often persecuted for their religious beliefs. The truth was that they were often considered to be the “riff raff” and encouraging them to colonize the newly claimed land was a convenient way to be rid of them while increasing the power of the monarchies and governments in Europe. We often forget this inconvenient truth whenever we consider the history that ultimately lead to the making of the United States of America. We rarely hold Spain or Portugal responsible for the scourge of slavery in the New World and yet it was their big idea and they imported it to most of South America in an even bigger way than its reach in the north.

The original pilgrims who came to Plymouth were a hated and motley crew back in Europe. Their religion was despised and even illegal, so they had moved from place to place back home hoping to find a sense of peace that had long evaded them. The idea of coming to the New World was one of desperation that wasn’t as well thought out as needed. They were unable to scrounge up a full complement of like minded souls willing to leave all that they had known behind, so they enlisted a few families who were running from the law. As they crossed the Atlantic the leader of their group realized that they had to create a compact that would bring a bit of order to the excursion. Sadly the entire plan appeared to be doomed by brutal weather and disease. By the time that the survivors of the trip had begun the task of settling on the land more than half of their fellow travelers had died. It seemed as though they had fled from one inhospitable place to another that was even more frightening. In desperation they formed an alliance with a group of native people who were warring with other tribes intent on taking their land. For all intents and purposes it must have appeared to be a free for all to the Europeans, but at least for the time being they were able to practice their religion and escape punishments.

We all know the rest of the story and realize that the imperfections of those who came to this land were as varied and profuse as they are today. Mankind has yet to figure out how best to live in harmony, and so there are tensions between people all over the world. We Americans have made many efforts to be a more democratic society, and for the most part immigrants still arrive at our shores hoping to build better lives. My maternal grandparents came only a little over a hundred years ago in search of opportunities that never would have been afforded them in the place in which they were born. They and their children were frequently treated badly and they struggled to make it, but they indeed found the comfort that they sought. Many generations later their descendants are success stories in the country that made it possible. Our family has much for which to be unendingly grateful. To focus instead on the injustices that befell our grandparents and parents would be to miss the very point of why we are here today. Our grandfather understood that if he had stayed in the town of his birth we would have been dominated by governments intent on assigning him to a life of poverty in which his freedoms would have been seriously curtailed. He was willing to endure the difficulties and imperfections of the United States because he realized that here there was hope for our futures. He loved this country with all of his being and taught his children to have the same devotion. He had seen firsthand what it was like to be in a less inclusive place. In spite of the flaws, he believed that America was still a great place to be.

So on this day I am thankful to be here. I feel gratitude for the education that I was given. I appreciate the freedoms that I have. I am blessed in knowing that I may work to create changes that will make our land an even better place. I appreciate the tremendous diversity that brings together people from all over the world. Like any person or family our country is imperfect, but we continue to strive toward a more perfect union of souls. Today I am looking not at the bad, but considering the good. In that regard my world is bountiful. I know that evil doers still exist, but they are far outnumbered by decent and kind individuals. I have faith that our nation will continue to evolve and become a kinder gentler place. We have work to do, but what we have accomplished so far is a testament to the ascent of mankind. Today I praise God for the mere fact that I am still here with the opportunity to be even better tomorrow than I was yesterday.   

A Habit That Bears Repeating

c2ebannerWe are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. —- Aristotle

The best among us are real. They are people who do not just seem to be good, but are. Most of them quietly live the entirety of their time on earth with little fanfare. They repeatedly strive to work hard and be nice. We know that we may implicitly trust them. While they may have small weaknesses as all humans do, their flaws are incidental and insignificant with regard to the totality their character. They are generally humble and unlikely to seek glory. They are the kind of people who inspire and make a difference, expecting no thanks for what they consider to be just the way we should all behave. They are men and women of principle who do not judge but instead set high standards for themselves that they strive to follow at all times.

We have all known such individuals. The best within our personal circles have been relatives, friends, teachers, coworkers, neighbors. We recall the kindnesses of people who impacted our lives in ways great and small. I see a parade of beautiful faces belonging to those who taught me by their actions how to enjoy an exceptional and purpose driven life. Excellence was indeed a habit for them, and even when death or circumstance revealed the innermost secrets of their lives there was no shocking news or evidence of hypocrisy in their stories. They were exactly what we thought them to be.

I suppose that there is nothing more disheartening than finding out that a person believed to be admirable is in actuality a fake. It is more than a stab in the back. It is a blow to the heart. We fill with anger and even grief when a personal icon’s shadow life is discovered. It is betrayal of the highest insult and even though we may find it in our graciousness to forgive such persons, our trust in them is never quite as complete as it once may have been. It is a hurt that leaves permanent scars.

Our humanity is so complex. Each of us falters. We have weaknesses, flaws that mar our search for perfection. We understand lapses now and again but we generally cannot bear hurtful actions that are repeated. We feel that they become the defining habit of an individual and make it difficult for us to believe them even when they tell us that they will change. Thus we may wish a Harvey Weinstein success with his publicly vocalized intent to seek help for his egregious behavior, but his history tells us that we need to be wary. We may want to believe that someone like Donald Trump is in reality a good Christian man, but his hateful public comments indicate that he is not as loving as we wish him to be. We may not desire to judge such men, but we certainly should be wary of choosing them to lead and represent us.

I was reading an editorial recently in which the writer spoke of our recent tendency to choose our leaders on superficial characteristics that she called “the personality of bling.” In other words more and more often these days we are drawn to people who are just shiny objects rather than persons of high character. We are more concerned with winning than doing the right thing. We overlook horrific traits in the name of gaining power, rather than calling out wrong even when it may mean that we will lose. We look away even in our private circles allowing bullies to operate with impunity. We are afraid to stand up for what is right lest we become the outcasts. We berate men and women like John McCain and Donna Brazile for speaking the truth because we don’t want to make waves that might result in upheaval and change. Our silence and tacit approval of men and women that we know to be egregious only encourages them to repeat their bad actions again and again. It also sends an horrific message to our children.

As a teen and young adult my generation fomented rebellion against a system that was wrought with hypocrisy and even hate. The head of the FBI, the chief law enforcer, hid personal secrets while invading the privacy of others and spreading false rumors to bring them down. One of our presidents obstructed justice. Much of our society was segregated and unjust and racist. We were taught one thing and then observed another. Our instincts told us that we had to rise up against the evils that we saw. When we did we were characterized as spoiled and lazy, a label that would haunt us for the rest of our days.

For the sake of our future and the education of our children it is imperative that we repeatedly represent ourselves with habits that are honorable and worthy of respect. This means that we cannot make excuses for behaviors that are harmful. If we want excellence to be our defining characteristic as individuals and as a nation then we can no longer advance false and insulting arguments that defend horrific actions. We must condemn anyone who distorts truth and goodness whether it be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or a member of our own family. We simply can no longer afford to cast stones at those who sacrifice their own reputations to reveal the underside of anyone who is manipulating us. To allow ourselves to be abused by heroes or relatives or bullies is akin to self harm. Our silence and acceptance only allows the bad behaviors to grow. As generally very good people we must begin to heal again and head in a positive direction by removing the fears associated with speaking out.

Long before the terrible shootings at Columbine High School there were teachers and students and parents who reported concerns about the two young men who ultimately became mass murderers. The individuals who stepped forward were questioned and harassed more than the boys who were the objects of their worries. In journal entries one of the killers laughed at how easily he fooled everyone with his charms and bragged about twisting their stories to make it appear that he was being beset upon rather than being the real bully. He might have been stopped if his accusers’ stories had been accorded more respect. Instead the school administrators and even the police suggested that the behaviors were just typical teenage antics.

It’s time for all of us to truly honor character once again. There are many moral people in our midst. In fact I believe that such individuals are the majority. Sadly we are lacking in leadership from the best among us and instead honoring those who fool us with empty promises and bombast. We allow hateful people to proclaim their Christianity even while lying and espousing harmful and selfish ideas. We have permitted ourselves to accept a double standard all in the name of winning. It is time for each of us to insist on excellence of character once again. It is a habit that bears repeating.