Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thoughts on Government

All of us, to some degree, have been privy to the intense political atmosphere this country now finds itself mired in.  As a conservative in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is nigh unto impossible not to get caught up in all the political debates and discussions occurring all around me.  Since most of what I hear is coming from the left side of the political spectrum, I thought it would be good to express a more conservative viewpoint.  I am not writing this blog post to convince anyone to change their mind.  (We're all so set in our own ways, I know that won't happen anyway.)  I just think it's good to understand where the other side is coming from.

I believe that each public servant we elect is just that: a servant to the public.  We are not here for the government; the government is here for us.  And what is the role of government in our lives?  According to our Constitution, the government is in place to "establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."  It seems simple and straightforward but, considering that most of the political squabbles we encounter today involve the depth of the role of government in our lives, it is not.  Liberals tend to be proponents of large government and government programs.  Conservatives tend to be distrustful of large government and of putting too much power into the hands of a few.  As a history major who has studied governmental authority and how it is wielded, I firmly stand with the conservatives on this point.  As you may recall, the American Revolution took place because American colonists felt that their lives shouldn't be ruled over by a king or a parliament that operated 3000 miles away, across an ocean no less.  Our nation was born from this very principle, that the people should decide their own fate, not government officials who have only their own selfish interests at heart.

So our founding fathers set up a system that gave the people the right to elect their own officials, people who would truly and selflessly represent the people of their region and their needs.  Perhaps the only person in our history who truly lived up to the office of President of the United States is George Washington. After the war was over, the reluctant hero wanted nothing more than to retire from public life, return to his home at Mt. Vernon, and live quietly for the rest of his days. But that dream never became a reality for him. He was the obvious candidate for president and, unfortunately for him, he was chosen unanimously. Putting aside his dreams of a life without repute, he relented and became the first president of the United States of America. He never wanted the glory that was given him. He never wanted to be a hero. But he believed in a cause. He believed in the idea of America. He gave up the life he wanted in order to live the life he knew was needed. He was, perhaps, one of the few selfless public servants this country has ever had the privilege of knowing.  He was not perfect.  He made mistakes.  But he went into office with the right attitude, one without thought of political gain or power. 

Today if anyone were to mention the idea of a selfless and incorruptible politician, all of us would probably throw our heads back and laugh.  Sad?  Yes, but it's reality.  We must remember that we are an imperfect electorate who have to settle for imperfect beings to represent us and to lead our nation.  If you are a huge Obama fan and think the man can do no wrong, get your head out of the clouds and come back down to earth.  On the flipside, if you think Mitt Romney will immediately fix the situation our nation has fallen into, you've got another thing coming.  Both of these men are seriously flawed.  Heck, they are human just like the rest of us.  The trick is to pick the candidate who will strive the hardest to get this country back on its feet again.  As discussed before, your opinion on the role of government in society has a lot to do with who you will vote for.  But it also has a lot to do with what you choose to believe.

I have been involved in several debates on facebook.  I should have exercised better judgment and stayed out of them but...that's just not me.
  • Debate #1:  Big Bird  Mitt Romney said he would cut funding for PBS and liberals everywhere practically started a verbal riot.  "Oh no!  I won't be able to watch Downton Abbey anymore!"  Let's analyze the facts here.  Our nation is 16 TRILLION DOLLARS IN DEBT!  We are spending far more money than we take in and it's only getting worse.  How do we get back some of this money?  By cutting back on wasteful spending.  Now, I love Downton Abbey as much as the next person.  The third season is already up and running in Britain and I am ticked that us Americans have to wait another few months before we can see it.  But the arguments people have against Romney's plan are just plain ridiculous.  One person I was debating this subject with said that it was the government's responsibility to provide us with "the arts" because it improves our quality of life.  Oh, please!  So what you're saying is that a portion of my next door neighbor's taxes should go to PBS just so I can get my Downton Abbey fix every week even though he doesn't watch it himself?  And what is your definition of "quality of life?"  This is the difference between the liberal view of government and the conservative view of government that I was talking about earlier.  The liberal view is that the government should pay for these programs (with our hard-earned tax money) to improve our quality of life.  My view is that I should be able to keep the money that would otherwise be taxed so that I can watch whatever I want to.  The government's role is not to spoon-feed us these things but to provide an environment in which we can obtain what we want ourselves.  That, in my opinion, is true freedom.
  • Debate #2:  Obama cares about everybody and Mitt Romney only cares about rich people.  People have this messed up notion that Obama is this caring loving politician simply because he says he is.  He says he wants everyone to have cheap access to great healthcare, for example.  You know, I'd really like that too.  It would be nice not to have to pay an arm and a leg (literally) everytime I step into a doctor's office.  But Obama's ideas are just not plausible.  If you look at other countries that have socialized medicine or partially socialized medicine, their taxes are extremely high.  Doctors still have to be paid.  Medical equipment and medicine still have to be bought.  You'll either be paying high premiums to an insurance company of your own choosing or you'll be paying high taxes for a government-run (and therefore, innefficient) health care system.  So when Romney shoots down one of Obama's great sounding ideas, it's not because he's cold-hearted or favoring the rich over the poor.  He's just being reasonable.
There are several other topics I have debated with people but I'll get off my soapbox now.  As you have rightly assumed, I am voting for Mitt Romney, not because he is the perfect man for the job but because I think he is the right one for the time.  Whoever you decide to vote for, just make sure you put aside partisan politics and truly analyze the facts.  So read and watch.  Make informed decisions. Vote.  If you choose not to get involved in politics, don't complain when you wake up one day and find that all of your liberties have been thrown out the window.

Okay.  I'm done.  (I could say more but I think half of the people reading this want me to shut up now so I'll oblige them just this once.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Hilarity of Daily Life

At first glance, my life doesn't seem all that exciting.  I go to work for eight hours a day.  On Tuesday and Wednesday nights I go to class and spend the other nights trying to get homework done.  I babysit occasionally.  I go to the singles ward home evening activities on Mondays.  I go to church and eat dinner with my family on Sundays.  I chat with people on Facebook far into the night when I should be in my bed sleeping.  I read books and watch movies and TV shows. doesn't seem too exciting now, does it?

But one thing I've learned how to do over all these years of dealing with boring schedules and daily routines is to see the humor in everyday life.  The reason comedians like Brian Regan are so funny is because they talk about ordinary everyday things that everyone can relate to, just in a funnier way than most of us can manage.  (For example, Brian Regan once did a whole skit on ironing boards.  I always thought ironing boards were pretty unremarkable items until I heard Brian Regan say, "Every ironing board I've ever had sounds like a witch being boiled in oil."  Now every time I unfold the legs of an ironing board and hear the shriek of metal scratching metal, I bust up laughing.  It's so true!)

My life may not seem too exciting but it can be pretty darn funny sometimes.  Here are a few instances in which the seemingly mundane things of life became extremely amusing.

At a ward Linger Longer, a bunch of us sat around a table and talked about facial hair.  After about thirty minutes of discussing whether or not guys can really pull it off, we came to the conclusion that some guys can and some guys can't.  We have yet to figure out what the distinguishing feature is that allows someone to pull off facial hair.

I was babysitting last night.  Usually babysitting jobs are pretty uneventful but last night was different.  Sydney was already in bed.  So I set up my laptop and Sophie and I Skyped with my old roommate Heidi for an hour.  After we finished, I put Sophie in the jumper and proceeded to unplug my computer.  I had plugged it in behind the couch.  I pulled the couch out a little bit but apparently I didn't pull it out far enough.  I managed to get my arm behind the couch and unplug the cord but, to my dismay, I fell, landed on the couch, and pinned my arm behind the couch just above the elbow.  I tried and tried to move the couch with my other arm to no avail.  The numbness in my arm obviously extended to my brain as I thought about that guy whose arm got pinned under a rock while hiking alone in the mountains and, after a couple days, he decided to cut off his own arm to free himself.  Though my situation was not that dire, I didn't really want to be pinned to the wall when my sister and brother-in-law got home.  Crying out in pain and frustration, I finally managed to pull my bony elbow out from behind the couch.  I now have a lovely bruise all around my elbow as a testament of my clumsiness.  That was not a fun experience while it was happening but, in retrospect, it's kind of hilarious.

If there was a quote wall at work, these are the things I would put on there:
  •  Melodie (during a staff meeting): "Men sniffing their snot..."
  • Jeff (walking to my desk to retrieve a candy bar from the candy jar): "I need chocolate!  Gimme chocolate!"
  • (So there's an overhang just outside our door at work.  One of these overhangs actually fell down once.  David is really concerned about ours falling randomly while someone is standing under it.)  Jeff: "Hey David, why don't you go take a call outside.  And make sure you stand below that overhang.  That's the real secret to managing an overstretched payroll."
  • (There are a few extra offices in the back.  On the wall of one of the offices, there are a bunch of little red dots and red streaks.  Even though we're pretty sure it's just furniture polish, we make jokes about people being shot in there and their blood splattering on the wall.  We call it the Zombie Room whenever Jeff's kids come into the office.)  When we haven't seen someone for a while, we say, "They must have taken a trip back to the Zombie Room."
  • Jeff (to Melodie): "You're getting way too logical.  If I wanted that kind of logic, I'd stay home and listen to my wife!"
  • Melodie: "Can you just shoot me?" Jeff: "Only if you shoot me first, and with my last dying breath I'll shoot you."  Celia: "Rough day, huh?" 
Make sure you take the time to laugh today.  You'll be surprised at how funny life really is.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me

I love General Conference weekend!  It is one of the most amazing things in the world to hear our church leaders speak the messages they have been inspired to relate to us.  We have always been told to listen to the Spirit while we watch Conference.  Though the speakers always convey their messages clearly and eloquently, it is the Spirit that is the true teacher that carries the messages we personally need to hear into our hearts.  I made a goal this year to write down impressions rather than to take notes on what was said, to make the Holy Ghost a more active participant in my experience with General Conference.  And I can tell you that it worked!  As I focused more on what I was feeling rather than on what I was hearing, I felt the truth of the gospel as it applied to me personally.  Any emotional person can relate to the Tissue-Box-Pulling Fest I experienced over the last two days. Needless to say, I am very glad I chose to watch Conference alone in my room this year ;)

The main themes I picked out from this Conference were these:
  • We need to cling tighter to our values and standards in a world that considers good morals to be old-fashioned and outdated.
  • We need to gain a testimony but having knowledge of truth is not enough.  We must have a mighty change of heart and be truly converted, becoming doers of the word rather than just proclaimers of the word.  Faith without works is dead.
  • We can be happy now.  No matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in and no matter what trials we may be going through, we can be happy and have hope through the Atonement of Christ.
  • Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are involved in the details of our lives.  It is usually through other people that the Lord meets the needs of his children.  We need to be open to the Spirit so that we can be instruments in His hands to help and lift those around us.
  • We need to be true followers and disciples of Christ.  Once we have taken upon ourselves covenants to serve, we cannot go back.  We cannot justify "petty" sins.  If we are to be true Christians, we must strive with all our might, mind, and strength to become more like Christ for that is true discipleship.
I loved that there were several references to Peter in Conference.  I have gained a lot of respect for Peter over the years.  One of my Bishops at BYU liked to tell the story of Peter's attempt to walk on water.  As you may recall, Peter began to walk out on the water to meet the Savior but fear overcame him and he began to sink.  But the part of the story that we all forget is that Peter walked on water!  He started out with the faith necessary to do so.  So it is with us.  We may not be walking on water but we can overcome our fears if we remain focused on the Savior and allow him to be our "pilot."

When I was a freshman at BYU (April 2008), I had the opportunity to sing at General Conference with other members of the BYU choirs.  It was probably one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life.  I had the opportunity to bear my testimony of Jesus Christ through music before the entire world (well, at least all the people who were watching Conference that day).  I'll never forget how I felt as I sang the hymn, Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me (Hymn #104).  The lyrics seemed especially applicable to Peter's story.

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life's tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach'rous shoal.
Chart and compass came from thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boist'rous waves obey thy will
When thou say'st to them be still!"
Wondrous Sov'reign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
'Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on thy breast,
May I hear thee say to me,
"Fear not; I will pilot thee."

Here is the footage (you might have to copy and paste the link) of us singing that song in Conference. (Please ignore my lack of expression.  I was a freshman and had no idea at the time of how weird I look when I sing.) 

I hope you were all as inspired as I was this weekend.  I know that as we rely on the Savior and his Atonement, we too can overcome the frightening rocks and waves of this life and make it safely to shore.