Gift giving, the thought is not all that counts.

IMG_0886In a world where there are so many in need of food, warmth, and shelter, it is up to the giver to gift responsibly. Intent will never be of greater value than a gift received by one who truly benefits from it.

There are many reasons a person creates items that end up in charity boxes. I personally find knitting, crochet, etc. helps relieve my stress. However I would not want something that helps reduce my stress to become the thing that causes someone else stress. An act of compassion, love, or charity should come unburdened by expectation. Yet, society seems to demand that well-meaning gifts be accepted with meekness, even when the gifts cause burden or harm.

Year after year, well-meaning people gift friends and family with the handmade items, many also donate hats, scarves, and blankets to charitable causes with the hope that their efforts will bless the lives of the recipients. Each year, I read social media the complaints made by disappointed givers who find that their gifts have not been received with gratitude or with excitement. This is a reality in the world of handmade gifts. These posts are usually accompanied by comments of support for the gift-giver, and the general criticism for those who do not accept the gift with glee, or at least with feigned pleasure.

This year I have seen something new – an attack on a recipient who found the receipt of charity to be a burden, and who was rightfully justified in their feelings. Justification did little to mitigate the condemnation they received.

In the years following the U.S. decision to pursue military action in Afghanistan, there have been many charitable organizations dedicated to sending care-packages to troops serving far from home. In the early years, sending a box to “any service member” would get a package delivered to some random service member. Safety, security, and practicality have ended such deliveries. Now for such charitable deliveries to be received, an actual recipient’s name is required. Unfortunately, this means that organizations need a recipient, and it seems they are not worried about gaining the permission of the recipient before sending the care-package.

There are many reasons that the unsuspecting recipient might find it problematic to receive unsolicited gifts, but when their name is used by a charitable organization as the end point of 20, 30, 40 or more packages, there is little doubt that they would have a problem. The charity might envision a gleeful recipient acting as Santa as they hand out package after package to associates, but not all service members are in situations where they can do this.

Local, national, and international charities all seem to agree that random donations are problematic and not nearly the blessing that monetary funds provide. Sending unsolicited items and care-packages often cost time, energy, and money. The act of charity becomes the opposite – it becomes a burden.

Charity and gift-giving should not cause hardship or stress for the recipient. It is not just the thought that counts. The very basis for giving a gift is the rooted in a caring for another person, even a stranger. The joy of making a gift will never compare to knowing that gift is welcomed. Therefore, responsible gift-giving is paramount.

It Is Not a Joke

As many other people have stated, the joking banter of an adolescent and the bragging of a man nearing retirement age are not one and the same. However, maybe it is the same if the youth acts upon his banter, harasses young women, and goes unpunished. If society condones or simply does not condemn youthful actions such as these, then society will find that the youth can grow to be an old man who has spent his life preying on others.

Society, as a whole, is made up of smaller units, and whether the smaller unit is a high school or a workplace, there is always someone who reigns over the group. When that person has questionable morals or believes they are above the law, all too often there will be victims of the abuses of their power. Whether the offender is sixteen or sixty, when that individual possesses power or authority, it makes their victimization of others more difficult to halt.

Power and authority are often the main reasons victims compartmentalize and simply try to move on. Feeling a lack of power or feeling that the fight against the abuse will cause them more harm, many victims of harassment and assault decide to exit a bad situation before it gets worse. For some, immediate exit is not possible. The high school student, the wage earner, the person dependent on the financial support of the abuser – for them, the abuse and the victimization may go on for years before an exit is viable.

For many victims of harassment and abuse, their story remains buried and their burden is born in silence until the day when someone finally cries foul and multiple voices begin to join together in protest. Then maybe, just maybe, the injustice that has been done will be heard by society and the burden will no longer be born alone.

Sadly, in these times, the many of the society who did not encounter the terror of intimidation or humiliation of assault will cry out that because it did not happen to them, it could never have happened to any of the others.

While a majority of citizens are never the victim of crime, it does not equate that crime does not exist. For those who discredit the victims of crime, there is often a combined sense of guilt and superiority behind their criticisms. They may feel a sense of guilt as they question whether they looked the other way as the harassment or crime was being committed. Or they may feel superior because they believe own actions and choices prevented them from becoming victims.

This feeling of guilt can lead many to deny the victim’s claims rather than face their own role in the society that allows the abusive behavior. This notion of superiority can lead to a rather nasty conclusion – that a victim is weak and therefore deserves their fate. It is this line of thought that leads to the acceptance of abuse as simply part of the natural order of life. It is also what empowers the bully and the abuser to embolden their actions.

While there are many things people can do to prevent being a victim of crime, too often victimization is simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Terrible things happen to even the boldest and bravest of individuals. Even those most prepared for society’s battles can fall victim. Sometimes it is simply unavoidable and out of one’s control. However, we, as members of society, can control how we respond to the harassment, abuse, and crime that is too prevalent in our lives. We can look away, pretend it does not concern us, and even joke about it in an attempt to defuse our own discomfort. Or we can denounce it for what it is and shut it down before it can spread further.

By Their Works, They Will Be Judged

There are many interesting adjectives and phrases being tossed around during the 2016 election cycle. Some of them are quite familiar to the ones used in the past. During the 2012 and 2008 cycles, one phrase struck me as an odd criticism – too intellectual. To criticize a candidate for being too intellectual seems rather odd. The spread of anti-intellectualism has been effective. As we see in this current election cycle, it seems that many have forgotten what the words elitist, bigot, pandering, and patronizing mean. To infer that any politician is void of these traits is foolish. They all pander and patronize to some extent. They all belong to an elite group even as they claim to understand the common man. While not all will outwardly admit to a belief that the elite should rule, most will have risen to their places in society through the help of elitist organizations. Finally, few who walk this earth can truly claim to be without some form of bias, and while most will do their best to avoid bigotry and correct this human tendency, not all will.

Intellectualism was criticized and anti-intellectualism was embraced during the last eight years. Now it is elitism at the center of public criticism. While criticism is flung at one candidate for elitism, those using the criticism are clamoring to another elitist who panders to the base nature of man rather than a more elevated nature of man.

Evaluation of political candidates and political leaders is vital. Sometimes it will feel as if the choice is between the lesser of two evils. That is why the work they have done in the past must be weighed as much, if not more, than the promises they make. In the end, how a person treats their fellow man, and how they conduct their business is usually a better indicator than the promises they make or the slogans they use.

What Choice Do We Have?

This wonderfully well-written blog post was shared with me today. It articulates the perception that Trump and his devout followers create. This perception is of their own making. It is difficult for the rational mind to make any other assumption than the ones outlined by this blogger.

The thing I have noticed, which I have been noticing elsewhere as well, is that there are so many confused people who are seeking a leader who does not require them to read or think on their own. They simply want someone to tell them what to do. Trump is excellent at reassuring his followers that they need not think because he will think for them. Somehow this assurance is more comfortable for them than continuing to struggle with an imperfect Hillary or a revolutionary Bernie. Certainly, it is more comforting than shifting through the mass populace of Republican candidates who only seem to confuse the GOP identity rather than define it.

Those who commented on this blog who either did not read it, or did not understand the literary nuances of it, or simply hated what they saw, struck out, attacking the blogger and demanding that the blogger give equal critical measure to the other candidates. Others who read the blog but found it to make them uncomfortable with their choice to follow Trump asked the blogger to tell them what other choice they have.

What other choice do we have? We can choose to do more than ask someone else to do the research and work for us. Yes, we all like to share a quick meme or thought, but we need to research and reason, rather than simply seek a shepherd to follow.

Election Ignorance and Disillusionment

The lack of basic election knowledge shown by so many people commenting today makes my head hurt.

Getting past all the anger and rude rhetoric which dominates the online conversations, it becomes evident that the bigger problem with the political and election system is the ignorance which creates confusion and threatens to disenfranchise the voter when the hype dies down and disillusionment sets in.

It seems understandable that many might be confused by the nature of the U.S. political process. It is not as if each state or each party follow the same procedures. Even the general election process seems simple compared to all the variations to be considered during the primary season. However with the internet just a click away, answers can be found for those who are confused. There are articles to read, charts and diagrams to consider, and plenty of video explanations for those who need a person to explain it all when the charts and articles fall short. Despite all the material designed to reduce the confusion, there are many who cannot seem to grasp the basic principles of primary elections. Maybe they get caught up in the national news and forget to seek out information on their own state. Maybe they simply do not realize that the primaries and caucuses are all about choosing a party candidate rather than pitting one party against the other. Whichever or whatever it is, the confusion is problematic. Only one person will win the general election, leaving many to wonder why their vote today did not seem to count when November rolls around.

 

Education and National Defense

I have been pondering the connection between national defense and support for education. In a war between ideological enemies, support for education seems to have been very important. Yet education seems to be losing public support even though past wars have shown that an educated populace makes for a stronger society and better military force.

The following are two Pithyhistory posts that resulted from my ponderings.

Home Production and National Defense

American Way of Life and Education during the Cold War