Archive for May, 2010

Nice Guy? Doubt it.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 28, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

I’m going to break character for a moment. I pride myself in only allowing person information out if the need arises. Rarely do I make anything personal on this blog, with the only exception I can think of being The Importance of Family.

But recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are all starting to tell me the same thing over and over again, and I am addressing it here.

I feel that I have the uncanny ability to read people, and to know when they’re being real or fake. A lot of times, I don’t get along with people simply because of a personality issue: there is something about this person that grates against my personality, and we might not get along for a while. Sometimes it happens right away, other times it happens after I get to know someone. But when it happens, it’s hard for me to look around that.

But it seems like whenever I talk to other people about this person that I’m suddenly grating against, I hear the same thing: “Relax. He’s a nice guy.”

The problem I have with this statement is that it assumes that I don’t already know this, and by telling me so it’s going to change my mind. I know someone who is annoying, mouthy, and rude. He doesn’t listen to anything I say, and is a completely different person to everyone he meets. He is a completely fake person, and he absolutely gets under my skin every time I–

Wait…. he’s a nice guy? Well then, that certainly cancels out his personality traits. I suddenly have no problem with him.

I generally don’t describe people as “evil,” and if I do, it is usually in jest. The fact that he’s a “nice guy” does nothing for the stuff he can control but chooses not to: his interactions with people he disagrees with, being able to stay cordial and professional to everyone, and the ability to put animosities aside and make eye contact for a split second in the hallway.

Telling me that a person I’m not too keen on is a “nice guy” doesn’t tell me anything. I hate to invoke Godwin’s Law, but: Do you know who else was a nice guy? Hitler.

Hitler was a nice guy in the 1930s, trying to help the country of Germany out of economic ruin. He was a nice guy because he was trying to find a solution to the problem, and for him, the solution to the problem, I guess, was to exterminate millions of people.

This is not to say that the people I’m not fond of are going to commit genocide. I’m just saying that everyone in the world has at some point been described as “nice”: Hitler, Glenn Beck, Obama, Jeffery Dahmer, myself, and you.

I don’t suddenly dislike people on a whim. I don’t wake up in the morning and think, “Who is it that I haven’t had beef with in a while? I think I’ll take out this pent up anger and frustration on them.” When I have a problem with someone, when our personalities grate against each other, it has a reason.

Maybe I saw someone I once respected kick an old lady’s walker away from her. Maybe I saw a person greet me with a warm embrace, but completely ignored someone who came to them for help. Or maybe it’s simply because I really got to know this person, and suddenly realized that a very blatant flaw in their personality is in conflict with mine. A lot of times, I have no idea why this person is suddenly no longer friendly. The fact remains: our personalities are grating against each other, and in order for me to remain a positive person, I have to remove them from my life.

So next time I mention something about a person I don’t agree with, don’t tell me they’re a nice guy. I know that. Instead, just nod your head and smile as I go on a mini-tirade. Or better yet, just change the subject. You do that anyway with TV shows you’re not interested in watching.

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Can I Get A Witness?

Posted in religion with tags , , , , on May 26, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

I was in second grade the first time I had a chance to witness to someone. We were in class, and though I forget exactly what we were doing in class, I remember being called out to talk to someone. To this day, I don’t know why I was called out of class. If there was a problem with students, it was my understanding that teachers or aides were supposed to handle it, not other students.

I was led into a different room. It wasn’t exactly a classroom, but more of a room where kids with disabilities were taken when they were being disruptive. Sitting in the room at a table was a classmate of mine, David. I noticed he seemed worried, possibly scared. Immediately I knew something was weird: a student was scared and worried, and they wanted another student to talk to them? It was strange.

I sat down across from him, and the aide said to David, “Tell him what you told me.”

David started to tell his story. He talked about how his family wasn’t really together, because his parents both worked multiple jobs. He told me that when he went home after school, he was the only one there. His parents worked until six or seven at night, so from the time school got out at three until his parents came home, he was alone. I guess he only brought it up because, a few days before, there was a massive thunderstorm, and being home alone throughout the storm scared him to the point where it was affecting his school work.

He finished by saying that he just needed a friend to talk to, which was interesting to me, because I didn’t really consider him a friend. Sure, we were classmates, and sure we sometimes played together during recess. But to be considered a friend was a huge responsibility, because now the pressure was on to say something reassuring.

I don’t know why, but I started by saying, “You know, you were never really alone in your house that night.”

“I wasn’t?” he asked.

“Of course not,” I said. “Jesus was there with you.”

The words poured out of me. Today, I can’t remember what I said, but I can assume it was something along the lines of Jesus is always with us, and is especially close when times are rough. Whatever it was I said, it obviously worked, because I remember David smiling, tears starting to roll down his face. He thanked me for helping him out, and we both walked back to class.

I remember feeling different that day. Not happier, or sadder, or anything like that. Just different. I felt inspired, like I had done something beyond myself. It felt good.

I don’t know where David is now, but wherever he is, I hope he keeps our experience in his heart, and I wish him the best of luck.

If you have a story of a time when you witnessed the Gospel of Christ, or were given an opportunity to share the Gospel with others, we’d love to hear about it! Find submission information here. Stories that are heartwarming, inspirational, and interesting will be posted here. For more information or questions, email justmakessenseblog@gmail.com

Enough About Lindsay Lohan

Posted in pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

What I said back in February about Tiger Woods holds true about Lindsay Lohan: who cares?

I turned on CNN today after class today hoping to be enlightened about the world. I know that there is so much going on in the world–the BP oil spill, the deadly airplane crash in India, and Clinton’s talks with North Korea–that it was going to be a really enlightening hour before I had to leave to run errands for the day.

But imagine my dismay when, once the TV warmed up, I was greeted to a live feed of a courtroom. And sitting in the courtroom was none other than Lindsay Lohan. She was on trial because she missed probation classes. She was going to find out her fate of not seriously trying to sober up, and was eventually sentenced to some community service, and a bracelet that is able to detect alcohol content in the blood stream.

But the question returns: who cares?

I’m a firm believer that if someone’s life isn’t affecting mine, I’m not going to worry about it. If Lindsay Lohan wants to party all the time and get absolutely ripped on a bunch of different drugs, I don’t care. Let her do it. She can be an example to other young “starlets” that a life of partying does nothing but ruin your reputation and could kill you before your big break.

CNN, I don’t know why you thought this was newsworthy, but you were dead wrong. Instead of covering the drama associated with the BP oil spill, you fabricated “drama” about the dramatic sentencing of Lindsay Lohan. Even Lindsay wasn’t interested in her hearing: Her eyes were drooping, she looked tired, and it was obvious she didn’t want to be there, because she was four minutes late to the hearing. If anyone watched the “saga” unfold, you could see that Lindsay appeared absolutely bored out of her mind.

Either that, or she was completely hammered.

There are far too many news stories more important than “Celebs Gone Wild.” Front page of the Des Moines Register today had a fascinating article on the Guatemalan child labor trials in Postville, IA, something far more newsworthy than, “LiLo Sentenced To Wear Jewelry!”

My plea will probably fall on deaf ears once again, as we’re still talking about Tiger Woods’ impending divorce nearly four months after his accident, which lead to news about his affairs.

Honestly though, Lindsay Lohan is not worth the air time. If you’re that desperate to fill time with “news,” why don’t you find some feel good stories to balance out the tragedy in the world? Make the news something pertinant to your viewers interests. Celebrities are only interesting when they’re in movies, or in concert, or guest starring on TV shows. They are not interesting when they’re caught with hookers, drugs, or alcohol, nor are they interesting when they’re beating up their friends, family, and fans.

To quote that famous episode of South Park I mentioned before: Looks like another good harvest this year…

Rand Paul: Tea Partier, but no Libertarian

Posted in politics with tags , , , , , , , on May 21, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

The midterm elections are the big thing to watch for in November. Many are predicting that the frustration and the hatred of the Democrats will be the driving force for people voting Republican in the polls. And what’s even more interesting is that many Tea Party people are backing certain candidates for Senate seats. The atmosphere is as exciting as it was prior to the 2008 election: people who aren’t normally involved in politics are now rallying behind their favorite candidate that they hope will make the world a better place.

One of these Tea Party candidates is one Dr. Rand Paul from Kentucky. Dr. Paul recently won the Kentucky primaries and has a real shot at winning a Senate seat. He’s being vehemently backed by the Tea Party, even when he mentions things about the Civil Rights Movement that could possibly be considered racist. (Keith Olbermann flipped out on Twitter about the quote: “I think at one time, people used to think of golf and golf clubs and golf courses as being exclusive…. I think Tiger Woods has helped to broaden that… and so now I don’t think it’s nearly as exclusive as people once considered it to be.”)

But I recently found an open letter to Rand Paul, asking him questions that a true Libertarian would have no problem answering. But before that can make any sense, the question becomes: what exactly is a Libertarian? Libertarianism is a political theory that basically says that government needs to remain small, and that we should practice individual liberty. Libertarians believe that the people are more than perfectly able to manage themselves, and it is not the government’s place to intervene at all.

That being said, Rand Paul isn’t really a Libertarian, according to Mel M., writing to the Baltimore Sun. The most pivotal part of the letter follows:

If he is such a supporter of private rights, does he support the private right of a woman to get an abortion? Additionally, did he support the private right of Terry Schiavo’s husband to make the gut wrenching private decision on whether to pull the plug on his brain dead wife? Does he oppose the recently enacted Arizona law requiring papers of people in Arizona if the officer has merely a “reasonable suspicion” the person is here illegally?

Looking at how he stands on the issues, it is obvious that he feels the opposite. “Life,” he says under the Abortion heading, “begins at conception,” and interestingly enough, claims that “the most basic function of government is to protect life.” Being for smaller government, to me, doesn’t mean that you sic the government into the private lives of its citizens.

And while he doesn’t mention anything about the right to die on his website, under the Illegal Immigration heading, he says, “I support local solutions to illegal immigration as protected by the 10th amendment.” This apparently includes what many people claim to be one of the most racist piece of legislation since the Jim Crowe Laws.

Many are glad that Rand Paul is the Tea Party nominee, because he will be easy to tear down, with his many “gaffes,” the fact that the GOP isn’t supporting him, and the fact that he is proud to say that he’s not a politician. The Tea Party people are excited that one of their own, someone beyond sound bites and party politics, has a real chance of winning. But given the atmosphere, and the great amount of people that are against him, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

One final note: Doesn’t it seem odd that someone that is so against President Obama would take the layout of the President’s website?:

Rand Paul website
Obama website

Strange, isn’t it?

The Dalai Lama’s Message of Peace

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

The Dalai Lama made his first trip to Iowa on Monday and Tuesday. It was a unique experience for those who went. Sadly, I was unable to get tickets to either event (both were sold out), but from what I’ve read in the article and heard from people who went, it was a unique experience.

The Dalai Lama is the political and spiritual leader-in-exile of Tibet. Even though he’s not allowed in the country, he still controls the people. The Des Moines Register described him as “light-hearted,” and even describes an incident where he had to stifle laughter: “When told about a young man who fathered 23 children in high school, he had to stifle a chuckle after hearing the story from a translator.”

But despite the light-hearted personality of the Dalai Lama, what was important about the visit was his message of peace, ethics, and education.

The representatives that we hear about today are all about violence. Their rhetoric is militant: “Don’t retreat, reload,” and fighting new hypothetical wars. There is no room in American rhetoric to be peaceful, and those who do preach peace are soft-hearted pansies, definitely Liberal, and most likely a New Age vegetarian hippy.

The Dalai Lama’s message was refreshing. He called for educating both “the head and the heart,” acting ethically for “one human family,” and not falling into the “traps of violence” that we as Americans so easily fall into. He realized that a lot of the world’s problems are caused by man, and only man can fix them through peace and cooperation.

While the Dalai Lama admits that he would be a terrible professor because he is “kind of lazy,” he is an amazing teacher that knows how to preach a message that all faiths can fall behind. Christianity, Islam, and many other religions get bad publicity because they are perceived as violent religions. And even though many pundits would like to paint “social justice” and “equality” as bad things, it is extremely important to practice exactly those principles.

The “second formation” of Immanuel Kant’s “Categorical Imperative” is, “Act so that, whether in yourself or another, you treat yourself or another as ends and not means only,” meaning that we should be treating our fellow humans as worthwhile creatures, and not just a way to get what we want. American society today practically preaches using people as a means to an end only: drunken women are only good for getting sex, rich men are only good for getting jewelry, and so on. There is no longer any respect for our fellow humans; we are too individualized to see the consequences of our actions. In an “every man for himself” world, we miss the big picture of being a global community.

We can learn something from the Dalai Lama’s visit. As someone who is not jaded by material struggles and being bigger and better, he sees what a lot of the world can’t see: in the end, it’s all about loving ourselves and loving others.

“You have the truth,” he says. “Be patient and do your work.”

The Esoteric Art of Communication

Posted in opinion, politics with tags , , , , on May 17, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

In a world of instant communication–Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages, blogging, cell phones–it’s amazing how much we still suck at it. It’s one thing to talk to someone; it’s a completely different thing to communicate and be understood by someone.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with this website called Shrink Talk, a blog written by Dr. Rob Dobrenski, using sometimes humorous, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes thought-provoking anecdotes about clients he or his colleagues have worked with. (Also, congrats on the book deal, Dr. Rob!)

Browsing through some older articles, I found this one about a guy who was in therapy because he was having some problems with his marriage. After the client had used the word “upset” to describe how he was feeling, Dr. Rob made this observation:

The word “upset” is kind of a basket term for emotions. It doesn’t really tell us anything other than something doesn’t feel right. It’s like ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘distressed.’ We use them socially without a problem but they are basically empty words. They don’t describe what you were feeling….

Progress was made when the client started attributing concrete emotions to his feelings, and was able to work out more successfully what was going on in his mind.

Granted, this is a specific instance with only this specific solution to the specific problem. But if we dare to extrapolate the situation, we can see a lot of empty words floating around, words like “Conservative,” “Liberal,” “Socialist,” “Communist,” “Fascist.” Even words like “Nazi,” which used to strike fear into the hearts of people throughout the world, have less and less meaning the more they’re used. Word choice makes a huge impact in being understood, as evidenced by Dr. Rob’s client in the example above. He was “upset,” but it wasn’t exactly describing anything.

Back in the day, a Nazi was someone who was mindlessly devoted to Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, determined to eradicate anyone who was not a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan Christian. Today, a Nazi is a Democrat who believes in global warming and helping other people. Just ask Glenn Beck.

Even outside of politics, communication is poor. With everything so instantaneous, sometimes people say things they don’t mean, or they don’t take the time to think about the wording of what they’re going to say and are completely misunderstood. Misspellings in emails (or jokes that aren’t caught when in text format) can make or break relationships.

Though, many times the “miscommunication” comes from people not wanting to understand where someone is coming from. This happens in the world more often that people care to admit: two sides having an argument, neither one wanting to accept what the other says, so they slide down their slippery slope and try to destroy an argument that isn’t there. And honestly, I could spend a whole month writing articles using different examples of people just plain not listening, which is an essential component to communication.

What can we learn from Dr. Rob’s client? We can definitely learn that the words we use are powerful, but also that over time, the words that we use that used to be so powerful are essentially useless. It is no longer scary to be a “socialist” if everyone is a socialist. It’s not longer infuriating to see a “Conservative” when you learn that they’re not really a threat to our way of life.

Of course, we can also learn that we can have a much better discussion if both sides are listening and understanding. If Dr. Rob would have just accepted “upset” as an emotion, nothing would have happened. But it is by digging deeper that we get to the root of–and are able to solve–the problems of the world.

Conservatives and Ethical Egoism

Posted in current events, opinion, politics with tags , , , , , on May 14, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Recently in my Philosophy class, we discussed the school of Ethical Egoism. Essentially, Ethical Egoism is the idea that everyone’s actions are based on one’s looking out for their self-interest. No one does anything to help out other people; rather, people are only charitable when it is in their best interest to be charitable, when they will gain something from being compassionate. The thought of assisting others in need doesn’t even occur to them until their interests cross.

I am not a huge fan of this school of thought. I consider myself a pretty compassionate person, and the thought that I am only helping others because it is in my best interests is disturbing. The only satisfaction I get from assisting others comes from the positive feelings I get from giving of myself. I don’t seek recognition in my charitable acts, and anyone that does is missing the point.

In class, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of subscribing to Ethical Egoism, and along with the reading, found that taken to the extreme, Ethical Egoism is bad news. One of the most conclusive arguments we discussed was that if everyone acts in their own interests, and do only those things that are beneficial to them, it opens up a wide world of pain wrong-doing (our book calls it “wickedness”). A physician, acting in his best interests of making a lot of money, will “water down” drugs but still charging the same amount of money. It is good for him, but terrible for his patients, who may die because of insufficient medication.

This made me think about our current political climate, and how it seems that our politicians are acting in their best interests and not ours. The most notable example of this idea comes with the health care reform bill.

For the record: I hate harping about health care reform. I hate hearing other people harp about health care reform. The issue is over and done with. It’s time to focus on bigger and better things.

Republicans, and some Democrats, tried their best to shout down the health care reform bill, saying that is wasn’t in the interests of the American people. On the contrary, reading a summary of the health care bill shows that it is in the interest of nearly every American: 32 million people will become insured, the deficit will be reduced by $143 billion in the first ten years, and by 2014, people with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied coverage. (It should be noted that a “pre-existing condition” can pretty much be anything, from heart disease and diabetes to asthma and hay fever. Yes, hay fever.)

Although health care reform was definitely in the best interest of the American people, passing the reform wasn’t in the Republican’s best interest. It’s a well-known fact that Republicans are BFFs with insurance companies, and out current health care system loves insurance companies (as shown by this video describing why we need “government-run, socialized, universal heath care”).

I don’t know about you, but here, I see a classic example of Ethical Egoism: it was in the best interest of Conservatives to vote against health care reform because they were getting a lot of monetary support from the insurance companies, which make huge profits by taking out huge chunks of the money we pay for coverage. The cost of pursuing these interests is leaving millions of Americans in the dust. How ethical is that?