Monthly Archives: April 2015

Stereotypes

One of the very one-sided pieces of training we received before going overseas was how ethnocentric (prejudiced/biased) Americans were. While it served, at the time, to make us aware of our own attitudes, it failed to take into account that other cultures were equally ethnocentric.

American culture, like most cultures, is filled with bias and stereotypes that only serve to continue to divide and antagonize. For instance, Southern Christians. In some circles those words raise blood pressure and you can almost see the steam coming out of someone’s ears. Are Southern Christians prejudiced? Yes, of course, we are. More than Northerners or atheists? Of course not. Everyone, regardless of their beliefs or place of birth, is prejudiced and biased in some way because we have flawed, fallen natures that naturally assume the worse about someone else. Individuals are more or less prejudiced based on their upbringing, circumstances, or inclinations. It has little to do with being a member of a people or religious group. It takes a real effort to overcome that natural tendency because we assume that everyone like us is right and anyone different is wrong since it’s what we are accustomed to. However, anyone with an open mind can see the inconsistencies between what we think is right and what is actually right and begin to think for themselves.

I remember one summer in California, standing in line to pay for a purchase at a gift shop. The Asian couple in front of me was having trouble figuring out what coins were needed. While I wished I spoke their language and could help them, the obviously wealthy, northeastern seaboard couple behind me made verbal comments out loud along the lines of, “If you can’t speak our language, you don’t need to be here.” Even though I was just a college student from a southern state with a Christian background, I took it upon myself to turn and gently reprimand the couple. I didn’t know whether the Asian couple could understand English or not, but I felt embarrassed by the American couple who were so rude.

While I know the South has a reputation for skin color prejudice (and some of it well deserved), not all Southerners are prejudiced; any more than all Northerners are tolerant. Even as a junior high girl I felt there was something wrong with racism and never could understand why people judged others based on skin color. My parents taught me that people are people and everyone is worthy of respect and dignity, even though they, too, had to struggle with the prejudice of their upbringing.

That legacy  of color blindness was passed on to our children. Just recently one of our children was assigned a new roommate, who told our youngster up front, “I’ve never lived with anyone other than my own kind.” Our youngster had grown up with all kinds and didn’t mind that the new roommate wasn’t pasty white.

Which brings me to my last point/ramble: Christianity. The media, among others, would argue that Christians are horribly intolerant of others. In reality, Christians are more tolerant of allowing other faiths to co-exist peacefully. I’ve seen signs that proclaim, “Religious tolerance includes non-Christians.” What I’ve found is that “religious tolerance” has a tendency toward excluding Christians, more than it does including other faiths.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is more than just a cute saying. It demonstrates the wisdom of understanding people are different, but valuable. Books have purpose and meaning, regardless of whether they are digital or print, fiction or non-fiction. People, faith, ideas, etc. also have purpose and meaning in spite of what they may look like on the outside. Some of my favorite books—and people—are dusty, worn, ragged from use and life. They are the ones I return to time and time again. Their intrinsic value isn’t in how they look, but in what they add to my life and what I can learn from them.

So the next time you pass me on the street, don’t judge me because of my skin color, or the place where I grew up, or my faith because what you see isn’t always what you get.

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Who’s Watching Out for the Little Guys?

Rant warning:

Listening to Ed Wallace this morning, I realize what I thought was an isolated event seems to be a mounting phenomenon across America. Big business, from insurance to utilities, seems bent on taking their customers to the cleaners. While there seems to be a surfeit of advocacy groups to protect the Big Business clientele, customer advocacy groups from individual consumers seems to be few and far between.

I know these problems have been around for a long time, but until recently there were laws aimed at protecting the individual customer. Those laws are ineffective now due to the deep pockets of the big business cartels.

Take electric providers, for instance. In our section of Texas, we’ve been limited to one provider for decades thanks to interference by our state legislators and the bills pushed through our state congress. So when that law finally expired, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, we’d get to choose a provider and get reasonable electric rates at last.

Unfortunately, because the one company put up the lines, they now “own” those lines and can charge whatever rates they choose. So while a customer may pay less than $100 for electric usage, the delivery fees over those wires are 9 times the rate. In the past, Sharyland was notorious for charging unrealistic rates and customers had no choice. I remember one summer calling because my 80-year-old mother (who was in the hospital for a month) had a $100 electric bill. Twelve dollars for energy usage for the month she was in the hospital and $90 for “other fees.” When I called to complain, the Sharyland representative told me, “there are government programs to help your mom pay her bills.” Really? What about moral and ethic issues? I expected that kind of billing from the third world country I lived in for 10 years, but not here in America.

Today, Sharyland customers in rural Texas are paying exorbitant “fees” for delivery charges. The prices jumped from $300 to $500 per customer and the PUC has decided this is okay and there’s nothing the customer can do.

Specific example? Our little rural church has been reclassified as “light commercial,” meaning Sharyland can now charge $900 a month for wire delivery fees. We use the church two days a week, and our energy usage is minimal. Instead of charging for energy usage, Sharyland says they’re charging for “peak” usage. Meaning one day a week, for five minutes when both heaters cut on, our church hits “peak” and gets charged $1000 a month, even though the actual energy usage is around $100. And the PUC says there’s nothing they can do about it.

Which means we, the customers, have to keep paying through the nose because no one will take our case. No one has the money to go against Sharyland’s deep pockets, or the PUC, or the Texas representatives and senators who support the unethical practices of such companies.

I wish I could say this was just a case against “religious factions,” but that’s not the case. There are hundreds of Sharyland customers, ordinary, everyday, average customers, who are paying exorbitant prices for energy in a country where wind turbines promised to bring lower electric rates.

In a country where public opinion can force CEOs out of business for a single comment, where is the public opinion to force utility companies to think of customers rather than their stockholders and corporate big wigs?

The Simple Things in Life

The old adage, “you never know how much you miss something until it’s gone,” has certainly been true for me the past couple of weeks.

Actually, it’s the little things, the things you never think about: like eating.  After spending a week in recovery from a vicious stomach bug on Sprite and crackers,  just being able to eat real food again has been a blessing.  Even graduating from saltine crackers to Cheese Nips was a huge jump. Although after a week of Sprite and Cheese Nips I really wanted something more substantial!  I missed texture and flavor, the freedom to eat anything at any time. The ability to choose, not just be limited to something that didn’t abuse my stomach.  Trying favorite foods only to find they had no flavor or actually tasted horrible was very disconcerting. Still even half a sandwich is better than the Sprite diet.  I’m so looking forward to our annual Easter cookout at church and sinking my teeth into a delicious hamburger–even if it is only half of one!

I’ve missed my computer, too. For the last two weeks, I’ve had a loaner while mine went into the shop for a total memory wipe. If I’d only had some warning, I wouldn’t be missing half my files now, along with all my bookmarks.  I know there’s a key function for that, I just never learned it, so now I’m laboriously trying to recreate all my links, which I know I’ll never be able to do.  Sometimes technology is more of a crutch than a help. Lesson learned: copy and paste all websites regardless of bookmarking.

Then there are those little files, which are important now, but I failed to back up on the server because I was in a hurry or simply forgot I’d updated them and needed to back them up. And having to hunt for all my files which got mixed up and swirled around in the overhaul.  Live and learn. That is why I have to continually update my mental programming. Twenty years ago I lost valuable writing because I was going to save it, “in just a minute.” A power outage deleted two pages of work which I’ll never recover. Now, it’s a habit to save frequently.

Another lesson learned a year ago, make paper copies of everything because you never know when the corporate office is going to lose your work. Fortunately, I had back ups, learned long ago after various floppies, computer hard drives, thumb drives, etc crashed and burned along with all my files, not to mention updated software that wouldn’t open older style files.

So the most recent lesson learned about little things? Back everything up because you never know when your computer is going in for a memory wipe and Artoo will be returned as someone else.

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