Mixed Nuts


This week, I promised myself that I would not post any articles related to birth control, abortion, or motherhood. And it’s even more challenging than I thought because there were a ton of them this past week, one more fascinating than the last. Maybe I will post them at the end just for kicks.

But first, I thought I would post a few other articles on other topics. William Saletan writes on Slate that the changing length and nature of old age call for a change in Social Security — namely, an end to basing payments on age rather than disability and a higher retirement age to reflect the fact that life expectancy and, more importantly, quality of life expectancy, has increased tremendously since the program was begun in 1935. My father recently retired — at the ripe young age of 58. My mother, now 55, plans to retire soon. And they feel entitled to do so. This always struck me as a spoiled and whiny approach to life. I anticipate having to work into my seventies just to finish paying off my student loan debt and to have a roof over my head. The insane sense of entitlement Baby Boomers feel about having twenty or thirty years of leisure after working for as long is just out of step with reality as far as I am concerned.

Now for the weekly New York Times roundup. They really outdid themselves this week. Yesterday there was an insightful article about the plight of young African American men in this country. I can’t say that I have any concrete suggestions about how to improve the situation, so it was mainly depressing to me.

In Sunday’s book review, there was a review of Kevin Phillips’ new book, American Theocracy. Phillips wrote a prescient 1969 book entitled The Emerging Republican Majority, which turned out to be right on the money. At the time, he was excited about the impending changes. Now, not so much. American Theocracy chronicles three ways in which the GOP is leading the U.S. down the primrose path to disaster: an overreliance on and obsession with oil (that alliteration was not on purpose, I swear); the rise of the Religious Right; and our out-of-control love affair with all kinds of debt, governmental, corporate, and personal. I normally don’t buy books until they are out in paperback, but if I made an exception for Marley & Me I think I can make an exception here too.

Okay, now briefly back to my pet issues — great articles this week, so I just couldn’t resist. First, the New York Times Magazine had a fascinating article about single mothers by choice. It was called “Looking for Mr. Good Sperm,” which certainly caught the eye. I inadvertently mentioned to my boss that I had read it, only realizing a second later that you probably shouldn’t say the word “sperm” in professional mixed company. Oh, well.

But the scariest article of the week by far was this one on Salon about the movement to ban contraception. (You have to get a day pass to read the full article, but I promise it’s worth it). Here’s one choice quote that really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up:

For those who are pro-choice, the idea of fighting to ban both abortion and contraception seems contradictory: Contraception, after all, lessens the number of abortions. But once one understands what the true social and moral agenda of activists like Worthington is, and their attitude toward sexuality, the contradictions vanish. For them, sex should always be about procreation; since contraception prevents conception, it is immoral. At a deeper level, they believe that women’s biological destiny is to be mothers. Feldt says, “When you peel back the layers of the anti-choice motivation, it always comes back to two things: What is the nature and purpose of human sexuality? And second, what is the role of women in the world?” Sex and the role of women are inextricably linked, because “if you can separate sex from procreation, you have given women the ability to participate in society on an equal basis with men.”And on that note, I hope everyone is having a good week!

15 Responses to “Mixed Nuts”

  1. Whitney Says:

    Sandi said:
    I anticipate having to work into my seventies just to finish paying off my student loan debt…

    I haven’t even finished reading and I have one thing to say to that: Amen, sister! I’m right there with you.

  2. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Interesting stuff.

    Believe it or not I actually read Newt Gingrich’s book way back when, and there was something that stuck with me in it. He said that when he was growing up people dreamed of being an astronaut or the president or something like that, but today’s generation doesn’t think like that anymore. I tested his thesis in a class of seniors I was teaching in a public school around ’94 or ’95 (world history), and when I asked them what they wanted to accomplish when they grew up, most of them wanted to have a nice job, be able to play golf, have lots of time off, etc.

    Why am I telling you all this?

    I don’t know.

    But I think it has something to do with the “Social Security / right to 20-30 years of having fun in retirement” point that Sandi makes. We do seem to be getting more and more lazy as a society. Less desire to continually contribute, and more desire to receive. You sure see it in church and many other volunteer organizations.

    Now that’s something that liberals and conservatives ought to be able to agree on, but instead the Republicans will lampoon welfare moms, and Democrats will criticize the lazy wealthy.

    Oh no, the word verification look really scary, so no one may actually read this comment… Let’s see, I think that’s an “h”…

  3. Whitney Says:

    You said: “Republicans will lampoon welfare moms, and Democrats will criticize the lazy wealthy.”

    I find your wording interesting. We Republicans don’t necessarily “lampoon” welfare moms. We criticize the lazy poor who expect handouts and don’t get off their butts to help themselves. Are there those who really need it? Absolutely there are and for that reason, we can’t chop welfare programs altogether.

    So, yes, the Republicans will critize the lazy poor and Democrats with critize the lazy rich. But, you make it sound like Republicans are by nature more evil!! πŸ™‚

    I do agree with you that being productive, contributing citizens should be something upon which we all agree. (And I was in that class of ’94, and I never wanted or expected an easy life, neither did many of my classmates who are now high-level professionals. I’d be interested to see where those easy-life wanters are now. Maybe they moved to Europe.)

    I had to try twice on my word verification the first time and for the life of me couldn’t figure out which letter I got wrong. Right now it looks like “hallelujah” but I’m sure that’s not it. Oh: hdiuajln–I was WRONG.

  4. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Hey Whitney. You sure read more into what I say than I mean.

    Let me try again: “Now that’s something that liberals and conservatives ought to be able to agree on, but instead the Republicans will criticize welfare moms, and Democrats will lampoon the lazy wealthy.”

    Better? I was just trying a little verb variety. I’m not smart enough for subliminal messages.

    And I wasn’t trying to lay into the class of ’94 in particular. That just happened to be when the Republican poster boy (Newt) was spreading this message, and I happened to find that part of it to be true where I lived.

  5. Whitney Says:

    By trade I find subconscious messages in everything except what I say! Tee hee hee.

  6. Sandi Says:

    I have to jump in here because I was also a high school senior in the class of 1994, and I don’t think I really knew what kind of life to expect. I definitely was more materialistic back then than I am now. But I should probably correct any perception that I think people should be working all the time. I actually think that the workweek for a lot of professionals, and many others who have to work more than one job, is too long. (I.e., anything more than a 40-hour week). I am definitely in favor of work-life balance; having time to get enough sleep, exercise, and cook nutritious meals to keep the body healthy; and having time to make and maintain meaningful connections with family and friends, which are in my view the most important part of life. But … if people feel like they need to be retired or otherwise not work at all to do that, then the workplace is demanding too much. It shouldn’t be all or nothing — we should be able to contribute to society through work and also have adequate time for leisure.

  7. Michael Lasley Says:

    The article on the plight of young African American men is depressing. There seems to be no really good solution, at least short-term solution, to these problems. And it hurts to read someone talk about their complete lack of hope for something better.

    It hurts my head to read about Social Security, as I’m not smart enough to even begin to make sense of it.

    I look forward to reading the review of American Theocracy, but I have papers to grade. (I hate grading papers.)


  8. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I suddenly feel much older to realize that I could have been teaching history to both Whitney and Sandi while they were in high school.


    As we often have the tendency to do on Sandi’s non-religious columns, let me interject some religion. πŸ™‚ I personally think that God had a pretty good idea in the Bible when he introduced the rhythm of “sabbath” to the world. Work is good, and work hard. Then rest. Then work hard again. Then rest. Like tapping out the beat of a song. Not 51 weeks of torture, then a week at DisneyWorld. Not 30 years of workaholic life followed by 30 years driving an RV. Be productive to this world for six days. Then take a day and just stop. Rhythm.

    Hey, its an idea.

    Now back to the Class of ’94. There’s the ambitious and non-ambitious in any collection of kids in any age I would suspect. But is there any truth to the idea that “kids today” (to use that tired phrase) are less inclined to work hard? Using my house as an experiment (my wife & I vs. our two daughters), I tend to agree with Newt on this one.

    Course he could be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time.

    Oh crap, is that a “u” or a “v” in the word verification?

  9. Michael Lasley Says:

    Well, Al, speaking strictly from the perspective someone who only sees college students (the ones who are supposedly hard working and ambitious)…they know how to be busy, but I’m not sure that translates into “work ethic” or anything resembling pursuing something they are passionate about. Everything is about the end(medical school because they want a big house, law school because they want a big house, acting school because they want a big house) rather than the means. When it comes down to working hard for classes, very few students do that. They seem content to do just enough to get by.

  10. Al Sturgeon Says:

    That’s the type of stuff I was trying to get at… It wasn’t that my class wasn’t talented, or that they didn’t go on and be a “success” by garnering degrees, positions, etc. But if there was a passion, it was for personal comfort, not to change the world for the better.

    There are a million “causes” I want to champion. I think today’s new generation prefers a razor phone and an IPod to a cause. Is this postmodernity at work?

    I think this particular word verification project is one of the former Soviet republics. DeJon, did you visit Tzrykxsy when you were overseas?

  11. Whitney Says:

    Al, I keep laughing out loud at your word verification comments. Seriously…loudly. The dog looks at me funny.

    Michael, I hear you loud & clear. My students (all Juniors and Seniors, some graduating this semester) also seem to want to do just enough to get by and all hell breaks looks when I venture from the traditional lecture and ask them to actually LEARN something (versus memorize it, regurgitate it, and promptly forget it) in a way that might require some actual thought.

    I have a handful of students who want to do something great in the world, but most are only concerned about “where the money is.” They want to do Organizational Psychology instead of therapy because that’s “where the money is,” not because it is more interesting or valuable to them. It is sad that I am awe-inspired by my students who value the greater good.

    I’m fortunate that I teach at a private Catholic university where I can actually get up and talk about God and the greater good and the fact that we are lucky to live in the greatest country in the world; but that we are not entitled to anything, especially material things. And I do it every semester. And every semester, I see students look at me like they’ve never heard this stuff before. But I also see heads nodding, which is promising.

    My word verification says zyvhevbb, was that a Bible character? and I got it the first time! I got it the first time!!!! Yeeehawwwww.

  12. Sandi Says:

    Just to throw this out there as food for thought: when I was in seventh or eighth grade, I tried the “greatest country in the world” line on a friend of mine, who was generally pretty quiet and reserved. She let me have it — “how do you know this is the greatest country in the world? what does that even mean?” I was shaken from my 1980s pro-America coma. How did I know that this was the best nation? What does best mean in this context? It was much much later that I learned about the concept of nationalism and how destructive it can be. But every time I hear or read “greatest country in the world,” I think of that day on the bus when Heather Guerin challenged me on it.

  13. Sandi Says:

    And on a different topic, I do agree that students are pretty lazy. I can’t say anything really, as I was one of them, at least in college and especially law school. I know that sounds funny to say, but I coasted through both. I always joke that in law school I watched a lot of Family Feud reruns. I worked hard when I had to, but only as a means to an end. Get into law school, find a job, get a recommendation. I still don’t know how to work for work’s sake. Which is why I’m surfing the internet instead of working right now. πŸ™‚

  14. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Yeah, I can’t say I’m such a big fan of “work” in some senses of that word, but you can’t fool me, Sandi! When there’s a sign-up sheet for high ideals and passions and being willing to put yourself on the line for a cause, I think you’d be looking for a pen.

    I guess I’m veering off topic (Social Security & retirement), but I have a hard time understanding how people live w/o passions, or dreams, or goals. And I think that as long as we’re living, we ought to be in pursuit of such things.

    Now I think you ought to take a day off every week to rest or you’ll implode. And I think you may have some sucky day job that you have to endure in the meanwhile. But the world needs changing for the better, and everyone has the potential to do that, so people shouldn’t just live to get a big house and then retire to garden and watch Wheel of Fortune. That’s what I’m saying.

    And as to the “greatest country in the world,” I’d give us props for an amazing Constitution relative to the rest of the world. And for baseball (though Japan is the world champion right now). And we’re really good at building roads I hear (a Lithuanian poly-sci professor told me this is America’s greatest achievement). Reportedly the greatest doctors live here, too. Lots more – too numerous to name.

    On the other hand, we’re a greedy country. And wasteful. And violent. And arrogant. And then there’s the Chicago Cubs (just a little DeJon lure).

    So I’d say greatest in some respects. Worst in others. In-between in a lot of categories I’d guess. I suspect Whitney’s comment is couched in patriotism, proud to be an American. And I suspect Sandi’s point is couched in caution, claiming superiority can be dangerous. Both are worthwhile discussions.

    I’m a bit embarrassed to type in the word verification: fjrqbq. Looks like one of the profane words uttered by Yosemite Sam towards Bugs Bunny.

  15. Whitney Says:

    Mine is couched in two things:
    1) American pride, sure
    but 2) more than pride, making sure that as citizens we understand how fortunate we are. We have freedom. We have lots and lots and lots of money (not all of us, but most of us, especially relative to a lot of other people in this world.) We have freedom. We have opportunities. We have hope. We have a really strong military and defense system. And thus, once again, we have freedom.

    I always try to impress on my students how wealthy we are, on the whole, and how much wealth we have compared to many others. I want them to see how much we take for granted in hopes that they’ll choose to do something good with all the excess.

    I don’t think everything about our country is the greatest in the world, but I sure don’t want to live anywhere else.

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