Saturday, January 23, 2016

Entitlement

I recently came across a statistic that said that 38% of Americans have a valid passport.  38%.  When I heard this I started bringing it up in conversation with various people in my life.  Some of them thought that it sounded somewhat high and were surprised that it was so many.  Others thought it was low and should've been more.  I lean toward the latter.  I think it's kind of sad that not more Americans want to travel internationally.  Obviously 38% is not the percentage of Americans who have ever left the U.S., because many people may have had a passport in the past, but do not have a valid one at the moment.  I don't blame them if they have no further intent to travel abroad.  At least they have in the past.  For me, I like to always have a valid passport.  I never know when I may want to take a spontaneous trip.

Upon further thinking on this topic, I realized that probably only about half of all Americans have ever left the country.  That means that the other half have never been outside the U.S. to experience what else this world has to offer and many of these people never will.  In light of the upcoming presidential election, I don't think this is very fair.  These people who have never left the country get to vote for those who ultimately decide the fate of this planet.  Many people, even if they have traveled abroad, are often uninformed or misinformed.  There are so many Americans that just don't understand what happens in this world and why it should matter to them.

When I was living in Uganda, one day in the staff room at school Obama came on the TV.  I honestly don't even remember what he was talking about that day but it was the only part of that news broadcast where the entire room fell silent.  President Museveni, Uganda's president, could have come on the news and no one would have cared, but when Obama talks people around the world listen.  After that news segment was over, one of the other teachers looked at me and said "Our president.  Obama decides so much of what happens in this world, so he is not just your president, but our president too."  He wasn't saying this is a bitter way at all.  He was very proud.  Most Ugandans love Obama.  But it really struck me that that is how he felt.  He realized that Obama's impact is felt worldwide.

This all leads me to ask: Why do we as Americans get to vote for those who decide the fate of the world and others don't?  What makes us so special?

Honestly the answer is that we were privileged enough to be born here.  We hit the genetic lottery.  So when Americans act entitled because of their status as U.S. citizens, they need to be reminded that they didn't do anything special to get here.  They just happened to be lucky.  Maybe someday all will be fair in the world with some greater form of global governance.  As for now, appreciate your rights as citizens of the most powerful country in the world.  None of us should take that lightly.





Note: I should add the caveat that most people I know and associate with on a regular basis have valid U.S. passports and/or have traveled abroad.  Because of this my perception may be a little skewed or bias, so take this post as you will.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year's Resolution: Making Ourselves Feel Bad About Ourselves in March?

Starting a new year is an interesting thing.  It is a time when people seem to focus on making changes in their lives and vowing to be better than they were in the previous year.  But really, what made things so different?  Are we really that much farther away from the previous year on January 1st than we were on December 31st?

I've always taken a little bit of issue with the idea of celebrating New Year's Eve.  It is one of those holidays where everyone tries to make you feel lame when you don't have plans or you don't stay up until midnight.  As time goes on, I've started to care less and less about what others think.  Due to this lack of caring, I had a pretty great New Year's this year.  I reorganized the furniture in my bedroom, I watched a movie, and I went to bed at 10:30.  This was also the first year I managed to not feel guilty about my choose of plans.  In the past, I usually tried to make plans and sometimes I would succeed.  But then I would be tired or the idea of having a good time would be too forced and my night would end up being disappointing.  I'm thinking next year it might be nice to spend the evening with a few close friends as a time to enjoy those that you love (with no pressure to make it to midnight), but maybe this will change over the course of the year.

As for changing ourselves in the new year, I often wonder where this comes from.  When did people decide that January 1st was a time to celebrate and a time to vow to better?  I guess this question can go along with others like: why is the Spring a time for major cleaning? or, why is Thanksgiving and Christmas a time to be with family?  Over the years, I've started to notice the insignificance of many of our commonly celebrated holiday.  Honestly, there were some holidays that I never understood; queue Groundhogs Day?!

Sometimes I think the idea of New Year's resolutions and being better people is a matter of getting swept up with the crowd.  As others do it, you feel the need to follow along.  It seems like a good idea so we all try it.  Personally, the timing was just right for me to call my diet a New Year's resolution.  I was waiting until after all the eating of the holidays before I got back on the band wagon.  Although the problem with most people is that they don't keep their resolutions all year.  Maybe they work out for a couple months and then quit.  How does this make us better people?  If you ask me, New Year's resolutions typically make us eventually feel worse about ourselves because we prove to be quitters.  I guess this is partly why I can't consider my diet a New Year's resolution, because it will probably only take me a couple months to reach my goal weight.  Instead, it is just a diet where the beginning of it happened to coincide with New Year's (in fact, I actually started dieting on December 29th).

So as you make your New Year's resolutions this year, seriously think about what you're vowing to do.  Is it doable?  Will it make you feel better about yourself?  Are you doing it for you?  If you answered no to any of these questions, I'd suggest rethinking whether or not you really need a New Year's resolution this year at all.