Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What We've Got Here is Failure of Humility

This is a heartbreaking story.

Erick Munoz wants to see his wife's wish fulfilled this holiday season, but it's one that carries ethical and legal challenges: To be taken off of life support.

Marlise Munoz, 33, is in serious condition in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, hospital officials said. She is unconscious and on a ventilator, her husband told CNN affiliate WFAA, but she wouldn't have wanted her life sustained by a machine.

"We talked about it. We're both paramedics," he told WFAA. "We've seen things out in the field. We both knew that we both didn't want to be on life support."

Complicating an already difficult situation is that Munoz is also pregnant, about 18 weeks along, WFAA reported. Texas state law prohibits withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient, regardless of her wishes.

There are no simple answers here, but it just seems like common sense that the best people to figure out this situation are the husband, the family, and the doctor. Lawmakers completely disconnected from this family, this situation, should not be dictating what to do. It baffles me how anyone could think otherwise. Humility is definitely common amongst those who seek election to higher office, but it's exactly these sorts of situations where a little humility is called for. While we may have strong opinions on matters, we shouldn't assume that we know what is best for everyone else. One person's answers may be the right ones for themselves, but not necessarily for the next person. This goes for end-of-life decisions, assisted suicide, abortions, and many other very personal decisions. I think we operate best in an environment which allows individuals and their families to decide how to handle these very serious matters.

"There is no respect for others without humility in one's self."
-Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Myth of Doing It Alone

This is an amazing story of an American reporter writing about and then helping two Vietnamese kids. It's almost enough to melt my cold, cold misanthropic heart. Almost.

One thing, however, struck me as being absolutely wrong.

Right after he describes all of the things he's done to help out, Baker says the kid did it all by himself. Maybe it's just to flatter the kid, but it builds up the great American myth of the loner out there succeeding all by his lonesome. No one is an island. This boy's drive was absolutely critical to his success, but it wasn't the only part. He's had good teachers. He's had Billy Baker. Telling ourselves that people can achieve all by themselves just makes it that much harder to convince people that systems matter. Environments matter. People matter. We are all in this together and we need to invest in each other rather than saying, "Suck it up and pull yourself up, you loser. If you don't succeed, that just means you're not working hard enough." Again, I'm not saying that individual initiative is not important, but it's only one piece in the puzzle of achievement.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Most Important Class

My oldest started driver's ed a couple of weeks ago. The day before the first class, there was a mandatory parent meeting. The lead instructor gave a dry presentation on what to expect, etc. He said one thing, though, that really struck me.
"This is the most important class your child will take. Yeah, math and science are important, but when it comes to growing up and being independent, this is the most important."
It baffled me, really, because I just don't understand this notion at all, especially coming from a teacher. Does he truly think that learning to drive is more important than math and science and English and all of the other things kids should be learning in school? Is a kid who gets C-grades in all of his classes, but learns to drive better off than a kid who maintains a 3.5 GPA, but doesn't learn how to drive? Learning to drive an automobile is important, but there are many other methods of transportation available. A student who doesn't apply themselves to their basic classes is setting themselves up for long-term problems. It's much easier to learn to drive a little later in life than to make up for learning not done in secondary education.

I guess I can see someone making this argument (because there's someone out there for every point of view), but I can't believe a teacher said it. I know he's not saying that other subjects aren't important, but it's disheartening that an educator would say that driving is more important. Misguided priorities make me wonder if this sort of attitude slips into his regular classroom duties. I hope not.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

10 Things I Learned from Moulin Rouge!

1. Never fall in love with a woman who sells herself. It always ends badly.
2. Girls are excited to sleep with you if your title is 'Duke.' If it's 'writer,' they are a little more hesitant.
3. You can go anywhere and do anything if you have a huge...talent.
4. One dude spontaneously singing a Madonna tune to another dude is an effective distraction.
4a. Frogs are also a useful distraction.
5. The Bohemian revolutionary lifestyle may be sinful, but it is lots of fun.
6. Singing to a girl on foggy rooftops is best when the moon is singing backup.
7. Drinking absinthe is an effective method for gathering the courage to follow your dreams.
8. Dwarfs dressed as nuns and narcoleptic Argentinians make for the best neighbors.
9. Freedom, beauty, truth, but above all things love.
10. Love may be messy, but if you can sing it will all work out.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Erica's junior year school photo.
My oldest daughter turned seventeen on Thursday. Seventeen. I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that. She's a junior this year, so she's only got one year left after that. Then she's off for new adventures.

Of course I'm not the only parent who has to come to terms with their children growing up. Seventeen, however, is of particular significance to me. That's the age I was when Erica was born. I look at Erica and as smart and talented as she is, I can't imagine her becoming a parent now. But it happened to me and in no way was I prepared for what was to come.

I was forced to grow up and become a better person. This was not an overnight journey. In fact, it took years and if I'm being honest, I'd say that I'm still working on it. Erica (and her sister who came thirteen months after her sister) didn't ask for parents who were still children. They didn't ask for parents who were completely clueless as to what being a parent actually means.

Babies having babies.
An enormous burden was now on my shoulders. Like I said, it took years before I fully realized the full weight of this new task. I began to feel guilt since I felt that Erica and Shaena deserved better. If I had waited to have children, I would have been better prepared. I would have been a better parent. But I didn't wait. My daughters were here and I had to rise to the challenge. I think I'm a better parent now than when my daughters were young, but I still feel inadequate and I still feel guilty. They deserve better than they've gotten, not just from me but their mother as well. If I had waited to have them, I could have gone to college and started a career. Instead I've stumbled around with both. It's made my life more difficult which by extension has made my daughters' lives more difficult. It's also not fair for them to be stuck with the task of Forcing Dad to Grow Up and Be a Parent. This is not a conscious decision or something they had a choice in.

I've used myself as a prime example to my daughters of What Not to Do. The message appears to have sunk in as neither seem inclined to rebel in the ways I did. They are teenagers, so of course as they work to build their identities there is push back and clashes. But thankfully both seem to have fully absorbed the silly notion that growing up and finishing one's education should be done before one decides to have children.

People tell me all the time that I look too young to have kids as old as mine are. And I am! I'm thirty-four now. Thirty-four. I'm still trying to figure out how to be a decent human being and what I want to do with my life and how I'm going to achieve these things. That's hard enough without having to worry about guiding two young minds along their own paths. I can't imagine life without my daughters now. They are a blessing and despite all of the hardships, they've turned out pretty well. Despite that, however, I can't help but feel they would have been better off if they hadn't been born when they were. That's on me and I owe it to them to do the best I can for them. It's hard, very hard. Parenting doesn't come easily to me, but I have a responsibility to two people who didn't ask for the circumstances they were delivered unto.