Thursday, January 27, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 11): A Tale of Two Malls

So yesterday I was typing this entry on my iPad, and then a drifting pinky tapped the screen in a wrong spot and I lost the post. The postr was about two shopping malls in the Milwaukee area. Mayfair Mall, which is actually in a suburb of Milwaukee within a half mile of the border, and Grand Avenue Mall, which is downtown.

The Grand Avenue Mall is in decline. Back when it was in its prime, it was a wonderful mall, and was busy. Then over time, the mall started to decline. A friend of mine walked through the mall on a break form work, and the mall is about half empty, and the nationally recognized stores have left, and all that is left is local vendors with temporary occupancy permits selling hip-hop wear. She said she was almost embarassed to see store after store hawking sweats with "baby phat" plastered across the @ss.

Mayfair is at the height of its popularity. I have never been in that mall and not seen people walking from store to store. The stores are an eccectic mix of natinally recgonized names (Aeropostale, Hot Topic, Banana republic, Payless, three Starbucks locations - one in Macy's at one end of the mall, one in Barnes and Noble at the other end, and a standalone Starbucks halfway inbetween), and a few local stores selling everything from cheesy faux Egyptian home decor to Wisconsin-themed sweatshirts and cow-print aprons.

Milwaukee has been home to three malls that have died a slow, painful death. All of them shared certain characteristics that led to their decline. Each of them was in an upper middle class area that slowly declined as more and more rental and low-income properties moved into the area. The clientele of the mall shifted to a less affluent demoographic and the higher-end stores started to lose business. The middle class and upper-middle class shoppers changed their shopping routines and bypassed those malls so as not to have their peaceful shopping experience disturbed by people who do not share their values, sensibilities, morals or expectations of public behavior. Some would add skin color to that list, but I believe that bad behavior is bad behavior no matter what color your skin is.

Everyone would profit from understandign something that was understood by Benjamin Franklin: "I never doubted, for instance, in the existence of the Deity; that he made the world and govern'd it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtues rewarded, either here or hereafter."

An event at Mayfair Mall a few weeks ago illustrates what kills malls. On Sunday, January 2, 2011, several large groups of teens engaged in acts of vandalism and disorderly conduct at the mall. During the event, which included thousands of dollars woth of damage to store's property and merchandise, an attempted armed robbery in the parking lot and a gunshot in the parking lot. Police were called, arrests were made and ticket were issued for disorderly onduct and retail theft. Apparently, the "flash-mob" was planned in advance and posted on facebook as an event.

Now an event like this doesn't automatically mean that a mall will die. What is important to the public perception of the mall, which then leads to the possible death of the mall, is the response of the mall to an incident. Mayfair Mall responded in a manner that I feel is appropriate, but perhaps a little minimalist. The mall had already had a Parental Guidance Required policy which required all minors to be accompanied by an adult on Fridays and Saturdays after 3pm. In the wake of the incident, the policy was expanded to include Sundays.

What was truly anemic was the response of the police. There were between two and three hundred people involved in the incident, but only "several" arrests. What really should have happened was massive arrests should have been made, and every last person should have had the book thrown at them ... the only question is: would they be able to read it?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 10): Religious Liberalism

I remember the old admonition, "you will get along fine as long as you don't bring up religion or politics.". Well, since this is a political blog, I have already honked off half of the people out there, so I figured I would go for the whole enchilada and get the rest of them mad at me by talking about religion. And if you are one of the religious liberals mentioned in the title, stop reading here if you don't want your beliefs questioned.

My mother is in a nursing home recording hospice care as I write this. Yesterday, a pastor whom my sister is acquainted with stopped by to minister to her. I was there for the moment and I am profoundly glad that I was. He spoke words of comfort to her which really helped me in this time of stress. I haven't been to church in a while, and haven't actually belonged to a church in years.

His ministration is not the topic of this post, but rather, his ministration reminded me of a conversation I had with my best friend Mike some time ago about a topic that bugs me. That topic is religious liberalism. There are a lot of well-meaning Christians out there who are religious, but liberal.

In discussing the topic, I think Mike best identified the problem. The problem is that too many churches are out of balance. In order to be a balanced church, the church must believe and preach the whole of scripture. Many churches preach a feel-good gospel: 'God loves you and wants you to be happy, so you should have a wonderful relationship with him.' The problem is, half of the message is missing. That missing message is the fact that on our own, people are a spiritual mess, separated from God by our propensity to sin.

The unbalanced churches preach that Jesus came and we should be happy and joyful because of that, but they totally miss the fact that is is us, you, me, the person on the street, WE are the reason he came and was nailed to a cross in the first place. Why? Because we disobey God's commandments.

As a matter of fact, those unbalanced churches totally ignore preaching about God's commandments and man's sinful nature and the struggle we must live in order to live a good and holy life as a child of God. They reject the idea that some things are identified as sins by God, and they strive to preach a message that is welcoming to everyone, no matter who they are.

People in these churches, because they are not taught that moral absolutes exist tend to be politically liberal. They embrace everyone because they are supposed to be vessels of God's love. They want to show everyone love because Jesus showed everyone love. They forget that Jesus preached judgement and repentance as well as love. Love is only one-third of the message, and like the three branches of government, each of the three parts is equally important, therefore balance is important. Only when you are in balance can you truly walk straight.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (part 9): Thank You for Not Smoking

So I have a little hang up about something and I have decided to say something about it. I have a problem with people smoking.

One of the first principles of conservatism is basic human freedom. People should be free to smoke, or not smoke, as their personal desire happens to be. As a conservative, I am politically opposed to smoking bans that are enacted by state and local governments.

What bothers me though, is the severe lack of politeness and etiquette of many smokers. I have friends who smoke. I will hang out with them while they are standing outside smoking, and most of my friends are understanding that I don't smoke and would prefer to not inhale their used carcinogens. They always stand downwind, and exhale their smoke to the side so that it is blowing away from me. Kudos to you my friends!

The ones who bother me are the ones who don't even try to be polite about it. They stand upwind, they exhale their smoke directly at me (not in a malicious way, they just don't respect my right to remain as smoke free as possible).

I make it a point to not frequent locales which are smoky. My state recently enacted a statewide smoking ban, and while I am enjoying the fact that I am breathing clearer air than I did before the ban, I am against it. I simply cannot support a law passed by the state simply under the auspices of "we will protect you from yourselves, and everyone around you a, by prohibiting X." I am actually appreciating that I can attend more after-work functions with my colleagues because the most common locations of these gatherings is now forced, by a state mandate, to be smoke free. However, I honestly don't believe that they should be forced to do this. If the facility is smoke-filled to the point that it bothers me, I can simply vote with my feet and leave. I am as free to not smoke as people should be to smoke.

That being said, I do not believe that the taxpayers should pay to treat smoking-related illnesses. Medicare and Medicaid dollars should be used only to alleviate the pain of these diseases, and not attempt to cure them. Every person who exercises their right to smoke does so in the full awareness of the health risks involved, and thereby assumes the liability and responsibility for the negative consequences.

I am leery of government power, especially when it is used to limit the freedom and choices of the people. Perhaps a less intrusive government would be smaller, cheaper and more efficient, and all of those people who get paid from tax money will, instead of being tax consumers, become tax PAYERS.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 8): 21st Century Civil Rights

My generation ran it's civil rights race, and with a few exceptions, managed to clear all of the hurdles placed before us. The civil rights issue we had to deal with was racism. When I was young, I remember racism being rampant. Neighbors would congregate and talk about African Americans in unflattering terms. It didn't help that we were living in public housing at the time, and racists in the neighborhood had little fear about antagonizing their neighbors of color. When we left the projects, and we moved into a modest apartment, I remember mom and her friends evaluating wether a neighborhood was "too dark" to move in to.

Was mom a racist? Not really. She didn't HATE African-Americans (which I believe is the requirement to be considered a racist). She was what I would call civil-rights challenged. She didn't have any African-American friends, therefore she did not understand African-Americans, and like many people of narrow horizons and minds, she didn't want to expose herself or her children to things she did not understand or appreciate. In other words, she did not have the needed knowledge to overcome the stereotypes she learned from society.

My generation was the last generation born during the civil rights era, and therefore it was left to us, thrust together by the courts to learn to get along. And guess what? We did! The numbers of interracial marriages and biracial children are on the rise ... a testament to the fact that we figured it out.

So what is the great civil rights issue of the 21st century? Homophobia. I see it every day, and it is an issue that simmers under the surface of every public and private organization in America. It is in our schools, universities, workplaces, professional sports teams churches and the military.

Homophobia, as an issue will also be tougher than racism to deal with. At least with racism, there was no explicit biblical statements for racists to hang their hat on. The Bible directly condemns homosexuality, which then places homophobia in a different class altogether than racism. Sure, there are those who claim that the mark of Cain was black skin, but the Bible doesn't say that. However the Bible does say that for a man to have sex with a man is an "abomination" (Lev 20:13). So now, instead of being just a legal and political issue, Homophobia has a religious and moral dimension which cannot be ignored.

Rather than address the religious and moral issues around homosexuality, however, I will limit myself to the social and political issues, because that is the focus of this blog. I will leave it to the philosophers and theologians to have the other argument. Sure there are those who cling to the second part of that verse in Leviticus and say that homosexuals should be put to death, and there are plenty of examples of personal attacks on homosexuals, enough to fill an entire blog, much less a single post.

So the first task: defining what it is we are against. Sure, we can say that we are against homophobia, but the definition of homophobia would be fear of homosexuals, not hatred of homosexuals. We need to establish that there is nothing wrong with fear. Fear is a natural response to the different. The task is to either better define the word, or replace it with a better term.

Now regardless of wether you believe homosexuality is a sin or not, you have to admit that there has to be some national consensus as to the status of same-sex couples in the United States. Non-married heterosexual couples have some standing before the law. You can sue for palimony, with varying degrees of success at the end of a long-term live-in relationship. And if there are children involved, the legal status of the relationship becomes all the more definite.

So what should we do with same-sex couples in America? Put them in a rocket and fire it at the moon and pretend they never existed? Or better yet, how about we simply acknowledge that these relationships exist. Create a civil union law, and allow people to register their civil unions, and allow for the dissolution of civil unions under the divorce laws. Civil Unions would allow the same hospital, and legal rights as a marriage, so obviously, a dissolution process would be necessary. And, to avoid the stigmatization of same-sex couples, all unions of heterosexual couples not performed by an ordained member of the clergy (read: judge/justice of the peace) would also be classified as a civil union. Reserve the word marriage for a ceremony that takes place in a church, and leave the rest be. John Barrowman, the very talented British actor who just happens to be gay says he doesn't want a "marriage" from a belief system that "hates" him (read the article and interview here, if you like).

Surely this will not destroy the human race, although it does stand to make divorce lawyers richer with the infusion of a whole new marketplace of civil union dissolutions ...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 7): A Little Civility Please!

There is a local talk radio host who thinks that conservatives are wusses. We hold ourselves to a high ethical standard, and when liberals constantly take advantage of our high ethical standards and reap a political benefit, it is because we weren't willing to get down into the trenches and get dirty fighting back. He said that conservatives will never truly have political power until we are willing to play out of the same relaxed rule book as liberals, employing the same dirty tricks and taking advantage of every chink in their armor the way they do to conservatives.

Consider how the left set out to absolutely destroy Sarah Palin. They attacked her character, the character of her family (especially Bristol, with good reason), her intelligence and her ethics. When none of that worked, they attacked her for her clothes.

Now I am not a huge Sarah fan as readers of this blog may know. I don't have anything against her really, I just don't think she is the end-all be-all that some people believe she is. That being said however, I have a problem with people who can't leave well enough alone.

Recently, comedienne Kathy Griffin declared that her new target for the new year would be Willow Palin (read the article here if you like). She said that after having gone after Sarah, Todd and Bristol it is "Willow's year to go down" and that she wants "to offend a whole new Palin."

Can anyone say overkill? Why go after a 16 year old because you hate the politics of her mother? For that matter, what sane, rational person hates someone so much that they feel the need to attack their family? I mean, seriously, this isn't the mafia here. It is politics! And a couple years ago, when she "dated" Levi Johnston ... what was that all about? How hateful do you have to be in order to want to hurt the daughter of the person you hate by appearing in public with, and then vehemently denying you are dating, the father of that daughter's child?

I am not saying that only liberals have a problem with civility. It was conservatives after all, specifically Jerry Fallwell and his Moral Majority who fired the first shot in this war of incivility when they made politics a battle not of competing ideologies, but a battle between good and evil. I remember how riled up some conservatives got during this time in our political history. Nothing gets the blood of a religious person boiling like the belief that someone is acting against God.

So I make a plea here. Civility. Is it too much to ask for? Is it too much to ask that conservatives and liberals alike say "enough is enough, lets get back to the real issues here and stop this over the top incivility?"

Sadly, it may be.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sometimes being forgetful pays off

I admit it ... I tend to be forgetful. I really do. I forget birthdays (that reminds me, mom's birthday is coming up), I forget to visit mom (I really, really need to do that tomorrow), I forget to return phone calls, emails and ... well, you get the idea.

So during the summer, I forgot to send in my registration renewal for my car. I kept meaning to do it, and I kept forgetting. Eventually, I ended up getting pulled over and issued a $175 citation. I put the citation in the visor of the car. I planned to send in a check for the fine, but I kept forgetting, kept forgetting ...

So finally, I realized that I needed to go into the courthouse and make the appearance since I ran out of time to mail it in. I got up early, drove down to the next county where I got pulled over, and made my appearance. I showed them my renewed registration, and they dismissed the ticket. Sweet!

Now, I am not saying that we should all go around forgetting things. I mean, honestly, I am sure that I should have remembered, but in the end it worked out ... this time. Next time, I might not be so lucky, so perhaps I should make sure that there is no next time.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Super Dude!

In Lynnwood, Washington, Phoenix Jones is on patrol. He has his eyes open for evil, and he is prepared to fight it. Only Phoenix Jones is not a cop, he is a real-life "superhero." He and some friends have formed a group called the "Rain City Superhero crimefighting movement."

He doesn't have any extraordinary powers other than his courage and willingness to put himself in harm's way for his fellow citizens.

His most recent exploit was chasing away a would-be car thief, caught in the act of breaking in to a car. You can read about the story and see the video here.

In our society, we have a serious lack of herores, super or otherwise. Celebrities and atheletes eschew the positions as role models that their successes thrust upon them, living lives that seem more to be cautionary tales rather than as people that parents would want their children to emulate. Sadly it takes a guy dressed up like a comic book character to make us realize there are still hereoes among us. We just can't see them, because they blend in with the rest of us.

The police officer who keeps us safe, the fire fighter who rescues people with no regard for their own safety, the doctor who saves lives of strangers. They are all heroes in my book, and now we can add Phoenix Jones.