Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good People

When I was a freshman in high school, I played the trumpet in a couple of the bands (big shocker, I know -- I was a band nerd ...). I remember that our band director, who like so many high school and middle school band directors was slightly crazy (who wouldn't be after teaching high school band for hours each day?), had a poster on the wall in his office that caught my eye. It had a picture of an eagle struggling to fly up to the clouds, but the eagle was being held back by a bunch of turkeys on the ground. Across the top, it had the words "It's hard to soar like an eagle ...", and along the bottom the words "... when you are surrounded by turkeys."

Even though I have seen variations of that statement several times over the years since then (such as the example to the right), that was the first time I had ever come across it. I remember thinking that it was quite clever, and (based on my vast life experience to that point) that it was so true.* However, now that I in fact do have some life experience to draw upon, I have recently concluded that the poster was actually somewhat off base.

The other night I was in a meeting with several individuals with whom I associate through my church. It was getting late and the day had already been long, and yet I was in no hurry for the meeting to end. As I sat there listening to things that were said around the table, I was struck by how amazing these people are. These are good people, who do good things for their families and neighbors and others around them. These are selfless and honorable people who strive to better themselves every day. And although I believe that I fall well short of the high marks these people set in their lives, yet I was grateful to be surrounded by such goodness.

And that is when I remembered the poster from my high school band teacher's office. Only, I realized that the poster needed some alteration before it would truly harmonize with my life experience. In my mind's eye, I recast the poster so that now there were a group of eagles soaring in the clouds, and a lone turkey on the ground watching them as they passed above. The text across the top now read: "It's easy to want to soar ...", and across the bottom: "... when you surround yourself with eagles."

While I may never quite be one of those eagles, I'm thankful that I am surrounded by so many of them (at home, at church, in the community), and that they remind me to keep looking upward.

* Of course, it didn't occur to me then that my band director probably thought that we, his students, were the turkeys.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hello, McFly!

Let me apologize in advance for the rant that is to follow. I really am a happy person that people (I think ... for the most part ... I hope) like to be around. I'm even smiling as I write this.

Do you remember the movie "Back to The Future", with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd and various and sundry other actors? Well, one of the lines from that movie that has stuck with me over the years is the one uttered by bully Biff Tannen as he knocks on the forehead of George McFly (two different times in the movie, actually) and says: "Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think, McFly." That always struck me as an awfully rude thing to do and say to someone, and yet there have been several times over the years when I have wanted to do and say the same thing in certain situations. Today was one of those times.

I read in the news today that two of President Obama's picks for cabinet positions have withdrawn their names for consideration for the offered posts: Tom Daschle for health and human services secretary, and Nancy Killefer as chief performance officer (whatever the heck that is). The reason for the withdrawals? Basically, tax fraud. Killefer didn't pay 1 1/2 years worth of employment taxes on "household help", and Daschle didn't pay taxes on income from "consulting work" and other benefits from 2005 - 2007. And all of this comes about a week after the senate confirmed Timothy Geithner, Obama's pick for treasury secretary (the guy that will oversee the IRS for the near future...), even though Geithner failed to pay $34,000 in certain taxes.

Hello? Hello? Anybody home?

It's not like these people wouldn't understand how the political process works. Could they possibly have forgotten that every detail of their lives would be scrutinized when they accepted the invitations to serve in the Obama cabinet? Did they nevertheless think that tax evasion wouldn't cause people even a little concern? Have they not been watching the news at all over the past 15 years and seen other people make the same dumb mistakes?

Think, McFly!

I mean, we little folks have to deal with those pesky tax laws. And at least part of those taxes we pay are used to pay the salaries for senators (like Daschle used to be) and cabinet appointees. It is things like this that cause me to have a fairly dim view of politics and politicians in general. I just love the double-standard that some of these people in politics seem to live. They appear to think that the rules don't really apply to them ... at least not until the president creates a fancy sounding job for them. I know there are some good people in politics, but there are just too many fools thrown in there as well.

Unlike Biff in "Back to The Future," these three won't likely have a truck-load of manure dumped over them as they sit in their fancy convertibles. Too bad. Some politicians spend a lot of time doing the same to us.