Parkland Florida School Shooting

A terrible tragedy recently occurred. One that has our whole country reeling. And worst of all, one that could have been easily avoided… If only people would have cared enough to try. To do their JOBS.

We have a system that failed every step of the way. A system that failed a mentally unstable adolescent, and in doing so failed everyone around him. A system that may as well not even exist for all the good it did us.

Nobody paid any attention to the increasingly volatile situation until it was far, far too late. After the fact, everyone thinks they are an expert – even though most of them know next to nothing about what actually transpired.

His name was Nikolas Cruz and he was 19 years old. He attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – until he was expelled for his violent behavior. On February 14, 2018 he walked into his former high school with a bag containing a rifle, ammunition, smoke grenades, and a gas mask. No one tried to stopped him, even though he was no longer a student.

He proceeded to set off his smoke grenades so that the fire alarm would be triggered. Then when the students exited their classrooms, he began to fire his rifle. During the attack, he took the lives of 17 people and severely injured 14 more.

But it was not out of the blue. The warning signs were many and substantial. As was the number of times those warning signs were reported to various authorities. As was the number of times those authorities failed to do anything to help. If they had, this tragedy would have been avoided.

Most people have heard about his infamous YouTube comment – where on a page using his real name he said “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The comment was reported to the FBI in September of 2017… But they declined to investigate. (They were probably too busy with their witch hunts for Muslim terrorists and Russian collusions.)

But did you know this wasn’t the first time a government agency failed to adequately respond to a report about Nikolas Cruz?

In 2016 he was reported to the Florida Department of Children and Family after he made a Snapchat post of him cutting his arms. When they interviewed him, he confessed that he planned to go out and buy a gun… But they determined that he was stable and did not require hospitalization. Had they made a different call, he would not have passed the background check that allowed him to purchase the rifle used in the attack.

Then in January of 2018, the FBI received yet ANOTHER report about Nikolas Cruz. This time, by a girl who knew him in person. She warned them that “I know he’s going to explode” and she feared him “getting into a school and just shooting up the place.” But that information was never passed on to the Miami field office, so no investigation ever took place. Maybe if it had, he would have received the help he needed. The help the Department of Children and Family decided not to give him.

In addition to those reports to the FBI, 23 were made to the local sheriffs department regarding his violence and threats. I want to repeat that. TWENTY THREE reports were made to the local sheriffs department about Nikolas Cruz. Two of those reports specifically stated he was going to shoot up a school. But once again, nothing came of it. Apparently, no one took it seriously. (Meanwhile, people are having heart palpitations that a kid took bites out of a pop tart to make it resemble a gun.)

But wait, there’s more. Three months before the attack, Nikolas Cruz called 911 on HIMSELF – of course, to no avail.

Even when reaching out for help, no one was there for him.

He reportedly told the 911 operator “The thing is I lost my mother a couple days again, so like, I’m dealing with a bunch of things right now.”

His father had died several years prior, and now with his mother gone too he had very little support system. This young man is deeply troubled and emotionally unstable. He clearly has very severe mental health problems and coping issues that NO ONE was willing to help him with. Despite his horrible crimes, he deserves our pity. The system let him down. The system let all of us down.

And yet, the system still found more ways to let us down before the conclusion of this story.

The school actually had an armed resource officer on site at the time of the shooting. A person who was fully trained and equipped to deal with situations exactly like this one – Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson. This should have been a saving grace… Except for one huge problem… He was too chickenshit to go inside the building. Instead, he waited outside for help to arrive… the help HE was supposed to be.

And when that help finally arrived, 3 additional deputies… they were just as worthless. These four police officers cowered in fear outside of the school, waiting for the shooter to run out of ammunition or for someone with a spine to arrive on scene and do their jobs.

Thankfully, there was one person with a spine willing to do whatever it took to keep the students safe. Aaron Feis, the unarmed securityguard and assistant football coach, who died using his body as a shield to protect the students. This brave man gave his life without hesitation, even though he had no weapons or protective gear.

Imagine how differently that day might have gone if only he would have been legally allowed to carry a gun on school property. Instead of sacrificing his life that day, maybe he could have subdued Nikolas before so many people were shot and killed. But of course, he wasn’t legally allowed to. Because our government thinks it’s safer when innocent people don’t have the means to defend themselves. That’s what the police are – oh, oops. Looks like that was just one more way our useless government let us down. (I’m not necessarily sold on teachers with guns; but what good is a security guard without them?)

So now, 17 innocent people are dead and the nation is in a tailspin. Everyone is looking for who to blame. And in the typical American way, we are blaming all the wrong things. Because most people don’t really care about what happened and how to avoid future tragedies… they are just looking for reasons to ban the things that they dislike.

Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s video games, and sometimes it’s inanimate objects. And if you dare to disagree with or question that narrative, you don’t care about children. So your opinion doesn’t matter and should be ignored.

This time, the blame falls squarely on the model of gun that Nikolas used.

Many major news networks are claiming he used a “high powered assault rifle”. That’s a blatant lie. The gun that he used (an AR15) is a very common, semi-automatic hunting rifle. It shoots low caliber bullets (0.223) and is primarily used to hunt small game and for home defense. The average pistol is more powerful.

But that doesn’t make for as interesting of a story. And it doesn’t help to push an anti-gun agenda.

And that’s what this tragedy has been reduced to. A gun control issue. Not a mental health issue. Not the many, many failures of multiple government agencies. Let’s pretend those things don’t even exist. Pay no attention to the man hiding behind the curtain, here’s something shiny to distract you!

And we’re letting it. I’m no exception. Everyone is so busy fighting about gun control (on both sides), that the government failures have safely limped away. But the system is still broken and there are thousands more Nikolas Cruz’s out there in need of help. Will we help them or sweep them under the rug until the next tragedy?

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Hatred.

Never in my lifetime have I witnessed such blind hatred.  Never in my lifetime have I seen hatred so freely and openly expressed.  Never in my lifetime have I witnessed hatred shared by SO MANY people.  Never in my lifetime have I seen hatred so widely considered socially acceptable.

My only experience with hatred of this magnitude comes from history books and news reports on countries that lack our freedoms and comforts.  I never thought I would personally experience it.  I never thought it would be in my own backyard.  I never thought I would feel so powerless to stand up to it.  I never thought I would feel so frightened for my future…  For OUR future.

Hatred disguised as tolerance.  Except I am not seeing or hearing any tolerance.  All I see and hear are people with differing viewpoints being verbally assaulted and labeled with the word “intolerant” before they have even had the opportunity to speak.  To explain their point of view.  To even HAVE their own point of view.

Because why should you be given that opportunity when merely knowing it slightly deviates from their own is enough to know that it is WRONG?  That YOU are wrong.  Because if you DARE to question or disagree it means that you are racist/sexist/homophobic/xenophobic, etc.  It’s just your “privilege” talking.  Apparently, this “privilege” makes it socially acceptable to degrade and oppress you.  Makes it ok to judge you before a word even leaves your mouth.

Whatever happened to the free exchange of ideas?  Whatever happened to trying to see things from someone else’s perspective?  Whatever happened to getting to know a person before judging them?  Whatever happened to agree to disagree?  Whatever happened to live and let live?  Whatever happened to LISTENING to each other?

I keep seeing the phrase “social justice warrior” thrown around… but as far as I can tell, it’s just a fancy new term for a bully.  A “politically correct” way of justifying intolerance.  A badge to render anyone they disagree with as “the enemy”.  A way to always be “right” even when they are completely in the wrong.

I wish I could fix the world, but it doesn’t work like that.  All I can do is live true to my ideals and morals and hope the idea catches on.

 

________________________

Tolerance – “The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Intolerance –
“Unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.”

Who are you REALLY mad at?

It really blows my mind, the way that some people displace their anger and hate.  Someone they love does them horribly wrong… and they find someone else to be the scapegoat.  Someone else to direct all these wild, uncontrollable, and passionate negative emotions towards.

A perfect example of this phenomenon can often be seen in women who catch their significant other cheating.  More often than not, rather than take it out on their partner, the one who betrayed them and lied to them… they take it out on the other woman.  The woman, who in most cases didn’t even know that you existed.  The woman, who was most likely ALSO being lied to and betrayed by the worthless sack of shit that you are both in love with.

But there you are, grabbing her by her hair and screaming in her face that she’s a “ho”.  There you are, threatening her with bodily harm if she doesn’t stay away from YOUR significant other – when you should be BREAKING UP with your significant other.

And there she is, just finding out that YOU exist.  Just learning that HER significant other is a cheater.  HER heart just as ripped out of her chest and stomped on as yours.  And there she is, with all the proof she needs standing in front of her to convince herself that you are some deranged lunatic.  All the proof she needs to SYMPATHIZE with this asshole.  No wonder HER man is afraid to end it with you, that poor baby.

I know WHY this happens.  It happens out of weakness.  It hurts too much to blame the person you love.  It hurts too much to accept that they don’t love you back the same way.  You need SOMEONE to demonize so that you can give your partner a pass.  Because, if you don’t give them a pass you can’t justify to yourself why you are staying with them.  And you HAVE to stay with them, you’ve convinced yourself you could never have anything that good with anyone else.

Except it’s a fairytale.  It’s NOT that good with them, they are betraying you now and they will do it again.  It was all built on lies – but you want that fiction back.  “It’s all HER fault.  Once she’s gone, everything will be perfect.”

This isn’t love.  You think it is, but it’s actually very selfish.  It’s all about making yourself feel better in the present moment at any cost.  And part of that cost is your self-respect and any chance of having a healthy relationship.  And it WILL catch up to you.  But that doesn’t matter to you right now… that’s a problem for future you.  Present you’s needs are more pressing.

It’s not just women who catch their significant other cheating, that was just a convenient example that most people can relate to.  It happens every day, in all kinds of situations with friends and family members…. Even with OURSELVES.  The traits inside us that we hate… and the people who hold up a mirror to our faces to force us to see them.

Rather than try to change the things about ourselves that we don’t like, we want to tear down the people who showed us or brought out those things… Like that person we are jealous of who is just SO DAMN NICE that we want to punch them in the face!  Or the person that WE hurt, but because it’s too hard to deal with the guilt we find a way to make it THEIR FAULT!

Like I said… I know WHY this happens…. I just don’t know why we LET it happen (if that makes any sense).

I try very hard NOT to be that person, though I’m far from perfect so I have been guilty of it in my past and even now I am sure at times I fail.  The thing that concerns me, is that I don’t think most people can even say they try not to be that person.  I can’t help but feel like most people WANT to be that way, at least on a subconscious level.  Or maybe it’s not that they want to be, it’s just that they’ve never really even thought about it.  And so I ask you, who are you REALLY mad at?

How Deep are your Scars? (Physical or Emotional)

scars

I came across this meme today and I realized that I had a lot to say about it.

I must confess that I have been guilty of this mindset myself – particularly when I was at my lowest points.  In my hurt, I would resent the “fakers”.  At the time, I thought that I resented them for pretending to be what I really was… but now, I think it may have had more to do with my own jealousy of them over how much better I thought they had it than I did.  (Not that you could have convinced me of that at the time.  I would have gouged your eyes out for even suggesting it.)

The sentiment is true… to a degree.  The people who self-harm just for attention AREN’T in the same level of emotional pain as the people who do it because they are so upset they just can’t stop themselves.  The people who NEED physical pain to balance out.  Not even the same ballpark.  And they may never understand that sort of pain.  But that doesn’t mean THEIR pain isn’t REAL.

The people who do it for attention are still doing it out of genuine pain, it’s just that their release ISN’T the physical pain they cause themselves. Theirs is the ATTENTION they get afterwards.  The level of concern other people show towards them directly effects their state-of-mind.  Their pain is eased by people noticing, caring, and trying to “help” them.  Giving them the attention they are seeking might be all they need to feel better.  (And if it’s that easy to ease the suffering of someone you love, why wouldn’t you do it?)

But when people don’t care or ignore their self-injurious behavior, their emotional pain gets worse.  The less others care about their self-harm, the less they feel like they matter as a person.  And the less others care, the more pain they will suffer and the more severely they will harm themselves trying to get that attention.  Potentially, the cycle can get so far out of control that they even end their own life.  It doesn’t get realer than that.

So while half of me completely agrees with this meme, the other half of me wonders how many people reading it are now crying in their bathrooms and cutting themselves just a little bit deeper tonight…

Is the World Black and White? Or are there Shades of Gray?

Recently I did something I thought I would never do… I allowed the cruel words of a complete stranger to get under my skin.  I allowed them to wound me.  To cause me to question myself (for a minute or two).

Normally, I only concern myself with the opinions of people who matter to me – those who I love and/or respect.  All other opinions just roll off my back…. Normally.

Something was different the night this happened.  Something about this opinion just wouldn’t be ignored.

Perhaps I have just been more sensitive lately, with some of the recent events in my life (that I won’t go into now).  Or perhaps so much time separating myself from harmful people caused my emotional calluses to soften.  Or perhaps it was just meant to be that I have this experience.  That I learn from it.

The words weren’t really about me, you must understand.  The person who wrote them never met me and did not have me in mind.  She was merely expressing her thoughts about a group of people that I am included within.  You see, in this woman’s world – because I can check a certain box off next to my name, I have no empathy and am not capable of feeling love – oh, and I am an INSECT.  (There are only two kinds of people empaths and insects, didn’t you know that?  Yeah, it was news to me as well.)

This person believes “the world really is black and white” so therefore I am EXACTLY the same as a PSYCHOPATH.  To her, just by existing, I am as harmful as a serial killer.  Just by existing, I may as well be skinning people in my basement. (A touch of hyperbole here, but most deserving of it, I assure you.)

Why?  Because: “Call it by a name; narcissist, sociopath, psychopath, bipolar, even autistic. All disorders lacking empathy. Cluster “B” personalities. They can not love. On the other end there is depression, anxiety, stress… All disorders felt by those who have empathy and usually as a result of dealing with a non-empathetic person.” [I will NOT link to the original source, as this person does not deserve your attention.]

(Should I mention the irony that she thinks people with Cluster “B” Personality Disorders are insects when one of those disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder, is identified as having “extreme black and white thinking”?  Of course, this same person ALSO went on to say that spreading hate about someone different than themselves makes them an insect – so there seems to be A LOT of projection at work here.)

To be perfectly honest, as I was first reading her blog I didn’t think she was just the worthless human being she clearly is (perhaps I suffered a head wound).  I innocently thought she was just miseducated.  After all, some of the disorders on her list CAN present with a lack of empathy or difficultly recognizing emotions in others.  Perhaps she just misunderstood what that meant.  Most people who haven’t dealt with mental illness first hand are completely clueless about it.

For a bit there, I foolishly thought I could actually educate her and make the world a slightly better place.  (Maybe that has a lot to do with why I allowed her words to have such a strong effect on me.)  I mean, not EVERYTHING she said was so off-base.  Such as the following:

“Wars should not be about religion, politics nor race. None of those things really matter. What does matter, is being human and helping one another.”

But then I started to read some of the upset comments people had left her…. And her responses back.  The things she said to the parents of autistic children were just plain DERANGED.  She told them their children didn’t really love them, that they were just convincing themselves that they did to make themselves feel better, and that the PARENTS were SPREADING HATE by ENABLING their children!

Logically I knew nothing I had to say would make any difference either, so don’t know why I bothered.  But I couldn’t live with myself if I said nothing.  So I left a comment of my own.

“The only way to see the world in black and white, is to lack empathy yourself. Those who possess empathy have the ability to see the shades of gray created by trying to understand another human being’s perspective. Not everyone feels things the same or reacts to things the same, and you can never know what goes on inside them. But if you have empathy, you try to. If you don’t try to, you don’t have empathy.

‘Any person who spreads hate about someone different than them, you can almost automatically assume that person is an insect.’

The people who suffer from the disorders you mentioned are different from you, and rather than try to understand them you have made things easier for yourself by writing them off. You’ve manufactured justification so there is no need to try to understand them by turning them into an “insect”. And in this post, you are telling others to do so as well – and that is most certainly spreading hate.”

I felt good about my comment.  Very good.  But somehow my cloud still lingered.  Her words of hate still clawed at my soul.  This woman is the embodiment of the fears of stigma that every person with a mental illness has in their heart when it comes to people “finding out”.   I thought she was just the bogeyman.  (i.e. I was scared of people feeling the way she does, but never actually BELIEVED that educated people in this day and age really did.)

Thankfully, she responded back to me.  Because her response was enough to finally knock some sense into me and help me to stop caring about her opinion.

Her reply: “Those who see “grey”and feel empathy are enablers. The only thing more dangerous than an insect is an empathy driven person tricked into enabling an insect.”

Sooo… what you’re saying is… the only thing worse than NOT feeling empathy… is actually FEELING empathy???  I was actually foolish enough to allow THIS person’s words upset me?  Shit, now I’m embarrassed as hell.  But like I said earlier, perhaps I was MEANT to have this experience.  Because retrospectively, I feel like it was profoundly important.

Even after I stopped allowing myself to be hurt by it, the experience stayed on my mind all night and all day.  It’s ironic – being told I was not capable of feeling empathy just opened me up to a new level of empathy when it comes to how it feels to be discriminated against.

Here’s the thing – I have been discriminated against plenty of times in my life for various things (as has EVERYONE at some point). For my gender, my age, my appearance, my social status, my sexuality, and of course my mental illness. The list goes on.

Sometimes this discrimination is not even worth discussion, because it’s just the opinion of some asshole on the street. Sometimes it’s more dangerous and has kept me from getting jobs or promotions that I deserved or otherwise impacted my ability to live my life the way I deserve to.

But this… this was the first time I ever experienced discrimination that made me feel SUB-HUMAN. The difference between someone assuming you aren’t as good as they are because of something you cannot control versus someone assuming you aren’t the same SPECIES as they are and are therefore INCAPABLE of feeling the same emotions as they do. That you are completely wiped out as being A PERSON.

I didn’t realize this level of discrimination still existed in the First World.  But it’s just a small sliver of what Black people had to endure during slavery and segregation, or Jews during the Holocaust, and many other groups in different times and cultures.  Except not just from one random asshole – from society as a whole. From the LAW and respected, educated people.

This has always been some of the darkest parts of humanity, and I have always had a very soft spot for the people who endured it and a hatred of the people who enacted it. But I now feel like I can better put myself in their shoes and imagine their pain. It physically hurts. I’ve had to stop myself from publically crying. (Must be a fluke though, since people with Bipolar Disorder can’t feel empathy or love.)

So thank you, random bitch on the internet.  Your hatred just helped to make me a slightly better and more understanding person.

Does it ever get better?

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

I used to hate those words.  I found them insulting.  They didn’t take all scenarios into account.  Those words were just meant for otherwise happy people going through a rough patch.  My ENTIRE LIFE was not a TEMPORARY problem, goddamn it!

As a child, every day I feared one of my family members would kill another.  Every day the people I went to school with mocked and berated me ceaselessly.  Even physically assaulted me at times.  Every day the people I called “friend” didn’t actually give a damn about me.  Couldn’t be bothered to ask me what was wrong if they saw me hurting.  Couldn’t even pick up the phone and call me to say “hello”.  One call, I used to think, would be enough to make a difference.  But that phone never rang.

Every day I felt like I had no one.  Every day I wished I was dead.  Every day, the only thing keeping me from killing myself was my refusal to let “them” win.  I never knew feeling another way, even in elementary school.  Enough years go by feeling that way… you don’t think it can EVER change.

The theme song from the show “Friends” has that line “when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year”.  I heard a radio DJ once say, when talking about that song, something to the effect of “if it hasn’t been your year, it’s time to throw in the towel”.  (Damned radio DJ’s… no one should ever take their drivel seriously.)  So what about those like me – where EVERY year hasn’t been their year?!

Yeah… those like us?  That slogan doesn’t apply to those like us.  Or so I thought.

It took a LONG time for things to change, a lot of fuck ups, and A LOT of FIGHT.  And I didn’t even notice that things were getting better until one day I turned around and realized I had an entirely different life.

Even though I didn’t appreciate the significance at the time, I do know when it started to get better for me.  The fundamental difference.

In my case, it was something so small.  So simple.  One little pill, and all I needed to do… was take it… EVERY day.  Stop convincing myself that there is nothing wrong with me and going off the meds… AGAIN.  Having the courage to accept that I had a mental illness, and that did NOT make me weak.  What was weak was refusing to accept help when I needed it.

It wasn’t the first pill I tried that finally helped.  More like the sixth.  Pharmacology isn’t an exact science.

And then when I FINALLY found the right one… that pill didn’t make all my problems go away.  My life still sucked.  But something was different… ME.  My outlook.  I realized that with time and effort, I could CHANGE my circumstances.  And I did.

It took years.  Years where I still felt like I was failing.  But I didn’t want to die anymore.  Now, I wanted to make things better instead.  Until one day I looked back and realized… I LIKED my life. It’s not perfect.  I still struggle and have hard times.  But… life is full of ups and downs.  Now I know when things are down, they WILL go back up again.  Turns out it really was a temporary problem.  For some people, temporary is just A LOT longer.

If you’re struggling, don’t give up.  No matter how hopeless it seems – there is ALWAYS hope.  And if you see someone struggling, show them you care.  You may never realize that your kindness was the difference between life and death.

To feed, or not to feed the starving children in Africa….

There has been an epidemic in this country… of naïve and ignorant do-gooders whose actions cause more harm than good.  Their hearts are in the right place, but they just don’t grasp the repercussions of their methods.

There are so many examples of this – each one could have a book written about them.  Well, I don’t have the time or energy to write a book and I don’t have the time or energy to write about all of them but I am sick of sitting on my hands – so I am going to let my voice be heard and write a little bit about some of them.

I am not going in order of importance, simply in order of what is on my mind at the moment I can find the time to write.  And I am going to start, RIGHT NOW.

It baffles me that people somehow think they are doing good by offering our nation’s resources to the poor, underprivileged, and starving people in other countries while completely ignoring the needs of the poor, underprivileged, and starving people right here in our own country.

It’s not that the people in those countries don’t matter or don’t deserve help – it’s just that you need to take care of yourself and your own before you can take care of others.

Despite all we have as a country, we are not equipped to offer that kind of aid when there are so many U.S. citizens in need of help.  It’s irresponsible and actually cruel and uncaring to do so.

You can equate it to a family that barely makes ends meet.  They certainly have it better than some families out there and are thankful for the roof over their heads.  But their dept is so high they live in fear of losing everything they have and some nights the children go without dinner because there is not enough money to buy food.

Now imagine this – after getting paid, the parents go to the grocery store and buy enough to feed the whole family for the next week.  But rather than put that food in the cupboards and refrigerator, they donate it to a homeless shelter.  It’s only enough to feed one meal to a small handful of the swarms of people lined up to eat there… and now their own children must go without food until the next time the parents get paid.

What would you think about these people?  Would you consider their actions pious or cruel?  And what would you think about their children?  Would you think they were lucky to have such caring parents or would you feel sorry for them over the neglect?

I like to think that most of you would feel sorry for them… and I imagine the authorities would consider them unfit to care for their own children and they would most likely be taken away by the state and put into foster care.  Because while it’s a good thing to donate food to a homeless shelter… it becomes a horrible thing when your own children must go without food to do so.

Well, the government is kind of like the parents and the citizens a lot like the children.  And it is just a cruel for the government to ignore the needs of its starving citizens while offering help to starving foreigners.

This same principle applies within our own country too – to every layer of human connections.  If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to offer help past your front door – help locally first!  Don’t donate your spare resources to help hurricane victims 2 states over if your next door neighbor’s house was destroyed in a flood and he is crying out for help.  Don’t donate money to Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital if your co-worker’s child is dying and the mounting medical bills are about to force him to file for bankruptcy.  It’s cruel to offer help to faceless strangers and ignore the needs of the person standing in front of you.

And that is what you are doing when you send money to the starving children in Africa and look away from then homeless man standing on the street corner.

In the past when I have raised this point in discussion with those in support of foreign aid, it is often countered with the idea that starving people in other countries have it worse than the starving people in the U.S, and are therefore in greater need.

This idea is that even the poorest person in the U.S. still has it better than the average person living in a third world country because at least here they have access to things like medical treatment and homeless shelters and at least here they have a chance of turning their lives around.

But… while those points may be true, does that really mean they have it “better”?

What that line of thinking fails to account for is the roll that perspective plays in how good or bad something is.

Perhaps a good way to illustrate that is with food.  More specifically, canned dog food.  To a dog that is used to eating dry dog food everyday, it is a delicious treat that they would trip over themselves to get to.  But to the average human that is used to choosing their favorites amongst the thousands of foods available in the grocery store, having to eat canned dog food would seem like a punishment.

But perhaps that example is too extreme since it involves 2 different species and the physical differences between them could be a factor.  So let’s take it closer to home.  How about we talk about the teenager in the lower middle class family, who is so excited to get that rundown used car for his 16th birthday, instead.  Finally – freedom to go wherever he wants to go without relying on someone else for a ride.  He loves that car and washes it everyday.  He spends his weekends fixing it up with his dad while they talk about sports.  Later in his life, he looks back at those times as some of his fondest memories.

But what about that spoiled rich kid who wanted a Porche for his 16th birthday?  Give him that same rundown used car instead and he may just accuse you of trying to ruin his life and tell you he hates you.

The car is the same, their ages the same… so what is the difference?  Perspective.

So let’s bring it back to that starving child in Africa and that homeless American, only this time, let’s add some perspective.

That starving child in Africa has next to nothing, this is true.  By our standards, the conditions are unlivable.  But note the key phrase “by our standards”.  Because those conditions, horrific as they are, are all that child has EVER known.  Every single person around them lives under these same conditions.  They have an entirely different set of standards and to them that is normal.  They don’t even know what it means to have the kind of comforts that we consider essential, so it is impossible for them to know what they are missing.

Whereas, that homeless American used to know a completely different life before he lost his job, followed by everything else he ever held dear.  He had a warm bed, clean clothes, and a full belly.  He had a cell phone, a nice car, and he played golf on weekends.  He was well respected in the community and thought he had a lot of friends.  Those friends disappeared pretty quickly though, after he got evicted and started living in his car.  And by the time his car got repossessed, his former friends stopped remembering his name.

Now he sleeps in a cardboard box and eats out of the trash.  He can’t even remember the last time he bathed.  And when he holds his hands out to the nicely dressed strangers on the street, they avert their eyes, call him names, sometimes even spit on him.  And over and over he hears the same words uttered with disgust: “Get a job”.  As if someone who looked and smelled like him could even obtain an interview.  He was lucky if the manager didn’t call the police just for being on the premises when he tried.

All around him they sip their coffee and stuff donuts in their faces.  No one ever offers him a bite or offers to buy him a cup.  On the rare occasion he encounters someone willing to spare some change, they further insult his dignity by telling him not to spend that fifty cents on alcohol.

Then he watches them go inside their nice house where he knows they will kick off their shoes in front of the television, eat a nice hot meal, take a warm shower, and crawl into bed.  He is forced to watch all the people around him enjoying all the things he used to have… while he just wallows in the gutter.

Technically, he may have more than that starving child in Africa, but from his perspective he has it far worse… because he knows exactly what he is missing.

But of course, it doesn’t really matter who has it “worse”.  This is not some sick contest to determine who is the most deserving.  Such a determination is far too subjective to ever be defined in such black and white terms.  I only draw this comparison to reveal some of the flaws with the previously mentioned line of thinking.

So let’s back it up to the main point I am trying to make.  Which is really far less about who deserves help as it is about who is equipped to help.  And as a country, in order to be equipped to help other countries, we must first pull together like a family and make it our duty to ensure every member (i.e. citizen) can stand on their own before offering to lift up someone else’s family (i.e. foreign country).

Of course, there are a lot of potential negative consequences that can arise from too much charity or government aid, no matter who is on the receiving end.  But that is an entirely different topic for another day.