Blurred Lines: From American Exceptionalism to American Materialism

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From the desk of Kelly:

As the great poet, Madonna, once said, “We are living in a material world.” Our lives revolve around the latest trend – who’s cool, what’s hot today, what’s the latest trend. But have you ever stopped to think who decides what is “cool” or who decides what is “good”? Who decides what is “good” music, food, fashion, TV? The answer: it all comes down to a matter of opinion. For example, there are some individuals who detest country music. “It all sounds the same!” they cry. Well, maybe to some people that’s true. I, personally, love country music, and conversely am not a big fan of rap music because the sound doesn’t appeal to me. That’s fine but that’s my opinion, not a fact. There are certainly those who have mastered their craft in every genre; they stand above others in their field. They are the musicians who can write beautiful music and play it themselves on a variety of different instruments; the chef who has become a master of culinary art and can whip up a dish using just about any ingredient (Have you ever seen “Chopped” – those people are ridiculous!) I’m not arguing over talent here. What I’m getting at, however, is that many of the trends, or what society labels as “cool” is only that way because of someone else’s opinion. Then, through mass overexposure and advertising, the public is led to believe that life would be barren without it.

Trends come and go. They always have and they always will. Why, then, are we focusing our lives on something that will surely be outdated next year? What do we gain by purchasing that new outfit or that new smart phone? I was recently leafing through a women’s fitness magazine and was taken aback to find that in their “Fashion” section, they were flaunting tops, pants, and purses almost all upwards of $200 in cost. What one chooses to do with their money is their own prerogative. I won’t pretend that I’ve never splurged before. But it can lead you down two very slippery slopes – living beyond your means, and focusing all your energy on “keeping up with the Joneses.” We’re living in a fragile and unsteady economy. Jobs are hard to find, sometimes hard to keep, and cost of living (not to mention cost of healthcare – thanks, Obama) is rising. The “do what feels good” mantra fools people into thinking they will gain some sort of satisfaction from purchasing that new shirt with a designer name, a new iPhone, or maybe if you’ve been really down, that new car. Oftentimes these purchases come at the expense (no pun intended) of your bank account. “But it’s (insert famous designer here)!” we rationalize. Exactly my point. Who says it’s cool? The flavor-of-the-week popstar? A real housewife of (insert city here)? Hollywood? In a culture where we’re constantly being overexposed to brand after brand being endorsed by “so and so” celebrity it’s hard not to believe it after awhile.

Personal responsibility plays a big role in all of this. It’s hard to resist that shiny new gadget, or those must-have shoes. But can you afford them? Will you be living off of Ramen noodles for the next 2 months if you buy that Coach purse? (Hopefully not because those things are laden with excess sodium.) Sometimes being a responsible individual means saying no to those “feel good” things. The good news is you won’t sink into a downward spiral if you opt out on purchasing that new Michael Kors watch. It’s unfortunate that we’ve been trained to associate feelings with purchasing or engaging in popular activities – listening to certain music, wearing a certain style of clothes, eating at a certain type of restaurant. It’s all fine and well to indulge on occasion but the point is to not let that define you. You, as an individual, should be defined by your values and beliefs and not by status – what kind of car you drive, where you work, or what you’re wearing. Instead of focusing on the outer aspects of life (ie: looks, money, etc.) we should be placing the focus on what’s inside. I’m not going to launch into an “it’s on the inside that counts” after-school special here. What I would like to point out, though, is how little focus our society places on the more meaningful things. It’s normal now for college to be the next step after high school. But lest we forget that once upon a time, college was a dream for most people. Not only was it a dream, it was a highly respected and revered path. After all, knowledge is power. Long before the days of “Animal House” and “Old School” we had institutions focused solely on higher learning. It’s plain to see the focus of going to college has largely shifted. The places where people once went to focus on learning and broadening horizons is now a haven for beer pong, football games, and (unfortunately) liberal propaganda. Gaining knowledge has fallen by the wayside.

America’s youth are brainwashed to believe it doesn’t matter what book you’re reading as long you’re listening to the right music and watching the right TV shows. Forget about current events. Ask a young person today what’s going on in the world and chances are you’ll get a blank stare. (If you don’t believe me, just watch the “Watter’s World” segment on “The O’Reilly Factor”) Books, politics, learning in general, for that matter, are largely “uncool.” Hence the reason why so many young people morphed into “Obama zombies” in the past two elections – they didn’t know any better. But Diddy told them to go out and vote (in an oh, so bipartisan way) so they did, and obviously for the wrong person. This is the perfect example of being a sheep in the large herd that’s become the American society. Why do you think individuals like Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Dr. Ben Carson and even actress Stacey Dash are berated for speaking their opinions? It’s precisely because they go against the liberal machine. They have their own ideas and principles, which don’t exactly jive with the Left’s. Naturally, like any mature person would do, the mainstream media and their posse viciously attack said individuals. No stone is left unturned for these animals. They’ll go after families, tax records, clothing, choice of music, you name it. If you disagree with them you’re fair game to their ridicule.

So what does materialism have to do with politics or your quality of life? It all comes down to priorities. When the focus becomes the material world, we lose our grasp on what’s truly important. As the saying goes, “if you stand for nothing you’ll fall for anything.” It’s sad to say, but far too many people live a superficial life. They don’t take the time to sharpen the mental and spiritual aspects of their lives. What’s even more upsetting is that too many people are more concerned with what’s happening on the latest episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” instead of what’s happening in the Middle East. “Ben Ghazi? Who’s that?” We’ve become content with just coasting through life. Jesus was (obviously) spot-on when he told his followers the story of the two builders. One man built his house on solid rock, and the other built his house on sand. When a violent storm came, and the rain poured down and the wind howled, the man whose house was built on rock was fine. He had a strong foundation to keep his house safe. The man whose house was built on sand saw his house fall apart before him, as it had no foundation to keep it sturdy. When the foundation of our lives is our looks, our money, or power we will undoubtedly be shaken to the core when the storm comes. Those attributes are fleeting and will do no good when push comes to shove. It’s time to break out of the herd. Not only is it destroying us as individuals, it’s destroying our society. We’ve been dumbed down and dolled up into a shell of the great people we once were. Madonna was right about one thing (words I never thought I’d utter) – we are living in a material world; a world that needs a little more Atlas Shrugged, George Washington, and Jesus, and a little less Apple, Giorgio Armani, and Jimmy Choo.

#MondayMotivation: Minding Your Own Business

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From the desk of Jackie:

“How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.” – Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor

More than ever, the affairs and activities of other people have become a major distraction in our every day lives.  It can be hard not to waste time thinking about or talking about what everyone else is doing, especially when it is commonplace for people to post their actions on social media for the world to see.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be caught up with the lives of old friends.  But there is a fine line between wanting to catch up with others and gossiping about others or looking into their lives for the purpose of judging them.  The latter is an unproductive waste of time that only serves to hold you back from positive action in your own life.  What do you gain by criticizing someone else’s actions other than a false and inflated sense of self?  Wouldn’t it be a better alternative to feel good about yourself because of the positive that you have done rather than because of the negative that others have done?  Make a change in your life by taking your focus off of others’ mistakes and putting your energy into your own productivity and success.  If nothing else, according to the emperor, it should save you time!  Happy Monday!

#MondayMotivation: Worry

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From the desk of Kelly:

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie ten Boom

Worrying is often compared to sitting in a rocking chair – it will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere. That’s exactly what it does when we let it control our lives. It’s so easy to let fear and anxiety stop you in your tracks. We often face circumstances that seem overwhelming. It makes us feel helpless and weak. The more we dwell on what might happen, the more we waste the strength we have to deal with what will happen. If anyone had something to worry about it would have been Corrie ten Boom and her family. Living in the Netherlands during World War II, they helped countless families of Jews and other refugees by offering them a hiding place from the Nazis. Corrie and her family were eventually arrested and sent to concentration camps but she never lost her faith in God. After living through darker times than many of us will ever see, Corrie’s words are that much more powerful. We can choose to be overcome by our fears or we can trust that God will provide. This week let’s get up out of the rocking chair and choose trust. Happy Monday!

#LiberalLoser: United States Congress

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From the desk of Jackie:
Surprise, surprise, America! Like a playground full of petulant children, our members of Congress have failed to reach a compromise to fund the government after squabbling for weeks, and our government is now shut down. Once again, Harry Reid and his troupe of idiots (i.e. the Democrats) and John “Crocodile Tears” Boehner and his gaggle of cowards (i.e. most of the Republicans) have decided that their own egos are more important than actually getting anything done in their lauded roles as “public servants.” No, the result of the government shutdown will not be the apocalypse or any of the similar catastrophic consequences threatened by the Democrats during the sequester earlier this year. However, the shutdown does have serious ramifications. For one, sporting events featuring teams from Army, Navy, and the Air Force may not be played. More significantly, many hard working government employees (you know – the ones blamed for scandals and labeled as “rogue, low level employees”) are out of work and without pay. Such a situation may be hard to imagine for the almighty members of Congress while they spend most of their time on vacation and the rest of their time bickering like 13 year old girls. It’s bad enough having actual liberals in Congress; the endless disagreement and resultant shutdown evidences that plenty of Republicans are now acting like liberals (translation of “liberals” = morons). I implore our Senators and Representatives to take more time to consider the very real ramifications of their actions on ordinary citizens when they continually fail to do their jobs. The cyclical pettiness is unbecoming and unacceptable. So, this week’s Liberal Loser honors goes to our ever ineffectual members of Congress. Wake up, DC! There’s work to be done!

#MondayMotivation: Risk

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From the desk of Jackie:

“Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.” – John Henry Newman

It’s always easy to push things off into the future, because you feel like you don’t have time to do it well or you’re not ready to handle the task at hand.  The problem with this approach is that, more often than not, you never end up doing what you had intended.  The fact is that no one is perfect and there will always be someone ready to criticize what you do, no matter how much effort you put into it or how well it turns out.  But you can’t let the fear of criticism or failure prevent you from acting.  If you do, you’ll never act at all.  So, this week, from the big things all the way down to the little things of daily life, take risks, take action, and find success!  Happy Monday!

#ConservativeChampion: Senator Ted Cruz

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From the desk of Kelly:

While we may have (somewhat) kiddingly stated before that we can’t always feature the great Senator Ted Cruz as our “Conservative Champion,” today is the exception. In case you’ve been living under a rock, yesterday at 2:40 p.m. Senator Cruz took to the Senate floor to begin speaking on the atrocity that is Obamacare. He spoke through the evening, through the early morning hours, and as of this posting he is still speaking. He has yet to yield the floor, except to answer questions and hear from other great patriots like Senators Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio, to name a few. In a surprising turn of events, the mainstream media has already begun to demonize and belittle Senator Cruz instead of focusing on his fundamental talking points. This is beyond left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republic; this is about the will of the people, and in case you haven’t noticed, the people don’t want Obamacare. In an already fragile economy, who in their right mind would fight for a law that will decrease jobs, cut hours, and leave people in financial disarray as the result of mounting medical costs?! It has been a very long time since a politician went to Washington and actually did what he or she promised to do. Right now, Senator Cruz is doing just that. Keep on fighting the good fight, Senator! We’re standing with you!

We Remember 9/11

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“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” – President George W. Bush, 9/11/01

When I was younger, I often heard people talk about where they were during significant events in history – when JFK was assassinated, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded – and I was amazed at how accurately people could describe just what they were doing, right down to what they were wearing sometimes. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I, like many other Americans, gained a “where were you” story of my own. That was a day that changed our country forever. It was a day of sadness, loss, anger, and confusion. It became a benchmark for a new era in our history, a “post-9/11” era that came with heightened national security, changes in our travel habits, intensified intelligence gathering, and a war against the evil that caused this. You can’t go to a football game, get on a plane, or see the beautiful New York City skyline in the same way you would have on September 10, 2001. As the years go by and that clear, blue day in 2001 gets farther and farther away, I pray that we never forget. Never forget the brave, selfless first responders who rushed to the scene; the countless individuals whose names we will never know that stepped up to help a stranger; the family and friends who lost loved ones; and resolve of a great nation that refused to be destroyed by faceless cowards. God bless America.

#LiberalLoser: Mark Ruffalo

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From the desk of Kelly:

Liberals clearly know no bounds. Just when you think their comments can’t get anymore shallow or callous, Mark Ruffalo pops on the scene and makes some of the most asinine statements I’ve ever heard. Ruffalo decided to write an open letter on the topic of abortion, which was then read at a rally outside of a Mississippi abortion clinic. In his letter, Ruffalo stresses the importance of keeping abortion legal, even likening the legalization of abortion to ending racism! “There was no mistake in us making abortion legal and available on demand. That was what we call progress. Just like it was no mistake that we abolished institutional racism in this country around the same time,” he writes. He began his statement by sharing that his own mother was “forced to illegally have an abortion in her state where abortion was illegal when she was a very young woman.” He goes on to imply that it’s somehow a flaw in society’s moral code: “It was shameful and sleazy and demeaning. When I heard the story I was aghast by the lowliness of a society that would make a woman do that. I could not understand its lack of humanity; today is no different…My mother’s illegal abortion marked a time in America that we have worked long and hard to leave behind. It was a time when women were seen as second rate citizens who were not smart enough, nor responsible enough, nor capable enough to make decisions about their lives.” The last time I checked, the “right” to kill an unborn child did not fall under the umbrella of “women’s rights.” Society does not owe Ruffalo’s mother or any other female an apology for the defense of human life. It’s disgusting that celebrities like Ruffalo will use their fame and status to parade around making statements like these. Abortion is a far greater issue than a woman’s “right to choose;” it’s about who has the right to decide to end the life of an unborn child. Remember, Mark, babies aren’t dropped in their mommy’s bellies by storks. The “right to choose” comes much earlier. Maybe it’s time people started using their status to advocate for some responsibility in this culture.

#ConservativeChampions: Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Langer and Manny Fernandez of the 1972 Miami Dolphins

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From the desk of Kelly:

In 1972 the Miami Dolphins accomplished some amazing things. They recorded an undefeated season and went on to win the Super Bowl. These days, that would be rewarded with a fancy trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for a celebration with the president. But, at the time of their historical feat, it was not yet tradition for teams to be invited to the White House, and President Nixon was up to his ears in the Watergate scandal (not to be confused with today’s “phony” scandals: Benghazi, the IRS, etc.) So, being the nice guy that he is, President Obama invited the team to Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate their undefeated season and Super Bowl championship. Not all the players were in attendance though, some due to previous engagements, and for three others, political reasons. Former Dolphins players Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Langer and Manny Fernandez all declined the invitation due to disagreements with President Obama’s policies. The three men kept it brief, but made their point when speaking to the Sun-Sentinel about their decision. “I’ll just say my views are diametrically opposed to the president’s,” said Fernandez. “We’ve got some real moral compass issues in Washington…I don’t want to be in a room with those people and pretend I’m having a good time. I can’t do that.” Langer stated. And while they all wished for a good time for their former teammates, Kuechenberg summed it up best: “I want to be careful, because mom said if you have nothing good to say about someone, then don’t say anything. I don’t have anything good to say about someone…I don’t belong there, I’ll tell you that…Without being critical, I can just tell you I don’t belong. It would be hypocritical of me to be there…I just don’t believe in this administration at all. So I don’t belong. Anyone on the left or the right has to respect one man’s opinion.” You have to respect people who are unafraid to speak up for what they believe in, and it sounds like these guys feel pretty strongly about their opposition to the abysmal path our president has led us down. Unlike wimpy, liberal Hollywood, the sports world boasts far more right-leaning figures. (Although, if you read that recent study that suggests strong, muscular men tend to fall on the conservative end of the political spectrum, then you shouldn’t be too surprised by this.) It’s refreshing to hear people take a stand for their principles. Congratulations to these three men, who can now add “Conservative Champion” to their list of honors.

#MondayMotivation: Faith

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From the desk of Kelly: 

“I do not have to know why everything happens since I know God is good, he loves me, and life on earth is not the whole story.” – Rick Warren

When we find ourselves in the midst of troubling times it’s natural to wonder “why me?” It’s easy to question and become overwhelmed by the things that burden us. We don’t always get answers but Rick Warren said it best in this quote – it doesn’t matter. We are not in control, and while it’s second nature for most of us to want to control every aspect of our lives, there comes a point where we need to surrender that control. No matter what comes our way we can rest in the comfort of knowing God has a plan for us. When the storms of life come our way this week (and every week) just remember, God has got it under control. Happy Monday!