Friday, August 29, 2008

Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Presidential Politics

This has been a difficult week for me. Despite my best intentions to not dwell on things or get my hopes up, I became completely consumed with McCain's impending VP decision. Watching the political prediction markets, I did, in fact, get my hopes up regarding Mitt Romney's chances. Yesterday, when it began to look like that wasn't going to happen, I had to go through a grieving process for the second time in this election process. Just last night, I vowed I would not vote for McCain if he didn't put Mitt Romney on the ticket.

Now, let the record show that I remain loyal to my man Mitt, but I'll be schnookered if John McCain didn't pull a real live rabbit out of his hat. Sarah Palin is beyond impressive--a woman that makes me proud of my gender for the first time in my adult life! Oh, wait, I think I may have just confused myself with Michelle Obama for a second there. Seriously, Palin epitomizes what a conservative woman is all about. I'm not quite ready to replace my Romney bumper sticker, but I am pretty certain that I can actually vote for McCain without holding my nose with this woman's name beside his.

"My Brother's Keeper"

Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech yesterday. He tried his best to make it an historic speech, but I'm not sure he succeeded. Granted, his nomination might be historic, but not the speech, not even if he did deliver it in front of a very poor representation of the Lincoln Memorial. The set was apparently intended as a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s truly historic speech, but the fact that it required explanation shows that people were not really making the connection.

Meanwhile, Obama laid out his political philosophy which hinges on the belief that the government should take full responsibility for all of us. He couches this socialist ideology in charitable rhetoric that makes it sound like he is taking the moral highroad. However, while Obama lauded the importance of individual responsibility, his plans would eliminate it. The government will become the parent and provider of the citizens. According to Obama, when people fall down, they should not have to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps; the government should be there to pick them up.

This is what Obama means when he says we need to be a country who says "I am my brother's keeper. I am my sister's keeper." If you think he was referring to an ideal of individual responsibility for ourselves and our fellow men, consider the peculiar irony of those words. Barack Obama has a brother who lives in a hut in Africa without even running water, barely surviving on an income of $1 per month. It seems that Obama does not feel a need to personally be his own brother's keeper.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Autism and "False" Hope

This is the time of year when parents everywhere are preparing to send their children back to school. As a homeschooling parent, this means something a bit different for me. This is the time of year when I steel myself, not to send my children out into the world, but to once again tackle the daunting task of educating them. Luckily, I am a school junkie and get very excited by things like new pencils and books and art supplies and science kits. But there is always that element of pressure brought on by the fact that these are my kids and I want them to have the best education possible. Because of that pressure, I am always looking for new techniques and methods to better achieve that goal.

The fact that one of my beloved students has autism adds yet another--and more intimidating--layer to the mix. Where he is concerned, not only am I providing education, but also therapy. Ten and a half years after his diagnosis, I can look back on many nutritional, medical, experimental, and behavioral interventions that we have tried with varying degrees of success. Ironically, Austin is the healthiest member of our family--the least likely to get sick and the quickest to heal when he does. But the hurdles of his disability remain stretched out in front of us. And so, at this time of preparing to roll up my sleeves and get back to the business of educating, I am also readying myself to renew my efforts to somehow lead Austin to an independent adulthood.

Throughout my experiences as a parent of a child with autism, I have encountered many experts, and even fellow parents, who believe that the various treatments that are out there offer nothing more than false hope. They would have the families of these children accept the disability and realize that there are certain things they will never be able to achieve. I understand that this type of acceptance may bring comfort to many parents. However, I would rather throw myself into the pain of the hope-disappointment cycle everyday than give up forever on my child. The thing is, no hope is false. Hope is what moves you forward, believing that progress is possible. Living a life of hope can only bring positive results. Even if it means that 9 out of every 10 things I try will fail, I know that I will eventually come across the one that succeeds, even if just a little. Sure, the greatest wish of my heart would be to have my son made whole in an instant. I know that is not likely to happen. I accept my son for who he is, respect him for what he has to overcome just to accomplish things that most people take for granted their whole lives, and love him unconditionally. But I will never accept his disability. It is a mortal enemy that would take my son's whole life from him if I let it. So I fight, continuing to reach for every morsel of hope I can lay my hands on.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Shooting Stars

Every year at this time, my family ventures outside to lie on the ground and scan the night sky for the breathtaking Perseid meteors. From razor-thin shooting stars to huge blazing fireballs, this is the best astronomical display for those of us too far south to see the Aurora Borealis.

For the best viewing, wait until the moon has set and pick a spot away from outdoor lights. I recommend a towel or blanket so you can lie right on the ground. At peak visibility, you should be able to see one every 5-10 seconds.

Check out this time lapse shot: