Stepping into the world of Social Work
I was recently reading posts on Facebook from my hometown regarding the relative merits of the two rival high schools. The argument boiled down to lists of celebrities who came from the two schools and how often each had beaten the other in various sports and band. To someone more than 30 years out of high school, it sounded absolutely ridiculous. I’ve also, like everyone else, been watching the London Olympics, noting the “medal count” for each country as if it has some intrinsic meaning.
I find myself reacting the same way to those who have a belief in some form of “American exceptionalism.” I define that as the belief that the US is somehow automatically superior to every other country in the world. I love my country, too, just like I loved my high school, but I don’t expect that there is some sort of divine blessing on the United States (it would be tough or me to believe anything like that anyway, as I don’t believe much in the divine in any context). It’s hard for me to listen to these folks without feeling like they are just like the people who are saying “my high school is better than yours.”
Once we leave high school, we end up working with supervisors and co-workers from many other schools, so we have to grow up and realize that those old rivalries weren’t real, they were simply for fun. I am informed that Olympic athletes party together as soon as their games are done. The US has to do the same thing.
Yes, the US has tried to be a force for good in the world. We were an early adopter of democratic government in the modern era and have served as a model for many other countries. But we must also accept some errors of omission and commission, even in the current day. We also have to accept that other countries can have some good ideas too – either globally or something that simply works well for their specific situation and culture.
Having spent some time in another country (Germany – West Germany at that time), and having taken history and civics courses at the gymnasium (high school) level there, one of the things I really took home with me is that the American viewpoint is not the only one, nor is it even necessarily correct from an objective standard. We often view ourselves as some sort of first democracy, which is demonstrably inaccurate. We ignore the thousands of years of world history that came before us, assuming our nation and its system developed in a vacuum. We ignore the positive developments in the world around us, believing that the only valuable things can come from here.
Healthy relations with the rest of the world, both allies and challengers, will benefit from us taking ourselves down a peg and treating them as equals.
I came across this, as well as having heard about it on the radio:
This pastor actively promotes physical punishment against children who do not follow narrow gender roles. This brings up some issues I’ve been meaning to talk about from my point of view for quite some time; a clear misunderstanding by the Right of the relationships between adherence to gender-typical behavior, morality, and homosexuality.
This first came home to me when I was working with autistic children and was participating in Floor Time message boards for parents and practitioners. Floor time is a style of play therapy which stresses starting where the child is, what the child wants to do, with the adult gradually integrating gentle instruction in social skills. The critical aspect of doing what the child wants cannot be stressed more.
In one discussion I: remember, one parent mentioned having purchased a kitchen play set for her autistic son. Another parent (evidently a devout Christian) laid into her because it was “immoral” to teach a boy to play in a kitchen! Apparently such play, in her opinion, would lead to homosexuality.
From an objective standpoint, a kitchen play set is a fantastic role playing opportunity. Every member of the family ends up in the kitchen at several points each day, even if they are not responsible for preparing meals or cleaning up after them. In almost every household I have been a member of or visited, social activity centers around the kitchen for both genders and all ages. There are countless ways to allow the child to play and lead the activity, as well as for the adult to use the play for instruction.
Further, it is not morally inappropriate for a child of either gender to be taught basic kitchen skills. Individuals of both genders need to be able to make basic meals for themselves and engage in kitchen clean-up. The reasons for needing this might be too many to mention, but would include living alone as a young adult before getting married, occasional meals when a spouse is unable to cook (perhaps she is in the hospital having a baby?) or maybe being a true partner in the household and helping with a meal or just doing the dishes. My own dad, while maintaining his gender typical role as a bread winning heterosexual father, would happily cook dinner if needed. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where men are instructed to stay completely out of the kitchen.
It is also true that many heterosexual men are cooks or chefs by profession. They would not have developed these skills had they not been permitted to cook in their home kitchen. None of these men, whether working in fast food or at a 5 star restaurant, would consider what they do immoral.
This stresses the point that gender-atypical behavior is not necessarily immoral or leading to homosexuality. I am one of countless girls and women who feel more comfortable in slacks than dresses. I enjoyed playing with dolls but also catching lizards and toads. I’m not a feminine woman, but I’m definitely straight. Forcing me into frilly dresses or makeup would have done absolutely no good. I know of many straight men and women who were the same way – this was particularly true of those of us who fell in the higher range of intelligence.
It is this confusion on the part of the Right which causes the problems of bullying, particularly among young children. Taking this pastor’s advice to heart, these parents’ children will take the same attitude to school and beat up on their classmates because they have a lisp, or chose to play the flute, or aren’t good at sports. This isn’t witnessing for Jesus over some legitimately immoral act, this is bullying those who are different.
Two articles on the birth control issue caught my eye today, both indicating that reproductive rights advocates are correct in pushing back.
The first is Mitt Romney, stating that he’ll “get rid” of Planned Parenthood. This is very troubling for a number of reasons, but the biggest concern comes from the very arguments of those who are attacking the recent health insurance mandate and even coming up with new legislation allowing ANY employer to opt out for vague conscience reasons. They claim that employers should be able to do this to protect their freedom of religion, and the employee can just go to Planned Parenthood.
Well if these same people had their way, Planned Parenthood wouldn’t even exist! You can’t rely on something in one argument that you are actively seeking to eliminate in another.
Second, an Arizona law requiring that women obtaining birth control prescriptions may be expected to prove to their employer that there is a medical need. The Huffington Post article does a good job of explaining it. The picture above was going round as a “permission slip for contraception coverage,” which made the concern quite clear. And despite Rachel Larimore’s column on Slate claiming it is insulting and misleading, our fears have turned out to be right on!
It is clear that if we allow the Right to have their way, women will not receive the medical care they need. They are far more concerned about the poor embattled employer having to buck up and provide health care coverage that meets a standard determined by medical and public health experts, rather than religious leaders. Yes, a few exemptions should exist, but they would be for actual churches, not giant universities or hospital chains. Very small employers are also exempt from these mandates, protecting those businesses, as well.
I’ve been following the birth control debate pretty closely, as can
probably be shown by my having devoted two whole posts to it, and am considering another about Rush Limbaugh’s ridiculous rants and attacks on a woman, a Georgetown law student who intended to testify on the issue.
We all have the right to our own religious views. However, our rights can be somewhat limited by time and place, as well as the rights of other people. For example, employees can be limited in their speech (including religious) during their paid hours, if that behavior conflicts with the interests of the employer. My co-workers’ right to peace and my employers expectation of productivity do create limits to my hypothetical right to evangelize at work.
An employer, according to US law, also has to accept certain boundaries relative to their religion and employees. Most businesses cannot refuse to hire someone who does not happen to attend the same church as the owner. A few exceptions to that are actual places of worship, possibly very small businesses, and I’m sure a few others are recognized.
So the idea of a “conscience exception” for businesses that are not actively religious in nature is inherently wrong. An employer has no religious rights over his/her employees. A shop owner who didn’t believe in blood transfusions would be considered laughable if they attempted to remove that particular medical treatment in a health insurance plan. So why is birth control fair game? If it were hearing aids or blood pressure medication, the discussion would be much saner (I would hope).
Some would say that it’s the employer’s choice and you don’t have to take or keep the job if the benefits are not sufficient. That is a possible course of action, but I have yet to have an employer give me the details of their insurance plan ahead of time, so it isn’t like the information is available during salary negotiations. Some (most?) employers even require you to work 3 or 6 months before you become eligible, making you put in real time, perhaps only to learn that an important part of your compensation does not meet your needs. So the “free market” does not solve this problem.
We have a major problem with health care in this country. The only solution our legislature was able to get through was a modest plan to increase the percentage of people with insurance coverage. The only way this will help is if we also allow experts (medical and public health experts, not bishops or rabbis) to define what a basic, comprehensive plan looks like.
It is clear that people who speak from a “moral” or a political point of view are deliberately lying and confusing the issue.
I’m personally outraged by some of the rhetoric I hear about the contraception debate, not only from Catholic groups but also at least one of the presidential candidates. THEY are trying to reframe the debate to their taste while not realizing that they are demanding the “right” to trample the health of millions of women.
First, there is no way this can be about anything but women. It is the woman who would decide to obtain that prescription, fill it, and take it each day. It is the woman who would bear the consequence if she was unable to obtain affordable contraception and became pregnant.
An individual accepting a position at a Catholic church or diocese – at any level – would almost certainly be an adherent of the faith, and the small number of exceptions would be people who are willing to accept special strictures. I have absolutely no problem with this, and I doubt anybody else does either. Churches are exempt from a number of employment laws, and may choose employees based on faith affiliation.
The Catholic Church, in addition to their houses of worship and official church structure has also chosen to run some community service agencies, such as hospitals, adoption agencies and universities. (I won’t discuss elementary and high schools, as many elementary schools are certainly directly connected with a specific parish, and high schools may or may not be.)
While these are wonderful contributions to the community, they are separate from the Church in many ways. First, their primary purposes are NOT religious, they are agencies which have the purposes of aiding some specific aspect of their community (health, child welfare, higher education). While some connection to the church might remain, most of the work of the agency is secular.
Hospitals are also large employers, with the only employees absolutely needing to be Catholic reporting to the department of the chaplain. Those who mop the floors, cook and serve food, administer blood tests, take x-rays, handle administrative tasks, and even the nurses are hired on merit, not religion. Their jobs are identical to their peers at any other hospital. The same thing goes for universities – thousands of employees doing secular jobs that are identical to what they would be doing at any other university.
Nobody’s religious freedom is being harmed. The Catholic church is only being required to accept that since their hospitals and universities are not part of their religious mission, they fall subject to a number of secular regulations. One of them is the new definition of what a comprehensive health insurance plan looks like. If they do not wish to offer comprehensive health plans, there are consequences.
Particularly after the compromise, this really starts to look ridiculous. Since health insurance companies typically consider contraception to be a pretty standard prescription to cover, they weren’t giving discounts for plans that didn’t cover it. So covering it free isn’t a big deal for insurance companies. But some bigwig Catholic males are still throwing a tantrum because some food service worker, administrative assistant, nurse, or English professor might obtain contraceptive medication on the insurance policy they receive as part of their compensation. This is as silly as trying to dictate what an employee might buy with their salary.
The real violation of religious liberty is this: that food service worker and English professor aren’t Catholic. They don’t have to be Catholic simply because they took positions with a Catholic hospital or university. The nurse does happen to be Catholic, but has a medical condition that is best treated with the same pills. Each of them has the right to decide, with her doctor, what her health requires and what her beliefs are in terms of artificial birth control. In all of these cases (and even if the employee is Catholic but chooses not to follow church teachings in this regard) it is an unacceptable violation of THEIR rights to have their employer exclude an important aspect of women’s health from coverage.
In the news this week is a decision to celebrate – many religious employers will be required (in 2013) to cover birth control even if the particular faith opposes it.
While some feel this violates religious liberty, it is actually an excellent decision in support of individual liberty vs employer overreach. My employer, no matter what its views, has no business interfering with my medical decisions.
Most of the individuals employed by such employers are in purely secular positions. Catholic hospitals, for example, have many many positions which are not religious in nature, such as clerical, janitorial, technical, food service. I don’t even imagine all the medical staff (doctors and nurses) are expected to belong to the church. For that reason, their employer has no right to impose its views on their private life (and there is very little more private than medication).
An important factor such employers should also remember is that birth control pills have purposes other than contraception. A well-known example is that they can help solve menstrual bleeding, pain, and irregularity problems. For my employer to limit my doctor’s decision on that score is excessive. Would they also forbid my having a hysterectomy? What if my employer believes that epilepsy is caused by demonic possession – can they forbid the insurance company to cover anti-epileptic medication? Can they deny medical care related to pregnancy if I am not married?
You might say that I accepted such terms if I accepted a hypothetical position with a Catholic employer. I disagree. If I take a position delivering meal trays, billing, or mopping floors at Providence St. Joseph, I am not obligating myself to live as a Catholic.
I tend to be fairly moderate when it comes to employer expectations of employee personal lives. As a former teacher and current social work student, I can see how working for a religious employer would require great care in personal deportment while at work and in situations where you could be connected with your employer. But nobody other than my husband sees me take my medication every morning, and nobody other than my doctor and I get to decide what that medication is. While my employer has indeed contributed to the insurance plan which pays a portion of my medications, they do not have the right to make medical decisions on my behalf by excluding whole categories.
Perhaps those who are claiming their religious rights are violated can be comforted by seeing insurance more accurately. They are not buying their employees medication – they are paying for a particular level of coverage (usually shared between the employer and employee) and the EMPLOYEE is buying the medication. The assumption that the church is somehow buying birth control because a benefit plan covers them is absurd. It is equivalent to assuming that because my employer paid me my salary, any purchase I might make with it is still subject to their beliefs.
This has some personal interest to me, as I am seriously considering medical social work as my concentration, with the hope of working in a hospital once I am finished. An otherwise excellent Catholic hospital chain is dominant in this area, and I might have found myself applying there. I would not want to affiliate myself with any employer that would attempt to control my life and private medical decisions in such a manner.
I listened with interest to the story of Rick Santorum’s “flub” about “mak[ing] … people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money.” He denies he intended to say “black” where my ellipsis is, so I’ll leave it to others to discuss that matter. But in my opinion, even without specifying any ethnic group, he’s wrong.
Our society is built on having a “commons” – various services and infrastructure that are paid for by all and available to all. Examples of the commons are roads, police, schools, firefighters, and many other services at the federal, state, and local level. These services take my tax money to make people’s lives better, and I happily contribute even to those from which I do not immediately benefit. For example, as a childless adult I do not have any children in public schools, but my tax money is paying for children to be educated and their lives will be better.
There are other programs where tax money goes more directly to someone in need, and I’m sure those are the programs Santorum is speaking of. These are the safety net programs – everything from food stamps to Medicare and some programs within Social Security. I’ll admit, good people can disagree about many aspects of these programs and their specific policies. I think we can also agree that the recipients of these programs need more than money if they are to become self-sufficient.
But for many folks, it is indeed money they need right now. To keep a roof over their heads, food for today and tomorrow, the light and water bills, whatever. Yes, I pay a certain amount in taxes to support these programs, so it is taking money out of my pocket to give to these folks. While I might grumble over my tax bill, it is the cost of living in an ethical society.
The idea of living in a community where people are starving at the same time I have a full stomach and freezing to death when I am warm and cozy is anathema to me. I know it still happens, even with the programs we do have, but at least I know we are doing something about it.
There are many improvements we can make to existing programs and policies, but I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that some of my tax money goes to make someone’s life better. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a presidential candidate who issues such a blanket condemnation of an integral part of a modern society.
As the holidays approach, some on the Right Wing are going to start their rants about a fictional war on Christmas that is supposedly going on.
Well, let’s look at the facts here:
First of all, about retailers and “Merry Christmas.” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if retailers recommended Happy Holidays instead, especially anytime before December 24th. If someone is buying socks on December 2nd, they may not need, or even want to hear Merry Christmas. If someone is obviously buying Christmas presents on the 23rd, I’m sure they won’t mind hearing it.
Bottom line, since retailers already strongly recommend certain types of greetings and closings from employees, they can certainly make similar recommendations regarding the holidays. Some jobs (sales and collections) even require a script. The one case I found in which Merry Christmas came up in an employment decision, it was a very scripted sales position, and the employee refused to say happy holidays because she “doesn’t acknowledge other holidays.” What kind of an attitude towards ones customers is that? We’re not talking about slipping and saying Merry Christmas on Christmas Eve, we’re talking about outright refusal.
Using “Happy Holidays” is also NOT a war on Christmas in and of itself. I have seen the phrase every December my entire life in advertising and media, as well as on people’s lips. Yes, it is partially intended to be inclusive towards those who celebrate other holidays, but it’s even more than that. Wishing someone who celebrates Christmas happy holidays in mid-December is wishing them enjoyment of Christmas and New Years, as well as embracing the concept that Christmas events (school and office parties, social occasions, etc.) take place throughout the month. Christmas itself can even be seen as two holidays, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
In my personal life, I typically wish people happy holidays if 1. I am unaware of their practices or 2. I do not expect to see them again until January (for example, saying goodbye to co-workers when leaving the office as it closes for the last week of December). I’ll use Merry Christmas in other cases.
The same issue comes up with the school vacation that occurs at the end of December through New Years. It is supposedly somehow some sort of attack on Christianity to call it winter break, when that is what it is! Yes, in the past we have called it Christmas break, particularly in communities where very few students celebrated anything else. But it isn’t an attack to recognize the fact that it occurs in winter and contains far more than just December 25th.
Another issue, one that has existed for years, is overtly religious Christmas decorations on public land, particularly City Hall and similar space. Each community has different policies and options, but in general it seems to me that this is NOT the non-believers attacking Christians but the other way around.
I drive a lot in my job, and pass by many many churches each day in the San Fernando Valley portion of Los Angeles. I also notice light displays on private homes. I find it very interesting that very few, perhaps even no churches have displays of the types I have heard people demanding on the steps of city hall in some cities. People also have the freedom to set up overtly religious displays in their own yards, but I see very few compared to the snowmen and Santas, etc.
Since they are NOT using their own yards or the churches (which would seem the most appropriate place anyway) why do they need it at City Hall? The answer is this: to get favoritism for their faith and their belief. They want everyone to think that City Hall believes like they do, so you better get on board. So who is really trying to do the dictating here? (Note: I have no problem with festive secular decorations or with locations that allow unattended individual contributions as long as non-Christian ideas are also permitted)
And what in the world is wrong with inclusiveness? While Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists might be new neighbors to some of us, most communities of any size have had Jewish citizens for the entire history of this country. Freedom of religion shouldn’t be a new concept!
To the realtors that leave flags on our lawn every Independence Day:
Thank you very much for your kind gift of an American flag stuck into our lawn this weekend (just like every year at this time). But with all due respect – CUT IT OUT!
I love my country as much as any American, but consider your “gifts” to be in extremely bad taste. Here’s why;
1. First and foremost, I do not consider it acceptable in the least to use the American flag for advertising purposes. Since your name and phone number are attached to the flag, along with the fact you are a realtor, so there is no escaping that this is advertising.
According to the US flag code:
Any person who, within the District of Columbia, in any manner, for exhibition or display, shall place or cause to be placed any word, figure, mark, picture, design, drawing, or any advertisement of any nature upon any flag, standard, colors, or ensign of the United States of America; or shall expose or cause to be exposed to public view any such flag, standard, colors, or ensign upon which shall have been printed, painted, or otherwise placed, or to which shall be attached, appended, affixed, or annexed any word, figure, mark, picture, design, or drawing, or any advertisement of any nature; or who, within the District of Columbia, shall manufacture, sell, expose for sale, or to public view, or give away or have in possession for sale, or to be given away or for use for any purpose, any article or substance being an article of merchandise, or a receptacle for merchandise or article or thing for carrying or transporting merchandise, upon which shall have been printed, painted, attached, or otherwise placed a representation of any such flag, standard, colors, or ensign, to advertise, call attention to, decorate, mark, or distinguish the article or substance on which so placed shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $100 or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both, in the discretion of the court. The words "flag, standard, colors, or ensign", as used herein, shall include any flag, standard, colors, ensign, or any picture or representation of either, or of any part or parts of either, made of any substance or represented on any substance, of any size evidently purporting to be either of said flag, standard, colors, or ensign of the United States of America or a picture or a representation of either, upon which shall be shown the colors, the stars and the stripes, in any number of either thereof, or of any part or parts of either, by which the average person seeing the same without deliberation may believe the same to represent the flag, colors, standard, or ensign of the United States of America.
2. Placing a flag on my lawn exposes it to conditions inappropriate to proper display of a flag. Not only could it be wet by my sprinklers or fall on the ground and get dirty or stepped on, but it could also become a “pee target” for dogs. Two weeks from now, I am certain to see many of your flags in other lawns, faded, dirty and ugly. Very much the wrong message about our flag.
3. If I choose to leave it in my lawn for the holiday, proper treatment of the flag afterwards becomes a problem. I cannot just throw it in the trash, which is what I would do with any other realtors gifts which were no longer useful (such as calendars or pens) since it is a FLAG. But I also don’t have the resources to properly dispose of it either. Perhaps I’ll call the Boy Scouts or a veterans group to see if they would like to take all 20 of the past flags we still have in the garage from previous years and do the right thing by them.
4. I may not philosophically agree with flag-waving. I love my country, but I have also spent time abroad in Germany, a country which suffered through a recent period of totalitarian nationalism. During my time there, I realized that flag waving is not necessarily benign.
In my opinion, the appropriate action might be for realtors who wish to continue offering flags would be to REMOVE their name from the flag, first. Then they should ring doorbells and OFFER the flag, perhaps along with their business card. That way they are not technically advertising with the flag and are only giving it to those who really want one and wish to care for it properly.
And don’t even get me talking about those supposed patriots (businesses or individuals) who fly/display flags in violation of the flag code – tattered, unlit at night, etc. and think that still makes them patriots….