Sunday, October 9, 2011

The GOP and Me

I've been much less involved in politics while living overseas these last 7 years but, of course, with a presidential election coming up, I'm paying a good bit of attention. It turns out that we'll be in California for the 2012 presidential primaries so I've been watching the major debates, trying to keep up to speed. Let me just say that, as a connoisseur of philosophical and religious debates, party nomination debates leave much to be desired. I think I better start doing more reading and leave the media circus that is political debate behind. I finish watching each debate more flustered than I was before. In spite of the frustrations, I feel like I know each candidate well enough to say whether or not I think they would be a good person to consider voting for as GOP presidential nominee.

Acceptable Candidates

Rick Santorum - I'm likely voting for Santorum. Most of the candidates, as well as the media, have focused the discussion thus far on the economy. I'm more concerned about social and cultural issues than economics and the candidate who tries to talk about these things most often, and most conservatively, is Santorum. Unfortunately, he's probably too conservative to get elected. But the primaries are about voting your conscience so, Santorum's my guy.

Newt Gingrich - No candidate is more pleasant to listen to than Newt. He's clearly the most intelligent guy on the stage and he's one of the few who doesn't blurt out slogans and catchphrases at every turn. I liked Newt as the Speaker of the House and I'd like him as president. It's a genuine shame that a guy this politically talented has such a train wreck of a moral life. Besides that, no one thinks he's electable.

Possibly Acceptable Candidates

Mitt Romney - Over the course of the last few weeks, as this post was percolating, I had Romney in the "Acceptable Candidates" list. He is debating well and does not make me wince. A huge plus for him is that most everyone agrees that he is electable. However, I've always feared that, if Romney was the nominee, it wouldn't take long before the anti-conservatives would begin to criticize the religious, philosophical, historical and scientific mess that is the Mormon worldview. With that criticism being raised at the primary level among conservatives, I fear that Romney won't hold up as a viable candidate. I hope I'm wrong because he probably is the candidate most likely to defeat Obama.

Herman Cain - I like Herman Cain and think that he would bring good business sense to the White House. Unfortunately, America is not a business and needs more than a good businessman at the helm. He says very little about social and cultural issues and the media hardly asks him any questions in this regard. He might be a good candidate for president, if we had more information.

Absolutely Unacceptable Candidates

Ron Paul - Seriously. If you can't answer a question without getting mad about U.S. military involvement overseas and if the answer to every question posed to you is, "we need to stop fighting all these wars," then you do not have what it takes to be president.

Rick Perry - I voted for President George W. Bush twice and, while I don't regret that, I do wish that he didn't come across as so unintelligent. Rick Perry, as far as I can tell, is actually as unintelligent as President Bush is accused of being. When he takes notes while a question is being asked, I don't think there is anyone who believes he is able to hear the question and write something down at the same time. His consistent lack of coherent answers substantiates the concern. I know some people from Texas and they are more than happy to sit this election cycle out. I hope their wishes are fulfilled.

Jon Huntsman - Huntsman is simply trying too hard. As former Ambassador to China, we are thankful and impressed that you are fluent in Mandarin. But stop telling us that; it makes you seem haughty. Also, I'm Gen X and I like Nirvana. But please don't force Nirvana references into your talking points; I'm not impressed and I don't want Kurt Cobain influencing U.S. politics in any way. While Santorum is, unfortunately, too conservative to get the nomination, Huntsman is, fortunately, too liberal to get the nomination.

Gary Johnson - This guy just showed up at the last debate. He spoke about 3 times. He tried to make his candidacy appealing by saying that, as Governor of New Mexico, he vetoed more bills than any other state and, arguably, more than all of the other states combined. I'm sorry, all that does is make me sad for New Mexico. No one can get anything done there because veto-happy Johnson can't get along with anyone.

Michele Bachmann - Whereas Romney was on my "Acceptable Candidates" list and dropped to "Possibly Acceptable Candidates," Michele Bachmann used to be on my "Possibly Acceptable Candidates" list and is now on the "Absolutely Unacceptable Candidates" list. Ron Paul's answer to everything is, "no more foreign wars," Bachmann's answer is either, "I was the first/only/strongest opponent of that bill," "No one has fought/lobbied against/spoken out about this issue more than I," or "I will not stop/rest/be silent until issue x/y/z is repealed/solved/changed." The easy response to this type of argument, which has been successfully utilized over and over by the other candidates, is to state that almost every one of the things Bachmann opposed was actually enacted in the end. That lack of success is surely part of the reason why she is not the frontrunner she used to be.

At the end of the day, no matter how disappointed I may be by the results of this process, I agree with the sentiments of John Mark Reynolds that we're looking for someone who can lead our country well for 4 to 8 years, not someone who will establish a conservative utopia. That takes a lot of the pressure off as we wait to see who gets to run against Obama next November.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our Crazy, Cross-Cultural Kid

Dietrich is doing some amazing stuff linguistically as he continues to adjust to a 3-language environment (English, Russian and Ukrainian). Here are some of the funniest.

1. Он меня обидел (Ohn menya obeedel)
"He offended/insulted me" or "He hurt my feelings." The verb is pretty flexible in Russian but I don't think it's as flexible as it is when Dietrich uses it. When you ask Dietrich about his day, he usually talks about whether or not anyone at school did anything bad. Vlad took away Dima's toy. Vlad pushed Nastya down. Vlad threw sand at Sasha. (There are 2 Vlads in Dietrich's class and one or the other of them is the cause of 90% of the problems. We expect that these Vlads aren't the villains they seem to be on Dietrich's telling.) Now, when we're at home, we let Dietrich tell us about these things in English. But when we're on the street, we ask Dietrich to speak quietly, if he's speaking in English, or to speak in Russian. He'll often choose to speak in Russian about these things when we're out and about. He loves to start every account with the phrase, "So-and-so offended/insulted/hurt the feelings of so-and-so." After we ask for clarification he goes on to tell us the details. It's not often something were the verb "to offend," "to insult" or even "to hurt one's feelings" seems to be the best choice. When taking a way a toy, pushing someone down and throwing sand are all lumped together into the word "обидел," it's a sign that either everyone in his class is more concerned about being offended than anything else or that we need to help him expand his vocabulary a bit in this area. But I wouldn't want to offend him by proposing that. We'll just work on it in subtle ways.

2. Excessive punishment
One of the more troublesome stories that Dietrich told a few weeks ago was about a boy who, for starters, took off his slipper (slippers here have pretty hard soles) and hit another boy above the eye with it. The hitter then struck the same boy with his fist in the same spot above the eye. And just to make sure the job was done, he picked up the slipper and threw it at the same boy and hit him in the same spot. One of those actions caused the victim to start bleeding. Horrible, shocking story. We followed up by asking if the boy was punished/disciplined in any way (there is only one Russian word for punishment/discipline, which makes the theological distinction a bit tricky, but that's a topic for another post). Dietrich said that he was not allowed to come back to school. We asked how long he had to stay away from school. Dietrich told us that he had to stay away for 40 years! While feeling very sorry for the poor boy who had been stuck so many times, we had a lot of fun imagining a 5-year-old who, after being banned from school for 40 years, finally gets to go back to kindergarten at age 45. Sounds like the plot of an Adam Sandler movie. Since the aggressor is back at school, we assume that Dietrich misunderstood something. That makes guessing why D came up with the 40-year punishment all the more fun.

3. Why stop at 3?
On weekday afternoons, Dietrich is allowed to watch 30-minutes of something educational. Only on the weekends is he allowed to watch a feature-length cartoon. At some point, in order to help his Russian/Ukrainian language acquisition, we decided that he could watch 30 minutes of a feature-length cartoon during the week, if he watched it in Russian or Ukrainian. He doesn't choose that often but I've come home to him watching, Cars, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2 or 3 in Russian or Ukrainian, only later to hear him playing with toys and using words, phrases and sentences in one of those languages mixed in with his English. Success. Until a few weeks ago. We borrowed Aladdin from some other missionaries and I, jokingly, told him that I was going to play it in Polish (region 5 DVDs come dubbed into a number of Eastern European languages). After answering his question, "what's Polish?" I played it in English and didn't give the conversation a second thought. The following weekend I had been out somewhere and came home while Dietrich was watching Aladdin. I was, as usual, trying to tune it out, but something wasn't right. I listened and couldn't understand a thing. Dietrich's obvious and nonchalant answer to my puzzled inquiry about what language he was watching the movie in has had me baffled to this day. I'd say he watched Aladdin, in Polish, all the way through, about 6-7 times. Masochist or future linguist? You make the call.

We love our little guy and are very thankful to God for how well he is doing with the confusing and complicated MK life he is leading. These and many other moments like them simultaneously lighten the mood and keep us grounded in reality.