Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Secret Manipulator...ooops...Millionaire

There's a new show on Fox Wednesday nights called The Secret Millionaire. The premise is that multi-millionaires go "undercover" as poor people, live in a ghetto for a week on welfare wages, lying to everyone about who they really are, and then when the week is over, the put their Minolos back on, tell the poor people the truth and hand out big fat checks to the ones they deem deserving. The millionaires give out at least $100,000 of their own money on every episode, but the amount and distribution is how they see fit. I like the idea that people are giving their own money (not the network's) to the people that deserve it, and that these "Real Housewives" type women are seeing how poor people live. Daniel liked the show last week, so I decided to give it a whirl last night, even though I am morally opposed to shows that purposely manipulate my heartstrings to the max.
I stopped watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition, because it felt like it had become a competion of how pitiful and selfless a family they could find, and that was just too much for me--
"I'm Ty Pennington. Today's family is really deserving...both parents are veterans, one was killed in Iraq, the other lost both legs and one eye, they have 54 adopted children, 12 of which are blind, 16 of which are deaf, and 3 of which are both deaf and blind with stutters. But despite their obstacles, they manage to find 45 hours a week to devote to the charity they created to help kids with deformities learn to play the harpsichord. Their current house is 100 square feet, the children sleep in piles, and the walls are filled with deadly black mold, but that doesn't stop them from singing songs as they walk 15 miles to school each day..."
While I agree that many of these families seem to be very deserving, what's wrong with helping out the average family with a parent out of work who is trying to pay the mortgage on a small dilapidated home? Why does it have to be gold-medal suffering? Plus, I got annoyed at the fact that all of these families who could not pay their bills or fix up the dangerous aspects of their busted-down homes ran their own charities.
Do not misunderstand me, I am pro-charity, pro-volunteering, and pro-giving back--but let's get real here. As a parent, you have a responsibility to take care of your own children and keep them safe, and if you are leaving them alone in a shack filled with black mold (like every single house on the show seemed filled with) because you are running a midnight basketball program for inner city children full-time, you are not being a responsible parent! You should be taking the 40 hours a week getting a second job to pay for the mold removal, and then when your own family is safe and asbestos-free, then you can devote your free time (not all of your family time) to helping others outside your home. I am 100% behind teaching children that they are not the center of the universe, but I am 100% against teaching your children that every single person in the world is more important to you than they are. You are a parent, your child's well-being is the #1 responsibility you have. In the end, it won't matter much if you were gone single-handedly building churches or gone fishing with your buddies, all your children will see is that you were never there. I'm not trying to be bitter, I'm just explaining why manipulative shows lose my interest, and the trepidation with which I entered the viewing of "The Secret Millionaire."
My concerns did not turn out to be unfounded. The show, while commendable in it's purpose, is beyond lame in it's presentation. Firstly, the millionaires are no big "secret." They have these people take off their insanely large diamonds and put them in "poor people clothes," all of which are brand spanking new. I wear more run down clothes than that, and I'm not living in Watts, LA (where last night's couple went). The people they befriend try to act surprised when they find out that the couple they've known for a whopping 4-7 days is actually rich, but while the gratitude is real, the surprise is blatantly fake. And who can blame them? Some dude shows up in your neighborhood with disturbingly white teeth, brand new "ghetto" clothes that have creases in them, his overly-hilighted wife looks like she is terrified around every corner, and they claim to have moved in from the next ghetto over? Come on, these people are really really poor, not really really stupid.
Not to mention, the wife's nervousness is completely unfounded because they are being followed around by a film crew! You want to be safe in the country's worst neighborhoods, have a cameraman filming your every move. No one is going to mug someone on camera, even if they only claim to be filming a documentary about your lousy living conditions, not spouting your wealth. No gangster wants their face of film for the cops to use as evidence. The cameras are also why every person they meet tells their entire life story and talks about (surprise!) the charity they run. Last night, the millionaires were shocked that a neighbor stopped by to welcome them to the area, and they said no one in their area would do that. It's possible that she stopped by out of pure niceness, but I'd bet if they had moved into their mansion home with a film crew following their every move, someone would have stopped by, if only out of gross curiosity. People are nosy where ever you go.
Finally, I was irritated to find out that this guy was a self-made millionaire who grew up in East LA. How horrified can he really be if he was living in this type of neighborhood for most of his life? His wife, who looked like she was going to puke when she walked in their apartment, turns out to have a story of her own. Ten years previous, she was pregnant with her first child when her first husband was stabbed in the head right in front of her while trying to stop a shoot-out at the mall. If your husband was killed in a gang shoot-out in the mall, I'm going to wager you weren't in a mall on Rodeo quickly did these people forget what kind of world they came from? So, while it in no way diminishes the suffering of the people they met, knowing how put-on and manipulative the shock and disdain probably was kind of killed the show for me.
I enjoyed watching the poor people react to the generous gifts of these not-so-secret millionaires, and that's why people like the show, I guess. Ironically, this couple handed out 3 $50,000 dollar checks, but the guy last week gave out 4 $100,000 checks so Daniel yelled "that's cheapo!!!" at the TV. Interesting monster Fox created here, that someone handing out 150,000 could be considered "cheapo," and perhaps that's what bothers me most about the show. Do we live in a world where charity work has to be done on TV? Has giving to those less fortunate really become such a competition that the givers are not only in competition to be most generous, but the recievers have to be competing for "most deserving?" If you aren't on TV touting your woes, you don't deserve help you may desperately need? If you don't come running when a camera is around, are you left out in the cold? Can't we find a way to celebrate giving in secret, instead of giving in prime-time? Why can't we appreciate those that truly (not superficially) pay attention to the real needs around them and give according to what they see, not what parades itself in front of them? Can we someday reward the family that works day and night to keep their own kids off the street and off drugs, as well as the family that devotes themselves to strangers because their own child is already lost to violence?
So, Fox, I appreciate your efforts to turn reality TV into feel-good TV with a lesson. Truly I do. Maybe, however, it has come time to quit watching others attempt to make the world a better place while pushing their own agenda, and work quietly together with a single agenda--true charity, the pure love of Christ.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You know your daughter's been hanging out with Daddy when...

She belches and then claps for herself.
She most certainly did not learn that from me.
Daniel has been trying to teach Samantha to clap, so anytime she does anything remotely remarkable, he claps and yells "Yeaaaa, Sam!"
Apparently, "anything remotely remarkable" includes bodily functions. As a woman, I was blissfully unaware of that caveat. Nothing warms a mother's heart quite like seeing her 7-month old cheer for her own burp.
Sam will be 8 months in less than a week and now we get to add to her quickly growing list of accomplishments--right next to having four teeth and cruising--"Classy lady."
Maybe we should have had a boy, because convincing Daniel that a little girl who can belch like a trucker and feel pride for it is the exact opposite of "totally awesome," has proved to be wasted effort.
Oh well, if I can't beat 'em, I should just go along with it I guess...
Do you think they make those T-shirts with bikini's printed on them in a onesie? Or, how about a hat that holds two bottles? Because hey, if you're going to do tacky, go all the way!
I'm going to go look at little ruffly dresses now, and try to think of ways to keep my little sweetie, well, sweet.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This is Everybody's Fault but Mine!!!

We have an epidemic in the world today, and it is more widespread than any disease has ever been (including obesity, which is saying something in this McWorld). It's a syndrome of simultaneous blame and blame avoidance and it is spiraling out of control. Most people simply do not hold themselves accountable for their own actions anymore--and to make matters worse, it appears that the judicial system is condoning this craziness more than ever.
It turns out that the family of the Wal-mart greeter who was trampled to death on Black Friday is suing. Whatever, I didn't exactly expect a public death like that to go "unavenged" by some greedy lawyer well acquainted with the formula of immense grief plus public scandal equals huge payday. However, they are suing Wal-mart. Look, I'm a fan of fighting injustice as much as the next guy and I know Wal-mart seems like an easy target (no clever retailer pun intended), but I fail to see how this is okay. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that the only people who should be getting sued (and arrested) in this situation are the people that, I don't know, actually stepped on another human being and killed him. The family is citing the fact that Wal-mart's low prices on Black Friday cited "crowd craze" which caused the death.
So, what they are telling me is that if a company puts together a brilliant ad campaign, all my actions, no matter how inexcuseable, are magically excused? Are we so moronic as a human race that if a company tells me they will give me a good price on Guitar Hero, it is considered the legal equivalent of condoning my use of deadly force to acquire said deal? Do we even want to live in a world where no one ever has to think before they act because someone, somewhere in the great beyond might have inadvertently implied acceptance of any bad actions we take? I don't. I enjoy having free will and using it freely, with my very own brain and heart behind my words and deeds. I even enjoy consequences of my choices because the consequences are really what help me learn. When you make a choice, you choose the consequences, whether good or bad. That learning through experience is what shapes the next choice, and the one after that, and the one after that. It seems to me society wants to nullify the good consequences for good choices, and create good consequences for bad choices! I can just picture the skuzbags that stepped on that man getting home from the sale and saying "Hey honey, the bad news is that I possibly killed a guy today--the good news is--check out my awesome Wii!!!! The sucker that stepped around the guy on the ground didn't get there in time, wuss!!" I do not want to live in a world where playing dirty pays off big, and an innocent bystander with a deep wallet takes the bullet for another's bad choices. I may be a salmon swimming upstream on that one, but it's a battle I'm willing to fight all my life, for my child and yours. I want the world to be a more fair place, even if I'm the only one fighting the tide. I may be a lone voice shouting it in this world of "not my fault but thine", but I will say it anyway.

To all those with the "crowd crazies":
The value of a human life is in no way equivalent to a discount on any product in the known world, and to even imply that any amount of advertising could justify the removal of all humanity and thought from someone is deeply disturbing. If you can get so worked up by a sale that you are willing to hurt someone else, you are completely unbalanced and you should have the sense to stay as far away from stores as possible. Shop online if you have to. It's called utilizing your free will on something small to avoid making a gigantic mistake--try it sometime. I don't shop Black Friday anymore because I know it's going to be a complete frenzy, not worth the aggravation, and not a single Wal-mart employee showed up at my house, put a gun to my head, and dragged me down there to force me into the fray! Wal-mart didn't give anybody a problem, they had one already and every choice they made it worse.

I understand grief and the intense desire this family has to blame someone for a loved one's death. I've been there, and I remember feeling like there had to be something more tangible than the idea of "cosmic justice." If I was in pain, there had to be a bad guy to cause it, right? In this case, the families are lucky in one small way--there is clearly someone to blame and people who should pay a price for their actions. The fact that the people who actually committed the crime can not be determined (and it is a crime to kill another human being and continue running to the Cuisinarts), is one of the inherent problems in justice administration and in no way shifts the blame to the next closest entity. The inability to find the actual defendent does not thereby change the defendent. I understand the need for closure, but unfortuately, no one is entitled to closure. No one is even entitled to justice in this life, what you are entitled to is that our country will do their darndest to provide justice. If the search comes up empty, that, while tragic, is also nobody's fault but the people who won't come forward to own up to their actions. Unless Wal-mart put up a sign saying only those who step on an employee will recieve the sale prices, I fail to see how they are at fault here. There are those that say they should have protected their employees better. To them I say, hindsight is always 20/20, and how in the world were they to know that humanity was going to hit their new all-time low for avarice this year? The deals this year were lousy and projections for sales were lower than usual. How was Wal-mart supposed to know that sales would be down, but murderous violence would be up? There wasn't even a must-have item this year! No extra muscle around the Tickle Me Elmos or Cabbage Patch Dolls. Why do we always expect large corporations to anticipate the lows of human vices, yet remain consistently shocked and appalled by them ourselves?

What needs to happen here is that the lawsuit needs to be thrown out as frivolous. Our justice system simply can not become the world's most expensive grief counselor, to the detriment of all suits with merit. That isn't to say my heart doesn't go out to them, but every tragedy that befalls the human condition is not entitled to a monetary payout. Sadness can't be equated to dollars just because the reason behind the sadness is inherently unfair. If the police can find the people responsible for this, then go ahead and attempt some compensation. If you can't find the people responsible, learn how to accept that and move on before some really stupid people and their horrific lack of common decency claim your entire lives as well. The thirst for revenge causes many to drink poison daily. Do not let yourselves fall victim to it, and do not let any opportunistic lawyers reopen your wounds for the sake of their own pocketbooks. Losing an entire family to this tragedy would be injustice populated exponentially.