Monday, August 23, 2010

The First Amendment for Dummies

Photo 'Symbols of Islam' by dcubillas, stock.xchng

Oh yes, I'm going to get political now. If you decide(d) to follow my blog, you'll see that I am quite an eclectic person with a wide range of interests and opinions. Today, I would like to share with you my thoughts on the 'Ground Zero Mosque' controversy.

Before I 'explain' the first part of the Bill of Rights, I would like to state a few facts. Firstly, the proposed building is not solely a mosque, it is a cultural center, containing amongst other things a swimming pool, basketball court, restaurant, bookstore, and- here it comes- a place of worship, a mosque. Secondly, it is not to be built at the site of the World Trade Center, it is to be erected a few blocks away. Thirdly, it will not be the only Islamic place of worship in lower Manhattan- several others already exist. Lastly, it is not being built by a terrorist organization.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's take a look at the First Amendment of the US Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The main focus has to be put on the very first part of this sentence. I was asked by a lady the other day to put this into plain English for her (yes, she is an American citizen, has lived here her whole life, and has a college degree...), so I will try to put it as simply as possible: The government (aka Congress, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate) is not allowed to decide who may practice their religion, or how, or where. They are not allowed to have any say in the matter. Ever.

So, I ask you, why is there even a discussion about the proposed cultural center? The Constitution doesn't leave any room for doubt- anybody is allowed to erect a place of worship wherever they choose. End of story.

But of course, as you have all noticed, this is not the end of the story. There have to be multiple heated discussions on the topic, people calling each other heartless and unpatriotic, etc. Strangely enough, most people I have spoken to who think the 'mosque' should be forbidden are the same who shouted 'Unconstitutional' when the new Healthcare Reform bill was passed. Nobody was ever able to tell me exactly what part of the Constitution the bill was going against, but that is another matter. It's just very interesting to me to see people acknowledging rights granted to them in the First Amendment, yet those same people being utterly unwilling to have these rights granted to their fellow citizens because they have different religious beliefs from them. Let's not forget, these Muslims are American citizens, not foreigners!

The importance of religious freedom becomes absolutely clear when you realize that it was the very first thing the authors of the Bill of Rights felt they had to mention. The very First of the ten Amendments, at the very beginning. Thank goodness, the Constitution, like the good lady Justice, is blind and cannot take anyone's feelings into account. I sincerely hope that this issue will be resolved quickly and I no longer have to read uneducated, biased nonsense calling for the government to ignore the First Amendment just this once.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Pregnancy Secret

As you all know (or don't- I have no idea who reads this...), I am pregnant for the second time. To be exact, I am 28 weeks and 6 days pregnant. The home stretch, as people keep calling it. This pregnancy has been much easier for me to deal with than the first one. Not because the symptoms were any different- they have actually been almost the same. But because I already knew what I was in for and what I could expect. Let's be honest, before we become pregnant we only have a very vague idea of what's in store for us. I have tried to figure out why that is. My answer: because women keep it a secret from each other!

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter I was just elated! I was so extremely happy and felt like a raw egg that had to be protected from everything. Except the reality was that the world went about its business as usual. And at first, so did I. Until the symptoms of pregnancy started slowing me down. Each new bizarre symptom that showed up made me feel like my body was being invaded, as if some invisible force had taken over and was trying to make me miserable. There were days when I questioned whether becoming pregnant was such a good idea.

At the time, I would tell other mothers about the things my body was doing, expecting them to be shocked. To the contrary, most of the ladies had experienced the exact same things. And suddenly I realized: I wasn't some weird freak of nature, this was how pregnancy went for a lot of women! I was in awe of all these women who had gone through one or more pregnancies and had survived... However, I started questioning why, in my then 29 years on this earth, I had never heard any woman tell me e.g. that her nose kept bleeding while she was with child? How could this be? The true nature of pregnancy is kept a secret, it seems. I believe that this is not because women do not want to share their knowledge, I think it is equal parts forgetting what it was like and not trying to discourage anyone from having a baby. Because of course, it is worth it in the end and you get something as incredibly wonderful as this: (picture removed)

I just wish I had known what I was in for. Ladies, if you are thinking about having a baby, buy the book What to Expect When You're Expecting, and read through the symptoms listed for each of the nine months of pregnancy. You will be very surprised! However, keep in mind that every woman is different and while there is the minute possibility that you may experience ALL of the symptoms listed, it is very unlikely. And there is always that one woman who is just made for reproducing and has a wonderful pregnancy and gives birth without any pain within three hours...

Unfortunately, there are also some who just lie. Like my mother. She always told me that she experienced no morning sickness whatsoever. When I became pregnant and told her how miserable I felt, she said 'Oh yes, I had that, too. But I never threw up.' Hm... She also told me that giving birth wasn't at all bad and that she had done it within a few hours without pain medication. It wasn't as bad as going to the dentist, she said. After I had given birth, the story change dramatically. Suddenly she admitted having been on a Pitocin drip, having to have an episiotomy etc. Hm...

However, I survived the first pregnancy and delivered a beautiful baby girl. And now here I am, doing it again! Since I remember the last pregnancy very well, I can honestly say that I am not doing this again because I forgot what it was like. I am doing it again despite all the symptoms because it truly is the most wonderful thing you can do. I am making my own human being! And so, I look like this again:

But really, isn't seeing your feet overrated anyway?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our New Bed, My Best Friend

Honestly, I have nothing exciting to write about. Of course there are millions of topics that could be discussed, but I haven't had anything specific on my mind today.

So, I have decided to tell you about our new bed. Andy and I had been thinking about getting a king sized bed for a while now. Thanks to some persuasion from our wonderful friends, we decided to finally take the plunge and get one. Now, I am slightly OCD, so we couldn't just go out and buy a new mattress. We had to research and shop and review for a few weeks until I was ready to commit.

Last Friday, we bought it. A beautiful latex/ memory foam, covered with a bamboo fabric, king mattress and bed frame. I won't tell you the exact price, but we did have to spend over $1000. My initial thought was to try and find a king sized bed to match the bedroom set we already have. After searching around at multiple locations and realizing the cost that would be involved, we decided that a simple bed frame is fine for the time being. We may even try to be creative and make our own headboard for it one day. We'll see...

We also had to buy new sheets and a new comforter set. My husband has turned into quite the sheet-snob and insisted on looking for a 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton set. We found a set on Ebay for $55. They are very nice, but rather thin. For that price, I am not complaining! The comforter set we liked best was on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond. It is a very light blue and is just wonderful.

Friday was the big day when our mattress and frame were supposed to be delivered. I waited around patiently all day, only calling them twice to check on the ETA. Finally, around 7:15pm, two disgruntled students carried our precious purchase up the stairs into our room. Nothing ever goes 100% smoothly for us, so they informed us that they had run out of bed frames and would have to bring us one next week. I didn't care.

Our beautiful new mattress- my new best friend- is now lying on our bedroom floor, beckoning me every minute of the day. I just love it!!!!!! I have so much room, it's unbelievable. My husband doesn't snore as much sleeping on it. For the first time in many years I have that wonderful feeling of joy when I get into my bed, like I am enjoying some sort of special treat. I feel guilty for having spent so much money on a complete luxury item. However, then pictures of two children sleeping in bed with us come to mind and I realize that this may have been one of the most important things we have ever bought...

So, dear couples with children or who plan on having children one day: Your children will, at some point in their lives, be sharing a bed with you. Get a huge bed- the bigger, the better. You will avoid constantly getting kicked in the face and other uncomfortable encounters. You will get better sleep. It is the best piece of baby furniture you'll ever own. It will make you happy :-)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Way I See It: Homeless People

This blog is meant as a medium that I can use to get all the opinions and feelings about the world and life out into the open. I will blog about things that are fairly trivial, then blog about matters that are important in the grand scheme of things. I want to share my views on things that make me happy, but also on things that make me sad, angry, confused, etc.

The subject of homelessness brings a lot of sadness to my heart, but also some fond memories. When I was growing up in Frankfurt, Germany- a fairly big city- I spent quite a substantial amount of time with people who lived on the street. Some of them had chosen to live outside of society, but most had ended up there involuntarily. One thing that can be said for most of the homeless people I have met is that they were unable to live a 'normal' life, i.e. a life as a functioning member of society with a job, place to live, etc. The reason for this inability was of a psychological nature. There were some who had been badly abused their whole lives, some who had lost their job and fallen into a big hole of depression. Many had addiction issues or were in some way physically ill (e.g. one man had HIV and was unable to cope with the reactions he got from his surroundings) Whatever the reason for these people's life on the streets, it was usually not their choice. And they were nonetheless wonderful human beings.

Fast forward to my life now. In South Carolina, I keep encountering people who call themselves Christians, but who condemn homeless people and are unwilling to help them in any way. In a discussion with a lady some months ago, she tried to convince me of the fact that people who did not have a home were simply lazy. My counter to that was that if they are so lazy, and you can get so much money if you are on welfare (haha...), why don't they go and get that money? Her response: they are too lazy to go fill out the paperwork to apply for assistance. Really??? I asked if she believed that a person would rather sleep outside in the cold or heat or rain without food, etc. than fill out some paperwork? She does. I almost have no words for this point of view. And I had to avoid any further discussion with this lady on the topic.

I believe that we, as Christians (or as persons belonging to any religion, really- all major religions share the belief in compassion and love), should never try to judge another person's situation. We can never honestly say where we would be if our lives had taken a different turn. If we want to really do what Jesus wanted us to, we have to help the poor, regardless of the reason they ended up where they are.

In Germany, homelessness is a problem that could easily be eradicated if people made use of the social network. However, as I mentioned earlier, for different reasons they are unable to do so. Even if you provided a homeless person with a job, a fully furnished apartment, new clothes, food, etc., eventually, he or she will probably end up on the streets again because they do not know how to function within our society. Extensive therapy would probably help these people, but is very seldom available, nor do they seek help often.

In the US, the story is very different. How many of us would be in serious trouble if we lost our jobs? Or got very ill, having to pay enormous medical bills? There are countless scenarios I can picture in which a family could end up being without a roof over their heads. And it breaks my heart. All the foreclosures in our neighborhood make me wonder: where are those people now? Do they have a roof over their heads? How horrible must it be for the children, not having a safe environment to grow up in?

The next time you see a homeless person, I hope that all you see is a person in need of help. And I hope that if it is within your means, you will find it in your heart to help a little.

Imagine what kind of a world we could live in if all the Christians (and members of other religions) stopped focusing on all the things they want for their own churches- and how righteous they themselves are because they can quote Bible verses- and started doing good whenever the opportunity presented itself. As you see, I am not even dreaming about people actively seeking out situations in which they can help, just doing so when they are asked and when they can...

"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car." (quote taken from one of my friends)