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There was an article in the New York Times today that really hit home with me for a number of reasons.  It was about a 15 year old child, a sophomore in high school, who killed himself after the first day of school.  From what I read, he seemed like a good kid, active in scouting, clean cut, smart and in decent shape.  However, he was bullied at school.  Kids at his school were mean to him and gave him a hard time.

His killing himself didn’t happen immediately, he was tormented and bullied over a period of time.  His parents tried to help by talking to the school.  The school tried to help, but it wasn’t enough.  He even called out for help on social media.  Even with this, he must have felt a sense of hopelessness and nowhere to turn.

I have been bullied at different times of my life.  In middle school, in high school, and at various jobs, one in which I just left.  I know how it feels to be picked-on, to be called names, threatened, intimidated, and physically and/or mentally abused.

When I was young and living with my parents, I was told to ignore the bully, that he would stop if he didn’t get the reaction he wanted.  I was told that I should stay away from that person and they wouldn’t bother me anymore.  That didn’t work.  I am confident that many parents and educators give that same advice.  Ignore the bully, stay away from the bully, that will solve the problem.  I will say right here, right now… that is NOT the solution.

I know how the 15 year old in Connecticut felt.  I have felt hopeless, alone and that I had little or no options.  I can understand why he felt that way.  He asked for help, but not enough was done.  The situation wasn’t taken seriously enough.  In this child’s case, the school followed-up to see how things were going, and the child said everything was better.  The school didn’t understand, by doing that, they potentially made the situation even worse.  Of course the child is going to lie after initial attempts at getting help, went nowhere.  I am confident, the bullies felt empowered even more and ramped their abuse when they got a ‘talking’ to and nothing else happened.

In my recent job, I was mistreated, talked down to, and was criticized to other employees.  I was made to feel insignificant, unimportant and powerless.  I felt humiliated, degraded and worthless.  At my lowest moments, I did think about suicide as a means of ending the situation and abuse.  I felt hopeless.  I was dependent on my job for my livelihood  and didn’t have any other means of support.

I was lucky.  One day I stood up for myself and told the CEO that threatening me was not acceptable, that cutting my pay was not acceptable.  I felt empowered and energized that I could stand up for myself.  I was told to keep quiet and not complain and if I did again, I would be fired.  I didn’t keep quiet and I was fired.  Not everyone can learn how to stand up for themselves, I have.  It took two years of abuse from the CEO of my company before I said enough was enough. 

Not only are there bullies in school and in the workplace, but in governments and in positions of authority.  President Assad of Syria is a bully.  He used chemical weapons on his own people to send a message that they need to stay in line.  He wanted to bully his people into submission to stay in power and to put down his opposition.

So how do you deal with a bully?  You come down HARD.  You don’t ignore the problem.  You don’t try to appease the bully.  No child, no employee or citizen of any nation should feel helpless, to feel like they have no choice but to accept the treatment they are receiving.  In many cases, the person or persons being bullied are afraid and unable to help themselves.  It is up to us to step in and help, however possible, by any means possible.  To come down hard, the first time, so doesn’t happen again.

When there is a 15 year old child who needs help or a nation of woman and children who need help.  We all need to lend a hand.  We need to do whatever is necessary.  We need to step in.  We need to come down HARD on the bully so that they will NEVER treat someone in this manner again.  Bullying is serious.  Bullying happens in schools, companies and in nations.  We can not allow 15 year old children to feel so hopeless that they kill themselves.  We can not allow women and children to be killed with chemical weapons.  We can not allow CEOs to mistreat, threaten and abuse their employees.

Made in America

This past weekend I was out shopping at a large upscale mall near where I live.  The mall is called Irvine Spectrum and is always packed with shoppers.  There is a Nordstrom and Macys, along with many other upscale retailers.  I was there to shop for a new pair of running shoes and decided to do a bit more shopping.

I went into Lucky Brands, a upscale mens and womens clothing store.  They specialize in selling  high quality jeans and accessories.  While I was looking at a pair of jeans, a clerk came over and asked if I would be interested in buying a pair of pants that were “made in America”.  I was really surprised, I had never been approached by someone offering me clothing with that selling point.

I decided to take a look at the jeans, they didn’t look any different from the other jeans, other than the price, which was about 20% higher than the other jeans I was looking at.  I thought to myself, would I be willing to pay an extra $20 for a pair of jeans to support US manufacturing jobs.  Then I wondered how much of the Jeans were actually “made in America”, or were the components just put together/sewn together.  Was the cotton grown in the US, was the cotton woven into cloth in the US, was the cloth dyed in the US, was the zipper made in the US and etc.

I ended up not buying anything, but did realized that prior to this, I’ve never really thought about where the clothes I wear were made.  The important thing to me has always been about quality, style and price.

I continued my shopping and found myself at American Apparel.  A retailer who uses, Made in the USA as part of its logo.  100% of its clothing are sewn in the US and it is vertically integrated, so the many of the materials it uses are also sourced in the US.  According to their website, they operate the largest sewing facility in the US.

As I am shopping at American Apparel, I notice that the pricing is considerably higher than similar clothing at other retailers.  American Apparel, unlike Lucky Brands, isn’t considered a ‘designer’ brand that you would expect to pay more for.  Basics such as button down shirts were over $50.  After shopping for a few minutes, I leave without buying anything.

I really like the idea of buying American, supporting US based manufacturing jobs and US based workers.  However, I am not sure what it is worth to me to do that.  Am I willing to pay 20% or more for something that is made in the US.  I really don’t know the answer to that.  My initial thinking is probably not, since I tend to be very price sensitive, but if it helps the overall economy, perhaps it makes sense.

There isn’t really a clear answer for me on this.  If the prices were the same or very close, I would buy everything that was made in America, however, with the price difference, this is something that I will have to think about.


Beau Biden and ObamaCare

This past week, Vice President Joe Biden spent several days with his son in Houston at one of the best cancer treatment hospitals in the world.  He was there with his son who recently experienced some medical issues.  After seeing his own doctors, they decided to seek out the best care possible at the Houston facility.

Several years ago Beau Biden had a minor stroke and they clearly were all concerned about his health.  Beau Biden is a public official himself, serving as Attorney General of the State of Delaware.  I can understand and respect the fact that they wanted the best possible care.  Years ago, Vice President Biden lost his first wife and a daughter.  Beau Biden is a husband and father of two.

As Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden has unlimited access to financial resources and medical professionals.  Doctors around the world would be waiting in line for the opportunity to treat the Vice President’s son.  Treating Beau Biden would bring positive press and prestige.

The Vice President and his son have every right to use every means possible to obtain the best possible care to treat his condition.  They have every right to travel across the United States to visit the best hospital and be seen by the best medical professionals.  They have every right to chose what care they are getting.  Every American should have that same right.

Under ObamaCare, many Americas will be giving up some of that same choice the Vice President and his son have.  They will be forced to pay for a health care plan that limits their choice or they will be forced to pay a tax to the Government for not having a required health care plan.  ObamaCare is forcing employers to provide health care to its employees or face penalties.  Businesses and workers should have a choice.  If workers, want their employer to provide health care, they can get a job that provides it.  If a employer wants to provide health care for its employees they should have the choice to decide how to do that.

One of the founding principals of the United States is choice and personal freedom.  ObamaCare takes away some of these choices.  I know the Vice President and his son are happy they had the choice to get the best possible treatment without restriction.  It was a choice in their total control.  All Americans should have the same choice to get the medical care they desire.