Can a Leopard Change Its Spots?

I knew the gentleman in our writing group meant to write immaculate instead of emasculate in one of the pieces we were critiquing Monday night, and when I asked, “Freudian slip?”, he grinned. So did a few others.

Freud has fallen into disfavor among many people, and yet I can’t help but notice his presence in every intro psych text. Looks like we can’t cut him loose. After Monday night’s meeting, a few of his teachings came to mind. In addition to the emasculate example above, another writer in our group wrote an entertaining story about her mother taking her out of church and giving her a “whupping” because of her misbehavior.

Although the experience wasn’t funny to my friend at that time in her life, now she can laugh about it. The punishment reined in her id and strengthened both the ego and superego. The first time I heard of the id, ego, and superego, I thought Man, there is really something to this. I’m too lazy to go in search of a textbook, so I’m going from memory here, memory based on reading and decades of going over a programmed spiel in PSY 201.

The id is the part of the personality that a person is born with, and it operates according to the pleasure principle. Having no morals, sense of right and wrong, or understanding that there are other people with needs to consider, the id wants what it wants and wants it NOW. Babies cry, have hissy fits, throw food, and kick and scream.

According to Sigmund Freud, the id is powerful and must be reined in, and that’s where the ego comes in.  The ego operates according to the reality principle and develops as a result of interactions between the child and his  environment. A baby can cry all he wants to, but if Mama is driving, she’s not going to take the baby out of the car seat. That’s reality. Sooner or later the child learns to act in socially acceptable ways.

The superego develops last and is based on the morality principle. When a child is taught the difference between right and wrong through disciple, example, and consequences, the youngster develops a conscience that tells him “tsk, tsk” when he does wrong—or even thinks about getting off the straight and narrow. The “ego ideal” is similar to the conscience except that it encourages a child or person to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because he wants to avoid punishment, guilt, or shame.

The above three personality components work together in creating behavior. The id creates the demands, the ego adds the reality, and the superego adds the moral aspect. As humans, we have all three, and in a healthy personality all work together. For example, sometimes I might want to overspend, but usually my ego and superego work together to curb over-the-top purchases.

All three components have their value. Even the id can be good as long as we’re not overly hedonistic, selfish, greedy, slothful, or irresponsible. The ego keeps us straight and in touch with reality. The superego is, of course, desirable, but people with too much of it can be so suppressed, straight-laced, and prudish that no one wants to be around them or invite them to parties.

Sorry for this psychobabble. It’s the only way I could get to my point.

I haven’t thought too much about these elements of the personality since retirement, but since Monday night’s meeting, I’ve been pondering the strength of the id in adults, especially those in powerful positions, and wondering if it can be held in check, pushed to the side, or lassoed in. Although Dr. Freud is not here to weigh in on the topic, my guess is that he’d say no.

What do you think? Can a person’s basic personality be modified once adulthood is reached? Can a leopard change its spots?


Load Down the Wagons

From employees to taxpayers and citizens to college officials, the view seems to be that reflected in Sheheen’s conclusion: LOAD DOWN THE WAGONS; TO HELL WITH THE MULES. While this quote is in reference to situations that occurred while Sheheen was Commissioner of Higher Education for South Carolina, that attitude is still prevalent.

For months, Camden has been embroiled in a conflict situation about city administrators using taxpayers’ money to construct a YMCA when the city already has recreational facilities that seem to be working just fine. I don’t pretend to understand the politics and practicalities of it. I just know that it was/is a major deal that has people writing and signing petitions and that the powers-that-be appear to be insulted/annoyed/shocked that the citizens dare to question them.

A week or so ago I read an article in the Chronicle Independent that summarized the situation and provided a solution. Written by Fred Sheheen, the article was so superbly crafted that even I could completely understand the recent goings-on. The title itself lured me in, “Can this really be happening?,” and when I read the first sentence, I knew I was in for a treat: “Seldom have I witnessed such a gross malfunctioning of local governments as that which has developed in Camden and Kershaw County over the future of recreation programs to serve the citizenry.”

As much as I enjoyed the article and appreciate Sheheen’s clear, crisp writing and the enlightenment it provided, I have to admit that his conclusion packed the most powerful punch of all. It was so perfect, in fact, that I found myself laughing aloud. Why? Because it speaks to much of how things are managed and how people are viewed.

From employees to taxpayers and citizens to college officials, the view seems to be that reflected in Sheheen’s conclusion: LOAD DOWN THE WAGONS; TO HELL WITH THE MULES. While this quote is in reference to situations that occurred while Sheheen was Commissioner of Higher Education for South Carolina, that attitude is still prevalent.

What do you think? Do you see examples of loading down the wagons with little regard for the mules? Can/will you share an example?

What’s a Raghead?

How can anyone who’s parading around as a Christian have such narrow-minded and prejudiced attitudes?


The next person who calls Nikki Haley a raghead within my earshot needs to be prepared for a verbal assault. On second thought, I probably wouldn’t bombard you with a barrage of terms letting you know just how prejudiced and uncalled-for your comments are. That would be unbecoming, wouldn’t it?

Seriously though, I don’t understand how someone who purports to be following the basic guideline of “love one another” can continue to make disparaging remarks about Indians, Muslims, Mexicans, Lebanese, Chinese, Buddhists, Mormons,  Nigerians, or any other group who looks, act, or speaks a little differently.  If the world is to be a better one, we need to realize that it’s US, not us and THEM. 

When you call someone a raghead, what do you mean? Does that person not have hopes and dreams and aspirations just like you do? Is she somehow inferior to you because her family came from another country? Even if you were born in America, were your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents born here too? Or do you even know your country of origin? And even if your forefathers jumped right off the boat at Plymouth Rock, does that mean you descended from royalty? Were these people the aristocracy of England?

Nary a day passes that I don’t hear some snide remark about Mexicans living in the USA. I know some are illegal, but many are United States citizens just like you are. They work, pay taxes, and spend money to keep our economy running. Most don’t have as much money as you do because they’re out doing jobs that you don’t want to do, jobs that require tons of physical effort but don’t pay much. And yes, I know some of you are annoyed that they don’t speak English. I’ve heard, “If you’re going to live in America, you need to speak English!” about a million times. I agree with my friend Jim who says that they’d probably love to learn our language; however, they’re so busy maintaining our lawns and constructing our buildings to take classes. And speaking of classes, even if they had time to take ESL classes, who’s going to teach them? You?

In case anyone is curious, my personal feeling about speaking and writing English is that those are essential skills for anyone who hopes to be even halfway successful in this great country of ours. Unfortunately, I can probably count on one hand the number of students with Hispanic surnames that I’ve had in my classroom in a teaching career that spans over 30 years. I’ve had the privilege of teaching students from Poland, Nigeria, France, Germany, Vietnam, China, and a few other countries, but so far, the Latino/Latina student is a rarity. I’m puzzled by it. They have to know that not speaking English is a huge deterrent to their success. Sometimes I wonder if their ignorance of the language is an advantage to the employers, apartment owners, and shopkeepers who take advantage of them.

Back to Nikki Haley, maybe you should trace your ancestry before you attack hers. And maybe you should examine your track record before you say something about hers.  What exactly have you done lately to make the world a better place? And besides, aren’t there several scriptural references in the Old Testament about how to treat strangers/aliens?  

Okay, I’m climbing down from my soapbox now. I might be taking all of these comments far too seriously. My son spent a couple of years in Mexico and found the Mexican people to be some of the warmest, friendliest people he’d ever met. He was a stranger in their land for two years, and despite the fact that he looked very different from them, he was never treated as abominably as many here in our country treat those who are “different.”

Judge Sotomayor

I just have to get my two cents’ worth in about Judge Sotomayor and her confirmation hearings. Not only is she accomplished and smart, but she’s also cool, calm, and collected. She has the kind of mind and training that thoroughly qualifies her for this high office. The number one concern that I’ve heard voiced over and over and over again (yes, that many times) is that she just might let her Hispanic (make that Latina) background interfere with her decision making.

Get real, folks. Don’t you think the WASP background of much of the current Supreme Court continues to influence decision making? Do you hear many concerns about how a white male mentality might prejudice someone when interpreting the law? Um, maybe some but not that much. I’m fully aware that the Court is comprised of both genders and other races now. I haven’t been asleep all these years. It’s just that there seems to be such a big hullabaloo being made over this particular lady’s qualifications. One columnist even characterized the proceedings as “blood sport.” Gee whiz.

We all see the world as we are, not as it really is…or so says Anais Nin, and I believe that to be true. At the same time, fortunately for us, Judge Sotomayor is experienced, savvy, and smart enough to earnestly see beyond some of the prejudiced types of thinking that many of us “regular” people are guilty of. The very fact that people are so much up in arms demonstrates their own narrow-mindedness…perhaps even out and out bigotry. It’s just that they can’t see it.

Here’s an example. Several years ago, my employer held cultural diversity training for its employees on a yearly basis, and in the midst of one such session, a middle-aged white guy got into some heavy sighing and rude eye rolling. Clearly annoyed that he had to attend such a meeting, he let his displeasure be known. One of the facilitators asked him if he had something he’d like to share, and this is pretty much verbatim what his response was. “Yeah, I got a problem. I got a problem with being here listening to this silly stuff when I could be doing my job instead of sitting around looking at movies and doing useless  activities…or whatever you call that stuff we have to do.”

In exasperation, he then said, “Look, I wake up every morning, get dressed, and drive to work. I never think about the fact that I’m a white guy. That’s stupid to say that people actually think about gender or race or even age on a continuing basis.” Little did he know that he had fallen right into the facilitator’s hands. After a few moments of silence, she said, “Exactly. You are a white male. It’s your world, and you’ve never been denied admittance to anything or anywhere because of your gender or race.”

That might not have been the best example in the world, but it’s one that has stuck with me for 15 years or more. And you know, I feel certain that it stayed with that middle-aged white guy, an Air Force retiree who had waltzed right into another position that might not have been even offered to a woman, a person of color, or a Buddhist. In fact, I doubt if they’d even have been considered for an interview.

Back to the judge. Yes, she’s a woman of Hispanic heritage but she’s no different from the other judges in that they all have unique backgrounds that make them the people they are and influence the decisions they make. All of the justices differ from us, however, in that they’re acutely aware of these forces and make a conscientious effort to “rise above them” in defending the law of the land.

Ah, I feel much better now.

A World Gone Mad

Has the world gone mad? That’s a question I find myself asking DH a lot lately. He’s used to it by now and knows that there’s no easy answer. He probably thinks that I read the “wrong” things and that I think too much. Is that possible? I don’t know. Below, in no particular order, are some things that are stressing me out today.

I’m not going to go into a long diatribe about Octomom today, but I’m still wondering how a single welfare mother of 14 children can take care of all of the physical, emotional, social, and financial needs of her family. A person’s thinking has got to be somewhat “twisted” to even consider bringing another child into the world when you already have six that you aren’t able to provide for, without assistance from the government, that is. It also strikes me as funny that she’s decided to pursue a Master’s degree in counseling. Counseling. Wonder who her clients will be and what kind of help she will provide.

Also on my list are the employees at Clemson and USC who have received big bonuses and raises while those on the lower echelons have not. To add insult to injury, tuition has soared, supposedly because of “costs.” Costs of what? The raises and bonuses of a select few? While I’m on the subject, why does a college education cost more in SC than in any other southern state?

Moving along, I read a great editorial last week about the legislators in SC who can draw pensions that are nearly 50 percent more than their salary for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, state employees who retire after 30 years of service can expect to receive a pension equal to 43 percent of their former salaries. Huh?? 

Then there’s the guy (Madoff) who bilked people out of millions of dollars, leaving many of them penniless, who is still considering how to keep his family fortune solvent.  He’s deeply sorry for the pain he’s caused. Hmmm. He’s 70, so maybe he can spend the rest of his life in prison pondering just how severely his actions have hurt others.

A couple of weeks ago, a child in Sumter died of starvation. He was 18 months old and weighed nearly nine pounds.  I saw a photo of his parents in the newspaper and couldn’t help but notice that his mother had a weave in her beautifully coiffed hair.  When my grandson was born a month ago, he weighed in at 9 lbs. and 9 oz., big in terms of a newborn, pathetically small for an 18 month old.

While some children are starving, America also has a huge (pun intended) problem with obesity. According to Feldman in Development across the Lifespan, 15% of American children are obese, a rate that has tripled since the 1960s.

Lest we forget, there’s Darfur. No, I can’t go there today. I find my throat closing up just thinking about the horror of life there.

Should I mention the AIG “issue” or let it pass for today? Think I’ll wait on that one until after I see what happens in Washington this morning.

I can’t resist mentioning that some folks are gravely concerned that Michelle Obama has been baring her arms in public. “It’s simply not done,” they exclaim. Well, apparently it IS done. She’s the first lady and she can go sleeveless wherever and whenever she pleases.  Quite frankly, I’d probably follow her lead if I had arms like hers. But I digress. What I want to know is why people zero in on something like her arms when people are being slaughtered in Darfur, bilked out of the fortunes by preying vultures, and starved by their own parents?

Is it just me, or has the world gone mad? Has it always been this way, or am I just awakening to the vileness of some of my fellow humans?

Please Governor Sanford

I feel like a fish out of water. Only blogging a couple of times in the past three weeks has left me wondering where to start and what to say. The end of November and the entire month of December were incredibly busy weeks, and I have so much “material” that I’m having a bit of a dilemma deciding where to start. Hmm. Think I’ll start with today and work backwards.

Today, the primary thing on my mind is Governor Sanford’s decision not to borrow the money needed to provide benefits for the 77,000 laid-off south Carolinians. The money is there, and the feds are willing and ready to lend it, but the governor says NO WAY until the SC Employment commission agrees to provide him with information about how it administers benefits and then submit to a review by the Legislative Audit Council.

There’s nothing I can say here that hasn’t already been said by those far more eloquent than I. Check out today’s The State and read the editorial on page A6. Yes, I know that there are those who misuse funds and those who are able-bodied who do not work.  Still, what I keep thinking about is how easy it is to “play chicken” with unemployed South Carolinians when you live in the big house on the hill and NEVER have to worry about paying the mortgage, keeping the electricity on, buying groceries, taking your child to a doctor, putting gas in your car, and so forth.  Neither, in fact, do the legislators; even after these “esteemed” individuals leave Columbia, they’ll continue receiving stipends, most of them more grand than the average working Joe or Jane.

Please, Governor Sanford, request the money. A cold, hungry, sick child needs milk and medicine.

Obama and Warren

One of the neat features of wordpress is the easy access to blogs on topics ranging from love to travel to politics and everything in-between. This morning, in curiosity, I clicked on one that included posts to CNN’s article about Rick Warren giving the prayer at the upcoming presidential inauguration. It seems that all sorts of people are upset by Obama’s choice, especially gay rights groups. I quickly skimmed dozens of the posts and was appalled at the vindictive, spiteful, intolerant attitude of many of the bloggers. Just when I was getting ready to post a little something of my own, I saw that the blog had been closed to further posts…and I could well understand why. When writers are so vile (even vulgar) with their comments, it detracts from the credibility of what they have to say and taints the “aura” of the entire blog.

That said, there are a couple of comments that I just have to make. First, President-Elect Obama is, in my humble, naïve opinion, a man for the people, by the people, and of the people. Several bloggers mentioned that he’s African American. Perhaps so, but he’s also Euro-American…biracial, in fact.  He’s OUR next American president. Fortunately for us, he’s an extremely intelligent man who doesn’t have to rely on the opinions of his detractors.

About the choice of Warren, is there a man (or woman) alive today who would please everyone? Any Christian would probably disturb the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, and atheists. The fact is that Warren has written one of the best-selling books in the world and is pushing to fight poverty and illiteracy through his PEACE coalition. What have you done? What are you doing to make the world a better place?

One more thing. Aren’t there more pressing problems in the United States to be concerned about? Problems like war, unemployment, a scary financial situation, Seniors’ medical benefits being cut, poverty, and homelessness plague our great country. People are vexed over who’s saying a prayer to the Almighty while gangs roam the streets and people are losing their jobs by the hour????

Bottom line. Obama’s the next president, and it’s his party. Take a chill pill and call me in the morning. Better yet, don’t call. Just chill.

Two Extraordinary Men

Hands down, Kathleen Parker is my favorite columnist…and no, not because she’s a woman but because she has the uncanny ability to say just what I’m thinking in a much better, more eloquent manner. You’ll see why in a moment.


At the end of election week, I find myself still thinking of John McCain and what a courageous, tough man of integrity he is. Don’t experience and sacrifice count for something?? Then I think of our president-elect, and as I said in an earlier post, I can clearly see that he has many sterling attributes and that perhaps he is the better person for unifying such a diverse group of people. My heart is sore for McCain, but my spirit is hopeful for Obama and his mission.


What does this have to do with Kathleen Parker? In her words: “We arrived at this historic moment through the sacrifices (and blood) of those who preceded us. Barack Obama’s ascendancy is testament to the audacity of the American dream—as well as to the enormous suffering of men such as John McCain.” And then she continues, “Two men of extraordinary talent clashed not in the battlefield of strap-on bombs , but in the civilized arena of ideas.”


See. I told you I couldn’t have said it better (or as well).

Our New President

I’ll admit it; I voted for John McCain. I like the guy and everything he stands for. What’s not to like and respect about a man who as a young P.O.W. turned down the opportunity to go home after his captors learned of his identity? To him, it seemed wrong and downright unethical to desert his fellow countrymen who were also being held as prisoners. That’s the kind of man I want in my foxhole, don’t you? Then there are the decades of experience in the Senate in which he was being honed and seasoned to be the leader of the free world. With our country at war, the economy in shambles, the healthcare system in a deplorable shape, I reasoned that his leadership skills were just what the nation needed.


However, America has spoken, and over half  feel that Barack Obama is the man for the job. There are several attributes that I admire about him, among them his cool demeanor, his keen intellect, and his evident ability to inspire faith and hope in those who are ready for change. It scares me a bit that he seemed to come out of nowhere and to have SO MUCH MONEY AND POWER compared to others with a longer, steadier track record. And yet, the voters have spoken.


Here’s another thought I had as I watched Obama’s family on election night. There they were: a father, a mother, and the children…a nuclear family in an age when the increasingly popular standard seems to be anything but. Perhaps he’ll be just the role model that young men need to encourage them to “step up to the plate” and accept the responsibilities of parenthood. Perhaps Michelle will somehow inspire young women to marry and then have children. No, I’m not bashing single parents. I am saying, however, that anyone reading this who doesn’t think there is some degree of “mother hunger” and “father hunger” hasn’t listened to the children, teens, and yes, even the adults of the U.S.A.


McCain valiantly fought the good fight and was gracious and gentlemanly in his election night speech. Perhaps Sarah Palin hurt his cause. Perhaps it was the economy. Maybe it was the legacy of the Clinton/Bush years. Then again, maybe it’s just that he represents the “old school,” and his fellow Americans are desperate for change.


Does the president-elect have what it takes to heal the nation’s wounds and forge “unity among diversity?” I hope so. He has my support and my prayers. From the advice he’s being badgered with from his supporters and well-wishers, he’s going to need all of our prayers. I once read that Billy Graham said he supported whoever was president at the time because of his fervent belief that whoever the man was, he was God’s choice for us at that time in history. Sure hope he’s right

Palin vs. Obama??

I made the mistake of listening to NPR on the way back to work from a late lunch. I say “mistake” because of the strident voices of other women bashing Sarah Palin. She’s against abortion, one wailed. If she had been for it, others would have railed against her just as harshly. “She’s the mother of five children, and I don’t have children,” another screeched while lamenting that she couldn’t connect with Palin. If she were childless, then still other women would likely accuse the governor of being out of touch with the “real” issues faced by America’s families. 

I don’t have time to debate all the spiteful things I heard. I just have one question to ask: Is it Palin vs. Obama? I’m asking because unless I missed something, it’s still McCain vs. Obama, and I haven’t heard anyone asking these questions of Biden.