Thursday, July 14, 2011

Charity, Oprah, Donald Trump and Anything Else I Can Think of for the Search Engines

I have a confession to make.

I read an unauthorized Kitty Kelly book on Oprah Winfrey.

I couldn't help myself. It was staring at me on the library bookshelf and my daughter recommended it and I just had to find out all the backstage stuff that Oprah didn't want me to know.

I won't review the book here. But I would like to comment on something I find interesting and perplexing.

Charity among the elite.

Celebrities are all about charity. Okay, they're not all about it, but they would like you to think that they are, and Oprah is probably Queen of "I am the most charitible person on the earth" club - she fights this out with Donald Trump.  They have constant battles in their club house about who is more generous and who gets to wear the crown. She wants us to know about all the charities she supports and all the charities she creates. She has devoted many of her shows to her "angel network" and done specials on her South African school for girls, and had those tremendous giveaway shows where every audience member walks away with a car, a trip, pajamas and a date with Stedman.

Donald Trump is the same. He likes to toot his horn about all the charities he supports and what a great guy he is and even has "Celebrity Apprentice" where all the celebrities appear not for themselves but for a charity.

I am not against giving to charity by any means. But doesn't it say in the bible something about giving and not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing? In other words we're not supposed to tell everyone when we do charitable work or how much money we give away. It's supposed to be a secret between you, God and the IRS.

I think an exception can be made if a celebrity represents a charity and by their representation is able to raise more money and awareness for a charity. I'm not against this and a lot of good can happen with this. Marie Osmond and John Schneider come to mind with "The Children's Miracle Network". They've raised over a billion dollars - a sum that they couldn't have done without advertising it.

But I couldn't help but wonder while I watched the "Celebrity Apprentice" why these stars even bothered to appear on the show. It's not a simple game show where they show up for twenty minutes, plug their latest project, answer some questions and get a check for their charity. (Note, I am not against celebrites plugging their latest project - it's part of the job description) Celebrity Apprentice is hard work that takes a while to do, (it's deja vu for some of them when they find they are back to selling pizza's like they did as starving artists)  time taken away from regular work, and the money they raise, I suspect, is well within reach of these celebrities being able to reach into their pocket and write a check for. Why not just do that, make a public service announcement to get the word out there, do a couple of talk shows to promote the charity and move on. Why go through the whole apprentice thing where they are criticized, overworked and ultimately fired? I suspect it's not just the charitiy they're promoting here.

Back to Oprah and those cars. She did not give the cars to the audience. The car dealership did but she claimed she did. Whatsmore, there was a seven thousand dollar tax that recipients had to pay. She refused to help them out with that. These people were people who couldn't afford cars in the first place. If they had seven thousand bucks to pay for taxes they could have bought a decent used car for less than that. So people had a choice. Pay the taxes, sell the car and pay the taxes, or forfeit the car. Certainly the most logical would be to sell the car, pay the taxes and then buy something cheaper, but the point is that Oprah giving them cars - an act that got her a lot of attention and helped to crown her as Queen of Everything - is like saying that Bob Barker gave away cars, vacations and boats while he hosted the Price is Right. None of those things came out of his pocket and he didn't pretend they did. In fact on those giveaway days where Oprah appears so generous, it is not her generosity. She calls up the companies and they donate the goods. If they don't donate then its not her "favorite thing" which means that her "favorite things" aren't necessarily her favorite things, just the ones where she could convince someone to give her 300 of.

So I have no problem with her giving things away, but why not be honest about the giveaway and admit that not one cent comes out of her pocket. Other hosts of other shows do giveaways but they don't add the mantra "isn't Oprah the most generous person on the earth". This must be said twenty times while you wear your satin pajamas and your diamond encrusted "O" necklace, and before you crawl into your Oprah bed with the t-shirt sheets with your latest Oprah approved book club  book.

According to this book (I don't know how accurate Kitty Kelly is) in spite of all the big money that Oprah donates it still comes to less than 10 percent of her income. So really is she that generous? Isn't 10 percent a base that a person begins with for charitable donations? If I'm bringing home a hundred million dollars a year, couldn't I still have a really luxurious life and still be contribuiting generously to the economy by giving half of that away? I could still have the multi-million dollar mansion, the maid, the gardener, the 200 pairs of designer shoes and purses and maybe get by on one private jet and one yacht and still give away 50 percent of my income? And if I'm making all that money and have all that attention is it really necessary to tell everybody about what a great person I am?

The African school is another conundrum. On one hand she appears to have done good to provide an exclusive school for poverty stricken girls, but the money she spent on one school was far more lavish than any girl needs. Girls don't have to have cloth napkins, crystal, china and chandeliers to get an education. I get that she didn't want an ugly school and she wanted them to have nice things, but what she offered the girls was so far beyond anything that most of these girls would ever be able to provide for themselves one day even with success. Showing them "this is what you can have" is one thing. Showing them "this is what you can't have on your own" is another. She could have built a beautiful, functional school with far less money and used the remainder to build other beautiful, functional schools for more poverty stricken girls. Instead she most likely will create girls who will feel unsatisfied no matter how much success they achieve.

I've often been mystified by the need to put on extravagant parties to raise money. Couldn't they charge the same amount, have a less extravagant party and use the money saved for the charity? Now an argument can be made that extravagant parties put money back into the economy by the purchase of goods and services needed for the party - and I'm all about spending money to go back into the economy, but is that really what people are thinking? Aren't they all just looking for an excuse to party lavishly and they can feel good about it because they had to spend a thousand dollars on a seat.

If you notice that I put Oprah's and Trump's names in the title. That is unabashed promotion on my part to get noticed in the search engines.

But at least I'm not asking for money. However if anyone wants to donate to the Anna Maria Junus fund then I'm all for it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lessons in a Calgary Park on Canada Day

I was in a park in Calgary on a beautiful sunny Canada Day when a man passed by with a couple of dogs. I watched one of the dogs as it seemed slower than the other one. Not just physically but mentally as well. Noticing that I was watching his dog the man explained,  "He's blind," and then called the dogs name. The dog followed his voice.

The man threw the dog a ball. I watched as this dog crashed into trees and bushes yet still managed to find his ball. When he dropped his ball he would nose around to find it. Part of me felt bad for the dog and another part couldn't help but laugh (yes, I know it's cruel but imagine a dog that walks into trees) and another part admired his spirit. His master would allow him to muddle around a bit, then he would call him and the dog would follow the voice until they reached a big open field where the ball was thrown and discovered. Instead of resenting his master, the dog enjoyed the exercise and the game, a game that kept the dog young and alert.

I should have been thinking about how we are all blind and we need to listen to our Master's voice to know where we should go. I should have thought about how we all crash into trees and bushes, skinning our knees and hurting our pride and how our Master allows us to muddle around. I should have thought about the balls we drop and nose about to find them and pick them up again. I should have thought how with persistence we can overcome obstacles and enjoy the sunny days and the challenges that keep our hearts and minds young and alert. I should have thought of that. But I thought of something else instead.

Can a blind dog get a seeing eye dog?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Contest: Debbie West Coon CD's

Part of the contest requirements is to blog about and enter a link to the win the CD's. So here it is. Anne Bradshaw tells more.

Anne Bradshaw - Debbie Coon CD's

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Musings: Reuben and the Lost Birthright

The scriptures are filled with imperfect people. Even the prophets had family problems. Anytime a parent is feeling like a failure because of the things their children do, all they need do is look at the scriptures and see that even God's chosen has had problems. Few have had the problems that Jacob has faced. Most horrific is the story of his sons Simeon and Levi who went into a city that they had made a covenent with and murdered the men, stole the women and children and spoiled the city. There may have even been rape involved although the scriptures aren't clear. It's a small footnote and it's not dwelt on much nor do we see much of the outcome. It's hard to think that that these two could ever gain celestial kingdom status after such a horrendous and uncalled for massacre.

There is also a small note about Reuben, Jacob's eldest son.

And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Genesis 35:22

Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled
his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel : I Chronicles 5:1

So it seems pretty straightforward. Reuben slept with one of his father's wives and the consequences were that he lost his birthright. We are shocked that Reuben would do such a thing. You simply don't sleep with your father's wife. It's adultery. Within the church we tend to focus on homosexuality and paint it as the worst sexual sin, but it seems to me there are far worse sexual sins - rape, pedophelia and yes adultery come to my mind. Adultery is a devestating thing for the spouse who has been cheated on.

But is it really that simple?

It is not clear if Bilhah consented. Was she a part of it or was she raped? There is nothing in the scriptures that says that she was, so for the sake of argument, lets say that Bilhah agreed to sleep with Reuben therefore making her as guilty as he.

Before we condemn her though, lets look at her history.
1 AND when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

2 And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees that I may also have children by her.

4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.

5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.

6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.

7 And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.

8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali. Genesis 30:1-8

Bilhah was a slave. Rachel owned her and Rachel also owned any children she had. Based on what we have from the scriptures it appears that Bilhah had no say in the joining to Jacob. There was no opportunity for Bilhah to find her own husband, and she was denied the rights of motherhood to the children she bore. Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that Jacob loved her. Jacob loved Rachel. Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah (a pretty suspicous set-up if you ask me), and Jacob agreed to marry the handmaids because his primary wives wanted it. There seems to be levels of marriage here. Bilhah was married to Jacob who already had other wives, and it seems clear that this was not a decision that she made, but it was forced upon her.

Is it possible that Bilhah and Reuben fell in love with each other? If that is the case, is their sin that horrendous then? If she is tied to Jacob through no fault of her own and not free to marry Reuben is it any wonder that they might commit adultery?

Some will say it doesn't matter. It's still adultery.

But she wasn't married in the true sense of the word. Eve was given to Adam as a helpmeet. Not as a slave. Marriage is about equal power. Bilhah was not equal to Jacob.

Can someone be held to a covenant that they did not willingly make? As LDS people we try and assure non-members who are upset about our baptizing the dead that the dead have the choice to accept the covenant. We know that if we grabbed someone dunked them against their will and even had the priesthood say all the right things, it doesn't count because they didn't choose to take upon them the covenents.

So is Bilhah accountable for covenents that she did not willingly make? Even if she said the words does it count since it appears she had no other options. She was owned by Rachel and given to Jacob by Rachel and had her children claimed by Rachel.

And is Reuben wrong for falling in love with a woman who from all appearences is not loved by her husband in the way a woman should be? Even if Jacob did love Bilhah he wasn't devoted exclusively to her (can you tell how I hate the double standard of polygamy).

Is it not tragic that Bilhah should be denied the love that all women yearn for and not even be allowed to hope for? Yes, it was a different time, but are we not all the same down at the core, no matter what time we live in or what station in life we are assigned.

Perhaps Reuben and Bilhah did not do such a horrible thing. Maybe, possibly, it was a grasp at some kind of happiness.