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Going Pro

Going Pro

    I’ve given it a lot of thought lately, and I have made the decision to go pro. For a lot of kids around age 21 or so that means entering the draft for a professional sport, but I used my college eligibility a couple of years ago and, despite the fact that my backyard football, church league basketball and Little League baseball careers made a pretty interesting highlight reel in my own mind, I never received any scholarship offers for any sport beside saxophone.  That one worked out pretty well, and the $50 a semester led me to a career in music and weekend rock and roll gigs that continue even now.  No, I won’t be going pro in any professional athletic arena, but have decided that far too many people now seem to be anti something or other, and it seems to be a gigantic waste of time to spend your life always being against something rather than standing for something else.
    Let me give you an example.  Rather than be anti-gun, I’m going to be pro-gun safety.  It’s pretty easy to be anti-gun if you’re 17 and don’t own any weapons, but simply being anti-anything usually means repeated attempts to make sure that everyone has to follow your beliefs whether they want to or not. Being a pro means that I can have my beliefs and not attempt to impose them on anyone. I can share them if asked, I can write about them, I have the option to present them to appreciative audiences, but I don’t have to do so for personal validation and don’t necessarily need an audience to support my views.  I can simply follow my own beliefs and be confident in my own acquired experience and knowledge and make sure that should I choose to handle a gun of any type I do so in a safe, responsible manner. I can follow current laws and restrictions and gun safety rules and not endanger anyone else; unless of course they don’t follow current laws and attempt to break into my house.  In that case, the rules change.
    Following the same mode of thinking, I’ve decided to be pro-Christian.  That doesn’t mean I am anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish or anti-other religions, just that Jesus set a pretty high bar when he said “love thy neighbor,” and that effectively leaves out being anti anyone. I may not approve of your life choices, but I won’t seek to impose mine on you, and expect you to do the same for me. If you, for example, are pro-any other religion or lifestyle I respect your choice as long as there is no effort on your part to kill me or my family because we don’t believe the same way you do.  Should that happen, see paragraph two above.
    As a lifelong educator, I am also pro-knowledge, pro-education and pro-learning, which are all part and parcel of the same thing except that learning, ideally, should not end when school does.  My mother once told me “Son, it’s not a sin to be ignorant, but it sure is a sin to remain that way.”  What she meant was that we all enter the world ignorant of many things, but as life continues and we successfully navigate the trials and errors of childhood and growing up we each have a responsibility to continue to learn from our mistakes and our experiences and, where possible, from others. She even had a saying for those that didn’t learn those lessons, and it fits right into my pro-education belief system. I once had an argument with a neighborhood kid that surreptitiously appropriated two of the essential items of my 11 year old life - my genuine army surplus helmet and matching canteen belt. We had an altercation over possession, and I returned home with my gear and told my mother.  Seeing I had regained my missing items, she noted my scrapes and bruises, and rather than scold me for fighting asked what I had learned. “Not to let people steal something that’s mine” I said. “Not only that, but that everybody has a purpose in life” she said, “and sometimes their only purpose seems to be to serve as a bad example.”  A life lesson indeed. Besides wrestling with my brother, that was the only physical fight in which I was a participant.
    I choose to be pro-reading. A very smart person once told me it didn’t matter what I read as long as I did, so I do. Constantly.  Every day.
    I do not choose to be anti-politician, but rather to be pro-common sense.  Politics and pro-common sense positions are often mutually exclusive.  We as a nation seem to have forgotten that politicians serving our republic were never intended or envisioned as having political service as a life choice. “Diapers and politicians” observed Twain, “should be changed often, and for the same reason.” He was correct. It seems that every profession has a retirement age except politics.  I admit to having difficulty understanding how politicians can justify passing any laws that apply to everyone else but exempt themselves.  Are they not citizens too?  I am decidedly pro-retirement, and recommend that as a life goal for everyone. Especially politicians.
    My decision to be pro-common sense usually precludes any inclination to be politically correct. The former has guidelines and requires thought before speaking or acting; the latter has no such guidelines and often raises its head in abject defiance of the former.  On a related note, another choice is that of attempting to be pro-grammar rather than anti-profanity.  My dad was a world-class profanacist, and could blister paint at 25 feet. He used profanity as part of everyday language, and as a result my brothers and I became, at early ages, fluent in depth and variety. We also learned, with the help of Ivory soap, the importance of discretion in choosing an appropriate audience before implementing our imitative attempts.  I won’t tell anyone that I do not use profanity today, but I will say that I am discriminating in my audience and in context, and that most of my forays into that realm at present are nonverbal...thanks in large part to early memories of the taste of Ivory. I am unabashedly pro-discretion.
    Pro-life is also a favorite of mine, but I don’t limit my pro-ness to babies. It does not necessarily extend to those that, through their own convoluted anti tendencies, wantonly end the lives of others.
    Pro-giving is another of my choices.  The only caveat I insist upon is that I decide how much and to whom except for taxes. There I prefer, for the sake of my own mental health, to believe that my taxes go to provide new tubas for the Marine Band. It may not actually be true but it heartens me to think so. I am decidedly pro-band.
    Does anti-bullying mean that we treat bullies the same way they treat their victims? Probably so.  I would rather be pro-do unto others than anti-bullying.  The Golden Rule is a great example of being pro.
    Pro-history means that I recognize that history has indeed occurred and contains many valuable and interesting and sometimes horrifying events that we can learn from. Personally, I enjoy learning about them so I can avoid the same mistakes.  Removing monuments or plaques or records of events from public places does not in fact mean those events never happened. It usually means that someone else is too small a person to admit that our predecessors made mistakes - teachable moments - while making history. Ignoring history is like ignoring a traffic ticket; sooner or later events will catch up to you, and most always in an anti sort of way.
    I have noticed that a lot of anti’s need an audience for their views. They often seem genuinely offended if opposing views are mentioned or presented, and become visibly upset if their anti views are questioned. I learned many years ago that anger is not a prime motivational source for effective teaching, and only serves to raise my blood pressure, inhibit clear thought and reasoning and, through the fugue of anti-ness, cloud my judgement. Most people respond to anger with anger of their own, and the general result is an impasse that seldom leads to any solution beyond the imposition of power.  As a teacher, I discovered early on that responding to student misbehavior as a personal affront was counterproductive, and seldom led to a positive resolution of any type.  What usually happens with anger is an uncontrolled escalation that eventually requires an authoritative solution seldom conducive to learning from either party.  People, especially students, don’t learn effectively from anger so it probably should not be a part of your teaching methodology.  Ever.
    Which brings me to television….I don’t watch news on TV. There’s very little pro-ness on TV. That doesn’t mean I don’t keep current, it means I choose to read what I want to learn about, and my reading does not include videos of any kind (with the possible exception of TED talks, selected concerts and funny kid and animal videos.) What passes for debate on television is usually two or more people that begin talking and quickly end up shouting at each other. That’s not debate, its simultaneous bullying. There doesn’t seem to be any attempt at real debate and the one that shouts the longest or controls the length of the shouting contest declares himself the winner and uses the “quotable moments” to further his own views later. Most TV, especially TV news, is a big smelly bouquet of anti, and I’d rather watch Diners, Drive Ins and Dives or the History channel.
    Being a pro also extends to my personal interactions with people. I am pro-sotto voce.  There are daily occurrences and incidents in everyone’s life that offer an opportunity to descend into an anti frame of mind. Anger is an anti frame of mind, and is most often used as a thinly veiled, childish attempt to control others’ thoughts, actions and responses. Yelling and raised voices are part of that.  I may not agree with what you did or said or how you reacted to a given situation, but true pro-ness precludes an angry response in return. Refusing to allow someone else’s anger to control your personal emotions, thinking and responses is the beginning of pro-ness, and allowing them an opportunity to “be mad” without responding in kind precludes a descent into angry (anti) responses that seldom end well for either. It’s not an easy skill to develop, but Mom taught me about that one too, so I’ve had practice and a positive example. “You can get glad in the same britches you got mad in” was her response, and it took me a while to understand what she meant and to learn from how she responded to me and to others. I won’t tell you she never got mad, but I will tell you it never lasted long and she never allowed anger to turn her anti-anything.
    Going pro is not easy, but it can be done. Be a pro. Your life will be better in more ways than you can count. How do I know that? Because Momma said so, that’s why. Get pro in the same britches you got anti in.


  1. Jim -
    For years I've tried tried hard to practice the 'Pro' lifestyle and you've articulated it well. Thanks for putting this into words. I hope some of my friends will find their way to your post and take heed.

    On another note, we're living in Orange Beach, AL these days and I am often reminded of the trip we made to Gulf Shores State Park (before it was blown away) to the Alabama State Student Government Convention here. You agreed to sponsor us and come as our chaperone. I remember Wayne Christian and I think Anthony Burnett being on the trip, among others. While we were away at the convention, you fished on the state pier. If we gave you any trouble on that trip, I can't remember it. Seems like we did lose a golf club on the golf course and spent an hour or so looking for it (lest we be fined). Good old times from another era... .

  2. Ken, I remember that trip well. You guys were no trouble at all and we had a great time. We had CB radios on the trip and I think Wayne wrecked his Dad's car on the way back, but other than that it was fun.