Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 27, 2013

ED VASICEK: It's a jungle out there

Obama can't dodge entanglement


Kokomo Tribune

---- — As a lad, I remem-ber watching Buster Crabb on Saturday mornings, as local stations aired old movies. “Flash Gordon” and “Buck Rogers” were my favorites, but I also watched a number of jungle-based Tarzan movies. Back then, “rain forests” were called “jungles.”

The word “jungle” developed a broader meaning over the years. Webster sometimes defines it as “an impenetrable thicket or tangled mass of tropical vegetation,” but at other times as “a confused or disordered mass of objects” or “a place of ruthless struggle for survival.” Jungles often include animals, violence and entanglements.

Take animals. Sometimes it can be a jungle even at Walmart! According to Yahoo Odd News, “The Apopka, Florida police were called out when a 6-foot long alligator strolled outside of the city’s local Walmart ... the uninvited visitor walked near the store’s automatic sliding doors and lingered, causing the doors to open and close. Walmart employees took precautions by locking the doors ... But by the time the trapper arrived, the gator had already made its exit.”

Compared to that experience, our local Walmart seems pretty tame — even on a Saturday! But watch out for those deadly bunny rabbits! Have I been watching old Monty Python movies? No, rabbits can be dangerous — at least in Scotland. Note this item from the AFP:

“The windswept Scottish island of Canna is home to just 12 people — and 16,000 rabbits. But thousands of the bunnies are set to be culled after their frantic burrowing caused a landslide, officials said Monday ... A landslide on Canna last week is being partly blamed on underground rabbit warrens which weakened the soil structure...”

Looks like the Scots will soon be eating German cuisine. Hasenpfeffer, to be exact!

Getting slightly more serious, President Obama recently apologized for the messed-up Obamacare website. According to UPI, the president talked turkey: “‘There’s no sugar-coating it ... Nobody’s more frustrated about that than I am. I want the cash registers to work and the checkout line to be smooth ... And there’s no excuse for the problems. [These] problems are getting fixed. But while we’re working out the kinks in the system, I want everybody to understand the nature of the problem.’

“Noting that 20 million people have visited the site since it went live, Obama said even with the problems, healthcare.gov ‘is still working for a lot of people, just not as quick or efficient or consistent as we want.’”

With all the highly trained, competent information technology experts in our nation, you would think Uncle Sam could find competent web designers. Perhaps these glitches could not be avoided; either way, the fiasco fuels the stereotype of “incompetent government workers.” It’s a cyber-jungle out there.

Social media is its own sort of jungle. We hear repeated stories of predators contacting their future prey through Facebook or MySpace. Facebook, however, has taken a new route that carries with it a truly unique danger. For this information, I turn to the BBC:

“Facebook is allowing videos showing people being decapitated to be posted and shared on its site once again. The social network had introduced a temporary ban in May following complaints that the clips could cause long-term psychological damage. The US firm confirmed it now believed its users should be free to watch and condemn such videos. It added it was, however, considering adding warnings.

“One suicide prevention charity criticized the move: ‘It only takes seconds of exposure to such graphic material to leave a permanent trace — particularly in a young person’s mind,’ said Dr. Arthur Cassidy, a former psychologist who runs a branch of the Yellow Ribbon Program in Northern Ireland.

“‘The more graphic and colorful the material is, the more psychologically destructive it becomes.’

“Facebook allows anyone aged 13 and above to be a member.”

Facebook has been a relatively safe website for many teens. Although Facebook users will not be constrained to watch this video, remember this: Facebook use is most intense among teenagers, and teenagers feel the most pressure to follow fads. Not good. Social media can be a jungle, too.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com.