Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Live Feed of BP disaster


Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I'm A Political Beast

Someone asked me the other day why I let myself get so wrapped up in politics. It's one of those questions that's nearly impossible to answer because it falls in the category of  if you don't live it as I do, then I can't explain it so you will understand. Because I care about the person who asked, I'll try and explain my passion for this mean and nasty piece of life.

I wasn't always political. What people often misinterpreted as politics was an inner sense of fairness that could never be denied. To me it is not and will never be a complete world until it is a just world. And I really believe we can't have a just world as long as there is war. We can't have a just world as long as people aren't equal. We can't have a just world as long as there are victims. We can't have a just world as long as there is greed, selfishness, intolerance, racism, bigotry and hatred.

It's as simple as that on the surface.  In my life I've learned there are certain things that  need to take place before the world becomes a just place, and they won't happen by themselves. It's too big a job. So I use my talents as a writer, as an artist, as a passionate person who cares about this planet to educate others into what needs to be done.

First and most importantly, we need an end to war. There can be no justice without peace as a foundation for a better world to grow its roots. People tell me it's an impossible dream, that we humans are a warlike species that will never know peace.

I disagree completely. I believe we all begin as peaceful creatures but life twists us around, wounds us, teaches us the wrong things, and we grow up believing we are a warlike species that will never know peace.

We need to walk back from this untruth and it requires the most difficult of all things to even get a grip on the path toward peace. It requires first and above all that we take a good look at ourselves, that we learn who we are, what shaped us, what created us, what gave form to the essence of opinions, dreams and desires we are as human beings.

But to do that we have to set aside a lot of crap. One of the biggest pieces of crap is religion. I don't care what people believe individually. I even think spirituality is good for people, that it gives them a focus, a center from which to evolve. But religion is a different thing all together. It is a business, a giant system of brainwashing large groups of people to believe just one point of view and nothing else.

This is not spirituality. This is mind control for the purpose of using human beings for things they were never intended to be used for. Religion fills the heart with hate instead of love. It creates an us and them world where there is only you and those who believe as you do against the enemy, the outsiders who are bad where you are good.

Without religion, people would question the need to go to war. They would question the need to believe in only one ideology. They would go outside their own safe little reality and explore, examine, and come to understand there are many truths.

But that makes humans dangerous to those who need war, because you see, war is a need. It is what makes people obscenely wealthy inventing and selling machines meant for only one thing: killing people. And that's where politics enters the picture. No arms merchant can sell his death tools by standing on a street corner with a cart and a cardboard sign. Arms merchants need politicians to convince the people of the need for war. And their reward is wealth and power and prestige. For a politician, this is what it means to be a human being.

And that's why I spend so much of my life educating myself and others about politics. I want people to see how they are manipulated, how they are used, how they are controlled  by those whose only desire is to make themselves richer. It's all about money and that is the disgusting simple truth of it all.

I can't fight the powerful with money because I don't have any. But I have a strong sense of who I am from decades of taking a stand for things that affect me but are not me. It is how we grow. We MUST step outside ourselves and look at what's out there from a different perspective. This is my fight, this understanding that what we are and what we believe was fed to us by those who don't really give a damn about us as living beings. We're tools to them and I am offended and disgusted by this.

And since I've never been one to sit around, I let people know about the corruption in politics, the bad people, the hypocrites, the racists, the bigots, the mean-spirited and greedy. I treat them like the cockroaches they are and shine a light on them because as they scatter and run for the darkness where they can destroy the world for their own personal gain, they know that I'm out there, that there are others like me out there, and that we care enough about the earth and those who share it with us to never let them operate freely without fear of being caught. We're waiting to catch them and they know it.

It won't stop them completely but it will slow them down. And since I believe in evolution, I have faith that even the worst in our species will change over time if they have something to change towards that is vital and alive and precious instead of evil, greedy, and dead.

 I am a patient person as is anyone who has ever planted seeds in a garden and waited for them to grow. I know I won't see world peace in my life time, but I learned long ago to content myself with seedlings knowing I  had a hand in their growth. And those seedlings are why I stay aware of politics and politicians, why I'll never shut up, why I'll never stop doing my part to make a better world. Multiply me by several hundred thousand over a period of time and you have the world I know is possible.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Cycle of Abuse's Nasty Little Friends

Like many children who were beaten into submission on almost a daily basis, it's taken me a lifetime to heal from the wounds. I was very aware of the obvious things I had to do to break the cycle and I can proudly say that in my nearly sixty years on this planet, only one man dared to hit me after I left home,  and he only got that one shot. I walked away forever and never looked back.

There's never been any since because that one lapse helped me refine what became an innate sense of who would and would not resort to violence against me. My childhood taught me the signals to look out for and I spent my adult years like an animal who had been shot at by some crazed hunters and would forever recognize the scent when it crossed its path again.

That was almost the easiest part. The inner damage was the hardest to heal and that will be with me for life because those are wounds that are damaged emotional tissue. It's like there's permanent patched rips and tears in that fabric that will never be the same. I've had to learn to live with that, same as anyone learns to live with a handicap.

But before I could make the necessary patches to the damaged fabric, I had to find what else was tugging at it, what else was digging into the weak threads and threatening to pull them apart. And that exploration was and still is, far more painful than some of the beatings I endured because emotional damage is always at the mercy of those who seek to exploit it for their own gains.

The most intense damage is done to our sense of self. There's nothing like daily beatings and humiliation to make you doubt yourself, to make you question your right to even exist. Everything becomes a potential for insecurity to manifest in all of life's little situations. The need to be accepted often overwhelms everything else. It's why so many people go back to or find other abusers; they don't believe they are good enough for anything better.

I fell victim to this a lot. When you grow up in the kind of family I did and you're a sensitive kid, you become very aware of those who judge you, who reject you, who shun you. And it's not even your fault but you take it on. You take the side of the abusive father against the neighbors who condemn all of you for his sins. You pretend to be strong so your classmates who mock you for wearing long-sleeved shirts in the summer won't ever discover you wear them to hire the welts and bruises of the previous night. And you run like a wimpy little lap dog toward anyone, anyone at all, who is the least bit nice to you, no matter their reasons for being nice to you. You don't care. You just want something that is not pain, that is not condemnation, that is not judgment, that is not exclusion.

This need to be accepted makes you willfully blind and those are the wounds that continue to wound long after the scar tissue has formed. The wounds get deeper because insecure people attract those who use them. Insecure people attract those who are selfish, who are looking for numbers to beef up their agendas, their revenges, their paybacks. You end up being used because you believe that is the only way someone will accept you. You end up looking away and pretending not to see someone's bad side because you're too afraid they'll reject you if you speak up and tell them their behavior is bad, or that they are not nice people, or that you don't feel good about the way they treated or continue to treat other human beings.

When you're an abused child, you spend a lot of your adult life pretending you don't see a lot of what you see. But at some point, and I say this with all the hope and optimism I can muster up from the depths of what is still whole in me, it becomes time to walk away from that kind of abuse as well. It may not seem as bad as the beatings, but it is because it destroys your inner sense of right and wrong, the same way as physical abuse does.

At the point in my life where I had to finally confront the abuse I endured as a child, I also had to confront the abuse I endured as an adult. I had to let myself see that those who are not nice people, those who are selfish, those who spend a great deal of their lives trashing and tearing down other human beings are just as destructive to the human psyche as physical abuse is to the human body.

It's like racism or bigotry when you break it down. If you are able to stand up to a racist or bigot and say I will not allow you to trash a people or culture in my presence, then you help move the dialogue away from racism and toward tolerance one person, one conversation at a time.

It's the same with letting people abuse you with their meanness toward others, because that's what it is--abuse. If you let yourself remain silent while a friend or acquaintance says and does awful things about or to someone you share a friendship in common with, then you help perpetuate the meanness, the selfishness, the use and abuse of another human being with your silence. And you become part of the abuse, same as you become part of the racism with your silence.

I think for me that has been the hardest part of recovering from the violent abuse of my childhood. I had to let go of some people in my life that had been there for many years because I realized I didn't like them as people, I was appalled at how they treated others, I was often shocked into silence at the depth of their vengeance, mean gossip, and just flat out selfishness. But I stuck with them because I was too insecure to walk away. I was too insecure to believe other people might actually like me for myself and not for what they could use me for, that I could have friends who were good people and that no, I didn't have to settle for less than that.

So I eventually did walk away when the same people ganged up on yet another person and made him the scapegoat for everything that was wrong in their own lives. This time I didn't just shake my head at the wrongness of it, the sadness of it, the injustice and meanness of it. This time I walked way and at times it's still hard. That old insecurity comes out and I question myself, I question if it's the right thing to do, if it will really make a difference.

But then I realize those are the same questions anyone leaving an abusive relationship asks themselves. And when I measure myself inside, there's a peace which wasn't there before. I have nice people in my life. I made it happen. I saw myself as a person of worth and made it happen. I am strong and at almost 60 years of age, I am finally starting to heal all the wounds, not just the most visible ones.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Reunions, Life, and the Authenticity of Friendship

Every once in a while you have a conversation with someone and end up extremely grateful they're in your life. That happened to me the other night when I talked with my cousin Mara for about an hour and a half. It's not something we do a lot, but every few years it happens. This time it seemed to catch both of us at a time in our lives where we had a lot to say. And like all good conversations, it continues to reverberate over a period of days.

The telephone call started over a High School reunion. We had very different experiences at the same school. For her the idea of not going to her reunion was unthinkable. She still lives in the same town and the friendships she formed are still solid. She also had a lot of friends, hung out with large crowds of people. She has good memories, just as my brother has good memories and my sister has good memories. I can understand them wanting to go.

For me it was something I just couldn't imagine myself going to as I had a total of three friends if you didn't count the carload of drama geeks who filled out the car at the drive-in once a week. I didn't fit in at school or with just about anyone else. I was different. I didn't have the pretty home life every one else at least pretended on the outside to have. My mother and all of us kids suffered horrible abuse at the hands of the man she married. The police had our house on their daily circuit. People spoke with accents. We were poor.

My brother and sister found their own ways to cope and compensate. I found my salvation in friendship. I cultivated friendships with people who were odd like me. They were from poor, broken homes. They were shunned by the other kids for their differences, for their old and used clothes, their  lack of possessions that are now long gone and were such a worthless thing to judge anyone on, even if it was High School.

This was the time in my life where things and I parted company. I preferred to be rich in friendships and because of this I found people like me. We didn't fit in anywhere else but with each other. We were serious, not necessarily about school but about life. We were ripe to develop lifelong friendships with each other based on our mutual place in the universe.

It was the late 60's and people were dying in Vietnam. Our heroes were getting assassinated. We grew our hair, quit wearing make-up and shaving our faces, armpits, legs,  and spent a lot of time out on the streets trying to save the world and making it a better place for women and minorities. I became heavily involved in  an anti-war group that helped write Conscientious Objector letters and provided assistance to escape to Canada if that was the only option left. This was High School for me, not proms or parties or silly gossip.

As a result I became even more alienated from my classmates who were focused on getting married and having babies if they didn't plan on going to college. As an Atheist from about age 13 or so, I didn't have anything in common with the Mormons or Catholics which dominated our school. As I said, I had three people I considered friends.

This was also the period of time I almost moved to Paris. I applied and was accepted to the Sorbonne. The tuition was manageable and I had enough working skills from growing up in restaurants and other businesses that I knew I could find some kind of work to make up for the rest of the money I needed to make the move. I was going on this great adventure with my two best friends from the antiwar group.

But life has a way of intruding and it intruded in the rudest most possible way. My friend's draft number came up and instead of Paris he was going to Vietnam. After all the work we did together to help people get out of war, he did something that completely astonished me and his girlfriend. He chose to go to war. He was dead in six months and neither I nor his girlfriend had the heart to go to Paris without him. I left school, finished up my degree at a school for dropouts. I was an honor student when I dropped out, just 1/8th of a credit from graduation,  so the school "found" something for me to enable me to get my diploma without having to go back to High School. I got a job in a casino and stayed there until I started college. It was one of the saddest times in my life. I broke ties with everyone so I could heal from my broken heart. And in my spare time I fought against the war with every spare moment I had.

And it was there, in Las Vegas where I started college,  that I met many of the people who would become my life long friends. We spent every weekend camping in Utah, Arizona, Death Valley. We lived outside together for most of our college years. It was from them that I learned if you share a campfire with someone, there's a good chance your souls will be forever joined from staring at the flames together. I scaled back my attempts to save the world and tried to live a less complex life, to fall in love, to wake up without having a list of serious things to accomplish. I'd been an adult my entire life and this was my first time actually being young.

When we graduated, we went our separate ways but stayed in touch and took the lessons we learned about friendship forward to the next world. I came north for graduate school and once again my friends were not the ordinary group of people, but those outside the group. Jeff, as the spouse of a graduate student, could take classes for next to nothing and since he already had a degree, he took classes for fun at the liberal arts college where he introduced me to people he met.

For me right from the beginning it was the same nightmare of over-privileged selfish  children who lived by the power of their respective tantrums to get what they wanted, which was everything. Going without, having nothing was unimaginable to them. My first few months living with them, they stuck me with their unpaid utility bills I had foolishly put in my name. They helped themselves to the deposit of the houses only I spent hours cleaning in order to get it back. They ate the food I had scrounged to buy and never thought to replace it. They gossiped maliciously about everyone and made up lies and stupid shit about those who dared to break off relationships with them. They were shallow and self-centered, ignorant about politics and the world they lived in. They bought clothes and 100 dollar haircuts instead of contributing to the rent and felt no guilt over my working extra hours to support them. They were some of the meanest, nastiest, most self-centered people I ever met in my life. They're the kind of people you don't go around without having a bullet and knife-proof vest on your back.

I couldn't relate to them and they would never understand a great deal of my life. I was ten years older than most of them and far more serious about everything. But fortunately they weren't the only students even if they liked to tell themselves they were the only ones on the planet. If it wasn't for the household of poor kids of working class parents that I eventually ended up living with, I think I would have given up on the human race.

For the rest of my friendships, as always, I gravitated toward the working class, those without trust funds, without any hope for help with our educations other than the financial aid office and part time work. I wanted to be around people who knew what it was like to work for a living, to have to struggle for everything they had because those that didn't would never understand me and I would never understand them. The friends I made were the people who were the equivalent of the anti-war group in my early teens. They devoted their time to helping others and took jobs that were good work as opposed to profitable work.

While the wealthier and upper middle class of our classmates were off on parent funded ventures to Europe and other exotic and expensive locales, the rest of us took to the forests, the beaches, the deserts, the lakes and shared our souls over campfires on our days off from the jobs we held to survive the expense of getting educated. We became a solid group of friends who were often older and far more mature than our classmates. And like my other college friends, these became lifelong friendships that were formed in nature. These are the people who are still in my life, who are equals, who are serious, responsible, unselfish, kind, and don't spend their time making up evil shit about people who aren't there. When they fuck up, they take full responsibility and don't shift the blame onto others. They don't have scapegoats. They have friends. In other words, they are decent and mature human beings.

If High School and College reunions meant seeing these kind of people, then yes I would be there in a minute. But let's face it, a whole lot of people go to reunions for revenge, to rekindle some lost fling, to show off their possessions, their children, their lives. They're there to share gossip, to talk bad about those who aren't there, to rehash and open old wounds, to make themselves seem better than everyone else. They're not there because they care about and love each other. They only tell themselves that lie and so many more.

Yes, I have friends in town because it's reunion time. I always have friends in town because I have friends all over the world who like to travel and they come and visit me and when I can afford it I go visit them. But at almost 60 years of age, I've learned a valuable lesson in life: choose your friends wisely because if you don't, you're going to spend a large part of your life being disappointed. I may be a lot of things, but disappointed is definitely not one of them. And those I value in my life also value me. That is my reward for not compromising my ethics, my honor, my integrity and my responsibility to the planet. We do find each other if we stick to who we are and for that I am eternally grateful and blessed.

So no, I will not be at "the reunion." But I will be here and I'm sure there's a small, lovely handful of us ready to add to some already wonderful memories. Or not. Life is like that. We know there is always a next time when the friendships are true and solid.


Saturday, May 01, 2010

Note to Bigots, Racists, Homophobes, and other Losers

I was blessed or cursed, depending on your perspective, with an abundance of the optimism gene. It's allowed me to get through a life that might have killed those weaker or less stubborn. I've always been able to see the positive side of a situation along with the negative. I've always believed that evil can be overcome by good, that hate takes effort and love does not, that humans for all of our flaws, are basically good creatures.

I still believe that, but in the last few months with the advent of the teabagging crazies and  their "creative" spelling known as TEABONICS or Texas Schoolbook Learning,  infecting the country with such manipulated bigotry and hatred, I have finally accepted that in order to be a decent human being some basic requirements must be met.

First, you must understand the planet is home to many people and they're not all going to look like you, worship the same imaginary friends, embrace your narrow ideology, or have the same definition of truth. If you think it's all about you, then you need to seriously grow up and open your eyes and especially your heart.

Which leads me to the requirement of compassion. If you don't have it, then you really don't have any claims to the title of human being. You're something else, something small and mean, something incomplete and lacking an essential component that says I am more than a list of skin, bone, chemicals, fat, and ego.

If you can look at another human being and consider him or her less than you because he or she does not worship where you do, does not have the same skin color as you do, does not stay within the same gender lines as you, does not speak with the same stress or lack of it on the same syllables of the same words, does not come from the same piece of dirt that held your mother's body as you fell out on it, then your claim to the label of human being is seriously in doubt.

I've said many times that love is easy, it's hate that requires you get up every day and say today I am going to hate, today I'm going to be an intolerant asshat shoving my worldview down everyone's throats. And all day long you have to feed that hate. You have to make up stupid shit about people and then get others to believe it and help you spread it, much as most of the world spreads manure on their crops.

But the crops of those who hate, those who are intolerant, are the mean and hungry gardens of bigotry and intolerance. And the most fallow of those grounds belong to the racist, that fraud of a human being who thinks that people are things to categorize like so many dead insects on a cardboard backing. The only reason to separate human beings into little herds is so they can be separated from the rest of humanity and be at the mercy of bigoted jerks who take out their hatred of life on them.

For many months now, and for a good deal of my life, I've dealt with bigots and racists differently, depending on who they were. I was much more willing to ignore the stereotypical joking of some elderly old fellow who barely remembered his name ,much less understood that his world  changed so much that the mildly racist joke that cracked everyone up in his youth, now made his listeners uncomfortable.

I never laughed, but I wasn't strong enough to walk away, especially if he was a relative or the relative of a friend. I called that being tolerant, being accepting of someone who meant no harm, but was merely old and oblivious to the changing mores of the planet.

I don't know if I was wrong to not say anything, to just listen uncomfortably. Was I respecting the elderly or was I helping grow what became the overtly racist and intolerant Teahadists with my silence? If I was wrong, I can console myself with knowing I never had a bit of a problem openly calling out a racist who was motivated by pure hatred and nothing else.

There were several times in my life where I put myself in really stupid situations for the sake of my ethical soul. I don't regret them even though I'm appalled at how oblivious I was to the danger. Idealism is like that. It blinds you to the dangers so you can move forward and make the world a better place. Not everyone survives that leap. I was lucky and lived to raise hell another day.

And because I did, I continue to speak out to the obvious racists. I won't let up on the Teahadists because they are as ugly as the KKK is ugly, as ugly as jackbooted thugs are ugly, as ugly as the Inquisition burning Pagans and other non-Christians in the name of their viscious and bloodthirsty god is ugly. Hate is ugly. Bigotry is ugly. Intolerance is ugly. Selfishness is ugly.

As human beings, we have only one enemy and it the ugliness that ferments in other human beings. I thought it could be defeated by love and yes, in those that still have a heart, those that are not sociopathic thugs, those that can see beyond the smallness of their world view, it can be defeated and made whole by love.

But I also understand there are those who are lost to humanity. They are mean little creatures who both direct the haters and thrive on the hatred they create. They do not know what it means to love authentically. It is all about usage rights with them, things that do not require compassion or understanding.

And yes, many who hate are poorly educated and ignorant. Racists are people who have only had their own race as friends. They are ignorant of other people, cultures, literature, music, ideas, and beliefs. It is a willful ignorance because it is the most easily cured if they wanted to cure themselves.

But they don't because more than anything, bigots and racists are lazy. They don't want to make the effort to understand because it requires doing more than moving sluggishly through a life where everyone but them is calling the shots. People who think for themselves are not easily led.

Freethinkers would never let a hateful, pill-infested moron named Rush Limbaugh tell them what to think, what to believe, and whom to hate. That's for the masses, the ignorant and willfully uneducated "morans" who are too lazy to think for themselves. They are the fodder, the rabble, the used and abused by everyone who has more power and influence. They are nothing and know it, which is why they hate.

And they allow the Becks of the world to yank their very short leashes and command them to take to the streets in support of the very corporations who keep them at the bottom of the shit pile of life. This is beyond stupid. This is lazy, willful ignorance. And it is damaging to the planet, to human beings and all living creatures.

These are the people I will no longer politely turn away from. I will fight them with everything I have. I will expose them for the miserable pieces of human shit they really are. I will write about how easily and stupidly they allow themselves to be manipulated because they are too lazy to take charge of their own lives. I will be mean. I will be nasty. I will beat them over the head with facts. I will humiliate them with truth. I will overpower them with the forces of good that drive me and command me to defeat their forces of evil.

And I will win because love is stronger than hate, peace is more powerful than war, and truth always always wins, even if it takes a while. Do you hear me, losers? Truth ALWAYS wins. And when it does, this is what history will show as your legacy:

As for the rest of us, we'll be working to make a better world, one where all living creatures have an equal right to exist, to share in the bounty of life, love, and yes...happiness. Without mean, hateful people to infect the earth with their vitriol, maybe that happiness thing will be a lot more in reach. Especially if people like me and others keep lifting the rock on hate because we all know it can't survive once exposed to the light. It needs the dank, ugly darkness to survive and decent people are all carrying lights these days to expose you.

Be The Change shirt