Turn That Frown Upside-down

Sometimes you just have to take a step back. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to these pages because it is cheaper than therapy. (wink) I was driving in to work suffering the blue-black darkness of a cold and windy morning (Ok, the sun was actually up but ”blue-black darkness” made for a dramatic scene. Am I right?) But this morning I was just not “feelin’ it.” Generally I’m an IMG_4960advocate of positive attitude but this morning my mind had been become recusant to letting go of a decidedly unhealthy funk. I was wallowing. I was holding on to the divisiveness of my “us versus them” obsessions. I was lamenting the last vestige of winters icy grip because it keeps me from pursuing my outdoor passions. And then there was that battle I have from time to time where I become mired in misplaced expectations. Sounds fun huh?
I’ve participated in enough pity parties to know that part of my problem was I needed to have a talk with God. That works for me. He doesn’t actually talk back but somehow I’m usually able to hear what He would say if He did. I had my talk and then felt the urge to turn on the radio. (See how that works) My car filled with the dramatic aria of Beethoven’s Symphony #9. As I became lost in the powerful chorus of “Ode to Joy” I realized that the cause of my angst was as simple as my focus had been misplaced. Not saying I’m shallow or anything but the revelation came to me as I was thinking about how much I enjoyed the powerful 16 speaker Bose sound system in my car. That chorus combined divergent voices to create heaven on earth. I recognized that the heated leather seats under me were a good placeholder until I could resume those outdoor passions I was longing for. And those expectations I wrestle with? They are mine. It’s kind of ridiculous to imagine things outside of my control have anything to do with aligning in a way that makes the world work the way I imagine it should.
Focus baby. It’s curious that I need to be reminded from time to time that I need to begin my day with gratitude. It’s such a powerful tool. Maybe why it works is simple to someone who understands brain chemistry but I’m just gonna leave that right there. And I’m grateful I don’t have to understand brain chemistry in order to turn my day around. I hope y’all started your day better than I did. If you didn’t, I hope it helps you to know you made this old man happy by just stopping by. You’re groovy and ya know it.

What I’m Working On

For all of the tolerance I preach and all of the common ground dialogue I propose I’m really not very good at accepting other people’s way of seeing things. I tend to cling to the notion of my moral superiority when people advocate for free markets over free people, corporate interests over human interests, exclusion over inclusion and religious values over humanitarian values. In many of my arguments I generalize and paint with that broad brush of categorizing all of the opposition to my world view as being selfish, heartless and or ignorant. I never, in my mind, mean that everyone associated with an opposing view is selfish, heartless or ignorant. It is lazy to form my arguments with words that suggest that. More importantly it is ineffective.
Who is going to listen to someone when they condemn first and maybe, possibly listen later? IMG_4958Who is going to want to engage with me when I present my prejudice up front; certainly not the prejudiced racists who voted for Trump? (Just checking to see if you are paying attention.) You know what is telling? For all of the tolerance I preach and all of the common ground dialogue I propose I rarely get the opportunity to engage with those who do not share my sentiment. I complain about polarization and I contribute to the polarity.
It’s no secret that I favor progressive politics. I advocate on these pages that we need to work together to bring about the change we want to see in the world. I recognize that there are many non-negotiables in the values I hold dear but words do matter. Those words not only matter when posted here but they also matter in my inner dialogue. If I am unable to try to understand a person’s reasons for expressing ideas I disagree with there is little chance I will ever convince them to understand mine. I need to do better. Feel free to hold me accountable. Have a great day. Thanks for stopping by.

What About Hope?

I like to think I’m a thoughtful and rational guy. Lately it seems that I am questioning myself more and more. I wonder, is it just me? I get that uncertain feeling because I believe, societally, we are shifting away from civilized behavior. I believe an emboldened racism, xenophobia and misogyny threatens to make the world suck even more than it already does with regard to that kind of ugliness. Not so long ago we had hoped that progress was being made with regard to the more noble elements of humanity. And now, it seems, to have all come crashing down.
There are numerous reports of rising anxiety and even depression as people sense that something is slipping away. Stories of threats, bullying and actual violence permeate the news. Moneyed interests consolidate power and beholding politicians acquiesce at best and enthusiastically comply with the sellout of individual protections. Not to be too hyperbolic but it feels as if some of the policies coming out of Washington legitimately have the feel of institutionalized oppression. And why? In almost every example profits are to be made or power is to be gained. Economic policies are exacerbating income inequality and social issues are being leveraged to polarize the populace within our gerrymandered borders. And nobody is trying to hide it anymore. These are extraordinary times.
The stories of beatings and detention and bullying and threats in the news are heartbreaking. It is inconceivable that people can be like they are when they commit such atrocities. The words from empowered leaders expressing disdain for the concerns of those in their constituency which did not put them in place are dumbfounding. The fact that certain religious institutions condone all of the above is disgusting and the lack of a clear centralized voice in opposition to these forces is absent and alarming.IMG_4952
So I ask again. Is it just me? This stuff keeps me up at night. About the time I start to think things are getting hopeless a report will come out describing someone speaking truth to power or news of coalitions forming by divergent and/or intersectional risk groups. There is growing participation in town halls and people are taking to the streets in the most likely and unlikely places. There is a free press that is energized and hungry to remind us they are professionals no matter how badly we treat them. We seem to be finding a rare unity around common values and embracing the individual strengths of each other to persist and resist. Like a pendulum, when all of it seems so hopeless and insurmountable, we need to remind ourselves that we are many, we are strong and we will push back. We got this.

Trump Support Remains Steady

Are you dumbfounded as to how Donald Trump can possibly maintain the support of his white working class voters? He has. As we watch Trump’s cabinet picks line up to dismantle nearly every institution that safeguards American exceptionalism we keep waiting for the Trump voter to be “woke”. I’m not going to bullet point how the repeal of the ACA disproportionally harms his base or how diverting money from public schools to for-profit tuition based enterprises will disadvantage their children. IMG_0074There is no need to itemize the cost of selling out clean air and water in favor of heavy industry profits. I needn’t explain how the planetary destabilization that has occurred as the light of Lady Liberty has been extinguished to hopeful and desperate refugees around the world. The setbacks to our sense of justice, human rights and income disparity are alarming. The details of such are readily available on every news feed.

Progressive thinkers are mind blown that the expectation of the Trump administration’s fall from grace hasn’t happened. I don’t think it will. Our political ideologies are too entrenched. Conservative media consumers have been conditioned to think the essence of their condition are the fault of a society built with the underlying belief that equal opportunity must abound. Without government intervention an individual stands little chance of striving toward the American dream if it conflicts with powerful interests or the homogenous values which they find themselves separated. We are ships that have long since passed in the night.

But what is it really that holds such a tight grip on those who want to make America great again? What drives those who seem incapable of accepting that the strength and beauty of diversity and inclusion includes them? How do they not recognize that regulations are necessary because capitalism is an economic system, not a values system? How is it that so many are willing to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater because policies protecting some don’t align perfectly with their values? Before we can address the current conservative ideology we need to first consider how unwilling many Trump voters really are to engage with us and consider our point of view. When you read the comments on news feeds, visit social media or listen to call in shows one thing is clear. Many Trump voters are so thrilled that liberals find themselves in anguish that they can’t even begin to consider what the dismantling of the protections and safety nets our government afford will mean to them.

When we are reminded elections matter, oh do we know it, or are told to quit whining and move on we need to consider how our message is being heard. Trump voters are ecstatic with their victory and presumption that it was a rejection of liberal ideals. They should be happy they won. They are fools to assume the latter. Regardless of the challenges we face in the coming years we must persist in confidence that all that we stand for supports a better world for all of us, including our political rivals. They don’t have to ever say it but I hope one day they will appreciate it.

My Problem With Christians.

I used to begin every day praying that God would help me be the kind of man He wanted me to be. I prayed that people might see something different in me which that perhaps might cause them to contemplate their own relationship with God. I didn’t want to have to be the one to talk about it, mind you. I merely hoped to be some sort of subliminal messenger. And that seemed to work well for me for quite a few years. I used that prayer to hold myself accountable many times.
It’s not working anymore.
I don’t mean that I’ve quit talking with God or that I don’t hold IMG_0073myself accountable. I’m just not sure I’m interested in being a recruiter for Christianity anymore. There’s the age old “horrible things man does in the name of religion” thing but that never bothered me so much. At least not so much in that I couldn’t deflect the notion with evidence of the evolvement of man and civilization. It’s just that the current co-branding of Christianity and the conservative right have caused me to not really like Christians anymore. They aren’t nice and that’s a problem. Oh sure they’re great if you venture into their arena on their terms but let’s be honest. If you are gay, atheist, Muslim, even black or Hispanic the message of inclusion isn’t exactly the first thing you’d notice.
I’m not condemning Christians as having lost their way. Maybe it’s me. My embrace of progressive values has earned me numerous back channel messages quoting scriptures and imploring me to repent. They like that old “iron sharpens iron” quote but can’t seem to consider the Beatitudes. Christianity has a big problem right now. As long as they focus on building walls, denying sanctuary, feeling persecuted for baking gay wedding cakes and denying health-care to people who can’t afford it they can’t be my people. And I guess people never really had anything to do with my original prayer anyway. Dear God, help me to be the kind of man that You want me to be. I’ll leave the rest up to You.

The Real Enemy

Suddenly I’ve subscribed to two additional newspapers, three news magazines, a couple of thoughtful blogs and I’ve purchased books on history and government; I’ve attended two IMG_4942protests, three documentaries and paid to see “I’m Not Your Negro” twice, so far. I didn’t deliberately or even consciously make it a point to gather more information to make sense of the world around me. I’m attributing my thirst for understanding to self-preservation. I’m not quite sure how that is working. I found that spending my weekends screening “I’m Not Your Negro” or “Matthew Shepard Was a Friend of Mine” aren’t really “feel-good” activities that are conducive to lifting my spirits. It’s hard to imagine that they even generate hopefulness although they should.
The Matthew Shepard documentary is emotionally devastating. I was grateful that the venue where I saw it offered a discussion afterward. The discussion provided the opportunity to validate my feelings in hearing others reactions to the film. That helped. The viewing was only attended by twenty-five or so people; the same number who sat with me in the theatre when I tried to absorb the profoundness of James Baldwin and his contributions to the civil rights movement. Both films come at you with the idea that man has the extraordinary inability to see one another through compassionate eyes. There is some flaw in our character that prohibits us from recognizing that our fundamental humanness makes us all the same. We fail to recognize that the only difference between the proverbial us and them is the random luck of the draw of our birth. We are our brother’s keeper.
So when I see speech being emboldened that promotes otherness, the condemnation of political correctness and policy proposals that perpetuate separateness I need understanding. Just what is it that drives us to the ugliest attributes of tribalism? What do we benefit from the constant us versus them mentality? There are indeed people out there who want to do us harm. To think you can identify them by their skin color, religion, sexuality or gender is just lazy. It’s sloppy, ugly and lazy. I’m tired of pretending I can have respect for those who would allow harm to anyone based on their otherness.
There is an “us versus them.” It is those who would respect the dignity of all people equally and those who don’t. Those who refuse to accept the glorious diversity of man as a good thing are in fact causing harm. As such they should be identified as a threat. They need to be treated with caution and rehabilitated if possible. If they are beyond redemption and insist on clinging to their hateful ways they need to face the consequence of not being accepted. There is no room to normalize the ideologies of bigots, the alt right, segregationists and the like. If we don’t stand up to them now they will only gain strength and power. Resist and Persist. It’s our only hope.

Muslim Ban-2nd Verse

You know those seven Muslim-majority countries Trump claimed were “countries of concern” under the Obama administration?
When the new travel ban comes out next week remember:
The Obama administration had limited what isimg_4929 known as visa-waiver travel for people in those seven countries. People who previously could have entered the United States without a visa were now required to have as visa if they had traveled to one of the seven countries identified. That’s it.
img_4928That’s a far cry from: “the countries that were chosen in the executive order to protect Americans from terrorists were the countries that have already been identified by Congress and the Obama administration,” Reince Priebus

I’m still waiting for that first act of integrity from this administration.


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