Tag Archives: Hate

Activism

U. S. Customs House. Very welcoming.

I try to avoid writing about politics here, but recent events have driven me to be more active.  Usually the extent of my political action is giving money to causes I support.  I have to do more.  I think of my days at Colorado State when we would decide whether to go to the daily demonstration or do something else, like study.  The country was in turmoil over Vietnam and Watergate.  I did my small part.

Now I must again do my small part.  No more just watching Rachel Maddow and deploring the latest attempt at destroying at destroying anything remotely progressive.  I must act, take to the streets.  This won’t be the first time, I went to a rally supporting our Muslim neighbors and had fun wearing my Bad Hombre t-shirt.

Today it is the lunch time protest at Senator Cory Gardner’s office in downtown Denver.  I’m not sure these demonstrations and marches have a great impact, but they are a way to use my First Amendment rights, which seem to be under attack these days.  The current upheaval is in the NFL, and is a classic free speech issue.  The unfortunate result of the turmoil is increasing the polarization going on in our nation since the Reagan era.

I went downtown to a Federal office building where Senator Gardner has hidden his office.  As with most Federal buildings, you must go through security.  I always have to get wanded because my right knee is titanium.  I was alone in his office suite, no going beyond the closed door.  I talked to a nice young man acting as receptionist.  I stated my position and he took notes.  No drama.

The issues this week are about health care and race.  The Affordable Care Act needs work.  The impass in Congress is preventing any rational attempt at fixing the ACA.  Repeal attempts keep failing.  The reason for the attempts to repeal the ACA is, simply, race.  It is a black President’s program so it must go away.  Oh, and it is expensive.

When a new social welfare program goes into place there is always opposition, but. People begin to realize things are better for lots of people.  They just don’t get repealed, they get cleaned up.  Traditionally the Democrats come up with the programs and the Republicans do the housekeeping.  With race behind the Republican’s opposition they have blocked themselves from assuming their traditional role.  Nothing gets done and the status quo lurches along.

There is, of course, money involved as well.  Rich Republicans don’t want to pay for making poor people’s lives better.  Three reasons: greed, race, and Social Darwinism.  Republicans are always opposed to higher taxes.  They want to keep the money for themselves, even though they have plenty.  Poor blacks and hispanics don’t deserve a damn thing, they deserve to suffer.  The reason poor people are poor is because they are inferior to rich people.  Mitt Romney so much as said it.  It don’t work that way, folks.  Poor people are poor for lots of reasons, but not genetics.  The argument they are inferior is half a step from Naziism.

It’s not surprising the radical rightists are on the ascendancy.  We have always had them, but usually events shut them up.  They have to believe they are superior to others, usually because of a deep reservoir of shame.  They deserve our compassion.

There is the real problem.  Social welfare programs are a reflection of compassion.  Governments should be in the business of helping the people.  Good health care reflects compassion.  It is sad so many of our government’s resources are devoted to warfare, not compassion.  We are all in this together, so let’s give everyone a break, use loving kindness.   Hate and insensitivity are not the answer.

Back to Real Life

Colonoscopy, a Peak Experience

As you have read, I went through a real downer after falling down the stairs.  I’m mostly over the episode, the body is mostly healed, and my psyche is on the mend.  Along with the trip down the stairs I got my three year endoscopy/colonoscopy and had a trip to the cardiologist.  I have an appointment with the gastroenterologist coming up for another butt chewing.  Who better than a butt doctor?

The cardiologist wants me to have an echocardiogram to see the extent of scarring on the wall of my heart.  I apparently had a heart attack sometime, and there is some damage.  I don’t remember anything, and my heart function is fine, but they want to check if there could be a problem in the future.

I go to many of Carol’s doctor appointments as well as mine.  I am tired of all the medical offices.  The people there are almost always great, but, the waiting sitting around reading six month old People Magazines.  I guess this gives old retired people something to do rather than sitting in the recliner watching old Law and Order reruns.

All this medical stuff is scary.  A good friend recently had a mild heart attack, but after 40 years of cigarettes, it is seriously scary.  He keeps telling me I need more exercise, but it is mostly projection.  At some level, however, he is right.  He is so scared he devotes much of his time to exercise, mostly pickleball and swimming.  When we have coffee he is usually limping from overdoing it at pickleball.  One of these days his leg is going to fold over backwards at the knee.  Well, maybe not, both of his knees are titanium and don’t fold backwards as readily.

I’m working on diet changes, getting Physical Therapy, and doing more Mindfulness Meditation.  Maybe someday I will start being more mindful when not actually meditating.  That should reduce the falling and tripping.

Other benefits of the meditation are the three refuges:  the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.  The Buddha is not some kind of God.  He was a man, albeit a fully realized man who devoted his life to helping others become realized.  The dharma is the body of his teachings along with the wisdom of his followers over the last 2500 years.  The sanghas are the groups of followers meeting to meditate, learn the dharma, and pay homage to the Buddha.

Sangas aren’t unique to Buddhism.  Christians call it fellowship, the body of Christ.  Human bonding is important for living a spiritual life.  Sunday evenings, the Insight Meditation Community of Denver meets in an Episcopal church near downtown Denver.  As always, it took some time for connections to form, but I now feel close to everyone there, even if they may be from California.  In addition, meditating in a group is always special.

Someday science will figure out what the spiritual energy is that forms within and between people following a spiritual path.  The energy is common to every spiritual path.  Sometimes it is called mystical, but there are many who would say they aren’t mystics.  The only thing blocking the bond is hate.  People can feel a bond of hatred, but it is in no way spiritual.

My hate example is the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka.  One of their tenets is that God hates.  Do you believe it?  A friend is the Unitarian Universalist minister in Topeka.  Their tenets are love and helping others.  The Westboro congregation is actually at cross purposes with their beliefs.  Their protests have brought people together all over the country to stand in opposition to hate.  Love grows.  Hate destroys.

The Legacy of American Imperialism

Slave Auction

Americans do not think of their nation as imperialistic, even though it is a common epithet in many parts of the world.  From the day in 1492 when the first European set foot on American soil, the Americas were part of empires, and later established their own empires.  Currently the conflict the United States faces is the legacy of imperialism. 

Empires form when foreign territories are conquered.  Spain, Portugal, England, France, and Russia all took land from Native Americans.  In every case, natives were killed, enslaved, relocated, or died from alien diseases.  The situation has not changed 500 years later.  Indians remain at the bottom of the social hierarchy.  Labor is needed to exploit new land, so slaves were   introduced.  Cotton and sugar cane are examples.  The slaves also occupied the bottom of the order.  The same situation applies today.  Those people are black or  brown, and insulate poor whites from the bottom of the heap. 

Race is the problem.  If people are Quechua, Mayan, Sioux, Navajo, or African-American, they are born into discrimination.  Europeans rule.  Political systems reflect the racial divide.  In Latin America, the oligarchies in power are of Spanish or Portuguese heritage, with most Indians excluded.  In the U.S., the divisions are starting to blur, but Republicans are mostly white and Democrats are more somewhat more diverse.   

In the race to include minorities in the Democratic coalition, the white working class tended to be neglected.  Their economic status has weakened as many good-paying jobs have moved offshore.  Moves to include minorities tend to threaten the status of white working class people’s place in the social hierarchy.  Their anti-immigration stance results from the fear immigrants will take the good jobs.  In addition, immigrants tend to be brown and vote, a threat to white working class men. 

Mr. Trump won the election due to the racial divide.  In the rust belt (and swing) states narrow majorities for Trump tipped the Electoral College.  There is a paradox in this.  The Republication party core constituency is not working-class friendly, but the white tea party folks have joined them.  Trump’s cabinet appointments are mainstream Republican or Wall Street, and offer little to the mass of people who voted him into office. We will see how they react to Trump’s policies in the near future.   

Trump won claiming he can bring back those lost jobs.  It isn’t going to happen.  We are seeing a fundamental shift in our economy away from basic raw material and manufacturing to a service and information based economy.    The traditionally excluded minorities are now joined by poorly-educated white people, many who lost their socio-economic status during the Great Recession.  Neither party is coming up with any viable answers to this problem, which will be exacerbated by race.  The riots will return.   

Mr. Trump’s victory has also encouraged our white extremists.  We will see more racism, anti-Semitism, and violence.  Instant communication accelerates the process.  Tweets are a good example.  I avoid Twitter because I tend toward impulsivity.  Have an impulse, write it down in 140 characters, hit send, and it’s there for all to see.   Mr. Trump is ruled by impulse, therefore, Twitter.  And extremism.

What to Do Now?

President Elect Trump

President Elect Trump

I have a few strategies for dealing with the President-elect.   Why do I oppose him?  He is a Chickenhawk.  I am a veteran and don’t think much of people who dodge the draft and want to send our servicemen into combat.   

 If he requires all Muslims in the U. S. to register, I plan to register and encourage everyone I know to do so.  If millions of Americans do so, the registry will be useless.  What will they do, deport me to Kansas?  I think all religions are proper for people, so I won’t have any conflict with registering as a Muslim. 

The next plan I have is to be more active in organizations I support.  I am an environmentalist, so the Nature Conservancy, Clean Water Action, and the Environmental Defense Fund will have a new volunteer.  I think taking positive action with organizations is a better strategy than blind opposition.   

I am a Democrat, so I am debating becoming active in the Democratic Party.  Years ago I attended some meetings and wasn’t enchanted by the whole thing, so, maybe.

I write, and will continue to do so. I do not intend to go into attack mode.  I don’t think negativity is the proper course for my writing.  I may try to promote some of my writing.  Mr. Trump uses negativity as his main strategy, so my response will to be positive about promoting positive action in our weakened republic.  I will support good causes and good people. 

 

 

Aggression and Fear

baby fearFear is part of life.  We are wired to react to threats in a number of ways.  Fight, flight, freeze, hide, cry for help.  In our society, there is little to fear.  In most of the country there is little violence.  Sometimes we experience a flash of fear in traffic, or when we slip on the ice.  For the most part, however, we are safe.

Why, then, to we have a culture of fear?  Gun and ammunition sales are booming, security system companies are busy, people are taking self-defense classes, and living with fear and anxiety on a daily basis.

Within our generally safe country there are acts of violence.  School shootings, workplace violence, robberies, gang shootings, random killings, on and on.  These acts, if horrific, are but a small part of life in a country of 314 million people.  They just do not affect most people.  The only time I have been truly terrified was when I was caught in a lightning storm when hiking above timberline.   I have never run so fast as that day.

The most important fear creator is television.  It is hard to get good video of a drop in the unemployment rate, but easy to show police cars, fire engines, ambulances, yellow crime scene tape, and bodies on gurneys.  The longest running TV shows are cop shows and doctor shows, with lives hanging in the balance every week.  “If it bleeds, it leads”, the mantra of local TV news.

Yes, they are showing real violence, but I have personally never been a victim of violence.  As a volunteer firefighter, I did see the aftermath of terrible accidents, but we were there to respond to those events.  In my daily life in the same area, I never saw an accident.

Life has always been marked by violence.  We are wired to deal with it.  Adrenalin, anger, the need to assemble in groups for mutual protection, all are part of our DNA.  In watching elementary school children in a park, I was always struck by the boy’s tendency to pick up a stick at the first opportunity.  The girls would respond to aggression from boys,  but tended not to initiate aggressive behavior.

Agression

Agression

Are the boys hunters or warriors, or are those behaviors modifiers of the same thing?  I am currently reading about Ancient Greece.  The tales are of war or the challenges of dealing with a dangerous world.  Very few cultures have not been violent to some degree.  There is always peril, whether from the neighboring tribe or the saber-toothed tiger.

Fear has always been a part of life.  Today, despite all the turmoil in the world, in this country we enjoy one of the safest countries and times ever.  The prevailing mindset, however, is fear.  Growing up in the 1950s I ran all over town and always walked the seven blocks to school.  Today children are accompanied by an adult when on the street.  It is more and more unusual to see unaccompanied young teenagers out on the street.

Because of some events in my early childhood, I have never felt safe.  I always have a strategy for dealing with a threat (back against the wall).  I have never in my threescore and ten years had to deal with a threat.  Because of my impulsivity and deep-seated anger I have sometimes initiated aggression, but usually calm down before getting myself in big trouble. I do seem to be getting better at letting go of the anger.

Is that the answer?  Aggression breeds aggression?  Especially with childhood abuse?  The old Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue, is an example.  Father knew he would abandon his son, so he named the boy Sue in order for him to be abused and have to fight back to survive.  Abandonment and the target of aggression became that boy’s life.  He grew up to be angry and aggressive.  The song implies that is a good thing.  It is not.

When children grow up in a loving, fairly safe home with the knowledge they are loved and respected, they are able to deal with threats in a healthier way, knowing they will always have a refuge.  We need to provide love, compassion, support, and respect for all children.  A lot of that exists here, but how about the Sudan?  It is a sad world.  Work to end injustice and violence everywhere.  Foster compassion.

The Third Grade

Old Fruita Elementary

Old Fruita Elementary

I had a turbulent third grade. There were things I couldn’t do. I am so left-handed that I produced terrible cursive handwriting.  It was so bad as to be almost unreadable.  My ADD didn’t help, I tended to be disruptive, especially when I didn’t like the subject material or the teacher.  I did not like Mrs. Bastian.  To me she was just old, ugly, and mean.  To her, I was rebellious, noisy, inattentive, and defiant.  In retrospect, she was burned out and could not afford to leave.

My defiance showed up on the health chart.  Every day, Mrs. Bastian graded the class on several things, including cleanliness, combed hair, clean fingernails, and other things.  My thing was clean fingernails.  While walking to school I would rub my fingernails in the dirt, getting them as filthy as I could.  My health chart had all good marks except for the row of black marks for my fingernails.  Big black marks.  Bob Silva also had black marks, but not because his nails were not clean but because he was so dark the teacher thought his nails were dirty. She was so mean.

The other problem was with my dog.  Spanky was a black Cocker Spaniel, as exuberant and careless as I was.  Some mornings he would get loose and follow me to school.  I think he wanted to go to school.  If I saw him before I got to school, I would take him home and be late for school.  Mrs. Bastian did not like that and would not accept my excuses.  Other mornings he would make it into the classroom.  The other kids loved it.  The teacher was livid, and sent both of us home.  I had to have a parent bring me back to school.  Sometimes I just stayed home.

My father was the town telephone man, and my mother was the high school secretary.  I know I was an embarrassment to them, but they also knew how much I hated that woman.  The parent-teacher conferences must have been quite interesting.

I don’t think I learned a lot in third grade, but it didn’t matter a lot.  I was a good reader, and drove my parents crazy with my questions about everything.  I learned third grade on my own.  I don’t understand why they did not move me across the hall to the other third grade class, but that woman and I got to dislike one another for the entire school year.

Fourth grade was a complete contrast.  The teacher was fun, actually liked children, and encouraged learning.  The only difficulty was multiplication tables.  My ADD has never let me be a good memorizer.  My mother drilled them into my head, bless her.

So, third grade didn’t create any lasting trauma, just some lasting memories.  I can still see that row of black marks I was so proud of.  My dog somehow missed out on fourth grade as well.  I still can’t write cursive.  I finally gave up trying and went back to printing everything but my scrawl of a signature.

Terror

Paris Terror

Paris Terror

The events in Paris this week bring back memories of all the terrorist incidents we have lived through for many years.  Why?  Why kill innocent people for some cause they have nothing to do with, or they are only making fun of political situations?

Terrorism works.  The goal of terror is to put a spotlight on a cause, to get people emotionally involved in an issue they would not usually care about.  They become passionate and affiliate themselves with the side of the conflict they agree with.  The middle ground, where truth usually resides, becomes obscured as fear and rage take over.

Most people are reasonable and just want to live and let live, whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, black, brown, white, wealthy, middle, or working class.  Terrorism divides people into opposite camps, where people view others as suspicious and dangerous.  The others must be controlled, removed, or eliminated.  There is no longer any room for dialog.

This depiction is somewhat extreme.  We have seen decades of terror and hate end in Ireland as the two sides finally stopped the killing mostly out of sheer exhaustion and the work of excellent negotiators.  An example of where terror achieved its end was in 1950s Algeria, when years of bombings, repression, and hate in Algeria and France ended with Algerian independence.

The Battle of Algiers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_of_Algiers  a movie about that struggle, illustrates how terror works.  It has become either a textbook of terrorism or a lesson for those who wish to end the process of fear and hate.  Algeria was a French colony with a large population of relatively wealthy French amid a large population of mostly poor Muslim Arabs who resented French rule.

An Arab liberation movement began a campaign of terror, bombing public places where French people gathered.  The French army responded with a policy of repression.  People were arrested and tortured, curfews imposed, matters escalated and the bombings began in France, especially Paris.  The polarization, radicalization, and repression escalated as well, finally ending when the French government under DeGaulle granted independence to Algeria.

The parallels with Israel and Palestine are obvious.  The situation there is so divided that many view any peaceable resolution as unlikely, at least in the short run.  In Europe, the parallel is with Muslims living in a secular culture that are marginalized and discriminated against, just as the Catholic minority was in Northern Ireland.

The reasons for terror are not only religion.  Religion often becomes the justification for acts of terror, but race, class, ethnicity, and alienation are often the underlying reasons.  What is needed is tolerance, dialog, and human connection.

Keep calm and carry on.

 

 

Hate, Faith, and Polarization

War Children

War Children

I read recently that if people with strong conservative or fundamentalist beliefs have their beliefs challenged, their position hardens.  I don’t think that applies solely to conservatives.  When I see some outrageous statement form Michele Bachmann or others of her ilk, my negative feelings tend to strengthen my position.

Back when I was taking Political Science courses, the prevailing mantra was that the underlying strength of American democracy was a spirit of compromise.  Legislators on opposite sides of the aisle would come together and work out a deal that accomplished some of the goals of each side.  There was an atmosphere of give and take.

The nation has had periods of cooperation. The Truman and Eisenhower years may be an example.  Polarization has also been a repetitive theme in our history.  Slavery and race are the issues dividing the nation since the eighteenth century.  We seem to be inching toward a resolution, but don’t look for peace and harmony yet.

The current impasse in congress is, on the surface, Republicans versus Democrats.  The rhetoric on both sides is “The American People want this” or “The American people want that”.  The members of congress want campaign contributions and more money.

Most Americans don’t know what they want or don’t care.  Under the rhetoric is ideology.  One the one side are the dedicated progressives with a broad view of how the country should change.  They see social issues that need to be changed.  They like the money.

The other side is composed of two main groups.  The true conservatives just do not want change.  They want retreat to a simpler time without the complex, baffling issues a huge, diverse culture is facing.  Think Norman Rockwell.  They also like the money.  The other group is ideological.  They see themselves as engaged in a global struggle between the forces of evil and the true path they represent.  To compromise would mean giving in to temptation and the path to destruction.  They  like the money.   They want power to overcome the Enemy.

The true believers on either side are resistant to opposing views, and when confronted their views tend to harden.  The Karl Roves are mainly interested in power.  The true believers are preparing for the end times, the final confrontation between the Antichrist and the faithful.

This confrontation has, of course, been a constant theme in Christianity since the Book of Revelation was written.  It was written about Rome during the time of the destruction of the temple and the Jewish diaspora.  The imagery is about Rome.  The Beast, the seven hills, all refer to Rome, not today.  This theme came up again around 1000 A.D., at the time of the Black Death, and often in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whenever some True Believer sees prophecies and does some calculations.

Almost every generation has applied it to their own time. Christ continues to tarry.  The faithful are not deterred.  The consequence of this hardened ideology is congressional gridlock.  Compromise is not an option when confronting demonic forces.  It doesn’t take too many fundamentalist Christians in Congress to lock things up.

The current trend goes back to the Enlightenment, which was followed by the Industrial Revolution and the beginnings of a secular and progressive society.  Concurrent with the secularization was the growth of literacy and people reading the Bible for their own selves.  Now there is a book with a lot of themes.  There is rich soil for a fundamentalist ideology, a return to the City of God.

The Bible and the Quran came from a region where people have always fought over for land and power.  They also fought over ideas, moving from paganism with a God for every purpose to a God wanting everyone to follow His purpose.  Jesus and Paul wanted us to find God’s law and purpose in our hearts. That takes a lot of work, and most are content with the law. Mohammed laid down a new law and people went right to war over who should enforce the law.

Those who want power use the law for their purposes.  They are not too concerned with eternal truth.  Check that with Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.  Some want to use to use the law and power for what they see as spiritual purposes.  Check that with Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin.

The struggle in the Islamic world is much the same.  Secularization and progressivism   contend with a reactionary attempt to return to pure times that never really existed.  Old tribal and religious hatreds return with true believers armed with computers and AK-47’s.

There is a broad movement of people seeking to use the common bonds of humanity to work and pray for peace.  I hope the peace seekers will prevail.  I pray with them.  There is a universal web of love that can overcome hate.