Religion and Fake News: A Package Deal

We’ve entered a strange era for a nation where facts are of little meaning and truth is distorted without consequence.

If you’ve tried to have a conversation with someone who still supports a Trump presidency, there’s a high probability that many of you experience the inability to find some tiny common island of truth on which you can agree. It seems that the only thing agreeable is that we can all identify as Americans, and even that concession is tenuous.

For a long while I’ve been baffled by the ability for many, including leaders of ‘the church’, to ignore reality and cling to strange, somewhat mythological concepts such as “God can use even a corrupt man”.

Then it came to me: Part of the agreement in being a Christian is that there’s only one source of information from which to base a world view.  Only the Bible can provide real answers.  Only the Bible can be the source for history.  Only the Bible offers a moral code for society.

There is consequently an entire population of American citizens who are programmed to refuse any new information simply because it doesn’t come from the Bible.  Anything outside the holy writ is considered blasphemous and is not to be weighed.   There is no room for curiosity, no appeal to questioning, no allowance for new evidence.  It’s a closed and very regulated environment, as most religions are and must be.  Outside sources are quick to prove them wrong, or at least mistaken, and would shatter the thin foundation upon which the belief is built.

Since curiosity was killed on the altars of religion, it makes complete sense to me as to why so many are willing to buy into FOX, Breitbart, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Jones narratives –  there’s no reason to question their assertions, nor is there a desire to discover if they are presenting the truth. These are minds that have become accustom to just receiving information without weighing its worth, and if a talking snake can steer mankind down a road of licentiousness,  then yes, Donald Trump, corrupt as he is, can be affirmed by god to the highest office of the land in order to fulfill some vague biblical purpose.

I am trying to find ways to bridge the gap and encourage conversation, but without a desire to heed facts or consider a differing perspective, it’s nearly impossible to have a healthy, productive discourse.

While it helps to understand why there’s such a resistance to truth among a certain number of our fellow citizens, I’m not sure where this leaves us overall.   I wouldn’t worry about it except the US has lost a great deal of respect in the world’s view, and the legislation coming out of the current Congress would send us into third world status, and we want to pass to our children a viable, healthy democracy for their future.

I am open to suggestions.  And always hoping that, somehow, reason would save us from becoming another crumbling empire.

May truth will out…

Frankie

 

 

Advertisements

A Sensitive Year, In a Poem

“It’s Like”

 

It’s like –

Existing as a singular nerve ending

Exposed incessantly

Raw, reactive

Always gauging the atmosphere.

It’s like –

Knowledge of every nuance

Unable to shut out the details

Observance of minutia

With ability to interpret it accurately.

It’s like –

Involuntary empathy

Impervious to selfishness

Emotional insomnia

Absolute incapacity to rest feelings.

It’s like –

A human sea anemone

Waving in peaceful currents

Then retracting, revolted

By any maligned touch.

It’s like –

Walking the thin

Knife’s edge

Dodging incessant flying rubble

Still maintaining balance

It’s like –

Processing

A hundred thoughts

Into a thousand categories

With millions of layers

And, understanding them all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Sensitive Year: Introduction

My arms and hands ached for nearly two weeks after the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  They were weak; merely holding my cell phone caused discomfort and texting was severely curtailed.  I needed both hands just to open the door to my Jeep.  I thought I was having some serious carpal tunnel problems and was about to go to the doctor, except the pain finally subsided and I seemed fine again.

The occurrence made sense to me about three months later when I was sitting in my therapist’ office and confessed that maybe, as she suggested, I was sensitive.   It took me months to admit the possibility – the idea seemed a complete antithesis to the other characteristics I knew about myself:  I was outgoing and an extrovert, I was strong and had endured some difficult challenges in my life such as working through the grief of experiencing the full-term stillbirth of my only daughter.  In every job I’ve ever had, I am always driven enough to work my way up to some supervisory position.  I didn’t perceive myself as weak, but considering the idea that I was sensitive certainly seemed like an admission of weakness, yet there I was in the therapist office, checking  the ‘yes’ box in response to most of the questions on the HSP assessment. (The questions themselves seemed a self-description:  Do you prefer to have music off when driving?  Do you stay home after a day’s work rather than go out with the office?  Do you stay away from violence and violent movies?)  The term ‘off the charts’ was applicable to the final outcome of my responses to the questionnaire.

I immediately grabbed hold of anything I could read about the Highly Sensitive Person and was astounded at some of the things I learned:  It’s an actual genetic trait.  HSP’s make up about twenty percent of the population. The trait exists in other animals as well.

I was relieved once I had more information.  It felt as if several questions I had about myself most of my life were answered:  Why am I the only one noticing small details about situations and settings? (I admit I was really sort of judge-y towards others when they didn’t notice the same things I did, I have since adjusted my thinking.)   Why did it seem like I think way more than others do?  Why why why did it seem that sensory overload was always something I had to deal with – did I have adult ADD or something? How can I be outgoing and sociable and still be sensitive? (turns out there’s a small percentage of people that are both extrovert and HSP).

Many aspects of my life seemed to fall into place and the picture I have of myself is much more complete after acknowledging that I was Highly Sensitive.  Now it’s a matter of learning to live with an entirely new perspective.  I understand that the tendency to over-react to negative circumstances is something I can acknowledge as trait-related and not take things as personally or as seriously.  Instead I try to observe it from a neutral point of view, “Oh yeah, that’s the Sensitive part of me, it’s okay.”  I can utilize the hyper-observation of circumstances in order to notice that a certain student is behaving in a subtly different way and be able to offer help.   I understood immediately that the ability to notice details and nuances is absolutely why I can write – only in the deep observation of a thing can we then describe it well.  And a big light went off when I figured out that all that pain and ache in my arms after the election wasn’t mysterious at all, it was a physical reaction to the knowledge that I knew our nation would never be the same, and that there was a collective heartbreak at the reality of a Trump presidency.

It’s a process to figure out ways to work with this new information.  I am especially challenged, and willing to bet that many of you are as well, with the day to day dealings of the current political climate – we sense and  feel the stress of millions of others and it takes great discipline to keep such stress from taking up residence in our soul (here I am eternally grateful to Headspace for guidance in training the mind).

I find some solace in reading about other’s experiences as well, which is why I’ve decided to write about it myself and the way it impacts a person’s life.  You may not be an HSP, but the information is valuable inasmuch as you most likely know someone who is.  If you are an HSP, my hope is that these writings will encourage, enlighten, and offer strength.

Here’s to new information, and the ability to allow it to transform.

Yours,

Frankie

 


Shock and Awe

It’s a shock to see young white American men giving the Nazi salute and holding up swastika flags after having fought against fascist hate. It’s a shock to see them turning on our fellow citizens, physically harming their human brothers and sisters who live and breath alongside them.  The problem is, we don’t really have time to be shocked at this particular moment.

How do we navigate the all normal human response of shock in this critical time?  We have to admit it first, just notice it. Denying it will only lead to a festering anger, but we don’t have to pick it up and hold on to it either.  If you’re an empath, or possess the trait of being Highly Sensitive, then this is a particularly difficult challenge.  It can be accomplished however.   Acknowledge the feeling, that’s it, then move on to action.

Action is where we can awe ourselves and each other.  There’s plenty around to inspire us.  Twitter is busy with people helping to identify the perpetrators of Nazi hate in Charlottesville. And while it’s disappointing that our President refuses to condemn white supremacy, there are plenty of other politicians taking up the sword of justice for him.   Many gathered together yesterday to show support for those killed and injured.

Across the nation, today, we have the opportunity to show the same support, demonstrate love and acceptance, sow the seeds of kindness and peace.   It’s up to each one of us, shocked as we are, to awe our neighbors and friends with positive action.  And in the doing, we find that shock doesn’t have to render us paralyzed, and love can lead us to unity.

Peace,

Frankie


My Cold War Teen-age Years Come Crashing Down

I vividly remember one dark Idaho winter’s night as my teenage self  was writing in my diary, I thought, “What’s the point of even thinking about what I want to do for a future when we’re just gonna blow ourselves up anyway?”

I took some comfort in Billy Graham when he came through my hometown area of Boise, Idaho and said ‘Nuclear war won’t be the end of mankind, there’s the rapture instead.’ or some platitude thereof, forcefully spoke, affirming the cyclical prophecy of “Our national leaders are provoking a war but the bible says there’ll be wars and rumors of wars and great destruction like Armageddon so it’s all good.”  I mean, I can see now the pseudo-peace religion brings , back then the words sort-of helped.

Back then there were cancellations of Olympic games and Gorbachev and Reagan enjoying some dance of power vis a vis ‘strong language’ and ‘diplomatic warnings’. No one really wants to blow up half the planet, so there was a lot of bark, but not so much bite; until this President.

I know he’s unhinged, one need only look at his twitter rages to figure that out.  I know he’s full of hyperbole and as Scott Adams vociferously posits, Trump always opens with the most insane highest bid, and negotiates down from there.  Problem is, international diplomacy is an entirely different board game than monopoly.  At the moment my only confidence in anything is maybe a cautious Congress and General Kelly as Chief of Staff who probably understands more than anyone else in the WH the actual logistics of war.

None of that mattered when the old fear of nuclear war came crashing down after Trump made his “fire and fury” announcement toward North Korea.  “Breathe” I told myself.  “Cooler heads and minds will prevail,” I thought, with some confidence.  Then I realized that my fifty-something self doesn’t have to be frozen with fear like my teenage self was.

I have the power and knowledge to deal with this fear.  I understand that humanity probably learned a lesson after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and most of us (including our leaders) are reticent to re-live something similar.  Where there was some international support for a nuclear attack on Japan, thankfully, today there’s international opposition to nuclear options, and some of our leaders still care about optics.  I have the ability to call my congresspersons and hold them accountable, they are my employees after all.  I have power in the freedom to write and encourage others to understand that fear need not be picked up and carried around.  It can stay swimming in the stream of consciousness without being caught, taken home, and devoured. I am now aware that action deters fear more than any other recourse, I will act with my keyboard, with bridge-building discussions, with the knowledge that others are doing the same.  Solace is acquired with action.

So while this nation once again visits the specter of nuclear war, and for a moment that fear of no future came crashing down upon me, my adult self is confident in action instead.  I wish the same for you.

Peace.

Frankie


My Two Americas

It was there in the beginning, the difference was as apparent then as the hope surrounding the birth of a new nation, it simply wasn’t as pronounced.

Reason, enlightenment, and fraternity molded a set of ideals that we held up as trophies to be cherished.  Equality mattered and burdens would not be born alone. Progressive and liberal, these ideals ushered in a democracy that others would strive to emulate.

Juxtaposed against –

A rugged individualism founded upon Exceptionalistic worldviews that could easily become extreme. A conservative aspect, encouraged by the White Man’s Burden and it’s notion that might makes right, God blesses the subordinates, equality is secondary to desire.

Over time, the difference grew more obvious, more acute.

Civil War laid bare the disparity between Liberal and Conservative, opened the chasm, leaving a scar that still bleeds, still pulls at the slightest movement forward.

Great Depression drew stark boundaries between rich and poor, business and government, religion and democracy.

Civil Rights movements shattered any facade of achieved unity and drew lines in the social sand that a tidal wave of human compassion can not seem to erase.

Great Recession exasperated the breech between the haves and have nots.  Liberal notions of regulation and accountability conflicted with Conservative strains of government interference and free market religions.

Twin Tower catastrophe and solitary terror incidents test our resiliency. Democratic liberal trust sprinkled with caution is at odds with the Conservative instinct towards closure,  induced and fed by fear.

Today’s instant news, not always dressed in truth, allows identities to manifest reflexively, extinguishing the muse of compromise and equality so that Liberals are become heathens while Conservatives claim the only corner of righteousness.

Progress is deemed evil when static policy would rather prevail.

American dream, invented upon the foundation of unbridled  brotherhood, rendered a chimera under the influence of reactionary poses.

Liberal and Conservative.  My two Americas.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Someone to whom I Aspire, and a Side Note

Check out this nice little write up about Victor Hugo, one of the writers that inspires me regularly.   I hope his story will compel you to continue writing.

Now, more than ever, we need to be writing.   We are living in as historical a moment as Hugo lived, our voice will matter to future generations, to History itself.  I know it’s difficult to get up every.  single.  day.  to some new disappointment or other in the headlines and the insecurity it brings.   To exacerbate the issue, many of us writers are Highly Sensitive People so our reactions to national insecurity is felt more acutely, it resounds within our thoughts more; we have to work at giving our focus boundaries and keeping our mind from going down a dark road.  So writing, some days, can present itself as more of a challenge than others.   But I encourage you to slog through the thick mire and at least put something down on paper, or build up that word count in the bottom left corner of  your screen.   It is important right now.   It’s not important to us per se, it’s not even important to our cohorts or elders, but it’s imperative to future generations.  It’s imperative for the lens of History to have your story woven amongst the backdrop of change and restoration.   It will be significant to your progeny to understand where you stood in all the noise – what did great-grandma’s voice sound like against the others?

It doesn’t matter today, but it will matter greatly tomorrow whether or not you set your mind down to write.  Here’s to one of the best examples for doing so…

Yours,

Frankie


Hymns for an Atheist “Poison the Parish”

“If I dare to believe at all, it leaves me deflated.”

Once again, the magical intersection of music and life experience has occurred for me, I share it to inspire and encourage.

It’s not easy living as a non-believer.  I have a friend, a former JW, raising her boys without religion but with curiosity and inquisitive minds.  She often frets over the possibility of her parents shunning her, as they did her brother, because of it. A preacher I heard recently accused non-believers of seeing themselves as ‘god’ – as if a human being could exist and live without any kind of god-like figure head – and condemned us for our prideful ways.

Currently, my husband and I live with and take care of his grandma, who is a firm believer in all things christian.  She’s lived a high quality life thanks to our efforts.  She gets a decent, home cooked, well balanced meal every night for dinner (important for a diabetic).  We do her shopping, run her errands, pay her bills, keep up her yard, keep up her house, take care of her dogs, all of which she could do herself, if she wanted.  We do this out of respect, on top of jobs and our own kids and pets to tend, because there’s a strong sense of doing what is right and having a clean conscious when we lay our heads on the pillow each night.

It matters not.

We are perceived as bad, evil, lost, gone astray.  We are treated with alternating contempt and condescension.  Take for instance the gossip and condemnation of us we hear during her phone conversations with friends.  Many times this takes place with my grown son in the next room, able to hear every nasty insult hurled towards his own mother.   I walk my talk, so I am certain he sees that my words and deeds match up, nonetheless he is exposed to a fair amount of negativity and there are days I’m certain he struggles because of it.

And then nearly every morning, like clockwork, she gets a call from a chick who is a gambling addict but apparently a believer.  There’s an entirely predictable arc of conversation:

Her:  “I messed up again.”

Grandma:  “We will pray for forgiveness and that God gives you the strength to overcome.”

It’s one of the most perverse things I’ve ever witnessed:  It’s okay to keep falling in the same mire, it’s okay to keep blowing rent money and food money, just as long as you believe in Christ and ask forgiveness.   But if you don’t believe – in anything – yet still maintain a daily focus to do good in your community, still work hard and take good care of your elders, still keep track of the words coming from your mouth, you’re held in contempt of some court to which you don’t even belong.

We are in the process of moving so as to alleviate the crazy stress involved with such a situation.  It is, however, immensely challenging  to continue to live graciously while knowing and understanding that we could be alcoholics or cheating on each other or fighting all the time; yet if we believed, we’d be given a pass and a prayer to be healed and all would be right in the world and our house.

Such an acknowledgement presents the temptation to become cynical, judgmental, or live in perpetual anger.   Meditation helps to keep the mind calm, choice allows us to stay positive and focused, and thoughtful, engaging music encourages.  I am particularly grateful for Seether’s latest album, “Poison the Parish”.  Many songs on it speak poignantly to the unbelievers dilemma of coexisting in a world of sanctimonious religiosity:

“Will you catch me when I fall and keep me elated?”

The music and lyrics provide a safe place for me to declare my frustration and feelings of betrayal.  They inspire me to keep to my path, they remind me there are others out there in similar, or worse, situations.   If that’s you, if you’re in this kind of place, I’ll beg you to have a listen to the album, specifically the tunes “Against the Wall” and “Emotionless”. The work is a source of meat and sustenance to me at just the perfect time, may it minister to your hurting heathen soul as well.

I am, as always, grateful for the intersection of music and life experience.

I wish for you much peace,

Frankie

 


The Verdict

We are living It now

So I will observe that History has its own scale.

Its weights are comprised of only

Pure concern for right and wrong

Against a backdrop of commonweal and fraternity.

Wholly objective

History cares not about motive

or opinions or bank accounts:

It cares that your neighbor didn’t suffer in any way due to your actions

It concerns Itself with whether the words you spoke were beautiful or ugly

It longs to confess that you walked your talk.

There’s no alternative in History’s measure

Some things really are absolute and

An attempt to justify the damnable will be revealed through the scope of History’s truth.

As we stand now in a moment of time

Where the stakes are extreme

And the consequences are beyond repair should we choose the wrong path,

I hold my breath that reason prevails

And rationale becomes vogue again.

That the tide of ‘most of us’ will cleanse away

The destruction of our nation and the pillaging of its people.

This moment will conclude, then our children will look back

And with the privileged clarity of future generations

Witness the reveal of History’s judgement upon what we do this very hour –

May the verdict return favorably upon each of us.

 

 

 

 


Dark Polish

Finally, today, I can break out the fun colors.  Pinks, purples, corals, blues, and even bright happy teals.   I’m talking about fingernail polish.   For the past year I’ve confined myself to wearing only dark, dark shades.

I’ve done so as a means to mourn the death of my mother.

The traditional ways of mourning the death of a loved one have fallen by the wayside in our shiny, busy world.  I mean, I thought about wearing black for an entire year, but that wouldn’t go over so well at work because of uniform requirements as well as the nature of the job.

There was a moment I wanted (needed?) to stay home for a couple of weeks and just be sad.  I was feeling like I couldn’t contain myself and would break down into a puddle of mush any minute – I didn’t want to do that in front of my colleagues. But, of course and like most, I’m only allowed a couple days off for a family death. So I mustered the strength and with  monumental effort shoved aside all that pain, plastered a smile on my face that I was certain looked as fake as it felt, and drove myself to the high school where I worked.

I had to get creative.   I had to find a way to mark the grieving period,  a way to show respect to my mother who lived a life full of challenges yet exhibited a toughness and fierce independence, she deserved that honor.  So in my own little corner of carved out existence, I thought about some gesture that could fill the job of acknowledging my grief, at least to myself, while still going about the business of being a citizen in a frantic society.  I realized that one action I could take was to wear only dark fingernail polish until the first anniversary of her death.  I made a vow to do so.

It was indeed a small gesture, but to my surprise it was exactly the right one.  It wasn’t easy.   This decision came at the beginning of summer when bright orange or yellow would typically decorate the end of my phalanges, shouting to the world that I was ‘with it,’ and ‘on trend’ with the fashionable hues.  Besides, I am generally a big fan of  vividly colored fingertips, they scream fun!  energetic!  this is me!  Yet, there I was with mud browns, black purples, and dark blues that captured zero light and received no compliments, living out the promise I made to the universe that I was setting aside this time for my mother.

Winter came and went, including a couple of firsts that were difficult to endure:  mom’s birthday and Christmas.  It wasn’t so hard to keep to dark shades then, the weather and lack of daylight was in keeping with my mournful aspect.  But I did find myself growing weary of the same five nail colors and when I usually break out an iridescent orange in the middle of January as an instinctive reaction to missing the sun and yearning for summer, I instead slathered on one more layer of ‘Gunmetal’, but with a smile of contentment: I found it somehow healing to deny myself this small thing out of deference to my beloved mom.

Spring arrived after enduring days and days and days and days of rain.  I ran out of two of my favorite dark colors and was rotating between just three others.   On the premise of “I only have a few more months left, I don’t want to waste the money.” I didn’t purchase anything new.  I found I was okay with the narrow selection anyway:  as the anniversary grew closer, the more meaningful the memorial became.

I was able to end that memorial yesterday, the first anniversary of my mother’s death.   There’s a sense of relief in it’s arrival – all the ‘firsts’ are out of the way, I’ve survived them.  Her birthday will come and go, but none as painful as that first one without her.  I can announce to myself that I am done mourning now.  I can throw out the three remaining dark shades of polish, and keep bright happy colors on my quick typing fingers the rest of my days, if I want.

Grieving the death of a loved one is work.  It requires time and attention and the ability to step aside from life for just a moment in order to process the pain and adjust to a new reality.  The society we’ve built in the US doesn’t allow us that.  In fact, it would deny the mourning process altogether if it could.  I recall the words of President Bush after 9/11 when he urged us to ‘get back to normal’ as soon as possible.   After the loss of a loved one, there is no normal as we know it.  We MUST have time to reflect and assimilate our new life.  Anyone who has denied themselves the room to grieve will attest that doing so only makes it worse to deal with later, or it solidifies into a mass of anger which no one can identify.  In our current society, we have to be strong and rely on our ingenuity and adaptability for ways to mourn the departed while still functioning at the hundred-ten percent capacity required by the system. Maybe its a once a week trip to the Synagogue that you normally wouldn’t take, maybe it’s a black tie that can be worn every Wednesday, maybe it’s a black curtain in the kitchen window, maybe it’s strictly dark nail polish for a year.  Whatever the solution, there still remains the ability to set aside holy time for a loved one, in some way, that enables the healing process.  I encourage you to find one that works for you if ever the unfortunate need arises.

Yours,

Frankie