Tag Archives: current events america

Heroic Democracy

Joseph Campbell enlightens us on the cycle of the hero story in his work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”  He explains that most cultural heroes (even Jesus) share common themes and they definitely follow a pattern of rise-fall-rise again but stronger.

I suggest that US Democracy is in a moment of its own heroic cycle.

There are some commonalities between US Democracy and Campbell’s exemplary heroes: Born of a meager background, thirteen colonies with not much else but trendsetting ideas and a strong sense of independence, carved themselves into a nation unlike any other of its time. Then follows a slow rise to prominence in the international limelight where its tenants of equality have been accepted by some, rejected by some.

Ironically, it’s the hometown that usually brings down the hero, so it is with our Democracy.  Our own leaders have aided the crucifixion of Democracy through inaction. Where the legislative branch normally checks and balances the executive, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to intercept the blatant degradation of ethics by our current president and appear to happily allow a hostile, foreign nation to implant its fear mongering talking points into our national narrative.  Similar to Pontius Pilate, they have washed their hands of the issue, enabling the mob to raise Democracy up for a brutal death.

We now live in a moment of uncertainty where our hero has disappeared and many of us feel lost, hopeless, and betrayed. We huddle together in supportive groups, planning what next steps should be taken, eager to carry on the timeless ideas of Democracy, even while it struggles to overcome.

According to Campbell, heroes typically languish for a time in some dark depths before they are able to rise to greater heights, usually with the aid of some helper or assistant. While two short years of destruction and mayhem without Democracy may seem brief to some, we should deem it enough – we really don’t have the luxury of floundering (See Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny”).

We really do have the luxury of hope, however. There are helpers arriving in droves to ensure a resurrection.  There are those running for office, local and nationally, who bring the ideals of Democracy with them. There are those who work tirelessly to knock on doors, make phone calls, write letters, or offer their voice in some manner.  There are special elections won by citizens who espouse Democracy and its inherent equality.  There are donations of five or ten or hundreds of dollars going to women and men unwilling to cede to the Oligarchy, willing to bring Democracy back from the grave.

But it’s not just that Democracy will be revived, but that it will be revived stronger, more resilient, more powerful. You see, in every story, resurrection empowers the hero to  greater strength than it had before. If we can get it right this fall, if the #Bluewave2018 becomes a reality, then Democracy will have returned with a vengeance, ready to stand up to those from the outside who would delight in our complete demise, ready to send them running.

Fellow citizens, I submit that we are poised to see our hero, Democracy, rise from the ashes and shine brighter than before.  It is important to understand, however, that each of us is a needed helper to the cause.  Encourage one another, elucidate the good and right, get out of comfort zones and talk with each other, and we can resurrect our Democracy from the depths of darkness to be stronger, more vibrant, and more effective.

Yours, in peace.

Frankie

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“Lord of the Flies” Adapted by Paul Ryan

Stands on the corner,"homeless - please help" sign

cardboard sign in hand.

Dirty clothes, ragged shoes,

I bet you stink to high heaven

You worthless piece of shit.

Weak for falling so far,

Where’s your self-respect?

You’ll get nothing from me,

Not even a moment’s compassion.

You don’t deserve it

If you can’t help yourself.

Not my fault your boyfriend is an alcoholic,

and you’d rather be homeless.

Doesn’t matter that you’re mentally ill,

Don’t care that you got fucked up in the war.

I got problems too,

But you won’t catch me begging.

So move on bum, outta my town,

off my corner, away from my view.

Your presence disturbs,

Your reality pricks,

your desperation smells.

You are my intolerable spectre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gun Talk

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day and he gave me the old “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.  I could set a gun on my desk right there and it wouldn’t kill a single person.”

Maybe, but I am certain I could never ignore a benign gun on a desk like I could ignore the tape dispenser or the sticky note pad or even the dagger-shaped letter opener. If I spot a gun on his desk, you can bet that I am going to approach him from a different perspective. I’m not going to be able to respect him based upon his intelligence, his level of articulation, or his knowledge; all of that would be eclipsed by the respect I had for the gun. Maybe he and I are cool and wouldn’t get to a point where we would reach for the weapon.  But what if a third party came into the setting?  What if derelict student came in, was having a bad day, and went for the gun?

What if none of those things happened and our interaction was uneventful? There remains a difficulty:  My experience with him would be eternally tied to that singular impression, and it’d be difficult for him to earn my respect based solely on his character.

Representative Ralph Norman made this hypothetical scene a reality the other day when he placed his .38 on a diner table during a meeting with his constituents. ” ‘I merely proved a point that guns themselves are not the issue,’…Norman said that having a loaded gun in the room should, if anything, have made people feel more safe.”  The point he actually proved was that energy of human interaction changes the second a gun is introduced. Instead of meaningful debate and a news story about discussion points, the emphasis was wholly on the presence of a gun. Everytown, an advocacy group seeking to end gun-violence in the US, was represented by Lori Freemon: “I had looked forward to a respectful dialogue with my representative about common-sense gun violence prevention policies. Instead, I felt unsafe when he insisted on showing us his loaded gun and keeping it out on the table for much of our conversation.”  The presence of a gun inherently invites the potential for harm and we will intuitively react by shutting out every other detail. There was no way this group of people could have a diplomatic discussion about the issue.

Consider another angle. Let’s compare two people arrested on attempted robbery charges.  All things being equal, if one of those is found to have a gun in their possession during the attempt, whether it was revealed or not, the consequences will be much worse than the one who merely had a knife or axe or baseball bat.  If it were just that  “guns don’t kill people” then it seems logical that both imagined perpetrators would be treated the same in a court. That isn’t the way it works. Because the presence of a gun exponentially increases the possibility and probability that someone will be harmed, even our courts treat the presence of a gun with stricter sentencing.

I’m done hearing the argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  When just the mere presence of a handgun changes the way people interact with one another, it’s time to start heeding the valid notion that guns do kill, even if it is the respect I could have garnered for you otherwise.

#Enough.

Frankie


Hey Dana!

What’s the deal with you and yours?  Why is it you despise liberals, democrats, and protesters?

Are we so threatening that degrading us becomes your only pastime?

Do you comprehend that when you condemn us for being paid protesters and crisis actors, you only disclose your lack of logic, empathy, and human decency?

Don’t you remember that democracy literally means equality, an idea which is a cornerstone of our nation?

Does that equality really constrict your rights and lifestyle, or is it that you prefer absolute superiority?

How is it that the fight for the poor, the immigrant, the homeless is deemed a  nauseous waste by you who stand for christian values?

Is your world view so narrow that you can make no room for these, even for a moment’s consideration?

Have your immigrant ancestors removed themselves so far from your memory that you’ve forgotten their struggles and faith in government for protection against the boss-man?

Were you absent from the history class that taught us that imperiousness only results in a spectacular downfall?

Answer these queries or not, here’s what we conclude:  We cannot believe your claim to be American when you despise those who choose to embrace democracy.

 


Mammon

We claim to be a nation conceived by God,

Blessed by virtue of Holy support,

But it seems we’ve been abandon, left under the charge of Mammon.

I offer such observations as these for proof:

An opioid epidemic enabled by

Doctors wooed by corporations,

Lawmakers wooed by the cherished dollar.

Millions of Americans in a prison of addiction while

Mammon pulls levers, then turns nobs

in order to maximize His earnings.

A gun lobby that encourages violence.

Causes us to turn inward upon ourselves,

Killing our own, racking up a body count

That even combined wars can’t touch;

Mammon gleefully collects His gold

From dutiful firearm makers and sellers.

A culture “war on Christmas”

In effort to keep pure a singular Holy Day

Layered upon Holy Days,

Yet we fight, grab, push, some even die,

In order to get those shiny Black Friday deals;

Mammon has never been so well fed.

Men of God preach from t.v. thrones

or stages of megachurches.

Their message feels contorted to

Some modern ideology where helping yourself

means blindly supporting them,

Instead of the homeless, instead of the abused,

instead of the sick.

Mammon laughs and laughs at this clever ruse,

and counts His gold at night with gluttonous hands.

Just a few examples of a misaligned religion,

Where we claim to be capitalists during the week

While displaying contrite gratefulness on Sundays

To a god that blesses and gives.

A god who’s name is Mammon, not Yahweh

A god who has become fat upon greed and hypocrisy

A god who presides by permission

thanks to human adoration of the holy free market,

where decency, sympathy, and cooperation are damned.

Praise be to Mammon, god of the United States of America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Survey

The tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting is devastating. As I survey the news, I’ve noticed that the same headlines and talking points pop up after these kinds of incidences.  They bear listing, for the sake of understanding the big picture and the problems we face in attempting to turn around this particular, unique tide of violence .

The very first thing that comes up with each mass shooting is the argument of gun control.  Whether the timing is right or not, it’s natural human behavior to witness this kind of act and think “Can we do something about this?” The Onion has gotten cheeky (cynical??) in its reaction, using the same headline and article the past five mass shootings, just switching out the picture and a few details to reflect the current horrendous mess.  But more serious news articles abound with statistics demonstrating how the US compares to other nations whose restrictions on gun ownership means no one has guns, therefore the amount of deaths attributed to guns in those nations is much lower than what we experience in ours.  There are discussions about the inability to track gun deaths and violence in the US due to effective lobbying by the NRA.  There’s the opposing loud and proud call to retain the 2nd Amendment in it’s purity, forgetting the phrase ‘well regulated’, and including pat responses such as ‘This is the price we pay for being a free country’.

A more recent talking point that comes up at a time like this is the attention drawn to the fact that in the US, we are more likely to be struck down by one of our own than from a sworn enemy such as an ISIS operative.  This is definitely something to consider as we muddle through court cases arguing about the constitutionality of travel bans from specific countries.

Another common thread I’ve surveyed among news stories is the idea of the public obsession with the shooter and copycat behavior.  According to the FBI, this is a serious component to furthering our already violent nation into more violence.  It’s normal to long for an understanding as to how someone could be so callous as to murder their fellow primates. Part of that process means discussing their habits, their background, their final moments.  While the media provides these details to us, the disastrous cyclical effect it produces means we may want to re-think how we handle these circumstances in the future.

Finally, we are so anxious for news in the wake of these tragedies that we seize onto the first few stories that come out of the wreckage, often based on piecemeal details that are difficult to scrub clean in the investigative aftermath.  When the dust settles, when the investigation is complete, those initial stories are usually amended to include the findings of police and others.  However, those late arriving details are lost in the belief of whatever is read first while in the throes of shock.  ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack, we won’t know if that’s true until computer records are gleaned, but the damage is already done.  While anything is possible, it’s not probable that this is ISIS inspired, and a small contingency will believe so anyway even if the investigative outcome reveals no connection.  It behooves us to wait until we have more facts before jumping to conclusions because those reactive stories are often adjusted to reflect a more realistic picture and understanding.

There aren’t words to describe the depth of despair these kinds of tragedies incur on our national population:  We are literally killing ourselves at an alarming rate.  The probability that it will happen again, soon, is depressingly high.  Yet as we survey emotions and news headlines each time, we notice that the same issues continue to raise their ugly heads, as well as ways to deal with them.

Maybe, one day, we will become wise enough to challenge ourselves to change.

Peace, and much strength and grace to the families of those who died in Las Vegas.

Frankie

NB:  Some of the links I use in this article are a couple of years old, yet quite relevant still.  I purposefully chose them to illustrate my point:  the same issues keep cropping up in situations such as this.

 

 


Authority Issues

“If they don’t stand, fire them.”

It might just be a written comment on Facebook or Twitter, but the tone sure comes across as plainly as if it were spoken on t.v.:  authoritarian.

There’s a reason the Supreme Court of the US ruled that an employer cannot fire its employees for choosing to sit during the pledge or the anthem. “Do this or else!” is an authoritarian demand and demanding blind patriotism and faith leaves no room for dissent or freedom of speech.

The ruling is difficult for those who belong to the fairly large component of our nation that also invokes authoritarianism:  religion.  I spent years in ‘the Church’ and over and over the authority of a supreme being is preached and consumed with vigor.  It’s His way or the highway.  There’s no discussion, there’s no negotiation:  Either believe in Jesus or go straight to hell.  There’s no room for individualism – people are highly discouraged to look for outside sources of information – the Bible is the only and final solution.  “God is a jealous God” He doesn’t accept any behavior except being worshiped and adored (a human who acts thus is considered a narcissist, by the way).  It’s Him and Him alone and He has the last word always via the Bible.  The idea is furthered by the scriptural uttering that the husband is the head of the household, his word is final and therefore also…. authoritarian.

There’s a kind of feedback loop that is occurring which exacerbates the authoritarian streak:  Most Christians are prone to watch only a certain news channel and only certain televangelists.  So whatever is said on that singular channel becomes infused with religion and then repeated, ad nauseam, from the armchair preacher selling apocalyptic food stores.  Hence, authoritarian phrases such as “Kneel or else” gets drilled down upon and affirmed on more than just one level.  When the same is preached from the local pastor on Sunday mornings,  authoritarianism  becomes ingrained in many.  Consequently, there’s a decent sized population in our nation that is predisposed to project that authoritarianism onto our national, democratic principles and would happily sacrifice those principles for the mere conformity and idealism that is esteemed in Church.

It’s my observation that this ingrained authoritarian attitude is related to a kind of  Stockholm Syndrome.  I worship an all-or-nothing god who would throw me to the wolves if I once deviate from his command. However, if I comply without complaint, if I submit without a whimper, if I follow like a sheep, then that same God will feed and take care of me and, maybe, he’ll even allow me to prosper like that guy on t.v. with a mega-church.

Within the four walls of a building, adopting authoritarianism isn’t all that damaging to a nation at large.   It is when the notion spills out of the structure and into the streets where democracy, equality, and freedom of speech are paramount that problems arise.  There will be conflict when authoritarianism, especially in the form of “Kneel or else,” rears it’s head in a democracy where citizens are accustom to absolute freedom.  Just look at the conversations going on these past few days.

It’s a helpful point to understand.  Realizing that authoritarianism is a by-product of the largest religion in our nation allows us to understand why so many are willing to ignore liberty and demand allegiance.  I don’t know that the knowledge is helpful in any discourse between individuals, but it does provide some insight into the mechanics of this current moment of social unrest.  Perhaps there is someone out there who can find a way to bridge the gap and inspire a deeper love for democracy over religiously ingrained authoritarian inclinations.

I am open to suggestions.

Much peace to each of you…

Frankie


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

 

 


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