Tag Archives: current events america

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Deathbed

There’s not much we can do.

You and I can only wait at this point.

All chances of a healthy outcome have passed,

This is the end, this is the time to begin mourning.

We try and prepare, make certain that our

own houses are in order.

It is difficult, we don’t know what awaits us

when She’s gone.

There are the quiet whisperings of

those gathered round the bed:

“Wasn’t she beautiful in her prime?”

“Remember that time when…..”

“She was the top of her class.”

Respectful admirations morph into

consoling observations as we struggle

to find a way to justify Her fall.

“She was bewitched by all that money,”

Someone said.

“It’s true,” agreed another and then,

“But there were those who were out to

get Her deliberately, She didn’t have a chance.”

This statement weighed heavy in the room,

we all knew it was precise.

With nothing left to say, we watched Her breathe

and knew that as Her death approached, so did the

death of life as we knew it.

We reflected, each to our own, about how we could have

changed things, what we would have done differently,

where we were lazy.

And each to our own, took a portion of responsibility

for the ending Her life.

Outside, the dogs of greed bark and yip

excitedly at the smell of Her imminent death.

They too, have been waiting but with

a different aspect.

Knowing Her power is nearly snuffed out,

They are anxious to overrun our towns

and de-civilize our streets.

Their increased energy is felt inside

the room of Her deathbed.

A quiet sob breaks from among one of the visitors,

As it’s noticed that Her breathing has become labored,

Not much longer.

If we say goodbye now, can She hear it?

If we tell Her we love Her, will She sense it?

If we say we’re sorry, so very sorry for Her demise,

will She forgive us?

We do it anyway, mostly to succor ourselves.

Because watching Democracy die is deeply painful,

and the grief that awaits when She does, even more so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Public Work

Many of us are getting out of our comfort zone and becoming involved in public discourse like never before and the Science March this past weekend provided proof of this.  I was grateful for those across the world that set aside time on their Saturday to ‘show up’ and let our leaders know that facts matter, we don’t buy the propaganda, and we care about democracy and a healthy earth.

But there’s more ‘showing up’ than just marching for science these days.

My local ACLU chapter has recorded an uptick in people showing up for their monthly meetings.   I live in a conservative area of northern California and have noticed a definitive increase in progressive activism taking place.  Many of us have realized that being a citizen is more than just showing up at a voting booth every election and sending money to our favorite social endeavor.

It’s work though. I don’t know about you but I’ve taken on a new respect for all our public elected officials because it takes time and dedication to ‘show up’ at meeting after meeting, event after event, and like many of us, did so while working a regular job. I have learned to greatly respect those men and women in my new friends circle who have devoted years worth of Saturday’s or work week evenings to meet, discuss, plan, advance, and advocate for healthy democratic ideals in our communities.

I am, thankfully, in a place where my children are raised and I have more time to devote to public service.   But I realized that even that is an excuse as I sat one recent Saturday afternoon and listened to a mother of two daughters contend for the position of California Democratic Chair.  I thought to myself “If she’s willing to give up time with her family and speak with me to earn her vote, I have had no reason not to at least show up to a monthly ACLU meeting.”

We live in a historical time with an unpredictable president and a federal government shorn of much of it’s power to be a balancing element to Wall Street.  Many of us are realizing that democracy isn’t just about voting, its also about meetings after a work-day full of meetings, its about giving up time with family on the weekends, its about more bodies ‘showing up’ at local community halls.

So thanks!  Thanks to those who went out of their comfort zone yesterday and marched for reason.  Thanks to those elected servants, whether on the same side of the aisle as me or not, because I understand a little more now the sacrifice given to serve. Thanks to those ‘showing up’ more and more at local meetings and events, investing your time to ensure that democracy prevails at this moment in history.  Mostly, thanks for all those who, over decades of dedication, have consistently shown up, even when the socio-political weather was fair.   You are exemplary and encouraging.

Yours,

Frankie