Tag Archives: politics in america

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

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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

 


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


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


Dark Age II

Shut Out the World, Turn Inward on Ourselves

Usher in the Dark Age.

Forego Checks and Balances, Leave all Rules Behind

Usher in the Dark Age.

Fire without Warning, Reality TV Politics

Usher in the Dark Age.

Condemn Free Speech, Despise the Fourth Estate

Usher in the Dark Age.

Mute the Scientists, Deafen the Populace

Usher in the Dark Age.

Revoke Dissenting Opinion, Claim it’s for ‘Your Good’

Usher in the Dark Age.

Truth becomes Irrelevant, Alternative Facts Laid Bare

Usher in the Dark Age.

Privatize the Public, Deregulate what is Healthy

Usher in the Dark Age.

Ignore the Constitution, Fleece Your Own Nation…

Disheveled White Men

Usher in the American Dark Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Civil Grief

There was a time when we could count on civility.  There was a moment in our history when we could actually respect another’s opinion, maybe even weigh it against our own with no harm, and then move on without a grudge, without name calling, without hostility.   We enjoyed a rare exhibit of humanity when an election was over;  when the people had spoken, we accepted the outcome and went on with our lives, knowing that the constitution and reasonable compromise would prevail.  I was taught this in school and in church, and it was exemplified by my elders and former national leaders.

It’s become increasingly apparent that civility is a lost quality in our nation.  This should concern us all.

It began with the election of the current president and a remark from a senator that the commander-in-chief would only get ‘one term’.   It gained momentum when the house speaker in charge couldn’t (or wouldn’t) lead his cabal and a power play over the national budget suddenly became evening news fodder.   It culminated when a law, upheld by the checks and balances of the supreme court, was repeatedly voted upon for repeal (or parts of the law as some would clarify – either way, the inability to accept the high court’s decision  has marred our national landscape).

It continues with this election cycle.  We have witnessed some atrocious behavior towards one another.   We don’t respect each other’s opinion, instead we resort to name calling and vitriolic attacks on friends and family.   This isn’t civility, it’s anarchy.  This isn’t democracy, it’s tyranny.  This isn’t respect, it’s cynicism.

We.  Are.  Better.  Than.  This.

I understand there is fear, but there is peace with unity.  I get that there is lack of integrity, but we can have great confidence in reason.

We will elect a new leader tomorrow.  May we honor the votes, honor our democracy, and come together again at the end of the competition, under one flag, under one ideal and move forward once more as one –  because without civility, we  can no longer claim to uphold the torch of democracy and the “American Dream”.  We cannot exclaim that we are exceptional.

E pluribus anum.

Yours in peace,

Frankie

 


Impotent Nation

Yesterday,  I wrote a little blurb about taking a step back for a minute in the wake of all the recent shootings.  I spoke about letting reason overcome our fears and that there is room for compromise and discussion.   Yet as I typed those words, and even hoped for their fruition, I realized that we probably won’t allow ourselves the opportunity to discuss and listen and come to a middle ground, we’ll most likely continue down this path of shouting matches and shooting matches until we destroy one another.  We’ve been rendered impotent you see, unable to discuss and engage, unwilling to lay down perceived notions and take up another for even a second.   As a democracy we are currently unreachable and unteachable.   I hold the Koch brothers, our current President, and our 111th and 112th congress entirely, utterly responsible.

A nation is only as good as its leaders and our leaders have robbed us of the ability to have any sort of national discussion about anything.    Consider Mitch McConnell’s message that we need to make sure President Obama is only a one term president (I know there are arguments over the ‘context’ of this comment, I’m not buying them.  Actions, in this case, back up the literal interpretation of the statement, I’m inclined to believe that he meant exactly what he said.)  There’s been time after time the past eight years where congress has not just failed to communicate, they’ve refused to communicate altogether.  President Obama’s unwillingness to open up the TransPacificPartnership for examination makes an absolute mockery of the democratic process for which our soldiers ostensibly fight.

During the writing of the Magna Carta, in the aftermath of the storming of the Bastille, when the forefathers of the United States meted out a document intent on keeping a balance of power and enabling democracy – compromise, not stubbornness, led to growth and vitality.   Enlightenment, openness,  and opportunity guided the ideals and produced healthy nations that went on to become world leaders.  To the shame of our democracy, we currently witness political leaders on both sides of the aisle who blatantly and very publicly refuse to bear the burden of their democratic duty and moral responsibility of engaging in public discourse.     They are goaded thusly, thanks to secret meetings comprised of Wall Street’s elite of the elite where strategy sessions for the best way to gain and keep control of the government include this very  notion of an uncooperative spirit. (See Jane Mayer’s most recent work, “Dark Money,” Doubleday, New York, 2016). The results have manifested themselves in the form of a stagnate economy and an obviously broken society.

So while I wrote with hope and an admittedly idealistic tone, I lamented with each letter and form of punctuation.   I fear we are too far gone.  I am deeply concerned that we’ve already dug our heals in considering the actions of our leaders who have proven to possess an inordinate inability to engage and compromise, and accounting for the echoing sentiments of the ‘us vs. them’ narrative ubiquitous on social media the past several hours.

Today, I write about a new hope.  I hope that I am mistaken about my conclusion.   I  hope we haven’t crossed some point of no return and we can muster the strength to empathize. But if the last decade of leadership and our own reaction to these most recent events is any indication, we are now an impotent nation with regards to conversation and meeting in the middle, and my hope is in vain.

May I be proven wrong….

Frankie

 


First Perhaps, Not Best However

You are the first, but you are not our best.  I know this with certainty, there are others with greater integrity and deeper loyalties – it is difficult to miss them among your repute.

You deliver promises from a podium and smile kindly at the masses.  I see a facade, I watch body language, I follow the money. Your words and warmth are alien compared to your deeds and transactions.

You have shattered a ceiling, but you have not fooled me.  I watched you keep the one who betrayed you so you could break that glass.  In doing so you betrayed yourself and each of your sisters, including your own daughter.

You may have seen this coming a long way off, for you have planned, colluded, devised, manipulated, coerced, and twisted yourself into this role. Methinks it looks like Cinderella’s shoe forced upon the foot of one of the ugly stepsisters: contorted, deformed, repulsive.

You will revel in the moment, claim a solid victory, and think the world astounded.  But history will bring justice and reality will reveal:  The moment is artificial.  The victory, merely a shell – like a hollow chocolate bunny.

I cannot concede this milestone, it is marred and scarred with the illness of selfish motives.    It is clouded from the pollution of the process you employed.  It is weighed heavy with the baggage you bring.   It is tainted by your dishonesty and false propositions.

You may be first, but we are not a better nation for it.