Thursday, May 06, 2021

Democracy at Risk

 Historically, the United States is in troubled waters. It seems that the very core of our democracy is at serious risk of being torn asunder. This is due to the enactment of a plethora of laws by various states with the goal of curtailing the process that lies at the very heart of a viable democracy – that being free and unobstructed access to the fundamental right to vote. It has become obvious that these laws have been geared to target the most vulnerable voting populations, especially people of color. The insidious nature of these laws is reflected in some of the particulars of this kind of legislation – one of which involves making it a crime for others to provide food and or water to those waiting on prohibitively long lines to vote. The shear callousness of this kind of regulation is reminiscent of the dark days of Jim Crow.

The disturbing reality of this constellation of laws is that those who design and encourage this kind of legislation intend to impose minority values upon not only individual states but the entire nation. The proponents of this kind of legislation realize that the philosophical basis of their belief system is not shared by the general population, especially the young. This belief system is sustained and nurtured by hatred and bigotry. This belief system clearly embraces the erroneous notion of white supremacy, as embodied by the behavior of the mendacious and mentally disturbed former president, and blindly refuses to accept the widely held and scientifically-supported understanding that all humans are clearly members of the same species and deserving of the same benefits, rights and privileges regardless of their place of origin, or color of their skin, sexual orientation or particular social and religious beliefs.

The fact that this particular distorted view of reality has gained so much traction even in the face of reality itself, is very disturbing, for it portends a dark future in which hatred, bigotry and ignorance become the model for accepted behavior. This kind of future is not to be wished for; it is a declaration of the ascendency of the lie over truth. This kind of future would necessarily place ignorance and stupidity at the forefront of government and policy. The disastrous way the COVID-19 pandemic was handled by the previous administration is a clear object lesson on how serious issues would be handled within such a toxic environment.

Should the nation take such a path, it would invariably lead to the disintegration of a truly democratic republic in which the serious problems we must face such as endemic racism, climate change, social and economic injustice, the sustainability of our infrastructure and our natural environment would be effectively bypassed, ignored and in the worst possible political environment, exacerbated.

Should the nation take such a path, it would be strangely ironic, for those who are adhering to the big lies for the sake of feeling more secure in their own judgments would not appreciate the necessary outcome of their beliefs for themselves, and, most importantly, their future generations.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Four Hundred Years

 

400 Years

Four Hundred Years

ago

human beings,

stolen from their home,

from their kinships,

from the beauty of their world,

from their families,

their lovers,

their children.

 

Four Hundred Years

ago

human beings

piled into the holds of ships,

shackled  and abused,

barely able to move

stripped of their humanity,

denied their freedom,

humiliated,

often drowned.

 

Four Hundred Years

ago

humans beings

treated somehow

less than human,

like expendable chattel,

like mere property,

disposable, exploited, murdered

with impunity, with indifference,

with carefree and deadly violence.

 

Four Hundred years

from then until now

intervening decades

this insidious poison

spread through the generations

periodic massacres of innocents,

near genocide of

native americans

treated as nameless obstacles

to colonization and conquest,

bloodbath that was the civil war

hundreds of thousands of bodies

left dead on forsaken battlegrounds

twisted and mutilated wreckage

forged from an erroneous notion

of supremacy based

not on merit

not on reason or logic

nor justice

but on accidental whiteness

now faithfully eulogized and

solemnly remembered,

blight and contagion spread to other

hapless victims

Chinese

Japanese,

Hispanics,

Muslims,

Human beings mostly of color,

of difference

in outlook

in custom

in dress

in persuasion,

their collective sin

their unforgiveable characteristic,

the true nature of their threat

to be born with

non-whiteness,

with gradations of color

no matter how slight

no matter how innocuous,

this overweening fallacy that

forged so much carnage

that ushered in Jim Crow,

that gave birth to the

Ku Klux Klan and the

NRA and

Tea Party politicians

inevitably spread to other lands

under the guise of foreign policy

national defense

beneath the umbrella of justifiable wars

leaving millions upon millions dead

immense carnage

and grief

Korean and Vietnamese and Iraqi

and Afghani and Mexican and Filipino

mothers to grieve for their children

their elders

their families.

 

Four Hundred Years

and yet

this unspeakable terror,

this fearsome and unimagined horror

still persists,

some human beings using

power and wealth

to dehumanize others

based upon the color of their skin

and yet

mindless bigotry, hatred and

violence still

plague this nation

even in the twenty-first century

with all that science teaches,

with all that we know,

yet senseless prejudice is

sustained and nurtured

in spite of all that logic and reason dictate,

in spite of all that we understand as truth.

 

For Four Hundred Years

In spite of all that we know,

the killing goes on,

mothers continue to grieve,

justice is denied

unnecessary suffering roars through this country

in a hurricane of grief,

those who live on stolen lands

arm themselves

preparing for a conflagration

that they cannot possibly control,

those who possess inordinate wealth

callous to the suffering

indifferent to the injustice

refuse to relent in their insatiable greed,

this poison passed around in giant goblets

that touch the lips and infest

so many precious hearts and minds

with pure nonsense.

 

It has been Four Hundred Years,

It needs to stop,

this moribund and

dangerous idea of superiority

based upon  the fallacy called race,

needs to be extinguished once and for all

not by the power of intimidation,

not by violence,

not by fiat

but simply and resolutely

through a transformation of ideas,

it is up to the people of this wondrous land

to teach the children and ourselves

what is fundamentally the truth

that we are all members of the same species

Homo sapiens

we share the same architecture

of body and mind,

the same panoply of

emotions and desires

the same capacity for love,

for reason and harmony

for logic and intellect,

for imagination and

creativity, inventiveness and

for art,

each and everyone of this

family of human beings

deserving of  equal measures of

social and economic justice,

equal access to health care

to shelter

to nutrition

opportunity to thrive and to prosper,

to learn and to grow

without any fear of reprisal or

bigotry or baseless retribution,

all worthy of the love that mothers

naturally give,

of being embraced and included

without hesitation or reluctance

or trepidation

within the all encompassing arms of the

human family.

 

After Four Hundred Years

is this

really too much to ask for?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Judgment and Forgiveness

 




It is easy to arrive at a summary judgment in regard to an individual, familiar, or not, family member or stranger. It is facile, indeed, for any of us to believe that we have the categorical right to judge another human being on whatever evidence seems to be at hand whether directly experienced or purely anecdotal. It is far too tempting to reach a harsh and immobile conclusion in regard to another individual’s perceived character based upon the assumption that one has a complete understanding of what is right and what is wrong.

In truth, is anyone ever truly able to make a judgment without fully comprehending how reality is perceived through the eyes and mind of the individual being examined through such a myopic lens? Good and evil are terms used far too often with a false and misleading sense of certainty. Far too often, the pronouncement of evil is applied from the standpoint that the one(s) making this determination is decidedly good.

There are no absolutes in the context of human behavior. It is not possible to comprehend another human without seeing through the same eyes, co-existing within the same mind and understanding the cumulative impact of life experiences upon his or her view of the world. Those who are abused in childhood are more than likely to become abusers as adults. Mental Illness has many and myriad manifestations, and those who suffer from severe chemical imbalances within their brains, often exhibit erratic, irrational, and sometimes dangerous behavior. An historic example of this reality was that of Adolph Hitler who was ultimately determined to be a schizophrenic psychopath.

The best we can do and still remain true to the vagaries and vicissitudes of human nature is to judge the behavior and not the person. This is not to suggest that dangerous behavior that does harm to others can be ignored by the society at large; this is not to propose that the person guilty of crimes against his fellow humans is not to be held accountable for his or her actions. We cannot however, with any confidence, determine the inner-workings of another mind and come to any unambiguous assessment of that individual.

Paradoxically, we do have the capacity to condemn a behavior yet forgive the individual responsible for that behavior. Forgiveness is a recognition of the innate frailties of being human. Forgiveness can open the mind and heart, shattering the constraints that judgment imposes. Forgiveness can provide a gateway to the liberation of the spirit, for it lightens the burdens imposed by judgment and loss. Under certain circumstances, forgiveness seems impossible, yet it often becomes a necessary feature of acceptance and growth. Without forgiveness, reality becomes distorted and superimposed by a bleak world of black and white, devoid of color. Without forgiveness, the human world is destined to follow the trajectory that is an unavoidable consequence of violence and retribution. The path of forgiveness and reconciliation that South Africa took following the fall of apartheid under the guiding influence of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu is an excellent example of the power of these actions in forging a more peaceful future.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Lightness of Being

Dance of the mayfly,

storm of fire ants

beneath the jungle canopy,

thundering herds of wildebeests

across the serengeti,

bones of a stegosaurus

millions of years deceased

in some faraway world

on earth’s perpetual sojourn

around its parent star,

human journey through time

illustrious home of earth

generation upon generation

stretching from tortuous past

into an uncertain future,

star going nova within the

expansive cosmos

engulfing its planets in a

momentous release of enormous energy,

owl beckoning for the

fall of night

to awaken its predatory spirit,

mothers in labor all over the

this wondrous world

on the same day,

destined to perpetuate the species.

 

Life transient

Impermanent

like the passing breath,

like a singular beat of the heart,

gift of existence

exquisitely present,

surprisingly brilliant,

intensely felt,

momentary,

often blinding,

unsettling,

full of sadness

and poignancy

and joy.

 

Life bonded

to emotions,

forged by love,

grounded in consciousness,

imbedded in now,

shaped by myriad experiences,

haunted by shades of past and

shadows of future.

 

Yet, there is an

Intrinsic lightness to being,

that embraces the present,

created and extinguished

moment to moment

within the indefatigable

arc of time.


Friday, February 12, 2021

Bigotry, Hatred, Xenophobia, Ignorance, Violence, and the Disregard for the Truth in America

It has become quite evident in regard to recent events, including the riotous attack on the nation’s capital on January 6, 2021 and the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, that significant parts of the nation have remained mired in a system of beliefs founded on the spurious notion of white supremacy. This underlying worldview has come in direct conflict with the necessarily complex and diverse nature of the American population and the human species on planet earth.

This worldview that sees whites as being innately endowed with superior qualities and attributes can only be sustained if the reality that is everywhere evident and that is reinforced by the cumulative knowledge gained in the realm of science is denied and replaced by an intricate tissue of patent lies, misstatements and falsehoods. In fact, science has clearly established that there is no significant difference in any member of the human species regardless of the color of their skin, place of origin, gender, and sexual orientation.

Viewing reality through the notion of white supremacy necessarily leads to a profound ignorance, a concomitant distrust of that which is true, a tendency towards a virulent and hateful xenophobia and ultimately to an embrace of violence. Collectively, these affectations are completely congruent with the characteristics of fascism. The underlying driving force of this particular constellation of characteristics is the pervasive sense of personal insecurity and fear of being left behind by the forward-moving arc of history and the ever-changing nature of social relationships especially as it relates to the modern world.

It is demagogues like Adolph Hitler and Donald Trump who personify this displacement and exploit the emotions of those most affected. They effectively channel this inner desperation into a kind of uncontrollable rage. It is this rage born of raw emotion that can lead to disastrous consequences. It is this deep-seated frustration that can unhinge an entire culture, for without a respect for the truth and an acknowledgment of the worth and intrinsic value of all members of the species, the future path is one of chaos and disarray. Democratic institutions cannot thrive and develop under such conditions.

Alternatively, a possible route to true stability, peace and social harmony would necessarily involve two significant steps. The first would be the universal acceptance of the fact that the notion of race has no substantial basis in reality, and that we all are deserving of an equal opportunity to thrive and develop as human beings. Secondly, we need to come to grips as a people to the grievous mistakes we have made in the past and seek reconciliation and strive for some measure of restitution. As a people, we need to take complete ownership of our missteps not only toward each other but to the planet upon which we live. Once we collectively do this, we can then go about the business of repairing and reforming not only our human institutions but also the natural environment upon which we all depend. It is through this approach that we can truly change the world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Holiday Message for the Coming Year - 2021

 The year 2020 has been in many ways disturbing and unsettling.  What, of course, comes to mind almost immediately is the COVID 19 pandemic that has claimed so many lives and has been so economically devastating to many facets of the national economy, and especially for those who have lost their livelihoods and businesses.  Added to this national burden are the deep fractures that have been exposed in regard to a national sense of unity, shared-mission and purpose.

Along with this overwhelming sense of loss, however, is the untold bravery, courage and unwavering energy displayed by so many who have risked their own lives and safety to come to the aid of all of us for the unselfish commitment to the greater good.  These individuals have come from many diverse positions - as doctors, nurses, emergency response teams, members of the police and fire departments and first responders of all kinds.  To this list, we should include all those responsible for providing food; for delivering the mail; for the taxi and bus drivers, train operators and pilots; for the teachers; for all those who care for the elderly and for all those who provide the essential services that we all too often take for granted.

My wish for the New Year (2021) is that we grow wiser from the events that have befallen us and see the future as a time for healing and learning from our collective missteps.  My hope is that the new year will be a time of new beginnings.  My dream is that we will finally come to recognize that regardless of our national origin, religious affiliation, skin color or sexual orientation we are all members of the same species with the same physical bodies, the same architecture of the brain, the same genetic makeup, the same constellation of feelings, of hopes and of dreams.  Each of us is worthy of the same opportunities to grow and develop as sentient beings on this most remarkable planet that also needs our kindness, care, and attention.  Earth is, after all, our only home.

Best Wishes to All

Monday, November 09, 2020

Presidential Election 2020 – A Personal Perspective

While listening to the “talking head’ analysis of the Presidential election 2020, I am reminded about how severely misaligned modern humans are in regard to our relationship to the natural world – the environment within which our species and our ancient ancestors have evolved over the past six million years. We find ourselves engrossed, mesmerized, and seduced into this surreal world of politics where reality has been subsumed by attention to the apparently limitless details of the workings of an artificial and contrived reality. Within this realm the citizens of this country participate predominantly adhering to the human propensity towards their tribal natures. What has been lost, at a great price, is our connectedness to the natural world that represents the wellspring of our human nature. What has been lost is our intrinsic humanity. What has been lost is our appreciation of the Commons. We have come to behave as if life were akin to a giant potlatch. What has been lost is an appreciation of the very future of our species coexisting alongside the marvelous diversity of life on planet Earth – our only home. We have come to accept as normal a worldview that is responsible for an acceleration of the deterioration of the very natural world that sustains us even to the extent of modifying the global climate so drastically that it may no longer support us in the not-so-distant future.

The current President of the United States has clearly demonstrated time and time again his gross incompetence, his meager intellectual capacity, his mendacity, his insufferable cruelty and yet he appears to remain preferable as a leader in the eyes of his adherents. In fact, apparently over 70 million voted for him (many of them enthusiastically) – choosing him as the one who would guide and shape their collective destiny. This is possible; because he projects himself as a mirror where his followers see themselves in him and he likewise becomes them. In this way, he becomes their tribal leader. It is no matter that he could propel the entire country to ruin and devastation; that the next generation could suffer immeasurable harm. This all seems to be of little relevance when higher-order brain function that establishes us as sentient beings is thoroughly scorned and maligned. This kind of destructive collective behavior and corrosive mentality has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout the torturous history of human civilizations – a notable example in recent time was the fiery beginnings and apocalyptic ending of the Third Reich in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s (1933- 1945). After this twelve yearlong planetwide scourge, a large proportion of the human world was left in ruins and over seventy million perished.

Our real hope lies not in the leader of the moment, but rather in ourselves. Our hope lies in our capacity to dislodge and discard all the patently false notions of our supposed superiority within the human family and come to recognize and believe that all humans regardless of their place of origin, or the color of their skin, or their system of beliefs or their sexual orientation are essentially the same. Our hope lies in our embrace of all the wondrous diversity on this planet – to honor and act as responsible stewards of the fantastic wealth and wonder of the natural world, and not in our ability to exploit, devastate and control. It is incumbent upon all of us to live in a way that will help ensure that all humans have an equal chance at living full and enriching lives both now and into the future.

Our real hope lies within our ability and determination to transcend our tribalism and xenophobia and greed and absorption with self - if we are ever to escape the destiny of so many civilizations that have been consigned to the trash heap of history. Such a shift in consciousness may seem terribly remote and unlikely, yet it is certainly within our capacity as humans. We can and must incorporate our higher-order brain function within the ordinary conduct of our daily lives. In my mind, it is immensely sad and regrettable that so much human suffering is unnecessary; that the great harm we are inflicting upon ourselves, the natural world and upon all the marvelous diversity of life is completely avoidable. We can and should do better than this.

I am mostly convinced that I will not be among the living when and if such a transformation happens within the human psyche, yet it is not beyond the realm of possibility that it will take shape in some form within the human community. As humans, we are certainly equipped to undergo such a metamorphosis in our worldview and communal behavior. It may very well be up to the young to create and adopt a new paradigm for living in a way that is more compatible to our true humanity – it certainly will be in their own best interest to do so.