Come As You Are

Religion, like politics, is hard to write about from a global perspective. Religion is, and it should be, a deep personal experience. Notice my chosen word, not belief, not faith, but experience. If religion is based on faith alone, the bond between ones belief and their God is lacking a needed personal daily experience. That bond for me is steeped in the spiritualism of life as in, my wonder of the universal being. You know, the ability to be awestruck as I’m watching the Milky way weave through the clear night sky or perhaps feeling a sense of oneness with nature as I watch a leaf blowing across a country road, calling out the end of our summer days.

I try not to write about religion because of that deep seated personal respect I have for religion and the belief systems of people around the world. More, I just have a general respect for the beliefs of others whether I agree with them or not. Of course, there’s also some truth that every time I write about religion, I piss some one off, usually a good friend. For some reason, if you ask a question, the question is taken as an attack on their faith? If you disagree with their point of view, it’s an attack on their faith, If you ask about a recent archaeological discovery, it’s an attack on their faith.

My takeaway, people of religious faith yell and stomp their feet demanding I respect their faith yet give my belief system no credibility. They fail miserably in giving me one iota of respect for my beliefs while demanding I bow to theirs, and it’s getting to be old hat.

I’m getting tired of the religious ilk playing the victim card.

Now, the above said. I also know people who are deeply,  spiritually religious, meaning that their faith is one of experience, open to questions, to debate and the pursuit of knowledge. While I might not agree with them, I respect them and their beliefs religiously.

There is a huge difference between having faith and having a personal experience with your faith. Having a personal experience means that ones essential being, who they are as a person, comes from having that personal experience that is based in a certain spiritual relationship. A relationship that is free from the context and trappings of organized religion. Not that, that context is a bad thing. It’s not, in fact, those trappings of organized religion serve to benefit humanity in the form of social justice, community, and as a central belief in the goodness of man and woman. These are not evil things! Yet they become evil when the spiritual oneness of whatever God you choose to believe in, is missing. They become evil because without the accompanying spirituality, the closeness of God, they become hollow facades behind which people hide and yell, proclaiming the greatness of their god and the belittlement of all other beliefs.

I find little actual religion in those hollow voices. They are not who they claim to be and when they stand before their God, they will be standing as who they are.

Power Through Hate?

Being a child of the 60s and a teen of the seventies, I grew up with domestic terrorism. The Weather UndergroundSLANew World Liberation FrontBlack Panthers and a host of others. While I didn’t sympathize with them, I understood them, understood what they were protesting against; inequality, Injustice, Imperialism, racism, war, all the social ills that have never changed. These new brand terrorist groups coincided with social movements such the student movements, movements for civil rights, women, gay rights, the environment and of course Viet Nam. Without doubt, one could argue that things changed due to the unrest, but how is it, nothing seems to have changed? Sure, we made some progress with civil rights, we became much more aware of our environment, women started being listened to, the war did end and public awareness of alternative sexual lifestyles entered the public American consciousness. All good things for most sensible people, but it seems that all the small steps of progress came to a screeching halt in the early eighties. Maybe we just grew tired, perhaps it was too much too soon, could be the wind just changed. I don’t know, I have my own opinion, and it’s politically based, having to do with Reagan and the rise of the moral majority, but I wouldn’t bet my life on my opinion.

While the turmoil of the time was based in far left ideologies, I’m worried that the next wave of domestic terrorism is going to be from far right ideologies. At some point in time, I believe it’s going to happen. I’m not ignorant of the fact that there already had been far right protests and killings, I’m just of the belief it’s going to get worse. A lot worse. Why? It would be easy to blame Trump, but Trump isn’t the cause, being just a symptom of the disease. The root cause is what lives in the hearts of the individual, in how they perceive the world around them. Who they blame for all the ills in their lives. In that fact, there’s a lot of similarities to those protesters and domestic terrorist of my youth. Everyone sees injustice through their own lens, and they personalize it, needing to blame someone, somebody, and usually the wrong somebody. There is, however, a concrete difference in perception between yesterday and today. Fifty years back, people wanted better, better for all Americans, not just a select group. Fairness and equality were a concept for all Americans, not a select group.

What I see today is a much different concept, based in hate, blame and fear. What the far right wants, and I’m not sure if it’s even a white america, as much as it is, a movement to secure power as theirs alone, at the expense of immigrants, people of color, people with alternative lifestyles, and anyone who isn’t Christian. It’s not a logical concept for a Democratic Republic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not doable. It is! And I think they’re dead set on getting it, any means possible.

Patriotism Gone Wrong

‘Love for, or devotion to one’s country’ is a fairly simple definition for Patriotism. Yet with in those seven meaningful words lies a universe of interpretation. Your idea of love and devotion, are there limitations to love and devotion? Is it without question? Undying? What is country? The Government, the land, history, the people? All of it? For most Americans, our love for our country is rooted in our Constitution, our history. However you define the word, it’s more than a word, being a belief system. ‘We the people’ defines a dream, a collective belief for every word and sentence that follows. While collective, dreams are also personal. And changing. It’s one of the reasons our Constitution is a living breathing document. So too is our Declaration of Independence, with the  preamble, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’  Words that speak to personal truths, equality, personal religious beliefs and our basic human rights as citizens, and as human beings. All men are equal. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are our rights, our legacy, given to us by whatever creator we believe in. Rights expressed as truth that is evident to all.

This is where my patriotism lies, in ‘We the people’ and the preamble of the Declaration. My patriotism is not toward political party, our military, our president, our culture, our society, our media, but to each other, to my fellow citizens. It is a belief that regardless of who you are, where you’re from, who you worship, you’re sexual beliefs, or the color of your skin, we are equals, standing before our makers at the end of the day, naked and responsible for our behaviors. That each of us are entitled to our lives, to be free, to be happy.

We live in interesting times, heartbreaking times. Where patriotism is defined as loyalty. Not to a belief, but to party, to religion, to race, to culture, to people who are like minded. So much so, that there are those who betray American ideals for petty dictators, expressing their belief that patriotism is rooted in strength and oppression. Gone is the belief of equality, the dream of a better world quashed under the hollow words of subservience to the cause.

We have never been a perfect nation, we will never be a perfect nation. There will always be injustice, and inequality, there will always be wrongs, but as Americans, our history has been to resolve those wrongs. Yes, it has taken time. Yes, we have failed at times, and we continue to take our time, and we continue to fail on issues that need to be resolved. Time and failures are not reasons to cast one’s loyalty toward a given person, a particular party, or a foreign government. Doing so, refutes all that we have achieved as Americans, denying our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence.

Disposable People

I suppose the Holiday season is a good time as any to highlight how we treat our elderly and disabled. NBC news does that pretty well with this bit about nursing homes kicking elderly patients who can’t pay, to the curb. Who would do such a thing? 

If I walked in my front door and my mother was setting there in her wheelchair because she couldn’t pay her 10,000 dollar monthly obligation, I’d be more than just ‘pissed’. Truthfully, I can imagine that happening. My mom needs 24/7 care, and doesn’t know her ass from page three, and I say that lovingly. The problem is the system, it’s all for profit, even when the nursing home is non profit. Christ, they stripped her of her life’s savings, her life insurance policies, her stocks, and everything she owned that was of value, and now she’s eligible for Medicare. That said, my mom has it pretty nice, her environment is pleasant, she eats well, and the staff are attentive. More than I could offer here at home. I’m thankful she’s where she is. Like I mentioned, unfortunately, I can imagine a scenario where she’s evicted and dumped off on my front porch. I have a son with severe schizophrenia who lives in a group home. A few years back, he was discharged from a previous group home to live independently, with a support plan in place. A support plan that was woefully inadequate, and lead to his eviction. A support plan that was so not fucking followed through, that he ended up living with us for a year. Either that, or the Salvation army! I love my son, but that was a year of hell, emotionally and financially. He’s in a good place now, and like my mother, gets decent care, and the staff are dedicated. That brings peace of mind that you can’t buy. So to answer the question of, ‘Who would do such a thing?’. People that don’t care, staff that are untrained, and over worked, or don’t care, and organizations motivated by profit. Sons and daughters, family members too, carry some burden. Trusting their loved ones advocacy to their social workers, not knowing the laws, not caring enough to pay attention, being too submissive in having a say, all contribute. All the conditions make for the perfect nightmare, and when I say nightmare, try cleaning up your own mother when she’s shit all over the place. Been there, done that once, and nightmare doesn’t come close to that horror.

Life as I Know it

Being an old fuck, one would think I have a wealth of perspectives to weigh in on. You know, tidbits of wisdom, experience gained, things I’ve learned along the rocky road, but the soulful truth is, I don’t know shit, ain’t learned nothing to pass along, to make your life better, easier. I’m a bit troubled by that, ‘specially when I see all these life coaches out there, spouting words of wisdom to make the lives of their audiences better. I mean, like where did I miss the boat, more so, fuck, wheres the river? Maybe it’s because I’ve never listened to anybody, cuz I’ve always thought the only voice of value was my own. ‘Cept my wife, when she speaks, I listen. Listen like she’s God handing out the ten commandments. That doesn’t mean I’m a pussy, just means I’m smart enough to admit there’s one person in existence that’s smarter than this old man. When the skid-marks hit the underwear tho’, and I think back over the course of 60 some years, from a childhood lost in the dark jungles, to losing my virginity at 14, drug addled teens, a stint in the military, raising a family, and years of toil in the blue collar workforce, I can’t help but wonder, what the fuck! Yeah, it’s been alright, might even say it’s been good, even happy good. Somethings missing though. I used to be full of wonder and awe, used to believe life held some great mysterious answers that would be revealed along the way, but the only thing that’s been revealed, is that I’m going to end up like my mom, lost in time and space, unable to recognize God and her commandments. Was a time, a few decades back, when I thought humanity was on the cusp of something great, that all or achievements listed out in that book of good things  that humans have done, at the top of that list would be the creation of something that would bring the peoples of the world together. Turned out to be a shit show. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet. Thing is, it’s taught me the one thing I do know for fact, that the only voice of value is mine. Now I don’t know if that’s closing the circle, or even if realizing that, is a good thing, but it is all I have left. Not saying I’m smarter, better than anyone, cuz I know for a fact, there’s better, smarter out there, but damn, if I can find ’em, and that’s due to a difference between value, worth, and intelligence. Kinda like knowing a cup of Starbucks coffee ain’t worth the hundred they want. Interesting too, as I read back through these weighted babbling words of whitespace, is there ain’t no vale in them. I am struck, however, by the comment I made about once being filled with wonder and awe. If anything, I’m saddened by that loss, meaning I don’t have any dreams left, and I figure that’s because dreams are for the young, not for old foolish men like me. Foolish because chasing ’em, well.., you gotta be an old one to understand.

The Palpitations of Hate

I live in a place where Somalians are hated. The hate is palpable, in your face, and everywhere. I’d like to justify that hate by thinking it’s confined to a small, but vocal group of people, but I’m not so sure. Funny thing is, if I talk to one of my friends who fall into this gathering storm of distrust, they don’t see it as hate. They just don’t want them around, unless they  talk

 like they do, dress like they do, act like they do. They rage on-line, and in person, against all the free help the Somalian population receives, how they get free living, free medical, all without contributing a damn thing back. I don’t know how much of that is true, and it doesn’t matter, because facts don’t change anyones beliefs. If truth was a factor in our lives, people would pay attention, they’d take time to think about things, do a little research, to converse with people of opposing views, but it’s easier to bitch and complain, then to question one’s own feelings. An interesting truth is that most of the people who find fault in these new American immigrants are not bad people. Most people here are honest, hard working folk, and regular church goers, made more intriguing because most Somalians are here because of our churches. Being honest, hard working, and church going isn’t an excuse, nor does doing so clarify the problem. In fact, it confuses the hate, making it hard to understand. From a personal perspective, and that’s a perspective of one who grew up as an entitled American in third world countries, I don’t get it. The only answer I can come up with is fear, fear of change, fear of loss, fear of anything that’s different, fear of anything that threatens a way of life. And hates a passionate way to express those fears. Wrong, but passionate. There’s a thought too, that the degradation of an entire culture also has it’s roots in larger fears, fear of political instability and division, fear of financial stress, and fear of the crushing weight of life that at every turn seems to be more complicated. We work harder for less, the rich get richer, and we parse our pennies for a loaf of bread, all while screaming at our politicians for relief, only to find out once elected, they don’t seem to give a damn. We surf the net, see IG posts of those living the good life, and are left wondering where’s my vacay in the sun bleached sand. All said and done, I don’t believe people are born with hate and distrust in their hearts, I don’t believe people, at least most people, live their lives looking for someone to vilify, but when I look around, and I extend that vilification to society in large, including everything from racial tensions, to social injustice, immigration, and the political divide, I can’t help but believe that my community is but a symptom of a larger problem. One that’s not going away, one that’s going to get worse, and one that there’s a thousand answers for, but not a single solution.

The Silence and the Wind

When I look around the complicated American landscape of news, politics, and social media, and I do so more than I will admit, I find it exhausting. Tiring in the sense of an addiction, where I need something more fulfilling, more ambitious, like God and Jesus showing up in tandem to set the world afire. Not being particularly religious, I’d probably not pay attention to their facebook posts, unless they posted some pics of heaven and hell. That might set my world ablaze, until I started reading the comments. But that’s people for ya! All in disagreement, with their own opinions, each a raindrop in a thunderstorm, contributing to a flood of confusion, sweeping truth away with the receding waters. And that’s OK, I have dreams. If the world was ordered, and nice, and perfectly symmetrical, I’d have no need for dreams.

Dreams are powerful game changers. MLK and Kennedy had dreams, one unfulfilled, but still in motion. The other touched, abandoned, and left to the ages as a singular achievement. Neither forgotten, still relevant, foundations for the following days. America was built on dreams, our declaration was one of freedom from tyranny, our constitution, a single dream, coagulated from many voices, out of many, we are one. Dreams are essential to progress, the bedrock upon which the next step is planted, individually or collectively. We take the next step in our journey, because we dream of seeing the undiscovered country. We’ll never step on that soil, because dreams are fluid, being indicative of who we are. A million voices all screaming their differing dreams at any given time.

I remember when the night was silent, the only voices in my head was Cronkite’s, and my local paper. That silence was peaceful, the quiet of the night, and there existed no harbinger of future dreams turned inside out, of a people embroiled in a living nightmare. There is imperfection in silence, in that you do not hear the coming winds of change, being blind to your neighbor crying out in pain, to changing ideas, differing thoughts, and when those winds rush across and fill the void of silence, we’re left battered, and bruised, and dreaming of the silence we once cherished. Given the choice, I would appreciate the solitude of existing in a vacuum, tending the gardens of my personal dreams, and while there are those who reside in that choice, I’m conscious of the illusion of independence it gives birth to. A lonely, unfulfilled state of happiness where one sets on the same barstool, in the same bar, with the same bartender over the course of their lifetime. A life comprised of nothing greater than their own personal agenda, with no dialogue other than their own, no sense of thought for others than their own, no dreams larger than their own.

Few of my dreams have came to fruition, I’m not a well respected writer, my kids don’t have college degrees, my retirements going to be tough, I’m not popular on youtube, there’s no moonbase, and as a society, we haven’t ushered in a era of equality, peace and prosperity. While all that is bothersome, it’s more normal, unaccomplished dreams, that is, than those realized. I’d like to think, due to the failure of my own dreams, I’ve learned to listen to the voices in the wind, as agonizing as that landscape can be. I’ve been moved to research topics, to dig deeper for truth, to appreciate the views and beliefs of others, and I’ve been astonished at scientific achievements. I am continually in awe of the world I live in, even when I find myself tired, and confused with that world. I’ll take it over the void.

The Diversity of Fear

I spent the first 20 years of my life in the company of people of various ethnicities and differing nationalities. One would think that if I found myself today, alone in a room full of people of color, I’d be comfortable. I wouldn’t! Yet, there’s a contradiction, when I was 19, I found myself in a small Liberian jail cell, chicken wire walls and a five gallon bucket to piss in, with about twenty other Liberians, and it didn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I struck up a conversation with a one eyed thief sprawled next to me. The contradiction is familiarity. I had spent most of my youth in Liberia, most of my friends were Liberians. I recently attended a birthday party for a Liberian friends daughter, and I found myself comfortable in a room full of Liberians. If I were to find myself this afternoon in a room full of American blacks who were strangers, I’d feel out of place, and very uncomfortable in a way that would be different then if I found myself in a room full of white Americans. I’d like to attribute the difference to shared experiences, but I don’t have a lot of shared experiences with white people either. The explanation might be as simple as being most comfortable with people who look, and act as I do, shared life experience be damned. Regardless of who I find myself in a room with, I realize my discomfort. It’s not the fault of the people in the room, it’s who I am, for whatever reason. I own it, I don’t like it, but I accept it and I move on, refusing to let my awkwardness ruin my experience.

And that’s the thing about racism, it’s multi layered. I don’t consider myself racist, but why would I be uncomfortable in a room full of people of color?

I believe we’re all racist at some level, based upon fear of the unknown, the unexpected, or some perceived threat. It seems it’s easier to project those fears onto somebody that’s different then what you look like, onto somebody you think you don’t havemuch in common with. In fact, humans have a history, across many cultures, of utilizing that fear, of blaming others for their misfortune, or justifying their behavior. It seems to be rather easy for someone to step up to a podium and inflame a crowd of people.

Logically, I understand racism. Emotionally, not so much. Do we lack the introspection to dive, and it’s a shallow dive, to question our own discomfort, our unease, or our outright hate of a person who is different? I understand the fear of change, of the unknown, of what is different then the norm, but for the life of me, I cannot understand letting that fear dictate who I am as a human being, to the point where I would dehumanize another person, much less an entire race or culture.

Life as a Lie

There is an inherent need in all of us to be loved, to be acknowledged. For most of us, having that love and acknowledgment flow from our families and friends is enough. For others, families and 

friends just ain’t enough, you need the whole frickin’ world to bow down at your feet, even if you ain’t worthy. If you lack a sense of ethical scruples and moral fortitude, it’s actually kind of easy to do in todays reality. I’m not judging Jered Threatin for creating a godzillion million different social media accounts, or buying a bizillion likes, hearts and followers to create a wold famous person the world has never heard of, after all, his band got a European tour out of the foolishness. But then nobody showed up to hear his tunes, and now he’s world renown for the scam. As a struggling Youtuber myself, I’ve been tempted to go the dark route, but I’m actually fine with the love my three fans and family throw my way.

I write here as well

My Weeping Heart

child, a little girl of seven died of dehydration and shock, after walking several thousand miles to reach our border. Every single footstep north she made, along dusty trails, jungle paths, and broken concrete, was distance from extreme violence, hunger and poverty. There are those who are crying out, that this child died in American detention, and while that’s true, I will not pretend to tell you I know the specifics, I do not.

What I do know is far more disturbing. That instead of compassion, aid and support for a child walking on her own two feet, facing incredible odds of survival, our government chose instead to denigrate that child, to discourage that child, and yet she continued, one small dirty, dusty foot after another, defining a courage that a lot of my fellow citizens have lost. There was time when our courage was not overwhelmed with fear of others, of those different. We were brave enough to accept them, even in the face of danger. We understood the possibility that not only evil people would walk into our home, but also people would bring change into our home. Organized crime found it’s way here, as did Catholicism, we managed.

My heart cries when we look in the face of a child, and do not see potential, and instead see our own fear, our prejudice. We no longer see ourselves in the face of that small girl, we see a stranger, and we become strangers to the soil we live and breath in, every day of our life.