A Path Forward

Minnesota has a unique political history with the Democratic party. While many Democrats in Minnesota identify with Democrats, we’re known as the DFL. I grew up believing the principals of the Democrat Farmer Labor party, I still do.

In the early 1920s, the Farmer Labor movement became a powerful political force earning State legislative victories over Democrats and Republicans with their simple message. ‘Agrarian reform, protection of farmers and unions, public ownership of our natural resources, utilities, railroads and a belief in social security legislation’.

Ideals that benefited people’s lives. Ideologies that common folk could understand.

Not only was the Farmer-labor party successful in Minnesota’s legislative seats, from 1921 to 1944 this party elected 3 Governors, 4 United States Senators, and eight United States Representatives.

In 1944, with Hubert Humphry being instrumental, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor party merged with the Democratic party becoming the Democratic Farmer Labor Party of Minnesota.

Today’s Republican party have all but merged with the Tea Party, Libertarians, the Alt-right, and far right Evangelicals giving them a powerful, political voice that drowns out Democrats, Progressives and Liberals.

There’s a history lesson here, and we should learn from it.

Democrats should ask themselves, ‘Why are people who hold our values, our belief in unions, in our environment, in social justice, turning from us, and seeking representation in third parties such as the Progressives, the Green Party, the Independence party, and even Libertarians?’.

We should ask also ‘Why does America have one of the lowest voter turnouts of any modern nation?’.

I don’t have to parse the questions into a thousand data points to find the answer. It’s there, clear, concise.

People don’t vote, simply because there’s nothing to vote for. Nothing new, nothing challenging, nothing that speaks to their future. Not because they don’t care, not because they’re lazy, but because they have heard it all before, with no real-world results.

The Progressive party will continue to grow, as will the Green party, the Constitutional party, the many state Independent parties. So will the Tea Party in some form and fashion, and the Libertarian party, and as they grow, the Republican Party will grow, and become much more of a force than they are now.

At face value, the Democratic Party will claim that they echo the voice of Progressives, that they believe in public ownership of our natural resources, that the Party believes in our labor force, that corporations have grown too large, their influence too great, but if that were all true, Bernie Sanders would have been our nominee.

And here’s the rub, rank and file Democrats, believe in all those things. People in general believe all these issues. Yet, half our nation will not vote.

For the Democratic Party to become sustainable, they must do more than echo repeatedly their concern for issues. They must reach out to people with third party affiliations, bring them into leadership positions, incorporate some of their platforms into theirs, cut ties with corporate donors that contribute to both political parties, and they must learn how to message their belief systems beyond simply attacking Republicans.

While we live in a different world than those of the 1920s and the Farmer-Labor party, some things don’t change. The need to change, the ability to change, the desire to change are always with us.

Politics are, after all, always rooted in being local.

www.robpaxton.me

Along a Rural Road

I was driving back from Duluth yesterday, late afternoon. The sky was blue, the rural two lane lined with burgeoning shades of spring green. Small farming communities came and went faster than the elderly old farmer who I was stuck behind, and couldn’t safely pass. I grumbled at the slow pace, deciding I needed a break, and gas. Like any farming community, the next gas station was there, right along side the road, the pumps standing isolated not in pavement, but dry, dusty gravel that my explorer crunched and crushed over, rolling to a stop shrouded in dust.

The convenience store was small, old, and as I walked in there was a group of young adults, farm kids, gathered around the front counter, talking with the tall women who was taking their money. I made my way to the bathroom, and by the time I walked up to the counter, the kids were gone, the store was empty. I gave her my credit card, and while it seemed like an eternity to verify the card, I didn’t mind, I had a nice conversation with a delightful Indian women.

Not a Minnesota Indian. A women from India. East India.

In the middle of nowhere, Minnesota. In the middle of white, Lutheran, Christian, German, Scandinavian farmland.

I do not know this woman’s life story, don’t know if she owned the store.

I do know this, her presence in that small town store exemplifies what America is all about. What we are capable of as a people, as a nation. I love diversity, I love the fact that diversity is creeping into our smaller communities. And it’s a creeping feeling that some people don’t like, the kind of person who hasn’t ventured far outside their own state, much less county. The kind of person who probably has a twenty some year relationship with their bar stool. Might be I’m being somewhat obnoxiously judgmental about some folk, but the thing is, that’s been my experience.

Not a lot of things piss me off, but ignorance shaded in stupefying knowledge usually sets me down the path of obnoxious judgement. The kind of ignorance where a stool sitting, beer drinking man shrouds his ignorance in world affairs and cultures, with knowledge gained from today’s media. The kind of ignorance with out thought, without experience, that leads to some universal knowledge about the world far removed form where they sit. They have become experts in the world, because they have been told about the world. Never studied it, never experienced it, never thought more than half past the news, about the rest of the world, but they are a god given expert about the world.

And that’s why I love America. As ignorant as we can be, as self centered and isolated in our thinking, our humanity, our tolerance nullifies all that. With every Indian woman that works in some dusty rural gas station, change happens. She changes us, she makes us better. Better people, a better country.

 

 

 

A Common Man

common-manThere was a time when I thought I would change the world. Not could, but would, as in that was my sole purpose for being born. For a very long time, I believed in destiny, in fate, in God and in myself. So much so, I thought myself somewhat special. Not special in the sense that I was better, but special in that I had a specific job to do. Specific and special, assigned by God (or perhaps by aliens but that’s a different story) to make the world a better place.

I’ve always had a personal view of how the world should be laid out, along political, social, cultural and religious veins and the relationship of each, to the other, and to the body. Always thought my ideas were somewhat solid, even if they were somewhat simplistic but I think it’s a fair and substantive question to ask if a Nation should seek respect before power, if belief proceeds needs and determines ritual, if education enhances compassion, and in what way?

30 years ago, I really believed that by the time I was in my fifties, we’d have a moon base, moved on to Mars, beaten back poverty, experience the beginnings of a spiritual awakening as well making inroads into prejudice.

I guess I kind of figured the human race didn’t need my input. That you’d all be alright, that you’d get to where you need to be with out my help. I kind of haven’t worried about humanity for the last 30 years as I went about raising my kids, working and having fun but a funny thing happened the other
day.

I woke up!

I realized I really don’t like the world we’ve made for ourselves simply because I know we can do better, a hell of a lot better. Thing is, I’m a dreamer, and I do happen to believe that dreams do come true, but I’m also smart enough to understand, that they don’t come true without hard work, sweat, hard faith and diligence.

Maybe my destiny is still in play? May be, that I’m not a common man?

And You?

Reflections in a Decision

If I’m asked to define my character, who I am in one word, I’d use the word reflective. I like to think, I like to ponder. Now, before you assign a cool thought to that, being reflective has it’s drawbacks. Sometimes, I find it hard to let things go. Some things harder than others. The things that are hard, are those that I am passionate about, those things that I care deeply about. It also has been my experience that these are things I have little or no control over. The solution is, I write. That’s how I
exert control or at least, I’m able to say, I’ve done what I can. Often, it’s not enough.

The thing is, thats life. You don’t have a say in everything but every once in a while you have a responsibility to say something,  about something and when that time comes, you need to do so or flounder in your nights sleep wishing you had. Before doing so can create many a sleepless night, should I say something, or remain silent? As your wife stares at you between pillows, and tells you to let it go.

I’ve been down that road, and it kills you. I learned to solve it by making a quick decision, accepting the decision, admitting it if it was the wrong decision, and moving on. Not complicated.

The single reason you lose sleep over a decision is simple this. Fear! You worry how that decision will be perceived? Fear based in lack of self confidence.

Before you formulate any understanding of what I just said, think about that self confidence thing for a bit? What do you think I mean by that? Being self confidant isn’t about being in’ your face Bitch, I ain’t never wrong’. It’s about being confident to being wrong and correcting your mistakes.

If you can’t understand that your decisions have implications beyond your life, and that if your decisions impact others in a negative fashion, it’s probably the wrong decision. Not always, but usually. The question you should always ask, ‘Does my decision benefit a thing or a person?

If you find yourself defending a lot of your decisions, you might want to start thinking about how you make decisions. I get it, in the corporate world, your decisions have to benefit the corporation, but benefiting the corporation should be benefiting  those who work for the corporation. Unfortunately, that’s a by gone thought.

Truth is, most decisions you make are based on how you will be viewed. Please, don’t argue! It’s simply true of 99.9 percent of you. Make the safe choice, the easy road out. You make the choices your boss and your friends expect you to make and you are, for the most part, fine with that.

The problem is, it’s usually the wrong choice. Some of you who lose sleep over the problem, well, there’s still hope for you. Most of you just make the decision and nod off to sleep, thinking you’ve done a good and honorable thing, pleasing your friends and your boss. What you’ve really done is maintain the status quo, and failed to grow as a human being.

There are a lot of routine, day to day, minute to minute decisions we all make. In our professional lives as well in our personal spheres. Most of them require little thought, many are redundant. But there are many that create heartache for yourself and others, and those require reflection. More so, they require the ability to be able to think them through. Doing so without prejudice requires a bit more than just thinking about them. They require reflection.

 

Police Town, USA

I believe the only way to begin this piece is with a disclaimer. I live in a small town,  a bedroom community of St. Cloud that has a population of some 50,000 people. The Mississippi is what sepposter1arates us for the most part. Here on my side of the river, there’s a small town feel where everyone knows you and your neighbor. You lose that the minute you cross one of the four  bridges. Here in Sauk Rapids, I’ve met several of the police officers, worked with one, even consider Troy a friend.

Going back a bit further, as a young stud in the mind blowing sixties and seventies, I was influenced, and influenced deeply by the mantra that cops were pigs. I believed that  based on my experience growing up in Brainerd. Some of the officers back in the day  hated us, and by us, I mean anyone that was 18 or younger. Some of the names are remembered with vile. I remember my sister, a Jesus freak at the time, being taken down to the ground for no reason other than walking across a park. I, myself was harassed, arrested and charged several times on bullshit. As the years passed, one of the most hateful, ended up paying a high price for his behavior and another simply grew up, to the point where ten years after the fact, we were able to talk like sensible adults (and yes, I grew up as well).

Today, I have nothing but respect for our police officers. They put up with shit that I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. They are way underpaid, always under public scrutiny and always second guessed and 99.5 percent of them are decent people. Hardworking, with families, like you, like me.

But something is wrong!

Police brutality is spiraling out of control. In 2006, a report was issued by the United Nations Human Rights committee that stated plainly, that after 911, our war on terror  “created a generalized climate of impunity for law enforcement officers, and contributed to the erosion of what few accountability mechanisms exist for civilian control over law enforcement agencies. As a result, police brutality and abuse persist unabated and undeterred across the country.”

I’m fighting to take issue with that report and I’m finding it harder to do so as I do more research. First and foremost there are not a lot of verifiable statistics, believed to be because most instances of police brutality go unreported. I’m also struck by my own observation that since 911, Police forces seem to have become militarized.

The Rise of Technology
With the advent of the surveillance state, the police are finding out, that they too are being watched, even in the security of their own work environments. Officer Michael Hart could tell you more about that. So could Deputy Keller, or Corrections Officer Graham. Than there’s the 16 LA County deputies who thought they were safe in their own private world. Mind you, these are instances that happened in their own police stations, jails and the security of their own.

We too have Cameras.
The average American Joe and Josephine  are finding out quickly that their voice is amplified by pictures, and even more so by with moving pictures. Our smart-phones are providing us with an unprecedented voice we’ve never had before, and we are learning how to use that voice, effectively! We’ve came a long way from Rodney Kingand the California Highway Patrol can attest to that.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know there’s a growing problem and it’s evident, evident as hell.

There is a Thread.

 

Cosmic_dust_clouds_in_reflection_nebula_Messier_78Is it believable that our greatest fear is to be forgotten? That after our lives have ran their course, traveled well past our children and theirs, that our names, our deeds, our possessions and their worth, are nothing. That all that we are, will be captured by a bleached tombstone, setting alone in the company of the dead. How many generations will pass before our words, our deeds and our aspirations are unknown. How many before even our names bring a question as to who we were?

There is a loneliness, a desperation in this fear, isn’t there? Despite the truth, we walk the path and hardly ever stop to think of the implications. Perhaps because if we dwelled too long on the worth of our lives, we’d descend into a chaotic nightmare simply because the truth and fear of being forgotten so soon after our lives is tragic and unbearable.

Yes, we live on by what we pass to our children, but will your great grandchildren know what you have given them. Only in the most transient terms, as you understand what your great grandparents gave to you.

The question is one of purpose, correct? The eternal quest to know why we are here and to consider that we are so soon forgotten, calls that concern to the forefront. How can there be purpose in our lives when no one even bothers to think about our existence. Indeed, it is not our physical remains that become dust in the wind, it is our very lives, our actions and aspirations that fall prey to the predation of time, and worse, indifference.

Or do they?

Religion has given us a belief in our sustained value, that there is a purpose. An unknown but individual purpose to be revealed in our afterlives, that claims, regardless of our religious beliefs, that there is worth to our existence. We take solace in that but in the recesses of our thoughts, we question.

I don’t have a lot of faith in organized religion! I do believe in something majestic, though. Some ‘thing’ greater, something wondrous that soothes my soul. That there exists among all of us, a thread that weaves all that we are, all that were and will be, together into a universal tapestry that serves purpose and gives value to individual worth. Consider a woven garment? When in the process of being wove, there is potential for worth. When completed, each thread serves purpose, and contributes. The analogies are numerous, the implications grand.

Each thought, every action that we manage is a threaded needle that weaves itself through our heart, around our soul, and penetrates deep into our minds, weaving our moment of existence together with all of humanity, before and after. You and I are as physically and spiritually aware of those who came before us as those are that come after. Their names and their faces are there, you just need to remember, to look once in a while.

There are indeed shared experiences dating back to our first ancestors, of the same planets, the same moon, the same Earth, the same questions and concerns. These things are the needle and our lives are the thread. We are one and we are the same.

Find the quiet place in your thoughts, close your eyes and allow the darkness to open and the faces and lives will come simply because they cry out to your fear, you are not forgotten.

59

I’m late. It’s in my genes, to be late. Some things never change. Some things always change, even when they stay the same.

I was laid back in my gravity chair, the milky way a comfortable blanket with the snap, pop and crackle of my fire at my feet. I searched the heavens, looking for nothing. Looking for everything. Searching for something I knew I would never find.

Bullfrogs throated deep luscious croaks from the water’s edge, a mosquito feasted, and the heat of the fire licked at my bare feet.

Lazily grasped in the cusp of my hand, a medallion tethered around my neck. Strange, hardened and full of symbols, the gold harkened to an old scrap of paper that sat in my lap. Both full of mysterious origins and unknown meanings.

Together, the aged paper and the old medallion meant something, perhaps pointing to answers I have been looking for, perhaps they were meant to lead me astray. Perhaps they were meaningless. Perhaps, God himself was having fun.

A breeze swept across my parcel of land, setting the sumac and birches to sway, the fire licked a bit closer to bare skin. Across the way, I watched a large dark, foreboding mass exit from the tree line.

I watched. The bear hesitated. A deer, full velvet rack emerged, and silently came my way. The bear, huffed behind.Image1

I took in the power of nature without the realization that I was, always had been part of that power. If there’s a lesson civilized, and intelligent souls need to learn, is that our civilized ways, and learned beliefs don’t separate our lives from the power of nature. Those things might diminish our natural relationships, but they do not cleave us from who we are, who we were.

So ingrained with the fascination of new company, I didn’t bother to bring my old tattered gravity chair to a setting position until both deer and bear had made their way to my fire. The deer, wet and rank, sought me out as I lie under the great blanket, his moist nostrils taking in the smell of my feet, up my flannels, to my waist. He turned his head momentarily when he caught a breath of cheap tequila and golden beer, and then nudged his warm face against mine, lying with mine, becoming a part of my existence for a moment, and then in the second of time, bounded off into the woods behind.

The bear made no such gestures of introduction. Awkwardly watching its companion, that animal remained behind the fire, and now that the four-legged creature was gone, the bear raised up, thrusting i20140928_003201ts large dark body to the sky, obliterating the milky way.

And with a large, deep throated grumble that turned to a rumbling growl, the animal tore the beautiful night asunder. Releasing the night sky back to my fire smoked eyes, I heard the bear behind me, chasing it’s strange friend into the night with low huffs and grunts matching the sound of huge paws sinking into the hard soft grass.

I wondered. A thread, less, a wisp, of cloud threaded the stars.  A shooting star from the south, overhead to the north, dissolved. A plane traversing the boundaries.

A crack of thunder! I reeled, realizing the night was fading. Not into day, but into a starless night, a cloud fueled rage of water and wind. The transition was abrupt, as if I had nodded off. My fire raged larger as if I had fed the flames to protect me form the cold wet reality. I know longer bothered to question the sense of reality as I lie back, my face pelted by rain, my body rocked with the wind, where overhead the sumac, birches and maples rocked.

I barely saw her wave from across the way, but she was there. Tall, slender, naked and blond with her large almond eyes. A dream I could have easily thought as I moved from one world to the next.

The first morning sun took me in amazement as I struggled out of the chair amidst the embers of a fire that had seen better days. Cool and crisp, the air had a moist feel, a wet smell, yet dryness permeated everywhere. I managed to stand up, over the dead fire, and noticed the prints in the fireburnt sand around the fire pit.

I smiled. Some dreams are more than others. I turned to my old, weather beaten camper, and became transfixed.

Some daring thief arrived in the black night and with a wide brush, laid waste to my little home in brightly hued colors of glyphs, symbols and maps. I smiled, walked once around the perimeter taking it all in, then walked inside and made a pot of coffee.

57      58

Upon A Stone

on-the-rocks-1192354-640x960Given grace that I could  rest
my head along this road,
I would not.

Given chance to shed a tear
along this winding journey,
I would not.

Given a moment to ponder
along this meandering path,
I would not.

Given the will to pause
along my way
I would not.

For upon trails end,
I will rest, I will cry,
ponder and live again.

Given grace to question
while I sojurn,
I would ask,
ask of whom?

For in all my steps
not one for me,
each for another,
even one for thee.

In my travels
I have found
there never comes
that time to be

Yet comes a time
before me now
where all such things
that come and go

Cry out to rest, to pause,
to ponder.

So upon a stone
aside a road,
a well traveled path,
my soul does set
eternally waiting

for death’s sunset.

Human Nature, and the way of the Beast

There is an old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

The truth is nothing really ever changes, does it? Perhaps in the sense of time, space, and location it might seem that things change, but they do not. Mountain ranges rise, thrusting their peaks skyward in a powerfull display of earthly ego but these peaks erode and wither away to dust and to some long term observer, they would conclude a semblance of change, and they would be wrong. Those peaks will apear elsewhere, in some form in some fashion, in some place.deeptht

Human civilization is no different. Rome rose, collapsed, rose again, collapsed and has now risen again, only to be on the verge on eventual collapse.

Human behavior does not seem to change, and while it may contribute to what we see as change in the short viewpoint, in the long term it all becomes the same. Because I can plant a tree, and see that tree bear fruit, that tree and it’s fruit, is not much different than that of a tree planted a thousand years ago.

Change is an illusion!

The stage remains, the characters remain the same, only the actors change and their behavior remains no different, they play their roles no different than their predecessors.

While we have physically evolved, the emotions, thoughts and belief systems have change very little. While I’d agree to an argument that religion has changed, I’d add that ‘change’ has only bothered to effect a small number of people. The need for religion has not changed. The overlying arc of who we are as humans has not changed, and cannot change.

The capabilty to do so is beyond us, or hidden from us for some reason.

Take something as destructive as war. You’d think that after the first war some several thousand years ago, people would have got together and started talking about a better way to solve their differences. It didn’t happen then, and it won’t happen now.

Why? Because power; the need to control, to subject, is to be proven right, is to be given worth, and all those things are powerfull emotions humans cannot control. It is worth taking the chance to lose everything so that you may gain everything if you prevail. It is a need saturated deep in all of use and it is unchanging, and it is the beast in us

Government by Fiat

gburgWe, the American people have become something that I am not very proud of. For a Nation that once held it’s individuality, sense of fairness, and Democratic process in high regard, we all should be ashamed. We no longer possess those attributes. Worse, there are many who accuse, who hate, who divide while the rest of us just set back and accept it. We have become a nation that rails against itself, against our government, against ourselves while serenading the overt greed of capitalism. Greed is indeed, good. No matter what camp you fall into, you’re part of the problem. Shout and deride as long, and as hard as you can, or set back quietly, giggle and laugh, or turn your head in shame, we are all the problem.

We are ravaged by war, our lives warped by fear, our thoughts manipulated and we have learned to hate our neighbors, to trust no one who is different. There are those who believe this is exceptional.

I do not.

Many find escapism in their self perceived luxury; the ability to fish, to shop, to drink, to travel. Those luxuries come at a cost, a cost that demands others have to pick up the tab.

Democracy is based in patriotism, patriotism is based in participation. Participation is based in knowledge. Without participation, you cannot be a patriot, you cannot have a democracy. What you have left is rule by Fiat, a government that has no intrinsic value, no substance to produce working infrastructure, no will to secure it’s foreign policy, no need to pursue equality and goodwill. The government has become secondary to the needs of our global Corporations and Military powers. The populace is left in a state of perpetual fear, endless confusion,and mass ignorance of facts. Knowledge is replaced with the singularity of thought provoking headlines, attentions are held by celebrity gossips and social media rumors and misdirection turns our attention from facts.

We have become fat, lazy, intolerant, and stupid. So much so that we look in our mirrors and believe we see the rugged, individual American our fathers and our mothers were.

We are far from that!