Being intelligent is a strange and sad thing. Strange in that your smarter than most, but sad in that you’re not smart enough to know when you’re intelligence is killing you. Now I’m not a particularly religious man, but I do believe our dominance over the wild comes with certain responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to act as caretakers for the world we share with other life forms. I’m guessing I’m in the minority with that, considering mankind has literally wiped out 83 percent of mammals and half the plant life. We are pretty good at keeping things around that we like though, like dogs, cats and cows, but that’s probably because we don’t do well in relationships and we like to eat. For a species that only makes up about a tenth of a percent of all life on earth, our dominance is leading us right down a path to a cold, barren world where we’ll all be left alone with no one but each other, and that’s a damn scary thought prospect.
Most people I know will spout off and snicker that they don’t give a crap what other people think of ’em. Course, it’s not true, cuz we all wanna be liked, and it’s painful when someone comes along and sets us straight to some truths about ourselves we don’t like.
This report is hard to read, in that it’s heartbreaking. There’s good stuff in it as well, but overall it lays bare the problems we face as a Nation. It’s worth reading, worth thinking about, and if it doesn’t piss you off, there’s just no hope.
If a butterfly flapping it’s wing can create a hurricane, then a Presidents silence can create a void filled with hate.
Two young men dead in Seattle, a young man dead in Maryland, A man in Times Square, dead. All a result of hatred, racial hatred, cultural hatred, religious hatred. Add in the incidents of racial violence across the nation, all in the last few months, my heart sickens. This is not who we are, not the country my father fought to defend. We are better.
But we are not.
Somehow, a 140 word tweet calling out the intolerance of hate is a poor reflection of our Presidents thoughts on the murder and mayhem we’re assaulted with. But it is not just our President, it is our leaders, of both parties, who have failed us. It is they, in their unrelenting posture to hate each other, they, who are intolerant of each other, who refuse to work together for our benefit, it is they who have built the foundation of hate and violence in America. They have set the example. They have created the vile atmosphere we live in.
As Truman said, however, the buck stops here. Trump has vowed, in his inauguration speech, to be the President of all the people, to be a unifying force.
Trump has consistently been divisive, and intolerant, and failed to speak out in a strong, unifying national voice. He communicates with America via tweets that are oblique, insensitive, yet fulfilling to his base. Trump has ridiculed, belittled, and lied to those he disagrees with, to those he fears, and to us, the American people. Instead of unifying, Trump has created an atmosphere comparable to when Black Americans were lynched without fear of repercussion, when it was okay to demean with words such as ‘wetback’. For a President who desires to unify a shattered Nation, his voice has been silent, his actions invisible. His voice allocated to a series of 140 characters every Saturday morning, available to 15 percent of the nation. The rest of us hear about his tweets, spun whatever way our news preferences dictate. Trump is not a great communicator, not even a good one. Trump is not able to parse a coherent voice because he himself is incoherent, evident in his hundreds of tweets that have muddied waters and created confusion.
Who knows where our President stands on anything? Denials of this, accusations of that, self pity, fake news, name calling, character assassination and outright lies comprise his communication style.
I can not accept this for my Nation.
I will not accept this.
I knew he had something in his thoughts, something he wanted to spit out. I stayed quiet, allowing him time. Funny, God needing time.
“Time is, always has been irrelevant, Rob.”
“How so?” I lifted my mug, let the coffee waft just under my nose, waiting.
“Time is nothing more than a tool. A tool to measure, and like any tool, when the job is done, the tool becomes irrelevant.”
I expressed my understanding with a simple “Ahhhhh” and took a long slug of my coffee.
“I’ve been thinking, Rob. Tell me, what are your thoughts on violence? Why was the species so violent?”
“Didn’t you give that to us as a basic survival trait?”
“I did, but I also gave you what I thought was the intelligence to spare the need for violent behavior when it wasn’t needed.”
God took a long slug of his own mug and looked out the café window. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was contemplating as the Universe sped by. He turned back to stare at me, “I can’t help but wonder if the violence stems from a rage and anger with me?”
I had been setting relaxed. Quickly, I furled my brow in a question, and sat my mug on the Formica, “Why would I be angry with you?” not quite understanding the question. The tank saw my cup resting and walked behind the counter for the decanter.
“Because most children foster an anger with their parents for one reason or another.”
“Most children outgrow that anger.”
God stroked his beard, nodded, “Perhaps you’re the child that never grew up.”
The battle ax poured my coffee, and interjected “For my two cents, I had a lot of fun mixing it all up.”
God smirked, “I suppose you did.” watching the waitress move on.
“Maybe it was something else, maybe it was just fear.” I said.
“A scared little species, afraid and angry at everything. I could almost buy that.” God again looked away from the booth, out the window where a giant nebula was spouting light years of beautiful, colorful gases as if she were a lighted water fountain in the dark night. God started tapping his forefinger in rhythm to some music only he could hear, than stopped and returned to the conversation. “But I don’t. Being angry and scared isn’t good enough to account for an entire existence of war, corruption, and abuse directed toward not only yourselves, but the entire universe. There were others who were born angry and scared, but they grew up, they learned how to conquer their fear, how to address their anger, but you, you I don’t understand.”
“Interesting, I’m not necessarily angry or scared at the moment. I don’t remember living a life full of anger and fear, God.”
“Then why all the violence? Were you just too lazy to do the hard work and talk about solutions?”
“Lazy? We spanned our galaxy, we built something, accomplished something. We had our times of peace, we weren’t all lazy, angry and scared.”
God tilted his head in playful astonishment, “I’d say that what you built was a legacy of violence, made all the more disturbing by your inability to figure out why you were so violent.”
A little swell of that anger twisted my gut, and God smiled at that. I grimaced, and forced it away.
“That wasn’t all that hard, was it?” knowing a residual turn of the twist remained. “Perhaps it was my fault, perhaps there just wasn’t’ enough in the realm of consequences for your violence.”
I looked at God, tilted my head in astonishment, and ended the topic, “I’ll buy that.”
God smiled, and the heavy set women with hair knotted in buns stood up from the table she was wiping down, and gave another two cents, “At least I’m not being blamed for everything.”
Americans are angry. Black Americans, American Latinos, Native Americans and of course, White Americans. The poor are angry, as are the rich and middle class, right along with second amendment and gun control advocates, pro-lifers, pro-abortionists, Southerners, Northerners, Christians, non-Christians, the Police, the old, the young, the general public, and just about everyone else in America.
We should be!
I am an old, not quite withered man of 58, and I am angry. I am also tired.
In my lifetime, I cannot remember a time when this Nation was not on a war footing. Wars; big, small and even inconsequential have been the thread of our existence.
What does a legacy of war say about this exceptional Nation?
An exceptional nation that honors our solders as great heroes, greater patriots in our media, in our entertainment media. Heroes that have given their lives to protect our freedom, yet our Veterans, with no better phrase to state it, are treated like crap by the Government they protect and by the very public which hails them as heroes. I’m angry about that, angry that the Veteran suicide rate is so fantastically high, almost one every hour, and angrier that few claim to even be aware of that fact. I’m angry that we have a civilian population of young and ageing vets that are damaged.
I’m angry at what we have become as a people, as a nation. I’m angry at what our priorities have become. I’m angry at those, without knowing who they are, who have driven a huge wedge between myself and my friends, and even family members. I’m angry at myself for allowing that wedge to exist, and I’m angrier at those who refuse to comprise, much less listen, and relish driving that wedge deeper into the soul of all Americans for their personal welfare, their personal agenda, and their personal view of what this Nation should look like.
As a white man that once woke uncomfortably up, the only white man in a cell, I get that racism exists. That’s on the individual, that feeling of being uncomfortable wasn’t the result of humans that were born a darker shade than I, it was because of my feelings, my fear, my sense of being uncomfortable.
We no longer ask why we are uncomfortable, we just blame it on minorities, the poor, the mentally ill, anyone who we can claim as a scapegoat. I’m angry that is who we are.
For a Nation of Christians, we fail miserably at being good stewards of our earth, good keepers of our brothers, in being compassionate of our judgement of others. Indeed, religion as a whole has become a divisive wedge, not bringing people together in brotherhood, but instead driving people apart, in horrible, terrible ways. I’m angry at what Christianity has become, fractured, divisive, political, fearful, and even, hateful. What was once a deeply personal experience has become fodder for those who wish to propagate their beliefs, interpreting the aged words of God as their own, personal belief system.
Indeed, we do not celebrate age, wisdom and experience in this Nation, we shutter our elders away in retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes, and most visit their mother or father on a holiday or birthday. Gone is the generational connection of having your elder living in your basement, or nearby. Gone is the honor of passing in your own home, your own bed. Gone is the tradition of inheritance, because the state, the government takes everything to pay for your parents lives lived in retirement. They will takes yours as well.
Just as we fear diversity, just as we do not celebrate our elderly, we fear and we ignore the mentally handicapped. They are shunned, outcasts and forced to live with a stigma that you not only don’t understand, but don’t want to understand.
Neither Christian, American, much less humanistic.
I was taught we take care of our own, clearly we do not.
Not only do we take care of our own, we’re not good stewards of our home, a living, breathing ecosystem in the cold darkness of space. While we’ve raised awareness, raising that awareness doesn’t do much if major corporations can continue to spill billions of oil into our oceans without serious consequence, if game and fishing industries can continue to hunt and fish our companion species into extinction, if shipping can continue to create a huge garbage dump of our oceans, all without serious consequence. Without even tagging the fact of global warming, we’re destroying our planet. Add in the dire warnings of climate change, our future looks dismal.
All of us have reasons to be angry. We live our lives in the midst of violence. Be it from our police, a mass shooting, a riot, a single murder or on the screen of our television, we almost relish it for the entertainment it brings us, until it is our son, our daughter, whose corpse we are invited to identify. We don’t even have the intelligence, the compassion, the honor or gall to even address the issue much less talk about it unless we’re blaming our neighbor for the violence. It’s always someone else’s fault.
I’m also angry that I bought into a lie my father preached to me as a young son. Work hard, be honest and you’ll find success. I don’t measure success by living paycheck to paycheck at 58. Yes, I made some bad decisions, and I take ownership, but I’ve held down a job since I was eleven. My wife, since finishing nursing school. We’ve both worked hard, decent jobs. I had almost 20 years with my last employer, and Theresa has 25 with hers. Never been poor, but this is the thing, when we get a paycheck, it’s gone, mostly to bills, groceries and benefits. We’re not poor, but we’re certainly aren’t going to have the golden years we once thought we would. Yea, I’m angry about that. Angry that I’m part of that vanishing, working class American.
There is a lot to be angry about. We are not the exceptional Nation that you believe we are. Yes, we might be full of piss and vinegar, we might beat our chests in triumph, we might bleed red, white, and blue but none of that makes us exceptional to anyone else, except those doing the shouting how great we are.
Greatness is born of respect, and we lost that when we made the collective, National decision that to be feared is exceptional, that to be respected is to be minimal.
There’s a lot to be angry about. A lot left unsaid.
You and I are inherently selfish in the sense that we hold onto our personal beliefs, and are unwilling to even contemplate that what we believe in, is wrong. We argue, we defend, fight and get angry over our beliefs. Somewhere in the process we manage to destroy relationships, criticize friends and family and secretly foster a desire to humiliate those whose beliefs are in contradiction to ours.
Whatever your belief, there is little self awareness or reflection in your personal belief system. It’s easier to argue, and to point out flaws in another’s beliefs.
I can just imagine your slightly raised and furled brow embracing your frown, as you think ‘Ass, who are you to question my beliefs…’
It’s not about me questioning the validity of anyone’s belief. It’s about an inability to ask appropriate questions which aborts personal growth. That personal growth begins with your realization that your belief systems was given to you, given by your parents, your friends, your Sunday school teachers. You made no great spiritual journey to find your faith, most of you picked it off the ancestral tree. I get you’ve read at least portions of the Bible, and some of you have read the entire book, perhaps several times. But have you read the Koran, the Torah, the Dharma? Have you read, researched the history of the Biblical texts or even the history of Christianity outside of the Hollywood drivel?
I have yelled this from the rooftops for a generation, and I’ll continue to do so, there is a distinct difference between Spirituality and Religion. Religion comes with the trappings of community, idols and directives. Religion is established. Spirituality is personal, simple, nonconformist. Spirituality is open-ended, freewheeling.
Can you be both? Sure, but while you can be spiritual without the conformity of Religion, you can not be religious without a sense of your own spirituality, and that’s the closing of the circle that I’m trying to point out.
If you lack that sense of spirituality that bought you to your religion, you’ve put aside your right to personal growth for how can you grow in your belief system without understanding how you came to believe in it? I have some good, Christian friends who I respect deeply for their faith. I have some good Christian friends I do not, and there seems to be too many of them, who spout Gods words as if they were the chosen prophets.
Originally published January 10, 2015
I have never enjoyed writing, or talking about religion. Mostly, because I believe there is something more to our existence that what we wake up to every morning. I attribute our existence much as Ellie does when she claims, ‘if there ain’t nothing more, than what a waste of space’. While the context is a bit different, the thought is the same. By saying this, I simply believe that if there’s nothing greater than the human sepcies in all existence, what a waste! I also need you to understand, that I believe religion is personal, that I don’t have the right to judge another’s personal beliefs. At least so far in my misbegotten life.
That is changing, and I’m thinking I should have started judging long ago.
I have always given all religions the benefit of the doubt. I have always considered the good religion does in any given community; in bringing a community together, the charitable work, the support, the comfort offered in trying times. I still, and will forever respect that, but I can no longer keep quiet about the hate and pain that religion brings, intentional or not, to us who do not belong to organized religion.
Understand that I believe religion seeks to control, always looking to expand it’s power base. Like rape, which is more about power and control, religion seeks just that, power and control over my life. Not to enhance my life, but to justify my existence, and to condemn by way of guilt and accusation. Your god tells me to have faith in your god, not in myself. My belief tells me to have faith in myself, and in others.
You see, I believe in God, just not your God! For you, that’s not good enough, You need me to believe in your god, and that’s why I can no longer stay silent. Your religion is destroying humanity, ruining our world, stealing our chance to be more than what we are at this point in time. That is shameful.
Be you an Evangelical snake biter, a Mormon, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, know that I am not like you! I do not claim any right in the name of God, Allah or Buddha. If my God wants to claim that right, my God does not need me to claim that right. God can go it alone, God is more than capable. You probably don’t get that though, because if you did, you would understand what I’m writing about, but instead you’ll go on a rant defending how it’s your right to protect your faith.
The irony? The Bible, the Veda, Torah, Quran and most religious texts are not bad texts. Familial with the Bible, I can faithfully say that if everyone lived by the basic tenets of the Bible, the world would be a much better place. That isn’t the case, why is that?
Because we don’t think for ourselves, we don’t have faith in ourselves. We need to ask others for guidance and there are those among us who have figured that out, and they have led their lambs to slaughter others, and to be slaughtered themselves. Religion demands that you follow, that you not ask questions.
You are taught wrong.
The murders in Paris didn’t have to happen! They didn’t happen because someone was offended over a cartoon of their Prophet. They happened because the religious leaders of their religion didn’t speak out loud enough, in a unified voice, against violence, against hate, aganst terrorism. It’s not a lot different here in America when religious zealots say stupid things and our religious leaders stay silent. C’mon, Pat Robertson has said some pretty stupid things and so have others, without consquence.
If justice is blind, than religion is ignorant. So much so that those who commit their lives to their god become blind and uncaring to the words of their god but not so much as to their spirtual leaders. In fact, they entrust the words spouting out of their religious leaders as the repeated word of their god, never bothering to ask or question.
Enlightment begins with the first question!
Originally published Feb. 22 15
Isis, worshiped as the ideal mother and wife, protector and patroness of nature and magic, was the Egyptian Goddess married to Osiris. It was Isis who restored Osiris to life with her magical powers after he had been murdered. I find it a bit ironic, actually, a bit…weird that our worlds first and apparently formidable terrorist organization has taken her name. Certainly, there’s no clear identification between an ancient Egyptian Goddess and a 21st Century terroristic army. Except location.
Yea, the middle east. That place of shifting sands, despair, conflict, war, poverty, mystery, Lawrence of Arabia, Gertrude Bell, regional tribalism, nomads, and oil. A vast empire of wealth and desolation that the west has tried to own, to control, to organize in some form and in some fashion for over a thousand years.
Religion, wealth, culture, power, and worldview in the west are vastly different than what they are in the East and it would be easy to ascribe those differences for the problems, and potential future problems the West will find in dealing with Middle East. They would be wrong. In a very real way, the modern horrors of Middle Eastern Terrorism has it’s roots in a simple word, or lack of it.
That perspective is also vastly different here in the U.S. than it is in Europe. Europe has nevertruly respected the people of the Middle East, inserting their dominance over the ages, carving out their own colonial territories and nation states by drawing lines on any given map for territorial and strategic reasons. After all it was just sand. It was their right. Modern Israel was born of just such ignorance. When we Americans got into the game, we pretty much followed suit, but our motivations were a bit different. We saw dollar signs everywhere, and we were smart enough to know, what England knew, that oil was to be the currency of tomorrow. Our total lack of respect was evident in installing the Shah of Iran. We here in the West, have screwed the Middle East over, and over, and over again, as recently as Bushs war in Iraq.
With all the interference in the Middle East, they are few, if any success stories to be proud of. There are horrible abuses of power, uneven economic disparities, religious intolerance, political divide, sexism, tribal and regional warfare. Things, we here in the west rail against on a daily basis. Is it so hard to understand the hate Isis has for the west? Is it an excuse for their barbarism? No!
Those are the two questions the West must face in countering the growing threat, and those two questions must be framed in the context of respect.
To counter Isis and to frame that respect has nothing to do with acknowledging Isis and everything to do with our allies in the west, and our allies in the Middle East. Respect has nothing to do with power, money, weapons and installing regimes and petty dictators who serve our desires while working against us in the back, dusty streets of Casablanca. The respect I’m writing about is transformative, transformative in the sense that it’s a game changer, a global game changer.
I believe that most people who live in the Middle East are not all that different than you or I. That said, I believe that many in the Middle East look upon us in the West with the same lack of moral and ethical respect as the political and human lack of respect we give them. We are viewed as outsiders, and we are. We are viewed as untrustworthy, and we have been. We are viewed as greedy, and we have been. We are viewed as being unfair, and we have been. We have been viewed as thieves, and we have been. The west has stolen their history, their land, their wealth and their political independence.
We can send an army ten million strong and crush Isis, nothing will change.
Start changing some of their views of the West, stop treating their land as ours, their wealth as ours.
Our President is correct in refusing to tie the barbarism of Isis to religion. Their behavior is so far removed from any religious precept, that to even call them Islamic extremists is dangerous and condescending, in that we give them value, and acknowledgment for that which they are not. No more than the snake biting evangelists who are self perceived Christians.
The problems in the Middle East are larger than the problems of Isis, and we can not fix them through the use of force. Isis is a symptom, and while in the short term, we’ll address that symptom, the root cause will remain.
I believe a coalition of Middle Eastern Nations with limited western support is the only answer, and after the threat has been diminished, there needs to be a vast reduction in military aid across the board to all nations in the region. There then needs to be a Middle Eastern summit, including Israel and Palestinian Representatives to address and solve the long standing issues. The West should stand back and watch, facilitate, but not participate. And we should leave our agendas at the door.
We might not like the outcome, we might lose some friends, we might lose some corporate profits but with Islam mainstreaming through out Europe and beginning to here in America, we don’t have a choice. And it’s the respectful thing to do.
The alternative is global warfare, that no one will win.