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.

 

 

 

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.

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!

Terrorism Redux

(or how the republican leadership is fucking it all up.)

 

Republican politiciatimens in Washington are wrong on just about every issue I, or anyone can imagine.

How can that be?

How can any sensible thinking person not want to talk about the violence in this country?

Not talk about healthcare? Or the mentally ill? Or have a real conversation about immigration? Our failing education system? Even the political process itself which is being removed from the people’s hands?

I don’t get it!sla

Yes, I’m concerned with what is happening in the Middle East, with ISIS, with terrorism in general, but the thing is, none of this shit is anything new. Terrorism was a global mainstay back in the day. ‘Red Army’ anyone? As in Red Army Faction, Japanese Red Army, Red Brigade, Baader & Meinhof, Black Panthers, KKK, SLA, Munich, PLO, and Hijackings galore.

Yep, the 60s, 70s and 80s were a lot different.

Not wantedso much so.

For Republican Politicians who want to radicalize their own party against Muslims, against Islam, and make no mistake, that is what they are trying to do, you’re not getting the message, your fear mongering is helping those who seek to destroy our way of life. In fact, Republicans are doing more to destroy our valued freedoms than any Terrorist ever could.

Really, don’t you want to snuggle and cozy up to the Donald with all the love and freedom he exudes?

The truth is, Terrorism has been around a long time, in a lot of different forms, and it’s not going anywhere soon. We cannot live in fear, we cannot distance ourselves from the other troublesome little details in our lives like income inequality, gun violence, poverty, healthcare and education.

Republicans are doing just that, distancing their party from the problems we face, and in their place, creating a brand of citizens who are scared shitless, and they are wrong in doing so!

The Handiwork of Man


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With summer quickly receding, I find myself relishing the past few months of late moon-lit nights, campfires, friends and quiet conversations. I have one, maybe two weekends left as leaves are starting to drop, trees turning, My youngest has started school. On a much more personal level, I’m looking to the future, a future that isn’t so bright, but one that I’ve come to understand, I own.

Not all businesses succeed, and I’ve always known that but I’ve never believed that I would fail. I took a chance, I lept and fell short. I took a chance and I failed, it’s that simple.

There’s a new beginning, a new adventure that’s about to start, the genesis will be born of pain and suffering no doubt, but in the long run, it’ll be ok.

When I look around at what’s happening in our world and I think of my particular life’s experiences and journeys, I’m struck by an indelible sadness. Life has not been particularly good to me but neither has life been good for most of our population. By good, I do not meant the financial security that many enjoy, rather the security of what ever we value in our lives. Our loved ones, our friends, our God, our morals and personal ethics, for those, are those things of importance when we take our last breath.

Human pain and suffering, be it sickness or war, seem the prevalent theme with our species, a theme I fail to appreciate much less understand. I find it easy to understand why one would find comfort in their God and the next, deny there is such a deity.

I find none of Gods handiwork in the human theme of things and I blame none except those individuals of yesterday and those alive today.

This is our doing.

There are of course, those who look out across the width and breadth of their lives on a cool but bright, summer day and give thanks for all that is good in their lives. They smile, and wonder what joy will come next. They lead good, energetic and hardworking lives. They will claim they understand that everything can change in a split second, but they do not know how everything can change in a split second. No one can until that hammock
fateful second arrives. Yes, there are many insulated from the horrors of the world, their only knowledge is from sources they choose to pursue. Far too many of us understand the horrors of sickness, war and all the proverbial ills of mankind, but not enough know, not enough know to care.

This is our burden, humanities burden, that essentially, we are a weak species, indifferent to those in need and in pain. We accept that weakness, we give it reason, we give it value, we find merit in being poor, in suffering and then claim our salvation lies in whatever God we justify. We intellectualize that there are those who suffer greatly, that it is Gods will, as long as I am not one of them who suffer so..

But their fates are not in the hands of God, they are in your hands, and that is where you will find salvation.

American Angry

Amwp americanangryericans 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.

robpaxtons website

Come What May, May be Unexpected.

ambabyNo American alive will argue that we live in strange times, a time stream where everything seems upside down and turned around. There are of course those who have their foundation in order, who have a clear and concise understanding of all things and for the most part, they are those who are the ignorant and uncaring of what is happening in their neighborhood. They have excuses, and a reason, for every black person that is murdered by a peace officer, every lie told by a politician, every revision in our history, every mass shooting, terrorist attack or corporate misdeed. For them, they understand the social upheaval, their understanding layered in a world long gone, never to be again, and yet they cling to their deteriorating hope that maybe, just maybe.

One thing is for certain, we are in the midst of social upheaval across the ethical, moral and social spectrum. No one is going to be unscathed, and that’s not necessarily a horrible thing. Your world should be turned upside down, inside out these days. You should be questioning our police, our politicians, the history revisionists and our business leaders. We should be holding them revaccountable, accountable to the same extent I am. The only people who are not are those who have the answers, who blame all the Nations ills on our President, who live precariously in the fifties.

I could argue that social upheaval is a normal cycle of any country, any nation. That people questioning everything, every now and then, is needed for personal growth and growing social consciousness. That’s certainly true of us. Our Revolutionary war, Civil war, the Depression, the Sixties all led to a social change, toward a different and better Nation than we were the day before.

Today, the climate is a bit different, with a lot more intangibles, and like you, I’m not sure I understand exactly what is happening. One foreboding truth is clear though, and that is we live in an immediate age.  So immediate, that when a tragedy happens, it’s national in an instant. And in that instant, opinions are formed based on sparse facts. Opinions that are hard to change. People are quick to their own facts, reinforced by a collective mind, without common thought, bought together only by a common agenda. You and I, are paying for that. Technology that has given us Chromecast and Netflix has also given us an outspoken, class of idiots, that we can’t shut up.

Technology has also given us truth. For the first time, we can witness the actual killing of a young American child for what it was, murder. For the first time, we can bring our collective disgust to the killing of a Zimbabwean national treasure. For the first time, a politician cannot say, ‘I didn’t say that’. For the first time, information on any given topic is available for research. For the first time, what BP does in the gulf, we know. For the first time, when Isis beheads a captive, we can actually watch it, and toss our stomach.

In a very real sense, we live in a world of extremes. Of intelligent discourse and fantastical conversation happening at the same time, often intertwined together on Facebook or Twitter, and beaveroften both. Some are not able to distinguish between the intelligent conversation and simple stupidity, finding it easier to just embrace the latter rather than formulate an articulated response. It is usually they who still live in the halcyon days of the black and white Beaver. For the rest of us, we get it. We understand our Nation is changing, and the only question is, where are we going to end up a decade from now?

My guess, unexpected country.

The Mystical Origin of Being

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Warning, rambling thoughts ahead.

We are, as Human Beings, a strange and somber lot. Strange, in that our behavior is often self defeating, somber in that we recognize that truth, and don’t bother to refute it. There are, it would seem, strange and mystical powers involved in our lives. Supreme beings that make us do all these things we should not be doing, would rather not do.
Now before I get too far along, I want to give a shout out to Paula, who kinda got me thinking about this, with her words of wisdom about how we are resistant to change, and that our resistance can be part of our learning process.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention there’s an entire world of thought available on why people are resistant to change, as well as how to get people to change.

hammockWhat got me thinking as I was reading Paula’s Blog was a simple question I asked myself, ‘How have I changed as a person over the years?’. While Paula was writing about blogging, I opened the thought up to my larger worldview. I am, as most, just as resistant to change as the next, and if so, what have I done to grow as a person, what change have I faced and initiated to be different than I was yesterday?
The question isn’t so simple to answer. There are, variables, and a lot of ‘em.

Physical and emotional addictions are such variables. In both, there’s need and opportunity for change, and yet resistance is almost mandatory. Again, a strange and somber realization. War, crime, prejudices all strange and somber things that we can not seem to change even in the light of the destruction which follows in their path. These are human things.

As a human, I’ve had my share of personal demons. Lord yes, I have not always been this cool, great dude you know now.Truth is, I have a lot to be ashamed of, stuff I’d rather not talk about. You probably do too. In that respect, I’ve matured as a person and I’d like to think that’s part of the growing old cycle, but what’s next?

If I am by nature, not really wanting to change, I must be fine with who I am? If so, does that mean I don’t want to grow as a person? The right way to say it, I think, is ‘I like who I am as a person but I can learn to be even better’, which is strange because most people are emotional resistant to learning anything. Nothing is more evident of this than our current political discussions being beingheld across numerous social platforms.

I’ve always considered myself a person of change, of growth and I’ve always attributed that growth to my belief that I have an open mind. Open to other ideas, open to new knowledge, open to other cultures. Being open isn’t about change though, as I think about it, as much as it is just being accepting of differences.

Yet, being accepting makes me a better person, doesn’t it?

I would like to wake up one morning, and answer the following, ‘Have I changed for the better since yesterday?’ but I can’t because I’m not so sure I can, much less if I should. Maybe, there is some mystical shit going on behind the scenes forcing us to do shit we don’t wanna do.

Whatever the final answers are, waking up and asking that question is a worthwhile effort, and I’ll continue to think about it, for a while.

Isis

ankh 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.nomad

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.

Respect.

That perspective is also vastly different here in the U.S. than it is in Europe. Europe has neverlawrencetruly 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 respecme3t 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.

expWe 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.