The Brutality of the Second Amendment

FTK3ZHBEIVD2LODLQ7GZHZH6XE

The Second Amendment is the lever for mass genocide in America.  Every day Americans witness another mass killing or wanton murder.  Road rage shootings.  Family violence.  Workplace shootouts.  Shootouts in churches, parking lots, malls, grocery stores, Walmart’s, and on every highway and byway in America.  Twelve-year-old children taking guns to schools to kill as many people as they can.  Husbands killing entire families in a rampage.  Employees terminated coming back to assassinate former co-workers and their ex-bosses.  And throughout every one of these berserk episodes of violence, the same old tired excuses are made:

  • We need more mental health training
  • We need more guns to protect the innocent from the maniacs
  • We need better ways to screen people before they can purchase a gun
  • Guns don’t kill people, people do
  • When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns
  • We can never stop gun violence
  • We are so sorry for your loss and we offer our prayers for the survivors

There is not a nicer or more politic way to call the state of gun violence in America for what it really is.  It is predictable state sponsored genocide supported by bullshit excuses made by cowards and sycophants who pander to the maniacs who are too afraid to go to sleep at night without a gun under their pillow.

Cops add to the death toll because they know that any person walking on the street might be armed and dangerous.  Once upon a time, cops asked questions and shot later.  Today, the fear and paranoia of society drives police departments as well.  Cops now shoot first and never ask questions.  In one sense, it is hard to blame them when everyone in the good old USA is probably better armed then they are.

There are those on the left and right who will defend gun ownership.  Asshole judges strike down laws that communities try to establish to protect themselves from gun violence.  These same assholes live in gated upper-class communities and remain far removed from the violence that they create with their legal shenanigans.

In the first paragraph of his 94-page opinion, Judge Benitez lays out the heart of his reasoning colloquially: “The popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.  Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller…and United States v Miller….” — From “Reason” by Brian Doherty

57753d5742c6e.imageThis logic is simply bizarre.  It is almost beyond comprehension.  A rifle based on a cartridge designed during the Vietnam War is now touted as a “perfect” defense weapon.  It sounds like every home should buy one.  Americans live in a country where there is no protection from crime according to the NRA and gun manufacturers.  The NRA kisses the asses of manufacturers to grab more and more power as they perform like Pied Pipers for their members.  “Come along, buy a gun, protect your rights, protect your family and children.  Don’t let the criminals make a victim of you.” The NRA is a monster that has metastasized on the fears of Americans.  Politicians court the money and votes of NRA members to get re-elected knowing fear is a great motivator.  To paraphrase a comment made by the Nazi Hermann Goering:

“The people can always be convinced to buy more and more guns.  It is easy.  All you have to do is tell the average person that they may be victimized by criminals and denounce the gun control people for lack of patriotism.”

f64a35a5b23f852cd5a1200b18848236“The more guns we have the safer we will all be,” scream the gun fanatics.  I have neighbors walking around in their yards with guns strapped on their hips.  I often see shoppers in some stores sporting revolvers and automatics on their belts.  Walmart’s has asked that shoppers do not open carry guns.  Do you know why?  It is because people get nervous when they see these idiots walking around with pistols on their belts.  I worry more about being shot by one of these jerks than I do by some armed robber.  In the event of a store robbery, I suspect I might be more likely to be shot by the so called “good guy with a gun.”

aiden-ftd

We can have countless and fruitless arguments over what and why the Founding Fathers included the 2nd Amendment.  We will never know, and it really does not matter.  We are not living in 1789.  What I do know is that a six-year-old child named Aiden was riding in a car seat with his mom who was driving him to kindergarten.  Suddenly Aiden exclaimed, “Mommy, my tommy hurts.”  Aiden Leos died before they could get him to a hospital.  He died when two assholes with guns decided to shoot at his car because of some perceived violation of their road rights.  The two assholes decided that their second amendment rights trumped the rights of Aiden and his family.

I am sick and tired of reading about these instances of insanity.  I am increasingly worried that one of these bizarre situations will befall someone I love or even my wife and me.  They are occurring with more and more frequency and more and more randomness.  No one is safe.  Carrying a gun on you does not make you safe.  Having a concealed carry permit does not make you safe.  Being a nice person and an honest citizen does not make you safe.  We are being victimized by lovers of the Second Amendment.  By neighbors who think that by arming themselves and everyone around them, we will all be safer.  Was anyone really ever stupid enough to belief this?  How much more evidence is needed to contradict any such assumptions?  What will it take for these morons who distort the Second Amendment to realize the dangers that they have brought to our country?

web_5a05f6c1c197dI admit that I have always liked guns, knives, rifles, and assorted military hardware.  However, I like them in their place.  Rifles for hunting when hunting is a sport and not a crap shoot like so much of it is today.  Baiting bears with donuts and then shooting them from a tree perch does not seem very sporting to me.  I like target shooting.  I enjoy shooting some black powder pistols that I own.  A friend gave me an old revolutionary style musket which is fun to shoot.  I do not shoot at squirrels or birds or rabbits.  I use it for target practice.  I am not against hunting deer, elk, and other animals for food.  Many people in rural areas depend on game animals to supplement their diets in lieu of costly meats at a grocery store.

Screen_Shot_2014-06-10_at_3.37.00_PM

The problem with guns comes when we ignore the unintended consequences of gun ownership.  When we create a climate where every idiot and moron in the country is carrying a gun.  Who are these idiots and morons you may well ask?  They are you and me and my friends and friends of my friends.  They are everyone who might get stressed out someday and lose their common sense.  They are people who become depressed and give up on life.  They are people who become so angry with perceived injustices that they want to strike out at anyone for revenge. They are everyone and anyone.  They are the man or woman or child that is walking down the street.  They are your mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or best friend.  They are the quiet guy who lives down the block.  They are the helpful next-door neighbor.  They are the quiet student who sits in the back of the class.  They are the military recruit who somehow loses it and goes on a shooting rampage.

23905 (2)I don’t know who might kill you.  I don’t know when they might kill you.  I don’t know why they might kill you.  Best odds are that it will be totally random, and you will never see it coming.  You will never know when it will happen.  The statistics show that you have a 75 percent chance that if you are murdered it will be by a gun and not by poison or a knife.   (Number of homicide victims, by method used to commit the homicide)

The USA has become a warped and bastardized version of the “Old West.”  Gun advocates like to portray themselves as upholders of the “Code of the West.”  In their mystic interpretation of events, people walked around with guns wherever they went.  Supposedly this was because of the lack of “law and order.”  In reality,

  • Most western towns had ordinances prohibiting carrying of guns in town.
  • There were few old-fashioned gun fights in a front facing mano a mano style.
  • Cowboys on the range did not wear their guns all day long but kept them in the chuck wagon.
  • The “old west of the cowboys and cattle drives” lasted less than fifty years.
  • Towns established police departments and law and order rules as quickly as they were able to as many of the new territories soon became states.

cjones03182018How then have we gone from sanity to insanity?  From being able to walk down a street or go to work or school and not worry about some nut case coming in and killing us?  When did America go from being a country with “Law and Order” to a country where everyone needs to carry a gun to protect themselves?  How have we let the politicians, NRA and gun manufacturers convince everyone that it is not safe to walk outside without a concealed carry permit and a Glock or Smith & Wesson hidden someplace beneath our bullet proof vest?

The answer is simple.  Eliminate fear.  Eliminate open and concealed carry laws.  Guns are for home protection and hunting.  We have created a country where there is no place to be safe anymore.  Everyone has the potential to be the next killer, or the next asshole gone crazy.  No amount of mental health training is going to stop the mad rampage of gun deaths in America.  The only thing that will stop this is when people realize the obvious.  Guns are not making us safer; they are killing us.

Rhythm and Writing:  The Beat of Life

maxresdefault

Allegro:  a brisk lively tempo

What does the beating of my heart have to do with my writing?  What does writing have to do with making love?  Can the changing of the seasons be compared to a concert overture?  What is the relationship between T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets 2: East Coker” poem and Stravinsky’s “The Rites of Spring?”  What does musical rhythm have to do with writing?

unnamedOn some primal level, we all live by an unseen law of rhythm.  The rhythm of the universe controls an eternal dance between the atoms and molecules that make up our existence.  This natural rhythm imparts an inexorable symmetry to all of life.  A regulated succession of strong and weak elements of opposite and contrasting conditions that becomes the master of all that we do.  Buddhists call it the Yin and Yang of being.

Springtime is upon us.

The birds celebrate her return with festive song,

and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.

Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,

Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.  — (From Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons:  Spring”, Concerto in E Major) 

DrumsticksIn countless ways, we observe that there is fundamentally no difference between writing or between a piece of choreography and the changing climate.  Creativity is carved out of the passion that is in everything we do.  The body and mind embrace in a never-ending minuet.  The music ebbs and flows.  Our love is gentle, restrained, then wild and feral. Mornings, afternoons, evenings, and nights fuse with the seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter.  The harsh gales of November resonate in the refrains of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.  “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts ushers in the scorching days of July.  Poetry rings out in the rap music of the streets while the mellow voices of choir singers comfort the soul.  All things are one say the mystics.  If my writing is one with all things, will the tempo of my words cool, heat, soothe or disrupt the fashions of life?

reading-writing-rhythm

Adagio: a slow and stately tempo

Far be it for me to confuse philosophy with art.  Greater men than I have acknowledged that there is a unity to life.  We travel down our different paths often blind to the journeys of others who walk side by side with us.  This one a carpenter, this one a computer scientist, this one a teacher, this one an artist and this one a hero.  Some of us have a long journey and some of us have a short journey.  For some the journey is rough and chaotic and for others the journey is smooth and predictable.  There are slow times in our journeys and there are fast times.  The rhythm of life is never the same for any of us.

Oh, it’s the same as the emotion that I get from you

You got the kind of lovin’ that can be so smooth, yeah

Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it — (From “Smooth”, by Santana)

For some, life is poverty and for others it is uncountable wealth.  The rich man longs for the anonymity and slower days of the poor man.  The poor man can be heard singing, “If I were a rich man, lord who made the lion and the lamb, would it really spoil your cosmic plan if I were a wealthy man?”

9781780231075We are all dust in the wind but our rhythms echo through the halls of time.  The most unforgettable and amazing repetitions will continue as long as humans walk the earth.  Coded in the numerous ways we have of capturing the rhythm of our lives.  Some codes in music, some in text and some in clay.  Some dynamic, some peaceful, some violent and some sad.  We write our lyrics, pen our verses, create our stanzas, and design our choreography.  All efforts guided by the unseen law of rhythm.  Now we are hard, now we are brittle.  Now we roar and now we snore.

Scherzo:  a sprightly humorous movement commonly in quick triple time

Love is kind, love is considerate, love is not selfish. The waltz was a creation of times when love was more restrained.  Centuries of constrained love making has been supplanted, extending our beings, becoming our challenge.  The Tango alternates patterns of space and closeness with syncopated rhythms of violence and passion.  Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go.  Rock and Roll ushered in a wild abandonment of morality to a tune of conspicuous sexuality.  The rhythm of music exhibits striking harmonies with the rhythm of our love lives.  Can I be soft and gentle like a warm breeze but also wild and unrestrained like in the pulp novels?  Shall I make love to the William Tell overture or would Shakira’s lyrics work better?

Baby I would climb the Andes solely 

To count the freckles on your body 

Never could imagine there were only

Too many ways to love somebody  — (From “Whenever, Wherever,” by Shakira)

Good+Rhythm+Example

Should my love making follow a classical structure or should it be more jazz like?  Is it enough to alternate patterns of tenderness with patterns of spontaneity or should I begin with an allegro, then an adagio, followed by a scherzo and conclude with a rondo?  And what of those who expect love to end with a crescendo or those who enjoy more syncopated jazz?

ab67616d0000b2736a0d8ec00c6f8e9828418f5c

Rondo: a recurring leading theme often found in the final movement of a sonata

Whether goes my writing.  I have written this concerto to writing in four parts to reflect the universality of the rhythm of life.  We form, norm, storm and then perform.  Spring is the opening that brings fresh growth to our world before the bloom of summer.  Summer brings the maturity and ripeness of life.  Fall brings the storms and winds that signify our frailty and insignificance to the universe.  Winter ends our symphony with the closure and solace that our work is done, and our day is over.

Blog+Image+-++Seasonal+RhythmsThe rhythm of life runs through our heart beats.  It runs through literature.  It runs through music.  Great music has rhythms that exhibit great variation.  Fast, slow, moderate than fast again.  Interesting speakers have a sense of rhythm in their talks.  Have you ever heard a lecture or a sermon without rhythm?  It will put you to sleep in less than five minutes.  Writing and speaking, just like music, must contain elements of rhythm.  A heart without rhythm ceases to beat.  Writing without rhythm is boring.  Life without rhythm is death.

To feel the rhythm of life,

To feel the powerful beat,

To feel the tingle in your fingers,

To feel the tingle in your feet. — (From “Rhythm Of Life,” 1969 Motion Picture Soundtrack, Song by Sammy Davis Jr.)

Our work, our art, our thoughts, and our lives are concluded with a hope to be reborn again.  We wish that someone will see the need to resume the rhythms that we have started.  Never a finality to our rhythms.  Only a continuation that started before us and will continue long after our memorials are put up.  Your headstone may simply have one verse on it or possibly it will be like the newest greeting cards.  They will walk up to your grave and press a button.  You will appear with a menu of options, and your visitor can select a video of you either singing or dancing or perhaps reading one of your writings.  Everything will have a four-part harmony.

rhythm-is-life-prints

Time For Questions:  

Does music teach you anything about writing?  Does music speak to you?  Can writing be like a symphony?  How do you hear music?  Does it speak to you like a good poem or a good verse? What is your favorite kind of writing?  Do you ever think that the writing you enjoy could be like music?  What would it take to transform the music in your life into writing or the writing in your life into music?

75 % Atheist and 25 % Percent Agnostic

AGNOSTIC-vs-ATHEIST-1

I grew up in an Italian Irish family.  What else would I be except a devout Catholic?  The bigger question is how did I go from being a Catholic to an Atheist or at least a 75% percent Atheist?  I now claim I am seventy-five percent Atheist and twenty-five percent Agnostic.  I will explain this formula later.

6edf3733b483b2baa492421c033d5c51

Well, my journey from one God to no God started many years ago and perhaps mimics the trajectory of many a lapsed Catholic.  Went to a Catholic school.  Lots of Catholic theology.  Bible study each week.  Surrounded by priests and nuns.  Confession on Fridays followed by ten “Our Fathers” and twenty or so “Hail Marys.”  Church and communion on Sunday.  Back to being bad, masturbating and thinking dirty thoughts about the girl in the pew next to me on Mondays.  She kept wearing skirts that hiked up above her knees when she sat down.  The nuns kept telling her that her skirts were too short, but she somehow ignored their admonitions.  I was personally awfully glad that she did.

NINTCHDBPICT000631973404

Sounds a little bit like I should have been a priest.  Sadly, I did not even make altar boy. Along the way, my questions about God received the standard answer.  Question, “Who made God?”  Reply, “God always was and always will be.”  Just before my 12th birthday, a godly priest damned me to hell for taking an unauthorized ride at a carnival that was set-up for a Catholic fund raiser.  Between bull-shit answers about God, condemnations for horny thoughts and being damned to hell, I decided to leave Catholicism for (as they say) greener pastures.

HuffP1-1Like Dion DiMucci’s “The Wanderer,” I spent years wandering from church to church and religion to religion to explore other venues for spirituality.  Dion was my favorite pop singer in the sixties.  As I write this, he is still alive and performing.  One of his most popular hits was a song called “The Wanderer.”  The lyrics grabbed every guy I hung out with, and we all dreamed of being macho and tough like the guy in the song.

Oh well I’m the type of guy who will never settle down
Where pretty girls are well, you know that I’m around
I kiss ’em and I love ’em ’cause to me they’re all the same
I hug ’em and I squeeze ’em they don’t even know my name
They call me the wanderer, yeah the wanderer
I roam around, around, around.

Oh well I roam from town to town
I go through life without a care
‘Til I’m as happy as a clown
With my two fists of iron and I’m going nowhere.

04ba56cb-bd2a-4fad-acba-d5af3e474911.sized-1000x1000

I suppose I had somewhat of Dion’s attitude towards religion.  To me they were all the same.  One God, their God, their rules.  You bought into their shtick, or you did not belong.  The price of admission.  Sell your soul for their traditions, their beliefs and their theology and you will be saved and adored and admitted into the flock.  Ask any questions, challenge any favorite tropes and excommunication and hell fire awaits you.  Their God always reigned supreme, and any other Gods were fake.  That is why the term for parishioners as a flock is so appropriate.  Most people are like sheep who flock together and have little stomach for questioning authority.  I have to say most, or my spouse will jump on me for a really gross generalization.  She helps to keep me in line when my cynicism towards the world outruns reality.

After not finding any religions that met my standards of objectivity and open-mindedness, I came to reject organized religions as evil and dangerous.  Witness the many wars fought in the name of someone’s God.  I started defining myself as an Atheist.  I despised all religions.  I sought out other Atheists but paradoxically found that I did not fit in with the Atheist groups that I met.  Atheists profess a strong orientation towards science, logic, and evidence as a basis for spirituality, but many of the Atheists I met were narrowminded, bigoted and worst of all made decisions without sound evidence or data.

atheist_eflf1d

My faith in Atheism was shaken many times by highly religious people who had more in common with my beliefs than the Atheists I had met.  For instance, when Sister Giovanni was interviewing me to teach at Guadalupe Area Project, I informed her that I was an Atheist.  She replied, “I don’t care what you are as long as you are a good teacher.”  I still could not find any evidence for God, heaven, hell, or an after life not rooted in hopes and dreams but nevertheless my Atheistic roots over the years have continually been shaken.

Some of the things that have shaken my beliefs are the many good people who passionately believe in God and their religious obligations towards others.  Jesus said:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” — Jesus Christ, English Standard Version (Luke 6:27–31)

I have met people who follow these beliefs in a variety of religions.  I came to accept that religions have done much good as well as much bad for the world.  Not being God, I have no way of knowing or proving whether the bad or the good outweighs the other, so I have simply stopped judging most religions.  I say most because there are still some religions that I see as hypocritical and even evil.  The idea of a “Prosperity Gospel” strikes me as a justification for greed and selfishness.

Another finding that has shaken my moorings as an Atheist are all the really smart people who believe in a God.  I weigh myself against such people and come up noticeably short.  If these people are so much more intelligent and accomplished than I am, maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong.  How can I sit here and argue that they are wrong?  It would be arrogant to think that I have all the knowledge and information to assert that “there is no God” when much greater thinkers than I have affirmed and argued a belief in God.

I started calling myself an Agnostic to reconcile some of the above dilemmas.  The definition of an Agnostic is, “A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.”  Being an Agnostic, I could go happily through life never having to attack or defend my convictions concerning the existence of God.  This position has certain benefits, but it is not without constraints.  The biggest constraint is being seen as a copout or wishy washy.  Someone who straddles the fence because they are afraid of taking a position.

Knowledge_venn_diagram

I want to avoid being seen as wishy washy but some days I feel like an Atheist and other days I feel like an Agnostic.  If there were a continuum between Atheism and Agnosticism it varies from day to day for me.  Today, I feel like I am 75 percent Atheist and 25 percent Agnostic.  Tomorrow I might be fifty-fifty or sixty-forty.  Life is a process that is continually in flux.  Change is inevitable.  Our moods change, our likes and dislikes change, our aches and pains change, our joys and sadness’s change.  It only makes sense to me that my affinity for one religious position or another should change.

So, if you ever want to know what religion I am, it will probably be somewhere between 100 percent Atheist and 100 percent Agnostic.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”  ― St. Thomas Aquinas

“As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.”  ― Bertrand Russell

Social Legacy Systems:  How They Block Change and Prevent Progress:  Part 1- Education

Wrote this seven years ago. Hardly had any readers. One of my blogs that I think is the most meaningful. Please read and share or add your comments. John

Aging Capriciously

KuhnCycle_BasicCycleAccording to Thomas Kuhn when a paradigm shifts, you cannot be successful doing what you did in the old paradigm.  In a new paradigm, you must obey new rules to be successful.  Our culture and world are going through one of the greatest paradigm shifts in history.  It has been happening now for four generations starting with the Baby Boom generation.  The transition or swing generations have been Generation X and Generation Y.   These later two generations have been stuck between paradigms.  The final or new generation has been somewhat appropriately called Generation Z.  Generation Z *(See Footnote) represents the end of the paradigm shift.

The rules and cultural norms that have traditionally applied to: family, education, government, employment and law are all legacy based and present significant barriers to change.  In computers, a legacy system refers to either hardware or software that is out of date but is difficult…

View original post 2,036 more words

The Inadequacy Paradigm

Wrote this blog four years ago. It still rings true today.

Aging Capriciously

dreamstime_xs_19665640
Have you ever felt that you were not pretty enough, smart enough, coordinated enough, talented enough, handsome enough, strong enough or fast enough?  If so, you were suffering from the “inadequacy paradigm.”  A paradigm is a model or template for thought or behavior.  Feeling inadequate is one of the major paradigms of American society.  The marketplace wants you to feel inadequate because then they can sell you products and services that will make you feel “ADEQUATE.”

hqdefaultThere are beauty products, breast enhancements, hair implants, plastic surgery, expensive cars, perfume, jewelry, large homes, designer clothes, college degrees and many other products or services designed to help you feel less inadequate and more adequate.  We all want to feel adequate which means we must somehow learn to escape or jettison our inadequacy paradigms.  The marketplace strategy involves spending huge amounts of money on a regular basis to escape the “inadequacy paradigm.”  This…

View original post 3,472 more words

Celebrities are the Ornaments of Modern Life

american_idol

Celebrities, you feel like you know them, but you don’t.  You feel like they are your friends, but they are not.  You feel like you love them, but they don’t love you.  None of these facts matter though and we experience a level of pain and grief when they are gone that is as strong and often stronger than for the death of our own family and friends.

We manufacture celebrities.  We produce and consume celebrities just like we consume products and services.  Somewhere on Maslow’s hierarchy there must be a need for celebrities.  We are endlessly fascinated by their comings and goings.  We all dream of becoming a celebrity.  A Star is Born becomes an inner mantra for our yearnings.  Attention is the holy grail of modern society. 

“Celebrity distorts democracy by giving the rich, beautiful, and famous more authority than they deserve.”  — Maureen Dowd

Yesterday, I found out that the actor and playwright Sam Shepard had died four years ago.  He was aged 73 when he passed away.  This morning I was watching reruns of the Rifleman when I heard that the son on the show, Johnny Crawford, had recently died (April 29, 2021) of the Corona Virus at the age of 75. 

Johnny-Crawford-01

No one called me to tell me that some of my favorite actors had passed.  Sometimes, as with Sam, we do not find out for several years.  In Johnny’s case, it was only 9 days after he died.  There are no hot lines to tell fans about the passing of our favorite celebrities.  We may hear something in the news if the death is tragic or unexpected but when it is merely due to natural causes, their deaths are usually not noteworthy enough to make the 5 o’clock news.  The exception is if they rank in the top tier of celebrities. 

But celebrity is a fleeting state for most who achieve stardom.  All it takes to become a celebrity is one great movie, one great song or one great performance and you may find yourself vaulted into stardom.  It can be a very heady feeling to suddenly be surrounded by throngs of reporters and fans who want to know everything you think and everything you plan on doing.  Being treated like this is a form of narcotic.  It can be addicting.  You begin to think that you are special.  You welcome the hoards of attention bestowed on you.  You start to expect that it will never end. 

Then one day, and that day does come for most, the news hounds stop coming around.  You have had no more hit songs or starring roles in popular movies.  Your performances were less than stellar.  You were traded out of the big leagues.  You have not recently been invited on the Jimmy Kimmel Show or any of the major media shows.  The fans start to disappear.  You are no longer a celebrity.  Your star rose and your star fell.  Maybe it was age.  Maybe it was lack of creativity.  Or maybe it was simply the fickleness of people who expect their idols to stay on pedestals.   

We are surprised when our idols take their lives.  For famous writers and famous musicians, suicide seems like an occupational hazard.  Why we wonder?  They have it all.  Fame, fortune, and power surround celebrities.  Some even get elected to the Presidency of the United States.  They are the royalty of America.  They are America’s aristocracy.    

“I always want to say to people who want to be rich and famous: ‘try being rich first’. See if that doesn’t cover most of it. There’s not much downside to being rich, other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money. But when you become famous, you end up with a 24-hour job.” — Bill Murray

170731-sam-shepard-mn-1120_93f7a45307fd06eeb16c1a9e32fdd476.fit-760wAbout twenty years ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop in Stillwater, Minnesota when a scruffy lanky tall guy walked in.  I had been involved in several motorcycle clubs during this time in my life and I thought that I recognized him from one of the clubs.  I got up and walked over to him.  I asked if we knew each other.  I then asked if he belonged to any local bike clubs?  He replied somewhat curtly that he did not know me and that he did not belong to any bike clubs in the area. 

I sat back down with my friend Bruce and kibbitzed about this situation for awhile as I was sure that I knew this guy from someplace.  Finally, I got back up and walked over to where he was standing.  He was still waiting for his expresso.  I asked him his name and he replied “Sam Shepard.”  I started to mention all the movies that I had seen him in and how much I admired his acting.  I stuttered for awhile and could not think of a single Sam Shepard movie that I had seen.  This despite the fact that I had just recently seen him in a movie called “Snow Falling On Cedars.”  I asked him if he wanted to join my friend and I for coffee.  He replied “No, he had to go.”  That was the first and last time I ever saw Sam Shepard in person. 

I have had several other encounters with celebrities, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say, I never was invited out with any.  I never became pals with any.  I never went to the Stork Club or any other place where the rich and famous hang-out.  I have continued to live my average life in average places with an average amount of money and an average amount of talent.  Sometimes, I think my “averageness” has been a blessing.  They say, “be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it.” 

Think of the downsides of being a celebrity: 

  • Surrounded by sycophants
  • Afraid to go out in public for fear of being mobbed and importuned
  • Fearful that some nutcase might kidnap you or your family for ransom
  • Never knowing if people love you for your money or for yourself
  • Having to live up to unrealistic expectations of friends and fans
  • Dealing with people who want something from you

But perhaps the worse of all is the addiction that stardom creates.  You begin to need the adoration of your fans.  It is like needing a drug.  You get high on the cheers and applause.  But eventually things change.  You cannot deliver a number one hit song.  You can not hit the ball out of the ballpark.  You cannot write another great novel.  You begin to feel like a failure.  The narcotic of fame evaporates, and you are left alone surrounded by memories of the past.  You long to recreate the past but you soon find that you can never go back.  The past is over.  You must move on, but how?  You were “King of the Hill.” 

6985185-king of the hill

What can compare to being King or Queen?

“I was a common man, and I will always remain a common man. No amount of stardom will ever consume my soul. Money comes, money goes. Fame comes, fame goes. I believe every human being is a celebrity in their own right.” — A. R. Rahman

 

 

Don’t Tell the Truth, Hide Behind a Euphemism

Collateral-Damage

New Introduction:  May, 2021

I wrote this six years ago.  Last week, (May 2021) I was teaching a class on Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and was explaining the difference between analogies, metaphors and euphemisms.  I remembered that I had written this blog several years ago and decided to see if it had any relevance.  I was struck by what I had said about policing back then since my comments have supported more recently by numerous examples.  I have decided to republish the original blog.  I will go through and correct some egregious editing and grammar problems.

January, 2015

I woke up at 3 AM the morning of January 2, 2015 with military euphemisms on my mind.   Knowing that I would forget the ideas I had, I jotted down a few notes on paper before going back to bed.   A few of the specific euphemisms that were running through my brain included:

  • Collateral Damage
  • Surge
  • Village Pacification
  • Enhanced Interrogation
  • VUCA
  • Shock and Awe
  • IED
  • Drone Kill

Thinking that this was probably a very incomplete list of the euphemisms out there, I decided to Google the following:  Military Euphemism Examples.  Here is what my screen looked like:

Pages of Search Query

You will notice that I now had 254, 000 results.  I next went to the “Glossary of Iraqi War Euphemisms” and I found a site full of euphemisms that I had not thought of.  At this point, I realized that any possible list of euphemisms that I could compile far exceeded the limits of my prose for this blog.  I had originally thought to list a few of the more commonly heard euphemisms and discuss the implications of these words in respect to our thinking and behavior.  I would still like to accomplish this objective but now with more deference to those who have gone before in this effort as well as with increased humility in terms of the extent of the problem we are facing.  (Following this blog, are two references which anyone who wants to explore this problem further should pursue.)  See the late great George Carlin on Euphemisms.

What is the problem you may ask?  David Bromwich put it very succinctly:

“The frightening thing about the use of euphemisms is their power to efface the memory of actual cruelties.  Behind the façade of a history falsified by language, the painful particulars of war are lost.”David Bromwich

Dangerous-LiarsLet’s take a concrete example to illustrate the problem more.  The United States Senate recently released a report officially titled as:  Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.   Unofficially, it has been called the Senate Report on Torture.   I downloaded and saved the above report (525 pages) which I assume is the condensed version or summary of the full report.  Just for curiosity sake, I searched for the word Torture in the summary.  There were 131 instances of the word in the 525 page summary.

I then typed in “enhanced interrogation” and found 997 instances of the term in the report.  Apparently our Senate is no fonder of the word Torture then its intended victims were.  Given our penchant for euphemisms, I am almost surprised that they did not call it the “Senate Report on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”  With such a title, they could probably sell it to Human Resource Managers looking for better ways to screen potential new hires.  I also typed in the word Victim to see how many times this was in the report.  It was found a total of 6 times and in each instance, it was related to the phrase:  “United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.”  Apparently, the word victim is too harsh to use.  Maybe we should call victims of torture something like “unintended recipients of undesired attention.”  You must admit it has a sort of ring to it.  I think it sounds a lot more interesting than “victims of torture.”  We could abbreviate it as URUA which can then be used when needed so as not to offend anyone.

grave yard euphemismA euphemism is a word or phrase used in place of another word or phrase.  However, a euphemism is different than a synonym.  The difference is important because it is insidious and it strikes to the heart of the problem that we are facing here.   This is an example from Baker Editing Services on the use of synonyms versus euphemisms which I think does a good job of illustrating the differences:

“You need to select your synonyms carefully.  Euphemisms are sometimes a good choice as a specific category of synonym when selecting an alternate word.  They are neutral, mild, or vague terms that can be used to express a more offensive or traumatic word or situation without giving offense.  Rather than saying a coworker is a competitive ass, you might say that he is “driven” or “very dedicated to achieving his goals.”

war picturesNotice the difference?  When we use a euphemism, we may be trying not to give offense.  We may also be trying to hide the truth or something that might be unacceptable if rendered in plain English.  Thus in war, words like casualties replace deaths and “suppressing the enemy” replaces “killing” the enemy.  American casualties are reported but not enemy casualties since we don’t really care about the number of freedom fighters (Oh, I meant terrorists) we kill.   We did not really destroy the village and all the women and children and freedom fighters (Oops, my mistake again, I meant terrorists) in it.  We pacified the village.

(‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it’, a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong.)Peter Arnett

We certainly pacified the town of Bến Tre which now has a population of over 140, 000 people.  Of course, back during the Vietnam War, they were not people, they were Gooks.  I was curious to find out just how many people were killed while we “pacified” the village but I could not find any specific figures.  (If anyone knows the number of people killed at Bến Tre during the offensive, please let me know.) 

Another euphemism or at least it seems to be a euphemism is the concept of “force continuum”:

force continuumA “Use of Force Continuum” is a standard that provides law enforcement officials and security officers (such as police officers, probation officers, or corrections officers) with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation.

excessive forceThe principle idea here is to use only the amount of deterrence necessary to protect oneself and also accomplish the objectives needed by the situation.  Practically speaking this means that if someone calls you a name, you do not shoot them.  If someone comes at you bare handed, you may use the minimum level of force necessary to protect yourself.  This might mean you would use tear gas or a Taser before you would blast them with a shotgun.  I mentioned that the concept of force continuum seems like a euphemism but perhaps it is more of a misnomer since it often seems like it is an upside down continuum with police shooting first and asking questions later.

The problem of euphemisms is evident in policing as well as in military situations.   However, it is more insidious and subtle here and thus more difficult to recognize.  Nevertheless, it plays an important role in police efforts to prevent crime and violence.  If instead of looking at someone as a human being or a citizen, police label them as “violent perps”, then they will likely use more force than they need to.  Many of the recent examples in the news of “police brutality” reflect this overuse of force due to the stereotyping of African Americans as more violent and dangerous than Whites or other ethnic groups.  Again, we see the problem here is that we are labeling people not as they really are but as we are programmed for them to be. Human life becomes cheap.  Maybe we should call it a “killing” continuum instead of a “use of force continuum.”

euphemismMadison Avenue has become an obscene part of the communication process in both the military and law enforcement.  Hide it.  Obscure it.  Obfuscate it.  Give them what they won’t understand.  Make it sound benign.  Sugarcoat it and they will buy it every time.  We did not kill the man.  We neutralized him.  We did not choke him to death.  We used acceptable deterrence procedures.   We did not abuse the woman; we used standard assault control techniques.   Let’s not say what we mean.  Let’s not call it what it really is.  He injured himself in the course of our investigative process.   She was injured while we were restraining her for her own safety.

Euphemisms are dangerous.  I would go so far as to say they are evil.  They hide the truth.  They convey a message which does not fit reality.  They paint an inappropriate picture of what is happening in our lives.  They distort the facts.   Without seeing things as they really are, we are lost in a fog of illusion.  We are navigating in a maze without any sense of direction.  We are looking in a mirror that shows us what others want us to believe and not what is really happening.   Here is a recent news story about a 90 year old war veteran who was arrested for feeding the hungry.  Notice the euphemisms:

“While video available on YouTube shows Arnold Abbott and ministers being taken away in police custody, the Mayor states that Mr. Arnold had not been arrested, but rather was detained, cited, and ordered to appear in court.  Those cited face possible jail time and have taken the city to court to fight the ordinance.”  CNN,  11-5-2014

Should you get arrested, I hope you will remember the difference between detained and arrested.  It might help in your plea to the court.   Here is another example of a euphemism that has evolved over time.  It is from the pen of the famous cartoonist Scott Adams known for his Dilbert series.

“You’re fired.”  (1980)

“You’re laid off.”  (1985)

“You’re downsized.”  (1990)

“You’re rightsized.”  (1992)

Do words matter?  Of course they matter.  Why would advertisers, marketers, PR people and political pundits go to such trouble to use words to disguise meanings if they did not matter?

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’  (From Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.)

bank exampleThe golden rule applies unilaterally when euphemisms and misinformation must be spread.  The golden rule is “he, who has the gold, makes the rules.”  In most cases, this easily answers Humpty Dumpty’s question about who is to be the master?  The person who has the most gold is the master.  The poor, the underprivileged, the defeated, the economically disadvantaged, the bottom of the pile minorities, and lower income groups do not get to choose the words and make the euphemisms.   If they did, it might lead to a type of new grammar which I would call “reverse euphemisms.”  This is euphemisms named by a group that has nothing to hide or would really like to see the truth out.  Thus, in Michael Brown’s case it would have been said that he was:

  • Indiscriminately slaughtered
  • Butchered in cold blood
  • Executed
  • Assassinated

Eric Garner did not die from aspiration or asphyxiation or not being able to get a breath while in a police restraint.  Eric (it would be more accurate to say) died from:

  • Being strangled to death
  • Choked to death
  • Unwarranted and unnecessary application of dangerous and lethal police procedures

article-eric-garner-wife-1203All lives matter:  Black, Brown, Yellow, White, Blue, Pink or any other color.  No exceptions.  No one’s death is a cipher.  When we diminish the victims meaning and their importance through the use of sophistry, euphemisms and carefully crafted words to hide behind, we increase the probability that no lives will matter.  We must not allow others to hide behind words designed to conceal the truth.   Start speaking the truth.  Say the truth.  Change the words you use to reflect the truth.  The truth may just set you and the world free.

Time for Questions:

What is your favorite euphemism?  Why?  What do you think would happen if we stopped using so many euphemisms?  Would we have more truth or less?  Do you think euphemisms are helpful or harmful?  Why?  Can you trust what anyone means anymore?   What is the difference between a lie and a euphemism?

Life is just beginning:

Here are some good sites to visit if you want to explore this subject further:

 

 

 

 

The Legitimization of Greed

 

unnamed

Let me start off with some major caveats.  First, greed has always been with us.  Second, among certain people, there has always been excessive greed.  Third, we will never eradicate greed in the human species.  Why then you may well ask, another screed against the excesses of greed? The answer is that we have entered a new era of greed.  Never before has greed been so widely accepted and so widely admired. 

Throughout history, prophets and religious leaders have warned us about the pursuit of wants that never satisfy the soul nor do anything to enrich humanity.  In the past, greed was the mindless pursuit of more.  Jesus said that “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” – 1 Timothy 6:10.  The Bible says more about the dangers of money and possessions than any other subject.

Ignatius of Loyola gave this message to his followers:

Lord, teach me to be generous;

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

To give and not to count the cost”

Gautama Buddha made the following comment concerning greed:

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief.”

Islam has many comments about the evil of greed and the pursuit of more and more:

“Three Habits Destroy

a Man Or Woman:

Greed, Envy

and Pride.”  ― Hamid al Ghazali

“Greed is permanent slavery.”  — Ali ibn Abi Talib

If greed has always been with us, then what is different today?  The difference is that in the past, greed was recognized as evil and as an element that would distort human nature.  Today greed has become legitimate.   

The definition of legitimate is: 

To give legal force or status to; make lawful.

To sanction formally or officially; authorize.

To demonstrate or declare to be justified.

5451174-1020-PXWe shop till we drop.  We invoke our privilege to use our money as we want to.  We make holidays out of holy days where we spend our time hunting for bargains and sales.  Greed has now become a sacrament.  Greed is no longer evil.  Greed is holy.  Greed is the American Way of Life.  Millions of Americans adore the wealthy.  The story of Lazarus holds no credibility – Luke 16:19-21.  Nor does the story of the Rich Fool – Luke 12:13-21.  Money is sacred and those who have more are worshipped by Americans and exalted as better people and better leaders.  We elect millionaires and billionaires to Congress and even the Presidency on the sole basis of their acumen at having stored up wealth.

Wealth Trumps compassion.  Money Trumps kindness.  Possessions Trump love.  No one would argue today that leaders should have compassion, kindness, and love for others.  These are sentiments that hold no currency.  The values that Americans believe in today are bitcoins, stocks, bonds, gold, and credit ratings.  Wise people are not listened to.  Instead, rich people are sought out and worshipped because they are smart enough to game the system and attain more than the rest of us.  A 3,400-foot home with four bathrooms for people with no children is a sign of success and not wretched excess.  A Porsche, BMW or Mercedes is proof that you are an important person.  Living in a neighborhood with walls and private security guards helps you to feel safe because wealth is envied by those who do not have it and they might take it away from you. 

McMansions-real-estate

Living the good life today means having more than your neighbors, friends, or relatives.  According to Merriam-Webster, success is “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”  Success is not measured in America by kindness, compassion, or love for others.  Millions of people watch reality shows where fame equals success.  A new breed of celebrities exists solely on the basis of being famous and not for any achievements. 

41VGIT8I9gL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Movie stars are the aristocracy of America and are adored because of the illusions that they present and not because of reality.  John Wayne is the Icon of American Manhood.  He was a man that personified heroism and masculinity.  In reality, he was a racist who denigrated Black people, Gay people, and Native Americans.  He received a 3-A (family deferment) after Pearl Harbor and never had to fight except in his many heroic movie roles where he extolled American militarism.  Movie stars are idolized because they are rich and famous and have more of these attributes than the general population. 

So where do we go from here?  There are many good people in America.  There are many generous people who give freely and share their wealth with others.  Attributes such as generosity and empathy for the needy still exist in America.  However, what I have called the “legitimization” of greed has infected too many of our people.  It has become acceptable.  Americans have failed to grasp the insidious nature of greed.  It is not something that takes over your life suddenly.   Greed creeps up slowly and silently until one day, you are consumed by it.  Our nation has made greed an attribute to be admired.  No school in American dares to mention the perils of greediness. 

Can we reverse the trend that has led us down this path to self-centeredness and narcissism?  What can be done to turn the trend back towards valuing compassion and kindness?  Not just compassion and kindness for those who look like us but compassion and kindness for all people.

I will try to answer these questions in my next blog.  We will need a change of mindset that will lead to a new Zeitgeist.  The present paradigm we are living in is destroying humanity.  Trump and his supporters are not an aberration but a reflection of how far we have gone down the wrong road.   If we keep going down this road, we will have a world where there is no humanity left in people.  We will continue to destroy our environment as greed dictates taking all that we can get and not leaving anything for others.     

1088095675-165f712656ffe880e57d5c42bd82ccf3

Queer from a Straight Perspective

24QueerFullBleed-articleLarge-v4

I am a straight guy.  Over the years I, like many other people in the world, have had to grapple with a number of questions that challenge my view of the world.  They challenge my view of how things should be.  They challenge my view of what is right and what is wrong.  I want to first look at some of these questions.  Then I will give you my background with gay men and gay women over the years.  Encounters I have had with them.  Friends I have had who came out or did not come out.  Finally, I want to give you my opinion about what is the fundamental question that fuels all controversy concerning homosexuality.  That question is “Are homosexuals normal or abnormal?”  This is basically the question that upsets people who want normalcy in the world. 

Some Questions:

How would you feel if your only daughter wanted to marry another woman or your son wanted to marry another man?  Although same sex marriage was legalized in the USA in 2015, many states still have laws on the books making such marriages difficult.  To date, only 29 out of the 195 countries in the world have legalized same-sex marriage.

Copy-of-IMG_0494-1-900x600

How would you feel if your church had an openly gay minister or a lesbian priest?  In more than fifty percent of all churches in America, homosexuality is regarded as a sin.  Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church cannot bless same sex marriages, never mind ever ordaining a lesbian or even a woman priest.

960x0

What if your granddaughter told you that she was changing her name from Ashley to Fred and was going to undergo gender transformation to become a man?  A record number of bills to limit transgender rights have been introduced this year in state legislators across the country, with lawmakers in 28 states considering 93 bills targeting the rights of transgender Americans according to the Human Rights Campaign.  Many state legislatures are weighing measures that would bar transgender youth from participating in sports or receiving medical treatment. 

6-6-13-22

2020 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the US: 45 transgender people were killed, up from 26 in both 2018 and 2019. This year is already on pace to be even deadlier, with 15 killings in the first 109 days of 2021.

My Queer Experiences:

I was born to an Italian father and Irish mother in 1946.  My father was 6’4” tall.  He was a decorated WWII veteran and had fought professionally as a boxer.  He was as macho a man as ever lived.  He would have put John Wayne to shame.  I grew to the age of 14 with no knowledge of gays or queers or any words to even describe them.  They were not part of my universe.  I was a fighter like my dad and had no problem in bare knuckle fighting to resolve problematic issues.  Somewhere along the way, I grew to hate bullies.  Some of my earliest fights involved kicking the shit out of some bully who was attacking a friend or even a stranger.

57

When I became old enough to hang out nights with a street corner gang, the issue of queers became more salient.  It would seem that several guys on the corner would get “blow jobs” from gay men.  Some other guys would go out on Friday nights down to the docks to roll some “queers” and take their money.  I had several invitations to pursue these endeavors.  I had no desire to get a “blow job” from a guy.  This smacked of homosexuality to me but the guys on the corner who participated never thought of themselves as queer.  I also had no desire to roll a queer or take their money.  No gay man had ever done anything to hurt me, and I did not have any inclination to hurt them.  I can’t say I spoke out against this practice, but I never joined in. 

LGBTQcommunity-WF1-693

Years later when I was in the military, I was assigned to a new base.  Upon arriving at the base, I was befriended by another service man who offered to show me around and be a buddy.  I appreciated his offer and we started hanging around together.  Soon, a bunch of other soldiers approached me and warned me that Mike was queer, and I had better stay away from him.  I did not break off all contact with Mike, but I limited my time with him after this warning.  I did not want anyone to think that I was “queer.”  Mike shipped out a few months later and never made any passes at me.

In the later seventies, something called the “Men’s Movement” started to emerge.  A “Men’s Center” was started in Minneapolis and I became a member.  I ardently attended men’s support group meetings, seminars, conferences and read much of the literature being published by leaders of the movement.  In due time, a straight men’s support group was formed, a gay men’s support group was formed, and a mixed group was formed.  Curious about the gay perspective on this movement, I joined both the straight men’s group and the mixed men’s group.

gay90-1d61x8dAt one of our mixed support group meetings, a gay man from our group challenged the rest of us, mostly the straight men to go out to a gay bar.  A popular one was the Gay Nineties on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis.  We accepted the challenge and decided that after our next support group meeting, we would all (straight and gay men) go to the Gay Nineties for a drink. 

We arrived there and found a table together.  There were about nine or so of us sitting down at a large round table.  There was a bar and a dance floor.  Many same sex couples were dancing, both male and female couples.  There were also some mixed couples.  We had a few drinks and talked for a couple of hours.  During that time, I watched somewhat nervously as men at other tables were approached by other men and asked to dance.  I was hoping to avoid any kind of an encounter like that.  However, during my time there, no one came up and asked me to dance.  I began wondering if something was wrong with me since I did not have any invitations to turn down.  I thought my conflicting feelings were somewhat funny. 

14116

In 1981, I became a Manpower Counselor II with the WIN program in Wisconsin.  I had received my M.S. degree in Counseling, and I took a state test to apply for this position.  The WIN program was the Work Incentive program, and the aim of this program was to help get AFDC or Welfare people back to work.  The program was a Federally funded state effort.  It involved joint cooperation between the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations (DILHR).  DSS assigned a Social Worker, and I was assigned by DILHR to work together to form an employment plan for eligible AFDC applicants.  The social worker would provide social support and I would provide logistical support to help applicants find suitable employment.

I met Lisa Patefield, who was the social worker for the program, during my first month on the job.  Lisa was cool to me and did not seem very friendly.  She was an attractive and athletic young woman with an M.S. degree in Social Work.  Several weeks went by and she continued to seem very distant and almost hostile towards me.  One day just before a meeting with a client, I confronted Lisa.  I asked her if I had said or done anything to offend her.  She put her head down and started crying.  I asked her what was wrong, and she raised her head and said, “I am a lesbian and whenever anyone I have worked with finds out, I am soon ostracized and ridiculed.”  I replied that I had no problem working with her nor did I have any qualms with her love life.

Lisa and I became good friends.  We often went out for lunch and a few times she came over to my house to visit.  One day, Lisa asked if she could take my daughter, who was about 12 at the time, to a baseball game with her.  I must admit that my first thought was, “What if she turns my daughter into a lesbian?”  Then I thought, “How stupid.  You don’t turn anyone into anything.  People make their love choices for any number of reasons.”  Lisa was as good a role model for my daughter as anyone I ever knew.  Chris went to the ball game and until I left the WIN program Lisa and I remained good friends.  I have often wondered what happened to her. 

I grew up.  I got older.  I have had many gay friends over the years. 

e7197bc8-4fb9-49c7-b816-06223c2b5c36-061019-hate-crimes_gender_identity

Are homosexuals normal or abnormal?: 

A 2020 FBI report shows that victims targeted for their sexual orientation – listed as gay, lesbian, or bisexual – comprise the third largest victim category at 16.7 percent, the report notes.  The FBI report says there were a total of 1,195 hate crime incidents targeting victims because of their sexual orientation.  Out of that figure, 746 are listed as anti-gay male, 115 as anti-lesbian, 17 listed as anti-heterosexual, and 26 listed as anti-bisexual.

FT_15.07.01_religionsSSM

The Bible, the source for many people on what is right or wrong condemns homosexuality in no uncertain terms.  Christian and Jewish religions are quite fond of using the Bible to support their bias against gender choices.  These same religions conveniently overlook the Bibles condemnation of adultery, lying, prostitution, divorce, and pre-marital sex.  You would be hard pressed to find a single human being on earth who did not daily violate something written in the Bible.

When we look at the question of “normality” we need to first define our terms.  Normal means to reflect what is generally accepted by a majority of the population.  It is the usual, average, or typical state or condition.  Abnormal means to deviate from what is accepted by the majority.  It is the unusual or untypical.  When people do not follow the conventional social or moral rules of their society, their behavior is considered abnormal.  To be abnormal carries a negative bias or connotation. 

If you think about these definitions for a second, you will realize how ridiculous the terms and concepts are.  First, if everyone were normal, there would be no creative or innovative people.  Normal people would never do abnormal things and the world would be very boring.  Innovation is based on people doing things that have never been done before. 

Second, the idea of normalcy is based on averages.  The problem here is that an average throws everything into one pot and comes out with a mean to represent a group.  The average or mean height for a man may be 5’9” but there are plenty of people who do not fit that mean.  We have a world full of averages that ignores variation and looks at differences as deficits.

Finally, life and social mores continue to evolve.  Slavery was once “normal”, but slavery was and always will be evil.  Prejudice against religions, race, ethnic groups, and other nations is quite normal in our world but such prejudice is and always will be evil. 

_104893151_hc_charges-nc

Prejudice against people because of their gender choices is evil.  If you want to be prejudiced against anyone or anything, you should be prejudiced against politicians that divide people instead of uniting people.  You should be prejudiced against religious leaders that preach intolerance instead of tolerance.  You should be prejudiced against people that attack or harm others because of lifestyle choices that do no harm to them.  The only harm gay people do is to disturb their petty ideas of what is right and wrong.

We live in a world of too little tolerance for others.  We have too little respect for differences.  We have a world full of myopic views of how life should be lived.  It is time we start embracing the magnificent array of choices that life brings to us.  We will only make a better world when we stop discriminating against people who are different from us.

“It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected, all over the world.”– Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

Que Sera, Sera

QueSeraSera-MakingitLovely

I think that I am a coward.  I don’t want to grow old.  They say that growing old is not for the faint of heart.  Every day, I understand that aphorism more and more.  In the last thirty days, four friends have passed away.  Mickey, Glen, Bill, and Dick.  I could write a blog about each of them.  They were all just nearing 80 years of age.  Not one of them died of Covid.  Had you known any of them, you would have been truly fortunate.  Perhaps, one of my greatest blessings in life has been to have people like this for friends.  People who lived life to the fullest and cared about other people.  Men who went out of their way to help not just family but strangers.

Two weeks ago, we found out that Karen’s oldest daughter Julie had five brain tumors.  For the past year or so, she had been acting very strange.  She had frequent bouts of forgetfulness along with severe headaches and neck pain.  Doctors had been treating her for an enzyme imbalance for several months, but she kept getting worse.  Her husband thought it might be the onset of early dementia.

Finally, someone decided to do an MRI for her.  At first, it looked like one large brain tumor but a neurosurgeon looking more closely at the scan found four other tumors.  Julie had been diagnosed with leukemia when she was six years old and for ten years had undergone frequent trips to the hospital for chemo and radiation treatment.  They believed that the tumors were related to the radiation treatments.

Julie is now fifty-three years old.  She went in for surgery on Tuesday of this past week.  She was in surgery for nearly seven hours.  They chose to remove the largest tumor but indicated that they would need to go in for another one at a later date.  They were not able to remove the entire tumor since it was awfully close to the optic nerve and they were afraid of damaging it and causing blindness.  Ironically, they want to use radiation therapy to try and remove the rest of the tumor.

Karen flew out Friday night thinking that she could try and help Julie when she returned from the hospital to her home.  Only one person could be in the hospital each day with Julie and her husband was the obvious choice.  Karen worried all week as complications arose each day and Julie did not seem any closer to coming home.  As I write this, it is now five days past surgery and Julie is still in the hospital.  She has been in and out of intensive care since the surgery.  Karen and Rob (Julie’s husband) have agreed to alternate days spent with Julie at the hospital.  So Karen is in Minnesota now and I am watching the home front here in Arizona.

mountain-oyster-logo-6

I am growing old, but I am growing more tired of seeing people I care about either get sick or dying.  I went to a concert last night with two friends Evelia and Angie.  Karen originally was going to go but being with her daughter was the greater priority.  The concert was put on by the True Concord Singers and Orchestra in Tucson.  It was held outside on a patio at what appeared to be an old mansion that had become a private men’s club.  It was called the Mountain Oyster Club.  Since it was members only, they would not let us dine there.  I had originally thought that after the concert we could dine at this exclusive club but that was not to be.  We ended up going to a resort called the El Conquistador.  My two companions are both Latina and I wondered what they thought about dining at a place called El Conquistador.

113031193

The concert was called “The Trailblazers” and consisted of songs arranged by women composers and based on the works of noted women writers and artists.  Some of the composers included Judith Weir, Hildegard von Bingen, Emma Lou Diemer, Ysaye Barnwell and Alice Parker.  The writers and poets included Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, and Edith Franklin Wyatt.

True-Concord-singers-2-350x233-300x200

The fifteen songs performed were arranged along a series of themes.  One set of the songs was called “Remembering Those We’ve Lost.”  Thinking back to my lost friends while these songs were performed brought tears to my eyes.  Reflecting on what it might mean to me if Karen should pass away before I do, I could not bear the thought.  Coward that I am, I am hoping to pass from this world without too many more losses of those I love.  Here are a few of the lyrics from the songs in the concert.  It is of course quite different and much more moving hearing these sung but the lyrics themselves are quite compelling.

From: “My Companion” by Edith Franklin Wyatt (1873-1958)

Let the roadside fade:

Morning on the mountain top,

Hours along the valley,

Days of walking on and on,

Pulse away in silence,

Let the world all fade,

Break and pass away,

Yet, will this remain,

Deep beyond all singing,

Beautiful past singing.

We are here together,

You and I together,

Wonderful past singing.

From: “Wanting Memories” by Ysaye Barnwell (1946- Present)

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

You used to rock me in the cradle of your arms,
You said you’d hold me till the pains of life were gone.
You said you’d comfort me in times like these and now I need you,
Now I need you, and you are gone.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Since you’ve gone and left me, there’s been so little beauty,
But I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.

maxresdefault

I finished a run this morning in the mountains.  Saw a large coyote on the trail and thought at first it was a deer.  You are not likely to see a deer in the desert, but the coyote was large and brown and from a distance it did look like a small deer.  As I ran, I could not help but thinking of the song by Doris Day “Que Sera, Sera.”  The lyrics that go “Whatever will be, will be.  The futures not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera.”

We scheme, we plan, we strategize, we organize, we bribe, we cajole, we blackmail so that we can control the future.  We pray to whatever god or gods we believe in to keep our loved ones safe from harm or pain.  I am sure that every one of you reading this would rather suffer death or pain before seeing your family, friends or children suffering.  Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

But as written in Ecclesiastes, it is all vanity.  Nothing but vanity.  I can’t stop a single person I know from dying or suffering pain.  The best that I can do is to be there for them during their suffering.  This is the role that my spouse has chosen to take with her oldest daughter.  It is a role that I would gladly have pass by me since coward that I am, I find it harder to watch my family, friends and others suffer then to deal with my own suffering.

I once loved the poem that admonished us to: “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”  Now I wonder, what could Robert Browning have been thinking?  I am waiting for “the best that is yet to be.”  I must be missing something.  As each day goes by and as yet another friend leaves this earth, I am more and more wondering what I will have left when they are all gone, and I am the only one here.

Nothing I have ever worked for, saved for, bought, owned, or possess will have any meaning without the ability to share it with those I love.  I think about walking through the house where I am now sitting without my spouse or friends or family and it is by far a fate worse than death and dying.  I won’t rage into the night.  I am reflecting upon death as a comforting blanket than I can pull over my head and use to hide from the sorrows of the world.  I will not rush it, but as many have realized that have gone before me, at some point, we all know that our time has passed, and that we must leave this world.  As for what will come after, I can only say “Que Sera, Sera.”

I think you will enjoy this song:  https://youtu.be/xZbKHDPPrrc 

Que Sera, Sera

When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart, what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: