Saturday, October 13, 2018

Speechless


Life is suffering. This is a teaching in Buddhism. Suffering, pain, despair, sorrow, all this is a part of life just as their opposites are. But people rarely complain about joy, feeling great, happiness, and contentment. As I understand it, Buddhism was calling attention to emotion and our attachment to it. This too shall pass. Buddhism also teaches impermanence, i.e. nothing is permanent, nothing remains the same, change happens all the time whether we notice it or not. Things happen. In Buddhism, these things are neither good nor bad, they just are. And they too shall pass.

During the last two weeks since my last post, I have watched American politics as if watching a cheap entertainment pandering to an ignorant and uncaring audience. I have been speechless and appalled. What could I possibly say or do in the face of this power-hungry and incredibly narcissistic onslaught?  I've been thinking of the Republicans as members of the Greedy (for power) Old (as in over 65 years old) Male Party (GOMP) who view women as inferior, stupid beings to be used for sexual entertainment, proof of virility, and servants to their every whim and wish. They also fear and hate women because women have sexual power over them (as if men are incapable of controlling themselves).

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP

Where are the women? How do women stand up to power? Women speak out, assuming they will be heard and understood but the current men-in-power look upon their grievances as either inconsequential (women should be thanking men for paying attention to them) or a threat to the world they have created for themselves (with no thought given to anyone else -- women, minorities, disabled, the poor, children, LGBT community, or anyone else who isn't them). They expect everyone else to be grateful they have the power to insure America remains White, American remains patriarchal, and America remains run by the wealthy elite.

Where are the women? Women make up 51% of the population. If you add the percentages of men who are minorities, poor, disabled, and in the LGBT community, I'd guess that's a good 60% to 65% of the population. Isn't it time that these groups begin working together for democracy and a society that values, respects, and dignifies every person (not just White Men)?

A man who assaults another man is not the victim of the assault, the man he assaulted is. But if a man assaults a woman, i.e. sexually assaults her in some way, and she calls him out about it, i.e. asserts her rights as a citizen under American law, all of a sudden the man who assaulted her is the victim? And then another man mocks the woman for asserting her rights? How did those men get away with that? Because of the GOMPers.



Take note: we are now living what George Orwell only imagined, and what Sinclair Lewis so richly and incredibly (at the time) wrote about. The men in power have deluded themselves into believing that what they are doing is good for America, good for democracy. They claim they are making America great again, but the problem was that America had not lost its greatness until they came along.

This too shall pass. Nothing is permanent. But what is on the other side?


Saturday, September 29, 2018

What's Really Going On Here?

Brett Kavanaugh (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
This past week the Brett Kavanaugh hearings dominated the news in different ways. Speculation ran rampant. Was he qualified to be a Supreme Court Judge? Could what he did when he was 17 or in college be a reflection of his character? Did he or didn't he?

I've found The Weekly Sift helpful reading each week regarding politics. Doug Muders has a measured tone and works hard to look at different aspects that aren't being looked at elsewhere in the media. Last week, before the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh took off and developed a life of their own, Muders suggested that Kavanaugh could have been a hero but missed the opportunity. Interesting reading. However, what really caught my eye was his weekly summary of last week's news, Voiceless. The opening quote:
Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
– Abigail Adams
Letter to John Adams, 3-31-1776
The GOP should heed Abigail Adams' words. What has really fascinated me about the last 2 weeks and the Kavanaugh situation is the way GOP Congressmen and women are responding to it. I think this is the real story behind the Kavanaugh situation. On the one hand, you have Senator Amy Klobuchar who's been clear and confident in her comments and the reasonable need for an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations. Then on the other, you have Mitch McConnell and his rigid reaction to the allegations. Other members of the GOP defend Kavanaugh in the most general terms. It took Senator Flake's uncomfortable confrontation with two women activists to actually get the GOP moving away from rigidity and into reasonableness. Mitch McConnell, in my opinion, is not an asset to the GOP right now.

Mitch McConnell

The GOP would ignore women, disempower them, return them to the 19th century when men ruled American society. I have a hard time understanding this view. We live in the 21st century. For the last 70+ years, women have shown that men need to learn a different way of viewing women, relating to them, and living with them. Some men have gotten it. Others steadfastly refuse to consider any other possibility but that women were put on earth only to benefit men. Some progress has been made. It's no longer acceptable to beat your wife, or treat her like a piece of property, or ignore the fact that she has a mind and is far more capable of using it than men have given women credit for in the past, and that she's more than a housekeeper and baby factory. Frankly, I'm not impressed with the intelligence and capabilities of the men I've met who hold the 19th century view. I really would not want them running the country, for example.

The GOP holds majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It's understandable that they might want to push through a Supreme Court nomination before the midterm election. They have the power to do that right now. But I really wonder if all the GOP Senators are really convinced that Kavanaugh would be the best Supreme Court judge they could find right now. As Doug Muders points out in his Voiceless post, the very first thing out of Kavanaugh's mouth was a lie:

"When Kavanaugh was nominated, here’s the first thing he said:
'Mr. President, thank you. Throughout this process, I have witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary. No president has ever consulted more widely or talked with more people from more backgrounds to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination.'
It may not have seemed like a big deal at the time, but that was a brazen, obvious lie. Trump picked Kavanaugh off a list of 25 names that was given to him by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, a straight white male Catholic conservative from an Ivy League school. So Trump conspicuously didn’t consult widely or seek input from large numbers of people from diverse backgrounds. On the contrary, together with the Neil Gorsuch search process, the Kavanaugh process was probably the least rigorous search in recent American history. That was public knowledge, and Kavanaugh surely knew it too."

Of course, we have a president who is honesty-challenged so it somehow makes sense that he'd nominate someone who was as honesty-challenged as he. But this brings up the question of just how much of Kavanaugh's protests and claims of innocence we should believe. What else has he lied about?

This has left me with the opinion of the GOP that they are the political party of dishonesty, rigid thinking, power-hungry, and anti-woman. They accept and support a liar in the Oval Office and do nothing about it. They defend a man who chose to lie in his acceptance of the Supreme Court nomination in order to kowtow to a man who has no idea what the truth (or perhaps even reality) is. The question for the GOP is this: are you truly acting in the best interests of the country or in the best interests of the GOP? If they do not get that these are two different things, we are really in trouble.

But then, I'd been thinking anyway for the last 6 months or so that the man who's president right now remains in office because the GOP is using him to deflect attention away from what they are really doing. What has Congress been doing since the current president was sworn in? They have been working for the wealthy elite and corporations in this country with a tax law that benefits them and only them. They have failed to check the executive branch's actions regarding immigration, especially the order to separate children from their parents at the border. They have done nothing to rescind the ban on Muslims immigrating to the US. They have worked to undo environmental protections and well as clean energy initiatives championed by the last president.  They have done nothing when the current president insults, offends, and otherwise alienates our allies. They have done nothing to stop the trade war the current president has begun. They have done nothing to stop gerrymandering and other actions that deny the right to vote to minorities (groups of people who might vote against them). Will we see next a repeal of the 19th Amendment? Will we see laws that strip people of their basic human rights? Will we see the loss of our freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights just because they are inconvenient for the GOP maintaining its power?

No one political party should have a permanent majority in Congress, ever. No one political party should wield power against the opposition in order to prevent any challenges to that power. Power is a destructive, addictive drug. Give it to some people who don't respect it and treat it with care and humility, and they just crave more and more and more. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

I'm Back...I Think


The last couple of years have challenged me as a human being and as a writer. Time also challenged me, i.e. finding enough of it in a day to do everything I wanted to do. I failed more often than succeeded. But now, I want to do a re-boot of this blog. Not to change its focus, but just to get started writing here again.

Reason for the Semi-Hiatus

If you remember, in the fall of 2016 America convulsed politically and spit out a president that astounded over 50% of the electorate, if not a few percentage points of the others as well. I did not vote for him. In fact, I warned against him. But when he was elected, I decided to take a step back, wait, observe, and see what happened. What happened appalled me, and I know I was not alone. I gave him two years and he hasn't improved, no matter what he spews forth.

What Sparked My Decision to Return

More and more, the media has been digging deeper and deeper into what is really going on in America even as it and the First Amendment are under attack. America is sliding toward an autocracy. Although I saw the signs of the beginning of that slide back in the 1980's, I never imagined that I'd ever write that sentence: America is sliding toward an autocracy.

It has become that much more important to support Freedom of the Press, the First Amendment, the entire Bill of Rights, as well as the Constitution. I am but one person, but one person multiplied by hundreds of thousands or millions can make a difference.

The Atlantic Monthly

I've subscribed to The Atlantic Monthly magazine since about 1981 (ah, my youth!). Even when I was struggling the most financially, I still found a way to pay for the subscription. The magazine has rewarded my efforts with 37 years of balanced, in-depth reporting and analyses of important stories like terrorism, immigration, healthcare, mental health, as well as American politics and society, geopolitical stories, and coverage of other countries, societies, and cultures. For the last three years, this magazine has been working hard to reveal the truths about what is going on in America, just as it did during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. This magazine takes a step back and works hard to get the big picture so its readers can learn and make informed decisions about their lives.

I've just finished reading the October 2018 issue, an issue I'd encourage everyone to buy and read from cover to cover, especially the stories surrounding its feature: Is Democracy Dying? Borrow this issue from someone you know who subscribes, go to the library and read it there. The coverage in this issue concerns America's future, American citizens' future and freedom, and the need for a citizenry that regains the habit of critical thinking, and regains the habit of democracy, i.e. to no longer be passive participants by only voting, as important as voting is. But standing up to power, speaking truth to power, and ultimately wrenching power away from an autocratic federal government that doesn't deserve it.

Eyes on Life Going Forward

My intention is to continue this blog's commentary on current life as I see it, as well as shining a light on my Successful Patient series. While I enjoyed participating in the #We are the World Blogfest, and I may occasionally write posts under that hashtag in the future, I didn't feel comfortable writing my usual commentary while participating in the blogfest. I wanted to find a way to do both in my own way. I needed to be able to dance to my own music.

What I write here will be my own personal experience and my own personal opinions. I have never been a representative of any organization or person or government agency, and I am not now. In other words, I plan to exercise my Freedom of Speech right to its fullest extent as often as I can.

The Other Side

One of the things I've tried to do during the last two years is to learn about and understand how the election of 2016 happened, who the people are who made it happen and why they made it happen. There's a part of me that believes that they believe they have acted, and continue to act, in the best interests of the country. What scares me is their naivete. Their gullibility. Their willingness to disengage any critical thinking, or even any kind of bullshit meter. For this reason, I have found it extremely difficult to talk with people who support the current president. From what I've observed, they think that someone they'd normally be against, i.e. a filthy rich, white, male who lies, cheats, abuses people and cares only about himself, money and power, and who has routinely discriminated against people like them would be the person to speak for them, to do what they want him to do, and to empower them. What he says in his rallies is designed to whip his supporters into a frenzy behind him. Once the rally is over, though, he works hard to take away his supporters freedoms, way of life, and money.

If someone who supports the current president stumbles onto this blog and feels the need to leave a comment, or anyone else who desires to express him/herself, I require commenters to be civil, intelligent, and respectful. Any comments that do not meet these requirements will not be published. There are other places that are more than happy to publish that kind of expression.

So, I'm back...I think....



Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Carrying Friendship #WATWB

We Are The World Blogfest (#WATWB) focuses on the human interest media stories that shine light in the darkness of the internet in an effort to spread love, peace, and compassion. This is the 15th installment, hosted this month by Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Mary J. Giese, Dan Antion, and Damyanti Biswas. Check out their websites for more inspiring stories, or peruse the websites of other participants in #WATWB found here (scroll down the page to the list).



During a quick visit to Facebook a couple weeks ago, I stumbled onto a story in my newsfeed that made my jaw drop. It is an extraordinary story of friendship that also includes fun and adventure for all involved.

(Photo from We Carry Kevan Facebook page)
Kevan Chandler has Spinal Muscular Dystrophy which means that he is confined to a wheelchair. He had a dream to travel to Europe with his friends. This dream included doing non-wheelchair-accessible things. He and his friends devised a backpack for them to use to carry Kevan on their backs so he could go wherever they went. Four friends took turns carrying him while two other friends filmed the trip. To watch a video of their trip, click here.

Kevan and his friends (Photo courtesy Kevan Chandler)

What amazing friends! Their trip to Europe was a huge success, and now they've planned a trip to China together with Kevan. Part of the success of their European trip could be attributed to Kevan Chandler's openness to doing the impossible, but what truly amazed me was his friends and their willingness to do what they could to make the trip possible.

I love this story and wanted to share it with the world. It's definitely a story I will not forget.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Living the Golden Rule: Kindness and Caring in One Town #WATWB

We are the World Blogfest began over a year ago to spread light, love, and peace on the internet that was (and still is) dominated by darkness and all sorts of aggression. A group of bloggers got together to start this blogfest in an effort to counter that darkness and shine a light of love on humanity's goodness. We often forget the good stuff when inundated with screaming headlines.

The village of North Riverside, Illinois, doesn't forget the good stuff. In fact, they have made it a village goal to live the Golden Rule everyday with each other. I saw this story on The Good News Network and was amazed:
"Neighbors, strangers and village staff are more than fun and nice: They are genuinely caring, compassionate and concerned about those around them, 24/7. From sharing garden vegetables; shoveling snow; mowing lawns; driving to doctor appointments; donating unused items; paying utility bills; kids writing cards to the elderly; giving struggling, depressed residents a reason to smile; and hosting youth scholarships where no one is turned away – no place in the country comes close."
North Riverside Neighborhood Services Committee (Photo credit: Tina Valentino)

 Reader's Digest runs a contest for the "Top 10 Nicest Places in America" and North Riverside was nominated.

This village's Neighborhood Services Committee works to organize help for residents who need it, and residents also act on their own to help their neighbors. The village even has a manual for how to help each other. To read more about North Riverside, check out the story on the Reader's Digest site. I especially love the stories about how the kids in the village get involved. It's never too early to teach kids about kindness, compassion, and treating others as we want to be treated ourselves.

May all communities, no matter how small or how large, take heart and learn by this shining example.

For more #WATWB stories, please visit this month's co-hosts' websites for their contributions. Those co-hosts are: Shilpa Garg, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Peter Nena, Andrea Michaels, and Damyanti Biswas.You can also find more #WATWB stories here. Scroll down the page for the list of participating blogs.