What Kind Of World Do You Want?

I just spent a half hour looking at Facebook. I read several articles about current events. I saw pictures of our president and his wife with victims from one of the latest mass shootings. He and her were smiling and he was giving the thumbs up sign. This man has no more self awareness than a rock. He basically used these hurting people as a photo op staring himself. I read that many of them refused a visit from him. Good for them, I thought. I’m glad they refused. I wondered what I would have done in the same situation. If it had been me I would like to have said, “Sure, I’ll see the president”, and then told him to his face that the only reason myself and the other survivors are here is because he spreads fear and racism. He spreads hate and division. Then I would tell him to get the f**k out of my room.

I hate feeling angry. Anger is destructive. It harms your mind and body. Ever since trump became president I’ve felt more of it than ever in my life. Anger at him, at the NRA, at congress. Anger at the people who like and support trump and his racist, bigoted, hate filled views and actions. I feel anger right now while I’m writing this. I’m angry.

When trump announced his candidacy I started telling anyone and everyone what a bad president he would make. I reminded them of his failed businesses and bankruptcies when they said a business man would make a good president. I told them about all the racist and misogynistic things he said. I told them about his narcissistic behaviors. I reminded them that he had no political experience and they said we need someone outside the political sphere. I went on and on. But it didn’t matter because most Americans live in fear. They don’t even know what it is they’re afraid of, and yet they live in fear. And he played on their fears. He made them feel as if their fears were justified. People always want to feel justified. They want to feel that what they’re feeling and thinking has merit. And he made them feel justified. All his presidency has done for them is to make them even more afraid and they don’t see it.

So here we are, in the third year of trump’s presidency. Hate and fear have taken center stage. A fascist regime is coming closer to reality every day and still, people don’t see it. I see people making comments on social media like this: “This is not who we are as a country,” or, “What have we become?” Unfortunately, this is naive thinking. Look at history and you’ll find we have always been a racist nation. We have always been fearful. We feared Native Americans. We feared witches. We feared black people. The North feared the South and the South feared the North. We’ve feared the rich and we’ve feared the poor. Fear drives us. And when you fear something long enough you begin to hate it. You hate it for making you fearful. And hate makes you do things like slaughtering other humans with assault weapons. And then we bury our dead and wonder how we got like this. No one knows what to do. No one remembers that this country has a constitution that states exactly what we can do. No one thinks they have any power to change the situation. It’s easier to crawl back in your hole and fear everything outside than it is to stand up and demand change.

The only reason our government is the way it is, is because we have let it become this way. It’s our fault. You won’t hear too many people say that. They want to blame the NRA, or trump or whoever but ultimately, it’s us. We the people have allowed our politicians through their actions or inaction’s to make our country what it is. Rather than take responsibility with our vote we just keep voting the same corrupt people back into office. Rather than demanding that our politicians do what we want of them we say we don’t have time for that. We’re too busy. We have complicated lives. And so, we get what we’ve asked for, even though we didn’t realize we were asking for it. And now we don’t know what to do.

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What Can We Do?

Three mass shootings in two weeks. Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. All by angry white men with assault weapons. The media reports on it, the country grieves, flags are at half staff. We go about our lives wondering what the hell is happening, wondering what can be done, and no one does a goddamn thing. Words get tossed around: mental health, anger, fear, white supremacy, terrorism. Solutions are suggested, protests are staged, blame all around. And no one does a goddamn thing. We will go back to our lives, our jobs, saddened by our current state of affairs. And nothing will change.

The question of the hour: What can we do? I’ve heard plenty of ideas but almost no one is suggesting that we vote legislators out of congress who allow these shootings to continue. The ones who take money from the NRA as bribes for not voting for stricter gun laws. Our president uses fear and hate to divide us and surely this is part of the problem. Looking at the killers social media more than suggests that it is. Racism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry contribute as well. Toxic masculinity from hundreds of years of raising boys to believe they should hide and fear their emotions. Hundreds of years of not talking about mental illness, of treating it as a taboo subject. You want to know what’s wrong? These things. These things right here.

“Don’t cry Bobby. Crying is for girls. Are you are girl? Well then, stop crying. Boys don’t cry.” Toxic masculinity. Countless millions of boys have been raised this way. To be tough, to be strong. To be stoic. Don’t let anyone know you feel terrible inside and whatever you do, don’t cry. Like adding pressure to an airtight bottle. Eventually it’s going to blow.

Fear. What are you afraid of? Well, if you’re American, you’re afraid of almost everything. Brown people, coming to take your jobs. Muslims, coming to take your God. LGBTQ people turning your children gay. Socialists coming to take your freedom. And when these fears are fed a steady diet of Trump and Fox News well, any thinking person can see what happens. And when our Congress refuses to act, refuses to do their jobs, it adds fuel to the fire. Like adding pressure to an airtight bottle. And when we refuse to demand that Congress does its job, that our president does his job, we are complicit. We are at fault.

There’s no point making a list, a “What can be done list.” There’s no point. We know what to do. We know what needs to be fixed. We were once a Democracy. Our country has become what we have allowed it to become. When you turn on the news and see another mass shooting, that’s your fault, and my fault. We have allowed this to happen. Through direct action or inaction, we have allowed our country to become what it is. No one I know of is suggesting this. No news agency, no individual writers that I have read are saying this is our own fault. Through our own action or inaction, it is. And we know how to fix it.

The Fox And The Crowd


Facebook has a tool you can use to create a community page. People use it to alert others to things happening in the community, such as events, yard sales, and other things of interest. One day on my local community page someone posted two pictures of a Red Fox that was molting. Molting is something that many animals go through each spring, shedding hair, feathers, skin, etc. to make way for new ones. If you have a dog, you know what I’m talking about. My dog sheds huge clumps of hair every spring. She looks terrible while she’s doing it. I have to follow her around with the vacuum cleaner. The pictures clearly showed it was a Red Fox, with black feet half way up the legs and it was clearly molting. The poster said they took the pictures that morning, gave the location and said they didn’t know what was wrong with this animal but people ought to be aware of its presence in town. Simple enough, right? A concerned citizen. It was the comments that others left on the post that got my attention.

I go to Northern Minnesota each Spring for a camping vacation. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I also go to state parks, and county parks and walk the trails. I’ve seen lots of Fox. I’ve seen lots of Fox who were molting. When they’re molting they look like Sunday morning after a rough Saturday night. Clumps of hair sticking out all over, hanging down from their sides. But you can see there is new hair underneath. A beautiful new coat waiting to show itself. They don’t act sick or rabid. The pictures clearly showed a Fox that was molting. And it was June, another reason for my analysis. But the comments that people left on this post were fascinating. They started out suggesting the Fox was sick, “It’s got mange,” “It’s got rabies,” and these comments multiplied rapidly after the first ones. A lot of people didn’t know it was a Fox. One person said it was a cross between a Wolf and a Coyote. You could clearly see the black feet of a Fox and reddish colored fur. Oh well. By the end of the more than 150 comments, everyone was convinced that it was a sick animal and needed to be put down. I tried to calm nerves with a couple comments of my own however the fear was spreading like fire.

This is an example of what psychology calls, “herd mentality.” When one or two members of the herd start to panic, everyone panics. This is from Wikipedia: “Herd mentality, mob mentality and pack mentality, also lesser known as gang mentality, describes how people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis. When individuals are affected by mob mentality, they may make different decisions than they would have individually.” It was interesting to see it happen. I followed the post for a few days just to see where it would go and most of the commenters fit the herd mentality mold very well. They were panicking, they were afraid. Many people said the Fox should be shot, captured, put down. And all, over a picture of a Fox naturally shedding its fur.

You can see other examples of herd mentality in every day life. People believing rumors and spreading them, making assumptions, believing their assumptions are the truth and acting on them. Rather than taking a step back and trying to use reason, most people go with the crowd and panic because others are panicking. Fear. Fight or flight. Textbook psychology stuff. It is wasn’t so serious, it would be fun to observe.

It’s serious because you see it happening in the country today. Look at the chanting that happens at Trump rallies. “Lock her up!” or “Send her back!” Because the guy next to you is shouting it, you start shouting it. Something you would never do on a street corner by yourself. And yet in the crowd it seems like a reasonable thing to do. It’s scary to watch. Riots happen this way. One person throws a brick through a window and the next thing you know, the whole street is throwing bricks. People make irrational decisions while under the influence of herd mentality caused by fear, like when they vote. Many people, without even realizing it, live their lives in fear, just waiting for that one person to either fight or run and then following along. Apparently it’s easier to let someone else do your thinking for you.

The author Robert M Pirsig wrote: “The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away.” Sad, and unfortunately true. The whole idea of not looking rationally at any situation is foreign to me. I have never just gone along with group thinking because everyone else is doing it. It just doesn’t make sense to not think about a problem and rationalize it to a solution. It really is scary to see it happening especially when it can happen with really important things like war. Agreeing with the group ideas about a Fox seems inconsequential until you realize that these same people vote with the same mentality. We haven’t evolved nearly as much as we would like to believe.

Second Verse, Same As The First


The title of this post, “Second verse, same as the first,” is a line from the Herman’s Hermits song, Henry the Eighth. I’m going to continue talking about morality so this post is sort of like the last one, but not quite. I only got one “like” on yesterdays post, (thank you Rachel) so maybe morality isn’t a popular subject. If we think about morals, we start thinking about our own morals and that leads to taking a deeper look at ourselves. That, can be uncomfortable. As with all things, I try to take the uncomfortable along with the comfortable, the good with the bad, that sort of thing. It’s good to be balanced. You see so many things today, such as Facebook memes, TV, newspaper, and magazine ads about being happy. Buy this, eat that, consume this and you’ll be happy. The truth is, it’s not good for you to be happy all the time. A good balance of happy/sad, comfortable/uncomfortable, is healthier. The bad times help you appreciate the good times more. Being uncomfortable, especially with yourself, helps you grow as a person. If we don’t know we have a problem, how can we fix it?

So, back to morality. How can two people have completely different outlooks morally, on the same subject. The pacifist feels that war is completely unnecessary, the killing of others completely unacceptable. The war hawk believes that war is necessary and even good. To accomplish your goals, to get what you want, sometimes you have to kill some people. Sometimes even siblings have viewpoints that are that different. Born and raised by the same parents, under the same conditions and they still have moral outlooks that are miles apart. I’m not sure if it can be explained, and that is why the Philosophy of morals exists. To try and find answers.

My own moral viewpoint as to war is somewhere in between pacifist and not pacifist. When it comes to conflict I think all other avenues should be explored before going to war, and only going to war when it’s necessary to protect yourself and your country. Even then, war is still morally objectionable. That’s my feeling. How did I come by that? I’m not sure I know, but it’s how I feel.

One of the ways people find war/killing/mistreatment of others more acceptable is to demonize the “enemy.” Make them seem less than human. Call them savages, murderers, rapists, etc. White Americans did that to Native Americans. They did it to African American slaves. And even today, our own president does it to Mexicans and Central Americans. Gay people have been called sick and immoral, Muslims are all called terrorists. If you make your target seem “less than” it becomes easier to treat them badly. This is all part of morality. Convince yourself that some people are just evil and you can justify many things that maybe you normally wouldn’t. Morality is fluid. Our moral outlook fluctuates depending on a lot of criteria. While you wouldn’t think of taking a big stick and beating your neighbor who’s nice to you, that guy down the street who’s always playing loud music at midnight deserves a whacking. Fluid morality.

So why is morality fluid? It depends on how we feel. It depends on what we fear. One neighbor is nice to you, the other one isn’t. Does one deserve less than the other one? Or more? Why do we feel more compassion towards one than the other? We feel compassion for people who are starving because we feel they don’t deserve it. For a brutal murderer who gets life in prison we feel little compassion because after all, she killed someone. She deserves what she got. Fluid morality. Our feelings change with the situation. Is this a protection system built into our brains to protect us from what we fear? Does our moral code change with our feelings because our morality is our feelings?

These are questions I ponder. No wonder my mind is such a mess! This is the reason I write. To get all this stuff out of my head helps me think more clearly about it. I’m endlessly fascinated by the question of why people are the way they are. How they see good verses bad and why. And more importantly, how do we arrive at our moral values and what happens to change them? Fun stuff!

Breaking Words Episode 3

Episode three has been released and you can find it here: The first piece is a prose commentary on the state of fear we find in the US today. The second is about war and death (happy subjects) and the final is about missing my wife, Ann. With so much garbage in the news today I felt I had to make some kind of response and that’s why I wrote “Fear” just a couple days ago. Here are the words to episode 3’s three pieces. I hope they help you to think hard about the state of our world.

Fear

Today’s political climate in the United States has me thinking about fear. There seems to be a lot of it these days. Fear of the “other.” Meaning, fear of others. Other people, to be exact. Fear of what we don’t understand. We seem to be in an iron fisted grip of fear. And if you look back in history, I’m sure you’ll find that every generation had their fears. Your parents, and their parents back to the beginning, had fears. Fears that drove them to survive, to protect what was theirs. Because they feared losing it. Whatever “it” was. Their lives, their property, their freedom. Fear drove them to survive. As it drives us. Science tells us that modern humans have existed on this planet for about 200,000 years. And yet with all our science and technological advancement, we still it seems, have not advanced very far. We are still basically fearful creatures hiding in our caves. Afraid that others will come and take what we have.

Early humans were afraid of natural phenomena. Earthquakes, lightening, wind and flood. They had no science or history to look back on to tell them what these things were. There was no known cause. And yet humans are driven to find reasons for everything. And so, Gods were invented. Roman Gods, Greek Gods, Norse Gods. Having angry Gods gave people answers to the questions of why things happened. When I was a kid I remember being told that thunder was the sound of God bowling in heaven. It made me less afraid. Now I had an answer for what this noise was that shook the house and scared me. And I knew that God had my best interest at heart, so I needn’t fear thunder. And now of course, I understand the science that explains thunder, so there’s no more fear associated with it. But what became of that fear? Did it just disappear? Or did I find something else to fear instead?

All throughout history, people have risen up and claimed that they were the answer to your fears. They were the ones who could save you from the things that go bump in the night. “Follow me” they say, And I’ll make things right. “Elect me” and I’ll save our country. I’ll chase away the “others.” Some of them were good leaders. Some of them were charlatans. But if you look back at all our past history you’ll find that no matter how many demons have been chased away, no matter how much science explains why natural things happen, we still find something to fear. Unfortunately, there have always been those who understand this and take full advantage of it. First, they manufacture something to fear. And then tell you that they are the only ones who can save you from it.

And fear, I don’t think, is our basic problem. Fear, keeps you from sticking a fork in a light socket. Fear, keeps you from putting your hand in a fire. The fear of dying or at least, great bodily harm, keeps you from stepping out into traffic. In those examples, fear is a good thing. Our primitive instinct tells us we need fear to survive. Without it, we wouldn’t be here. And yet we see fear working in many harmful ways. As I write this, there are thousands of people walking through Mexico, presumably heading to the United States. Our news agencies are ripe with stories as to why this is happening. Our government is telling us we need to fear these people. They are coming for our jobs. They are coming for free money. They are harboring terrorists. They are the “other.” And they blame those that they want us to fear. Democrats. Liberals. Migrants walking across Mexico. If you fear something long enough, you will begin to hate it. You hate it for making you afraid. This is the dark side of fear. What’s happening right now in the U S is a prime example of how people manipulate our fears and use them to control us. A good healthy fear of stepping into traffic, will keep us alive. A manufactured fear of others will destroy us.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if I have a good answer to the problem. I’m certainly not going to shout, “Follow Me,” and I’ll show you the way. One bit of advice I could give is a quote from the Dalai Lama: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” I think there are many people in the world who don’t have any interest in helping others. And too many times I have seen people deliberately hurt others to make themselves feel better. It seems it is it common for people to look for others that are worse off than themselves, thus boosting their own confidence And if they can’t find them, they’ll manufacture them by treating them badly to see them suffer. President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

This, it seems to me, is what’s happening in the U S today. We are being fed fear. A steady diet of which will eventually cause us to hate. And hate always manifests itself in negative ways. Fear can be a good thing. Something to help us to survive and even thrive. But the fear that causes us to hate others is destructive will eventually tear us apart.

The Sword Of Freedom


As hands are brushed together, dead bodies fall like dust
and a girl in a dress called freedom whirls and twirls
but makes no sound but the sound of a mothers cry.

With the constitution in one hand and a bible in the other,
flames suddenly leap and turn them to ash and
they blow away on the wind called justice.

Crowds leave the synagogue, cathedral and mosque and file
into the furnace while factories make more furnaces
and governments send more children to burn.

The minds eye is blind and feeling it’s way to find
emptiness and sorrow where love once lived.
Time turns backward to other wars with the same stench.

Liberty’s crack grows wider and the clapper has
disappeared to be replaced by the
sword of freedom, and a mother cries again.

And do we watch with hands folded in laps and on
our knees pray to a god who doesn’t listen? And do
we tell our children that this is righteousness?

As our world disappears in flame and ash do
we wish we had done the right thing? Do we say the
words that will set all to right, or collect our pay?

As the wars rage on and refugees muliply we go to our
jobs with blinders in place and plugs in our ears and
pretend we do not see the girl dancing. And bleeding.

And as she falls to the ground her wounds ooze into
the sand and she reaches out to be picked up but
we turn away, not wanting to get our clothes dirty.

With clean hands and clothes some walk away, but
some stoop to carry away the hurt and their
voices are being heard. Quietly now, but getting louder.

Waking Dreams

Like a cricket I can’t find
in my bedroom at night,
your memory haunts me.
Insistent, yet melodic,
you are there,
robbing me of sleep.

Floating through
my waking dreams
you stand on the other
side of a darkened glass.
I reach out to you
but you do not reach back.

You watch me with
placid face as I move
about my day, I, always
reaching. I cannot see your
smile, from where you are,
from where I am.

I long to be released
from this dream of you,
this dream of not you,
and yet, it is the only
way I see you anymore,
except in pictures.

Fear Is The Enemy

angry crowd
we are human
If you follow the news these days like I do, you undoubtedly have noticed a rise in racism, bigotry and hate in America. It seems to be coming from all facets of society from the common worker to the (so called) elite, and from our government, congress and one presidential candidate in particular. The problem that we face in combating racism, bigotry and such is the same as combating terrorism. These things are constructs. They are ideas, emotions. You can’t fight them. You can kill ISIS fighters in the war on terror but more will take their place. You can oppose hate with love but more hate will rise up. What is needed is to understand why there is racism, why there is hate. Racism, hate and bigotry are symptoms of other problems. Find the problem and find the cure. Sounds easy, right? If it were, we would already have it licked. But we don’t and it seems to be getting worse. People are becoming more comfortable with public displays of some of the worst feelings and emotions humans can come up with. But, why?

Our society is geared toward finding happiness. Advertising tells people to acquire more stuff to be happy. People have to have the latest phone, car or clothes. T.V. commercials tell you that you will be happy if you get the newest products. Or try the latest diet. Book store shelves are packed with self help books. All this stuff to improve our lives and make us happy, but is it working? No. It’s not.

We have become a nation of shamers and blamers. We shame people when we think they’ve done wrong and hand out blame like a free ham at Christmas. We thrive on division and demonize differences. What this does is create minority groups for people to verbally attack and look down upon and for radical individuals to go further with physical violence. But again, why? Why do we need to look down on others? Why do we need someone to hate? That is the real question. Simply enough, people are dissatisfied. They are simply unhappy. And most don’t know why. If you’ve ever listened to people gossip you quickly understand that they do it to put those they gossip about at a lower level than themselves. They do it to feel better. If I can believe that you are worse than me, that means that I’m not so bad. My life doesn’t suck nearly as bad as yours so I must be doing alright. We need someone to hate, to feel better about ourselves. These are the roots of racism, bigotry.

Yet again, the question is, why? Why can’t we feel better on our own without hurting others? Part of the problem that brings about racism, hatred and bigotry is fear. We are afraid. Of what? We are afraid of the unknown. We are afraid of people who have a different skin color than us. Of people who speak a different language. Who worship a different God, but why? Why are we not secure enough in ourselves to not be worried about others? What makes us fear other people? Two parts of this problem are media and government. They make money from fear. Fear fuels the Military Industrial Complex; the machine built by a combination of government and industry that makes and sell weapons for war and creates the conditions for war. If they keep us afraid, through media bombardment, expecting the next terrorist attack, then we won’t squawk about how much is spent for the military. We won’t complain when we invade another country because we’re “doing it to keep the world safe.” People are just plain scared. Scared of dying, of losing what we have, or what we think we have. So, differences are demonized and we fear them. Then our government tells us it will keep us safe with more government, more war, more weapons. The NRA tells us we need more guns. Why? Because, they make money off that. Gun manufacturers pour millions into the NRA to keep pushing guns. To keep shouting about the second amendment.

So fear means money for government, for weapons manufacturers, for insurance companies and banks. For the NRA and media. And when we are afraid, we are not secure. When we are not secure, we fear. And that’s when racism, bigotry and hatred rears its ugly head. When we fear something long enough we resent that thing for making us afraid. Resentment turns to hatred and hatred to racism and bigotry.

Religion is another component of the fear complex. Televangelists scream hatred for the LGBTQ community. They tell us that our only salvation is through their brand of religion. Other religions are false and should be feared. Atheism should be feared. What kind of person are you if you don’t believe in God? How can you have morals if God is not steering your ship? Send us your money, and we will pray for you. They have people believing things that have nothing to do with what that religion was originally based on. One of the ways in which religion does this is by getting you to stop thinking for yourself. If you put your faith in your church to figure things out for you, you stop thinking. When you stop thinking, you’ll believe anything they tell you.

So how do we stop the fear? That’s a question that’s hard to answer. It may be different for each person. One of the ways we can stop fearing other people is to realize that we are equal. Even though there are lots of skin colors, lots of languages, and lots of religious faiths, underneath all the trappings we are just human. We all have the same human qualities. The sexual orientation of another human may be different from yours but all that means simply is that that person is different than you. We have to realize that differences need not be feared. Gay people having the right to marry, means that they are being treated equally. Gay marriage will not ruin straight marriage any more than straight marriage will ruin gay marriage. People who have a different religious faith will not cause your faith to falter. Speaking another language is not wrong, it’s just different. That’s all. Just different, and different need not be feared.

Isolationism breeds fear. People that don’t have gay friends or relatives are often found to be afraid of, or bigoted toward gays. The same goes for skin color, language, religious faith, etc., etc. If you don’t know any Muslims then chances are, you know little about them. Fear of the unknown. In my work I have come to know a few Muslim people. I have found that they are warm and interesting people and they welcome questions about themselves and their faith. Muslim refugees in America have often gone through HELL before they were forced into refugee status and found themselves coming here. When they get here they find an unwelcoming people who fear them because they have been trained by the government and the media, church, etc. to believe that these people are all terrorists. Muslim refugee’s lives have been utterly destroyed by war in their home countries and they leave everything they have ever known to come here for a better life. And here they are faced with racism, bigotry and hate.

As a people, we need to change things. We need to stop the fear. We need to vote new people into public office who are not afraid of the status quo. Women and men who will look to the future as a better place than today is. We need to change the media. We need to stop accepting the lies they tell us to keep us hiding in our bedrooms. The Military Industrial Complex needs to taken apart and scrapped. We need to stop making money off of war and fear. There is no other way to do it than by grassroots movements. Black Lives Matter, is one such movement. They bring attention to the fact that since our country’s inception, black lives have not mattered. The Gay pride movement is another. People need to understand that different is not wrong. Different is just different and need not be feared. We need to stand up to the way things are and believe that they can be better. We need to know that individuals can and should make a difference. How about if we start right now?