What is to Come

In our rush to fix all that is broken, it is possible to go too far. There is always that single step that will be over the line, where even the staunchest of allies will begin to look askance and turn away. Once taken, it is difficult to walk it back. I see this coming, where all the justified fury of decades, centuries even, will be lost as the righteous cause is hijacked by those with a different agenda or purpose.

The murder of George Floyd was the spark; however, it is the desired outcome that must resonate with all members of society. Believe me, it must be the majority, or that change will never happen. During the first Civil Rights fight, there were multiple small fights, each time more people were moved. The final straw then was Bull Conner, Birmingham, Alabama, the spring of 1963 and his attack on peaceful protesters. The pictures of police and dogs attacking men, women and children were shown on televisions and in print media across the world; finally, nobody could ignore the brutality of racism. Today we are at another crossroads with the majority finally saying something must change. Still, without a coordinated message, this surge will trickle out to nothing more than a sidebar in history.

The problem we have today, from my perspective, is one of ‘my way or the highway’ thinking. There is zero room for divergent thought or for questioning. To challenge is to be ostracized, quickly and very publicly. This new orthodoxy is narrow and frankly without depth. Instead of presenting real and actionable ideas, shutting down the distractions, each “leader” has their own plan and wants to be heard. They are grabbing the nearest microphone and without centralized counsel, they are defining their agenda and strategy, whether it is defunding police, new segregation, burning down cities among them.

Let me tell you what I see happening and what will be lost in the rush towards the great void.

Each time someone says, “Ban a Book,” it hurts my feelings, it depicts a new ‘bigotry.’ There are many Americans from all sectors of society who will consider this and say, “No, this is wrong.” Yet, for fear of being hated, of losing their job or being shunned, they will remain silent. Eventually, we will hold bonfires to the vanities of the few, burning books in the parking lots of libraries. We will look like the ignorant backward nation to the rest of the world. Still, we will satisfy the minority who refuse to accept different eras had different norms and we must look through the lens of time to fully understand our history.

Each time a statue is pulled down in the heat of the moment, though many might agree with the reasons they are still whispering, “No, this is wrong. There is a process for this.”  Yet, they remain silent, for fear of being shunned or shamed. It isn’t I don’t think those statues should come down, I know the history of them. I believe now is the time to teach civics and history, to show the nation and the world what Civil Rights and Jim Crow was, confederate-monument-protest-durham-ap-jt-170815_16x9_992what disenfranchisement did. I simply believe we are better served if we follow the lead of Mississippi and use the system.

Each time there is a demand to erase another name from buildings or elsewhere without consideration of who that person was, what the full contribution of their life was, I grow increasingly concerned. Oh don’t get me wrong, I read history I understand they were persons of their times, that is the point though, they lived in their time, not ours. Some had terrible world views, especially when placed in the prism of modern times. They were not ‘woke’ and did not act in accordance with today’s standards. But, I wonder how many of us could pass a purity test if our entire lives were examined? Maybe we should judge them in accordance with the standards of their time and not our own. We should start with specific statements of truth we can all agree upon then dive into where those men and women diverged and debate the moral and ethical issues based on their time and not their own.

I keep hearing we don’t teach history in our schools. That is true, we don’t teach accurate history in our public school systems. I think we should. I think we should show all of history, all of the good, bad and ugly of history. I don’t believe we should hide behind our desire to uplift or demonize. Let’s call things what they are and put them in historical context so we understand how we got here, thus raising young people who are capable of independent critical thinking. Maybe if we start telling the truth, start pointing out both the brilliance and the clay feet of those who came before us, we will stop being so damned hateful.

The truth, though, this virtue-signaling taking over the public square has to end. Suddenly everything is offensive; everything should be damned and banned? Suddenly books and movies should be banned because of their content; they offend you and you demand I be offended too. From Tom Sawyer to To Kill a Mockingbird, literature with historic relevance insults your sensitivities. You want to reverse Loving v. Virginia because you want to purify the race? You want enclaves of your own and are not book burningembarrassed to say you hate “White” people, God help a White person if they were to return the favor, actually, we know how that turns out.

So what is it really? What is the change that will begin to make right a society that has hundreds of years of systemic racism to correct? Surely it isn’t just a change to policing; while this is significant, it will not move us forward in any real or meaningful ways. Indeed, the real change should be a seat at the table to address more than just police brutality. It should be a plan to progress this nation forward, correct generational wealth disparities and access to opportunities in education, housing, jobs and business development. It should be a plan on how we are going to bring this nation together, not rip it further apart. The truth is if we continue down the path we are on now it will not get better, it will erode any and all progress made in the past 100 years.

Policing 2020

We are in a tailspin, one crisis piling onto another has brought us to the brink with no leadership to set a path toward a future. The hubris of our current administration is staggering, to say the very least. Top to bottom, with little space between, there are messages of distortion, distraction and just plain downright lies.  Truly, we have fallen far in just a few short years; yet perhaps not so far at all. Perhaps what we are seeing is the what has been there all along, the ugliness that we drove underground in our demand for political correctness, our need for a polite society; perhaps the election of this horrifyingly unqualified President has ripped the bandage we have been using to cover up the illness we never addressed.

The murder of George Floyd forced us to finally acknowledge there is something wrong in the Shining City on the Hill. Something deeply flawed, rotting and ugly that was undermining the American Dream of freedom, justice and prosperity for all. Laws were written with good intentions; other times, laws were wrong when passed yet remain viable and unchallenged. Sometimes, as we have today, what one President does to begin to unravel the wrongs without Congress the next undoes with the stroke of a pen, simply out of petty pique. Which brings us to where we are today with policing in America, how did we get here?

The simplest answer is watching the murder of George Floyd, all horrifying 8:46 minutes of Derek Chauvin kneeling on his throat while he died, miserably on a public street, begging first for his life, for breath and finally calling for his dead mother.

The more complex answer is 158 (one hundred fifty-eight) years the Emancipation Proclamation the first step in freeing all American slaves was signed. It would require three Constitutional Amendments (13-15) to give the African American former slaves the first steps toward civil rights and recognition as true equals under the law. Just over a century later Civil Rights activists took to the streets, leading to the greatest decade of upheaval and change, beginning with the murder of Emmit Till and ending with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Here we are today, some things have certainly changed some for the better and many if we look closely for the worse. It has been 52 (fifty-two) years since Dr. King was assassinated, I wonder what he would think of us all today? In this, I can only confront one of the issues, overly aggressive policing and what it has done to our communities, more specifically our many Black and Brown communities nationwide.

So finally to the crux of the matter policing and what can be done to stop the overly aggressive stance they take today, especially with Black men but frankly with all Black and Brown people. There are some simple answers and then some more complex answers. The most complex, you cannot change the hearts and minds of men and women with deeply ingrained bias and prejudice; you can, however, force them to act in a way that you wish by making it too personally costly to do otherwise. Over time, you will weed out those who are simply incapable of change.

My personal recommendations in no particular order:

  1. Reassemble the division of the Justice Department that reviews patterns of abuse. Bring back Consent Decrees, with federal jurisdiction and limitations on federal money to those cities where clear non-compliance is found. This applies to all, large and small, cities and state levels.
  2. Require “if you see it intervene and tell,” which effectively removes the Blue Wall. Those who do not tell are as guilty as those who abuse the power of the badge and in the future, should be treated equally harshly.
  3. Create an independent State Attorney’s Prosecution division under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney General for the investigation and charging all police misconduct.
  4. Fully remove qualified immunity from police, and all other public officials for that matter, and require all those who serve to carry individual liability insurance. Without coverage, they cannot serve on any police department in any capacity, and certainly, they cannot carry a deadly weapon.
  5. Create a national database, ensure no officer fired for dereliction, abuse, or any other misconduct can be hired by any other department. The combination of this with liability insurance would rapidly reduce the “bad apples,” and we would all begin looking at leadership closely again.
  6. Require a minimum of a two-year degree in Law Enforcement with additional Police Academy training and a 6-month apprenticeship.
  7. Fully de-militarize all police forces and stop immediately the sale of military weapons to any force.
  8. Stop immediately the use of Choke Holds and other physical restraint techniques that have proven to be deadly.
  9. Change the role and power of the Police Union, they should no longer be weighing in on controversial issues, matters of policy or protecting the “bad apples” at the cost of the public.
  10. Require Body Cameras and Dashboard Cameras be on at all times during all stops; any deviation from this is cause for dismissal.
  11. Require partner rotations every 6 months. I know this seems strange, but long-term partnerships create loyalties that are frequently dangerous to the public.
  12. Require on-going professional training of all police. Not just that they are able to shoot their pistols, but in other skills needed for them to work with the public.
  13. Require regular psychological evaluations of all members of the police, especially those who regularly work with the public. We need to accept their jobs can be hard, they can see and face traumatic situations daily. They shouldn’t be the enemy, we need to make certain they don’t become the enemy by giving them tools and helping them cope.
  14. Require their social media is open to evaluation, yes everyone has free speech, but those who serve must be willing to be observed as well.
  15. Divide and conquer, create non-policing agencies to support community needs and no longer use the police for these issues. Retrain 9-1-1 to identify and direct calls to the correct agencies. This is a longer-term goal and will require police, public and citywide cooperation as each determines what their true needs are.
  16. Re-write the 1994 Crime Bill. This requires everyone to come together and acknowledge how misguided we were, now badly this Bill hurt so many and then to take it apart piece by piece. This will require we begin thinking of Crime in new ways. It will require we begin thinking of incarceration in new ways. It will require we begin thinking of many of our mistakes and how we might finally, if not correct them, address them and move forward together.

I am certain I have missed somethings in this and I apologize for the length, I have watched and listened for days trying to come to what I thought might be the best “right” answer. We cannot “Defund” the police; we can, though, make them more effective and more community-focused. We cannot change the past, we can change the future.

Things I recommend if you are interested:

American Son (Netflix)

13th (Netflix)

Just Mercy (Netflix)

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html

Dear God, II

tears_of_sadnessDear God, I guess you missed the part, last time we talked, about the general fuckery down here and thought you would allow us to continue without intervention just to see how far we could go. I am not at all sure we can withstand much more without a gentle reminder from you of our humanity. A gentle nudge maybe to push us back over toward a kinder and gentler way to be. Truly, things are pretty grim right now and all of us seem to be falling apart. You can see the seams tearing; you can witness us losing our compassion for one another in our race to prove the righteousness of our various causes. I fear for all of us and what we will become if the scales do not fall from our hearts and souls soon and we do not embrace each other soon in our shared humanity.

Dear God, sometimes it is the small things that touch me. Do they affect you too? I think they must and that is why you allow us to continue in our ridiculousness. There are days I skim the news and think humanity is growing more horrible, more depressing and depraved every single day then something wonderful will grab my attention. Maybe it is the story of the child who, on his own, delivers lunches to shut-in elderly people in his neighborhood. Or the story of the bus stops in Utrecht that are now bee shelters. Sometimes it is something as simple as watching cats stalk squirrels in the front yard, just knowing they are never going to catch them, it makes me laugh. These small moments remind me the darkness I feel is not complete yet, you must see we are not entirely unredeemable too, or you would have turned your back by now.2-these-bus-stop-roofs-are-now-tiny-parks-for-bees-813x457

Dear God, so many of your past heroes were imperfect from Abraham to David to Paul; each had their devils. Yet even with their imperfections, their weaknesses, they found their way to redemption and forgiveness. How can we not do the same? What is it in our psyche that prevents us from seeking out the kindness, empathy and compassion we once defined ourselves by? How is it we have allowed a minority to say, we will not be that and we have sat by impassively and permitted terrible acts of inhumanity to be carried out in our and even your name? Oh, I know we have much to make-up for, much that does not speak well of us as a nation or a people. But God, I think many of us want to turn the tide, is it too late for us?

Dear God, I am not doing as well as I thought I would be with this entire isolation in place thing going on down here. In fact, it is challenging to be alone all the time for this long. I know when you sent my soul into my body from the Chamber of Guf, you placed the need for alone into my spirit so I could recharge, create and rebuild. I understand you created a warrior within me to better overcome the challenges you would place before me. I may at times rail against you, well to be clear over the years I have protested against you, blamed you and turned my back on you. But always I return, always bend my head and still, I seek your grace.

Dear God, someone asked me the other day if I thought the reason I did not hold onto love was I chose the wrong people to love. I have not ever chosen who to love; I have loved who was placed before me and have loved them as my heart directed. Never once in my long life have I withheld love, though I have always held my secrets. I think you place in my path those who need to be loved without conditions or judgment, knowing I will give this love easily. Then, when it is time to let go, so broken spirits are less 20ab55a5576cffe1dce94c2fc4b236b0fragmented, I do this also. Leaving only my own heart in tatters and one more secret to keep. God, I am weary. I have loved enough who are broken and cannot love me in return. I have mended enough spirits and taught enough lessons in unconditional love. Maybe in these last years, we could make an even trade, perhaps you could put someone in my path who isn’t broken and might value me equally if you wouldn’t mind.

Dear God, I have to be honest with you on one final point and it is a selfish one. All my life I have worked hard, never asking for anything and never relying on anyone. I have paid my way and the way of many others. Please God, I only want to work, not be diminished in these last years of my productive life. I want to be able to do what I love, be paid fairly for that work and make contributions as I am able. I hate to beg for something so selfish. I know there are millions just like me today and as a nation, we have seen a crashing down of so much. So I know I am being selfish and self-centered when I ask you to please have mercy, let me return to work and save myself.

I know you must be inundated with prayer right now, God, likely from many you haven’t heard from in decades. I hope they are real and genuine prayer. I hope they are from prayer rooms and not pulpits. I will keep sending you these in the hope they blend into the cacophony, and some move you.

The Chasm

As we watch, this nation sinks deeper and deeper into a pit of false narratives, confabulation and outright lies. We watch as men are murdered on the street by those sworn to ‘protect and serve.’

Ahmaud Arbery, 25 years old gunned down on the street in daylight 23 February 2020

Manuel Ellis, 33 years old restrained and beaten to death on the street by police 3 March 2020

Breonna Taylor, 26 years old shot 8 times in her bed by the police 13 March 2020

George Floyd, 46 years old choked on the street by a knee to the neck 25 May 2020

Those are the names we know in the space of 92 days; these are not the only names; these are the names we are hyper-aware of today.  George Floyd was our wick, lighting the flame of our shared outrage.

I have struggled for days on how to write this. I am not a Black American; I cannot write from that perspective as I do not have that lived experience. All I can do is write from my own deeply felt beliefs. Ultimately, what finally set the groundwork was two different perspectives, one from a younger sister and one from a long time and dear friend. Each of their comments caused me pause and thought, each of them has very different life experiences, to one I owe an apology and with the other, I continue to debate.

“I think black people suffer from Generational PTSD and I recently came to realize that I suffer from it as a Black Man living the black experience in America”

“What are you willing to give up to assure justice, equality and an end to racism?”

My immediate and visceral response to the second is ‘nothing’; it is a zero-sum game. This response infuriates my sister and all her social media activist followers. I understand their fury. Let me try to unwind this as far as I am able.

White Privilege is something new to our lexicon to describe the unearned opportunity those born to their ‘Whiteness’ enjoy. Though this has been a field of study for decades, it did not become a broadly discussed phenomenon until 2014 when Black Lives Matter begin to use it widely.

Is every interaction between a White person and a Black person going to end badly? Of course not. Does every aggressive interaction have its roots in racism? No, some are simply two people with an issue to resolve. The truth is sometimes, bad acts are only bad acts and ugly merely is ugly.

Why do we get so offended by the White Woman in the park calling the police on the Black Man watching birds or asking her to put her dog on the leash? Why do we get so offended by the White Man demanding proof of the Black Man’s residency in that building?  Why are we so offended by the White Woman demanding the Hispanic Woman speak English in the checkout line? We are offended because, after 400-years of pathological inequalities and racial bias, we only have one way to understand them. We only have one way to hear the 9-1-1 call with the description of the Black Man or the Black Woman, despite this is an accurate description, we hear Racial Bias and we also know there is decades police bias on the other end of that call.

Tamir Rice was a 12-year old boy when he was murdered in the park within two-seconds of the police arriving after a 9-1-1 call on 23-November-2014. All of the media surrounding his murder by police tried to paint Tamir as bigger than his age, thus a threat, the toy gun he was playing with somehow manipulated to appear ‘real.’ Later, the media painted his parents as violent criminals, leading to the conclusion that his murder was both their and his own fault. The truth is, the man who made the call identified him as an African American in the park, pointing a gun at random people, he also identified him as a ‘probably’ a juvenile and the weapon as ‘probably’ fake. Ultimately his murder was deemed justified by a Grand Jury, despite the cop who pulled the trigger had lied on his application having previously been found not emotionally fit for duty by another police force.

Why is Tamir’s story important?

He was a child murdered by police; we, White People, accepted his murder; we did not mourn him as we should have. We did not demand justice for this young boy, as we should have. We accepted as reasonable the murder by police of a young African American boy in the park while playing with a toy gun.  We failed, abysmally, to demand justice for so many other young Black men in the proceeding years leading up to the murder of Tamir. We, White People, did not look at these murders and ask ourselves, ‘if these were my child, would I be as passive as I am today because it is theirs?’

That acceptance, the lack of concern is the true measure of White Privilege.

We failed to listen to the weeping of the mothers and fathers of these dead children and we failed to mourn with them.

With the murder of George Floyd, we are offended, perhaps even outraged. I think we are still trying to smooth out the issue of Racism in Mr. Floyd’s murder. But finally, we are unable to ignore the truth that 400-years of systemic injustice done to our fellow man within the borders of our nation led to the murder of George Floyd.

So why do I say I am unwilling to give up anything?

I do not want to see all of us with ‘less than,’ instead, I want to see all of us with more. If there is a privilege I have that another does not have, tell me what it is I will work without rest to ensure it is no longer mine alone. If there is a wall we need to tear down, let’s do it together, systemic racism exists; the majority of us know it now; it is visible and cannot be ignored. We should not be poorer when the fight is done; we should all be richer. This is why I say I will not give up anything; I want my friends, my brothers and sisters to have what I have not less than but precisely what I have. I want there to be no light between us.

Will it be a fight?

Yes, of course. There will always be those who fear the change that will come. There will always be those who hate; it is not possible to change hearts with laws. But for me? I don’t want to give up a damn thing; I want there to be no question of equality. The truth, it is not possible to change 400-years of history; it is not possible to wipe out original sins with apologies, gifts, or money. Nothing will change history; we can though change our future.  We can demand new and better laws. We can demand investments where there has been none before. We can unwind anything that prevents a future free of systemic racism and begin the process of education inclusive of real history. We can make racism so painful to those who practice it they will slowly become a pariah in our communities, unhirable and ultimately without friends or support systems.

What can we do? We can demand justice. We can listen. We can be allies. If it is the last thing we do, let’s use our White Privilege to demand change in our systems and ensure our neighbors, friends and family enjoy the same privilege we unwittingly enjoy. What can we do today? We can speak up when we see something. We can demand our elected officials do the right thing rather than what is convenient. Ultimately, we can vote. Remove those in office at every level high and low; local, state and federal who stand in the way of change.

That is what we can do, individually and together, we are the change.

Dear God

Dear God, I would make an ugly corpse, I always wanted to be a beautiful corpse, so this is just one more thing on my list of questions I will have to ask when we meet. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I wonder if today is the day we will meet face-to-face. There are mornings I think maybe today I will accelerate that meeting. Don’t frown, God, I know you don’t approve this thought, but it is hard out here and there are days it is harder than I think I can bear.

Dear God, yesterday a stranger wanted to ‘school’ me on life, politics and relations between the races, the genders and all other things none of his business with regard to my understanding. I am uncertain why he decided I was a good target, but it appeared he needed one and he actively vented his overactive spleen. The outcome being ultimately my loss of patience and temper. Why, though, would a perfect stranger seek me out for the sole purpose of trying to make me ‘less than’? I thought about this after I eliminated his ability to communicate with me, yet it was still on my mind this morning.

Dear God, I know there is light even in the darkest times. I am genuinely working on finding that light, every single day I wake up and the first thing I do is look for those things I am grateful for so I am able to begin the day on a high note. Some days the only thing I can write down in that journal I keep, ‘I am grateful I didn’t have a seizure last night and don’t have to change the sheets this morning.’ God, I know there should be more than this, but these days it is harder than you know to find more. Some nights as I prepare for bed, I wonder what would happen if I stopped taking the medicine that prevents my seizures, not just stopped that night completely stopped. How long would it take for the seizures to start again? A week, a month or would they never start and this angry-godwould be another miracle cure you burdened me with that I never asked you for.

Dear God, I am continually astonished by the fuckery this pandemic has brought out in so many of us. I think this hasn’t changed us, instead, it has merely brought to the surface what has been there, within us all along. Whether it is our bad attitudes, our inherent laziness or our entitlement, all of this is emerging and making us smaller and uglier. I watch and it makes me sad that people I know and love are lashing out, acting out and generally behaving badly. It makes me wonder why I didn’t see this before. I think it would be easier if we could simply sprinkle a little kindness and compassion across the world at a time like this; instead, it seems we have thrown selfish and ‘all about me dirt’ to see where it will stick.

Dear God, this isn’t what I thought my life would be. You have brought me through so much, through so many trials. I somehow thought if I was patient, worked hard and continued to seek grace, learn kindness, act with compassion and yes, even extend forgiveness, I would find peace, happiness and also love with companionship. What I wasn’t expecting is this, fear, loneliness and solitude. I wasn’t expecting this complete lack of relevancy. I wasn’t expecting this escalation of physical pain with no support, no help and no expectation of relief. God, I wasn’t expecting to be facing the rest of my life alone, without a helpmate, a travel mate, a dinner mate and frankly a bed mate. Was this your plan? Can I tell you honestly, your plan sucks.

Dear God, I know I should not question you yet; there is so much in this world worth questioning right now. I learned when I was young; you work in mysterious ways, I understand. Maybe the world needed a big hammer and this is it. I also learned man (and woman) have free will and not all things are your will, but rather, they are the Hands_of_God_and_Adamoutcome of our acts. Yes, I can see the hand of man in this terrible pandemic that is scouring the world today. But God, I wake every morning and I wonder where is your hand and some mornings I have to admit are much harder than others. I have to ask, are you sitting and watching all this and weeping along with us?

Dear God, I would make an ugly corpse you and I both know it. Some days this is the only thing that keeps me going. Other days it is the heroes, the acts of random kindness I witness and the reminders that I love others in this world enough to stay and watch their lives unfold. Some days are so hard I cry myself to sleep. Other days flowers and chocolate arrive from a child not of my blood but of my heart, reminding me life is a gift of endless possibilities. God, I am not hopeless or helpless yet, but my journal of gratitude needs new entries beyond just waking in the morning a bit of intervention on your part would be most welcome about now.

Wonder and Woe

Soapbox LogoI am caught between wonder and woe; nearly every single day, these warring emotions capture me and tangle me up. As I scroll through social media, the various news media I regularly read and television news, there are days I am simply unable to process the entirety of our national tragedy. I am seized by the images of where we are as a nation and as a people. As I said, I am stuck between wonder and woe.

Woe, what is it really? How to describe woe, I don’t use the word lightly or simply for effect. The word is one that describes profound sadness, grief or distress. Is this what I feel when I scroll through all my sources of information each day? Do I sink into a miasma of distress at the state of our union, the answer is yes I do more often than not. My grief at what is lost is deep and sits on my heart with great weight. All that came before this moment in time seems to have been for nothing, though I know this isn’t the truth; it is how it feels right now.

Woe, as if an assassin was sneaking in and burying a stiletto in my spirit. It is impossible to avoid the ugly. From the foolishness of elected officials placing dollars over citizen lives to the citizens practicing their 2nd Amendment Rights without a care in the world for their or anyone else’s life. While most of us watch in awe at the sacrifices of first Health care workers stand in the street as a counter-protest to those demanding the stay-at-home order be lifted in Denverresponders and medical care providers, some would stand before them and scream they are the problem; they are part of the conspiracy to destroy the nation and their right to a haircut. I am brought to my knees; I am terrified, sickened and heartbroken by the horrifying examples of heartlessness demonstrated in the halls of power and the streets of our cities.

Woe is all I can feel some days Hell most days. Where once we had giants now, we have simple boors, villains who were lucky enough to align themselves with the party du jour and take advantage of a corrupt system. We are in a feedback loop of massive proportions, one where we are the energy that feeds the terrible and keeps it cycling. We, the people, we have created the monster by turning our heads, tying on our blinders and not standing up to the corruption so blatantly before us. Now we are paying the price for our disinterest with a POTUS of massive ignorance, massive ego surrounded by obsequious toadies willing to say and do anything, including let us die to feed themselves and their need for ‘more‘.

Wonder, yes I always have those moments in a day where my heart stutters and I smile. Sometimes it is a young child singing. Thank you to everything Holy, young children 20200315_114015have not been corrupted by the world yet. Sometimes it is looking out my kitchen window and seeing my Lavender is still in bloom. Then there are those unique moments when I realize this will end and we will be together again.

Wonder at the resiliency of our human nature. We have been brought so low a pandemic is sweeping through this nation, through the world. A virus we have no control over is killing our loved ones and we are not able to offer comfort or even gain the comfort of true mourning. We have been overwhelmed; emotionally, financially and systemically. We are teetering on the edge of the abyss, yet there is hope in the everyday small things.

Wonder at the ability for humans to find thankfulness and grace even in the worst of days. I have read articles and watched mini-documentaries from the front lines. Each time I am struck by the compassion of those who must face the dying every single day, without aid or solutions. Every day I look for stories of kindness and I find them. The small restaurant that feeds those in need, despite being in need themselves. The coffee shop that gives away coffee and pastries to healthcare workers and first responders, despite operating in the red. The small clothing manufacturer that converted his operations at his own cost into making masks and scrubs, selling to hospitals at cost just so he can keep making them. I am uplifted every single day by these stories; by these proofs there continues to be good people in this world and most especially in this nation.

Wonder and woe follow me every day, piercing my heart. I often wonder what we will be when we finally conquer this virus and truly return to an open nation, not what we once were simply open. Will we be different in our spirit? Will we look at our behavior both before and during and shun the ugliness that brought us to that point that allowed our nation to be brought so low? Will we question our standards, morals and ethics as a screen-shot-2014-11-25-at-4-34-05-pmpeople? Will we demand better of ourselves and those who seek high office?

Me? I believe we must start now to consider what it is we want to be and how we want the world to view us as a nation. We will be starting over; we have been brought low and our recovery will not be the work of one man or woman but of all of us. It truly is the right time to demand sweeping change, not the type of change Bernie Sanders and his acolytes were proposing. Certainly not the type of change Donald Trump proposed. But real change to who is in government, how they govern and for how long they govern. The grassroots of this nation must step up, must see beyond all our differences and begin to build true alliances if we want real change in this nation. We must stop he said / she said and start the what do we want, together. The only way anything will ever change for the better for all of us is if we agree to look toward a better future and agree on what that looks like, we cannot fix historical injuries only agree they occurred and are the root of many of the evils this nation has perpetuated.

Wonder? Yes, I stand in awe and wonder at the towering strength of our shared humanity. I have a great belief in us, all of us that we can fix what is broken in this nation. I know it will be hard; truthfully, it will be the hardest thing we have ever undertaken. But I believe there are enough of us who truly want this nation to succeed that it is possible for us to overcome all the differences and make it happen.

Stupid Quotient

There is a core of stupidity running through our nation and I am certain it is growing by leaps and bounds every year. I have evidence of this rampant growth, it all around us; it is everywhere.

First, let me explain my philosophical stance on the matter of human stupidity;

Ignorance is a choice, but stupidity is something else entirely, it is akin to a birth defect; passed along through both nature and nurture. One can choose to change their ‘stupid’ quotient (aka StQ); most, however, never do. It is my opinion this is due to our powerlessness to self-assess and identify stupidity as a component of one’s personality or make-up. Thus, we are left with a growing StQ within our population or a lowering of our herd intelligence at both the Intellect (IQ) and Emotional Intellect (EQ).

Are you wondering now, what the hell is she talking about, where is she going with this?

Situation: Starts with the reminder we are in a global pandemic, the world is facing a virus with no known treatment, no respect for age, race or income bracket and zero indication we are currently on the downward side of the curve yet. I live in a state where we are still on Stay-at-home executive orders (though our Governor is planning to allow this to expire soon). This past week I had to venture out, no choice I was out of essential items. So, me being an adult grabbed my gloves and mask and off to the local Wal-Mart I went, it has always been an adventure but now it is terrifying.

Let me start by saying, I get it; really, I do. You are bored and tired of being locked down with your family. This though is no reason for you to consider a shopping trip as a family mini-vacation. You are not helping yourself, your family or your community by carrying your parade of curtain climbers and germ hounds with you grocery shopping.  So, Grandma (age maybe 48), Grandad (age maybe 50), Mom (age maybe 33), two Semen Demons (age maybe 15 and 17), two Germ Hounds (age maybe 10 and 12), two Curtain Climbers (age somewhere 4 and  6), Linoleum Worm (age maybe 2) and Linoleum Worm (age maybe 9 months). Yes, you read this right eight (8) children and three parental figures (3) in this single group. If I had to guess as to who belonged to whom, the older Semen Demon’s belong to the older adults and the younger ones belong to the Mom, who also belongs to the Grandparents. So that is in total eleven (11) people, out and about in the community only three (3) of them wearing masks, none of them wearing gloves.   Except for the two (2) babies, all of them casually strolling through the store, touching everything, loud talking and generally causing a disruption.

As I said, I get it. I am stir crazy myself. I want out of the house too. I would love to sit outside in the new spring air and have a coffee and pastry, people watch or read a book. Instead, I sit on my back porch alone and wonder when it will all end. I haven’t seen my sons, my grandchildren or any of my friends since March 8, seven weeks apart in my house with the company of a kitten and a cockatoo. But the family Twatwaffle thinks they should put me and everyone else at risk because they are bored and stupid.

Do I sound annoyed? I am. The adults in the room are all wondering when the rest of you will take this seriously. The world is in the midst of change; it doesn’t feel as if it is for the better, meanwhile stupid and selfish seem to be joined at the hip in a tango to Hell. Strangely, this tango of boredom can be seen played out across the land, via shopping protestersadventures, protests on the courthouse steps and blocking of emergency rooms. It doesn’t matter your choice of stupid; it is all the same in the end. Your choice of stupid puts everyone else at risk. Your choice of stupid creates a problem for everyone you meet.

The potential infection rate is one person with Coronavirus gives the virus to 14 people who will, in turn, spread it to 5 people each, so this means within a 10-day time span one person could spread the virus to 1,953,125 (edit comment: the previous model was based on different criteria 14 people and 10 hours).

Getting back to my premise of the Stupid Quotient. Each time I see it, I wonder what has happened to our nation, our people. We were not always like this; we did not always have such a large population of the overtly mean, blatantly entitled and overly stupid within our community. It isn’t that we didn’t always have some, of course, we did. But now it seems we have a larger population than ever before. Is it that we give them a more significant voice? Is it that they are more evident than previously? Is it that under these extreme circumstances, they stand out more than they might have before?

I don’t know the answers to the above questions. I think some of the answers lie in the changes our society has seen in the last twenty-five years. These changes have upset the security of many both economically and on an emotional level, even where they might not admit it. The rise of populism, racism, Nazism and other extremist views gives us a glimpse into the fears and potentially the growth of the Stupid Quotient. Combine this with the real dumbing down of our education system, especially when it comes to teaching Civics and History in our public schools, I believe we can answer part of the question.

I hope, though, with this latest reset, those who have the capacity to combine their Emotional Intelligence with their Intellect, will use it for good. Won’t be afraid to speak up and push real change into our communities. Perhaps, when we finally swing those doors open and realize how good it feels to be together, we will work hard to stay sane, safe and function as a society. This at least is my hope.

All the Time

52074453-woman-storm

All the time in the world isn’t enough

Earlier there was you shaded in hope

Time whispered possibilities over protests

Then darkness slid in obscuring futures

Silence crashed in endless waves

Isolation once cherished now accursed

Dragging seconds filled with expectations

Yet anathema at the end of each day, quiet

Longing for the simple stroke of a hand

Dreading the silence and aloneness of time

Forgotten, the lost paradise of open spaces

Remembered the warmth of comfort

Molded around my back drawing close

Breath lifting my hair, lips tracing my spine

Arms circling, holding me still in the night

Chasing dream demons into early sunrises

No more will I welcome seclusion over you

All the time in the world will never be enough

Protests silenced by expanding desire

Signature

20-April-2020

Saw You

5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:5-6

Easter has passed and it was different for most of us, whether we have children or are part of an extended family. There were no Easter Egg Hunts, no dressing up in our eastereggsSunday Go To Meeting finest, no Family Dinner; none of that was on the menu for those of us following the rules. In fact, most of America was locked up tight with whomever they are isolated in place. Some were fortunate, isolated at home with those they loved, healthy and with plenty. Others were not so lucky as these, a host of things come to mind as to the circumstances that might be in play.

  • They are members of the healthcare community
  • They are members of the retail services community
  • They are aged and their families left them where they were
  • They are isolated alone, by choice or not

Then some chose to flaunt the rules intended to keep us all safe. Those who loudly proclaim God will protect them and their flock from the virus. My question to them, ‘who

will protect the rest of us from you?’ I frankly watched in horror as some Pastors flung open their doors and led their parishioners into the church to celebrate Easter, shoulder to shoulder, hugs and hand-holding all around. Adults, young and old, children running through the sanctuary as if it is a day of play rather than a day of plague. Of course, children will be children and they don’t know what their parents have led them into.

I am stunned by the level of idiocy and greed it must require on the parts of those who would encourage this behavior and those who would mindlessly place themselves and tonyspell3their families at risk. The Pastors who did this were not leading their flocks in good faith; in truth, some said they were making political statements, were willing to fight to the end for their First Amendment Rights of Religion, Free Speech and to Peaceably Assemble. Pastor Tony Spell said;

“True Christians do not mind dying, they fear living in fear. People that can prefer tyranny over freedom do not deserve freedom”.

Other Far-Right Evangelical Preachers have had dreams and spoken prophecies of the Devil and his minions trying to usurp the chosen one from his place at the top of the GOP and this nation.  Using the Hoax of the global pandemic, the Devil is working his will to turn the world against the Chosen One and his mission. They march to a different drummer, that is all I can say. On the one hand, they sell miracle cures and prayers; on the other, they sell a constant stream of demonic intrigue, deep state conspiracy theory and fear-mongering piped into the homes of millions of devoted followers, daily.

There is a constant hum of discontent across the nation now. Perhaps it is the 5g towers, intended to boost our communications, now the source of conspiracy theory and more idiocy. This discontent can be viewed in glorious ignorance across the web from people ED-AZ052_Strass_M_20191011125911from all walks of life. My assumption, they have nothing to occupy their minds. Then some simply cannot be still. Those who can’t wrap their minds into acceptance of a global pandemic of this magnitude. Those people who insist this is instead a grand conspiracy to damage the re-election of the grand poo-bah currently delivering a daily banquet of self-aggrandization and lies to the world.

Finally, perhaps the saddest of all are those who are incapable of understanding or complying with the rules, those we all see each time we must go out for essential items. Those who not only place us all at risk but place themselves and their families at risk.

Have you guessed yet? Yes, it is those who see a trip to the store as a family outing, mom, dad and all the off-spring out for a day at Walmart as if it were Wally World. Worse, mom and dad with masks and gloves while the children have not a lick of protection; baby chewing on the cart to calm their teething gums and two others running through the aisles touching everything in sight. Meanwhile, the teenager is texting and loudly smacking gum while disrespectfully glaring at you when you ask it to move so you can reach what you need off the shelf. I get it; everyone is stir crazy. So am I. But you just brought yourself and your brood to the second most dangerous places to be right now, second only to the emergency room of any hospital.

We are all afraid, I know. Many of us are lonely, staring down financial ruin and future loss while we sit in our homes alone and terrified. Many have learned hard lessons during this isolation, who their friends are, who can be counted on and who was only there for the good times but quickly turned tail when the going wasn’t quite so easy. Yes, opendoorthis is a scary time for all of us. Nevertheless, we will get through it, this isn’t forever and it isn’t the end of times either.

Eventually, if we all work towards the common goal of flattening the curve, we will open our society again. Ultimately, we will fling our doors open again who and what stands on the other side will be up to us, individually and together.

Scheme of Things

In the grand scheme of things, nothing is right with the world today. Some of us know this, deep inside of ourselves, we know. Some of us guess it; something just doesn’t feel right. Some of us continue to believe everything will be alright, all we have to do is ignore the truth and believe in the fantasy, and the world will right itself without intervention. Those in the third group, they scare the hell out of me. They are conspiracy theorists, end-of-days evangelists, science deniers and other fringe hanger on’rs who will argue with the truth no matter how many facts are before them.

The world is tilted on its axis. White is Black with no shades of gray. Facts are Lies and not those little white lies we all tell sometimes, but boldfaced and easily fact-checked. Science is a conspiracy to lead fools astray, despite science once made this nation the greatest and most inspiring in the world. Nothing, not a single thing makes sense to those of us seeking something, anything to hang onto in a world seemingly out of control.

Our world is changing; it will affect how we exist going forward. None of us know what the change is only that it is coming. As we sit, isolated in our homes alone or with our family, we realize it will impact us, and it is at every single tier of our society. Most of us recognize finally that we have no control. We are all trying hard to wrap our arms and heads around what it all means, to our futures, our children’s future, and finally, our nation. If we are in the first two groups mentioned above, we know something is changing; nothing will be the same, we just don’t know what it means.

Oddly, we all keep asking when things will return to ‘normal’; I think the relevant question should be, what will our new normal be? Possibly even more importantly, who will determine what the new normal will be? Maybe we should also ask, what normal is it everyone is so eager to return to because I can think of several things right off the top of my head that was not so great. Then really, we should be asking, when the doors are finally flung open, and we return to whatever ‘normal’ is, will most of us actively participate or simply be shoved aside to survive as best we are able.

With millions of jobs lost, millions out of work, incomes lost and the potential of homes lost, savings and retirement lost, we are facing a depression far worse than the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The difference, this time the wealthy will keep their wealth and everyone else will fall further behind. This time the middle-class will entirely disappear and poverty will become a sliding scale of have not. This time, it will be bad, worse and terrifying. This time, instead of a nation coming together, standing together and trying together, we will be a nation split apart by distrust, partisan politics and pure unadulterated hate in some cases. Do not get me wrong, we certainly had some of that in the first Great Depression, but we also had pride and a common foe; we didn’t have the “wholehearted” look across the table at one another and see the enemy as we do today.

What will we do when the nation returns to ‘normal’?

Will we return to work as if nothing has happened to change the landscape of our nation? Will the thousands of small businesses shuttered through this pandemic suddenly reopen, rehire and begin working as if there was no break in their business operations? Will the restaurants and neighborhood bars, the lifeblood of many communities suddenly find the working capital to start up again? The barbershop or beauty shop on the corner unlock their doors to welcome their shaggy and disheveled customers back after weeks, if not months of self-service. We pay lip service, but do we truly understand all these business models and their operations? The truth is, most do not have deep pockets, most cannot wait it out and most will not reopen. The business landscape and that of our neighborhoods will be very different when finally we can go outside again. Our cities and small towns will look more like Detroit after the fall of the Auto Industry with shuttered windows and locked doors.

What will we do? With most families teetering on the edge of destitution, one paycheck away from complete forfeiture rather than the six months recommended with no real remedy on the horizon. In the near term, some people will receive help in the form of $1,200 from the government maybe a bit more if they had dependents on their taxes last year but there are loopholes. If you are furloughed you have access to unemployment, but as with the last recession, it will never be enough to keep you and your family afloat. In very real terms best case you live in a state that pays unemployment on a sliding scale that considers dependents, the most you can expect is:

  • Alaska – $442 w/dependents
  • Connecticut – $724 w/dependents
  • Illinois – $667 w/dependents
  • Iowa – $591 w/dependents
  • Maine – $667 w/dependents
  • Massachusetts – $1,234 w/dependents
  • Michigan – $362 w/dependents
  • Ohio – $647 w/dependents
  • Pennsylvania – $580 w/dependents
  • Rhode Island – $867 w/dependents

If you are furloughed, you have no access to vacation pay. You cannot cash out your diminished 401K, but you have those paltry unemployment funds to look forward to and foreclosure-1-1your employer can honestly say you are still an employee. You, on the other hand, will have to choose between food on the table, the roof over your head and maybe something else of equal importance. Maybe you can bargain with your bank, your creditors might make a deal with you, but you will have a steep hill to climb when you finally go back to work. Ruined credit, high-interest rates and big first payments to catch up.

What will we look like as a nation when this is over and we fling the doors wide and step outside? Will our nation be kinder? Will we be gentler as a people? I wishfully keep thinking maybe, but all indications say it is only going to get worse, crueler, more hyper-partisan.

The era of expertise is finally dying under the weight of Coronavirus. The age of intelligent and thoughtful debate has seen its last breath. Though long dead as a legal rule, the Fairness Doctrine is now finally and fully taken its last gasp as a philosophical standard in reporting, no longer can we trust any source of coverage.

I have only this when a man or woman tells you who they are; believe them. Believe what comes out of their mouth as the truth. No need for clean up or analysis. We are suffering the truth of who we have elected to every office across this land. It is not just the Presidency; it is every office Federal, State and Local. If this is the nation we want, we got it. Our incompetence, disinterest and failure to participate got us to this point. We own all of it. If we want something better than this, we the people of this nation best rise up and take part in the recovery.

Normal? What the hell is normal? Do any of us genuinely want to return to where we were? In the grand scheme of things, we don’t have much time to fix what we all had a part in breaking.

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