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I Tried to Understand….and Have a Glimmer of the Concept…You?

I think ALL of us can agree on one thing: our American society is sick right now.   So much finger pointing is going on about the causes, but there are some truths that can’t be ignored.

One is on male anger: our young boys are taught to “man up”, to suppress their natural dismay and fear and unhappiness and learn to be stoic. And the hurts build up until it festers.  Some people turn inward and we have a lot of teen depression and anxiety. Others, unfortunately, turn outwards and access a way to strike out. Such are mass murderers nurtured…..and it is all of us who parented that one. Because we are part of the society that encourages this way of raising boys. Today there was another shooting in Texas with 5 dead and 21 injured..and it was a young white male who is the (now dead) suspected perp.

The other is white male privilege. I read an opinion piece I urge you to read. It’s long and you might want to close it down. I urge you, instead, to read it in bits. Take it in. Share it. It may not resonate with you but when I read it, I had a few insights of enlightenment. Perhaps you can, too.

Christianity and the Cult of Trumppublished by Utne Reader, was written by Miguel A. De La Torre, from Burying White Privilege.  

It is apparent to anyone who is not a white male that the white guys have access to many things that people of color and women generally have to work harder to achieve. And we know pay scales are different. We know perception of why people act the way they do is different based on color and gender. This article develops the historic reasons why. Image result for being a member of a group and outsider

The ONLY time I ever was close to a position that the white males of the USA enjoy was the summer of 1972 when I went to Israel. It took a few weeks there when it hit me: most people around me were Jewish. It was the first time in my life that I was in the majority. I was no longer an “other”.

While I had entered the identifiable group, I was only on the fringe because I did not have the language nor a lot of the modern cultural knowledge, but, once learned, I would be there.  I propose to you to consider the experience you had when you visited the country  where your family’s heritage is based. You may not been able to speak (fluently) in that language and you would not know the day-to-day societal norms, but you could learn them if you immersed.  If you have never gone to the “old country” nor ever really learned any ethic cooking, dances, or stories, if your family has lost its cultural heritage and you just “know” you are part Irish, for example, you probably will not be able to access this point of insight.  It is NOT the feeling you get when you are on your 5th green beer on St. Patrick’s Day and just looovveeee everyone in the bar.

That feeling of “belonging” to a group that is in the majority and has a strong voice in the society gave me a sense of calm……and I had not recognized prior that I was otherwise anxious. That anxiety increased greatly when I lived in the Bible Belt and was very definitely an “other” much more than when I grew up in the ethically and culturally diverse New York metropolitan area.

So, without even going into the God-given rights as discussed in Christianity and the Cult of Trump, I could see that white men subconsciously feel safe. Since they have been the predominate group, they have the power.  And when I felt for the experience I had, the feeling of being IN the group in Israel, I could finally grasp just what white male privilege is.

 

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Part of the pushback by angry white men MIGHT be because  it sounds like they are being considered “inferior” because of skin color and that is an impossibly hard concept to swallow (and yes, ironic as hell).  No, it’s not your skin color……it is your attitude. But your skin color gave you access and so your attitude is that everyone has equal access, which is not true.  Once you wake up to the difference, we can begin the job of healing this society.

The second insight I received reading this article was related to religion. As you know, I am Jewish but married to a Christian. For twelve years I have been attending church with him, learning about the stories and practices of this faith. And what I have learned has taught me that Jesus was all about teaching love by actions. He tried to simplify things, since people then like people now seem to have issues with reading long and deep. He acknowledged the Ten Commandments but basically said it comes down to treating others the way you want to be treated. That really should be simple enough for people to understand….but it is not.

I told my husband I would go to church with him but only as long as people respected me. His answer, “If they don’t, we’re in the wrong place.” So I was embraced by people at Ascension & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Pueblo, Colorado for my introduction. The people at Huntington, West Virginia’s St. John’s Episcopal Church asked especially for me to participate in study groups because my point of view would be different and would lead to more interesting discussion. Now in McMinnville, Oregon at McMinnville Cooperative Ministry, a blended Lutheran-Methodist church, I am participating in actions to help the community and even though I am not baptized, I am recognized as a full member of the congregation.

Simply, the exposure I have had to Christianity has lead me to understand that we are all imperfect but should be striving to BE LIKE JESUS.

In contrast, the Christianity I saw on full display living in the Bible Belt was, for the most part, significantly different.  When I first moved to Nashville in 1975 I was greeted “Hello! Welcome to Nashville! What church do you belong to?” in one continuous breath.  Sunday mornings were the best time to go grocery shopping (except the beer was inaccessible until noon, not a big problem for me.) because people either were in church or sleeping in; basically not going out in public if not at church so not to be identified as “one of those”. It also was when I learned not to expect to schedule anything on Wednesday night, as many had midweek church suppers at the very least.

So, if they were so tuned into church life, why was there so much anger towards “others”?

I worked for 18 months (way too long) in an office in Vanderbilt Medical Center where the electronic medical equipment was repaired and kept running at peak efficiency.  The assistant director was a guy in his late 30s who proudly told me he was an elder in his church. He also told me that all the other people who thought they were Christian were not. He belonged to the XYZ Christian Church and others went to Southern Baptist or Church of Christ or some other denomination without “Christian” in their name. Ergo, they were not Christian.  He said all this with a straight face.  Image result for my god is better than yours

This same guy stumbled into work bleary-eyed one morning shortly after his second child had been born. I asked if the baby had kept him up. No, it was another problem. At his church.  Apparently, one of the Sunday School teacher positions had to be filled and the congregation had been asked for volunteers. Two men had offered but they just could not be considered. Why? He was hesitant to speak it….I wondered if he knew his indoctrination was not quite right and that caused him distress? He finally said that the two guys were “a couple.” I responded with “What’s the problem?” He was shocked I didn’t automatically “get it” and asked “Would you want one of THEM teaching your kids?”  I kept calm and asked him if the Sunday School has a curriculum that the teachers use to teach the religious training they want the kids to get. Yes. I asked if any of the curriculum included getting naked and touching each other. NO!!! “Well, then,” I repeated, “what’s the problem?”  He stomped away in frustration. (I seriously hated using that argument because it feeds the convoluted concept that homosexuals are pedophiles even as we hear at LEAST once a month about some ordained Christian minister being caught in incest or some other inappropriate act with a minor. And THAT gets no discussion so it really is a GREAT example of white male privilege.)

The next morning the boss stumbled in again and I played coy and again asked if the baby was ok. Yes,….it was “the other thing.”  Turned out, after kids were asleep and his wife also and he was just drifting off he clearly heard a deep resonant voice (James Earl Jones?) “Love your brother!”  And a few seconds later, it was repeated, “Love your brother!” I asked him if God had ever talked to him before and he slowly said ” noooo”. So then I told him the message was pretty clear…..and was he going to approve hiring the two volunteers for the teaching spot. He didn’t want to. So, I pushed a bit, “But God told you to LOVE YOUR BROTHER and I think God would be okay if you just let him teach the class.”

I have no idea what eventually happened there.  I would prefer to think that those guys found a better church family, one that could respect and love them as Christ taught. (Is it considered teaching if teh lesson is not learned?)   But this was only one of many many incidents related to the need to make everyone believe the same that I experienced and for many, I was the one they were trying to change.

These experiences, when compared to the ones I have had at the churches where I attended, have been significantly different and when Miguel A. De La Torre wrote in his essay Christianity and the Cult of Trumphe mentioned that Christianity as practiced in the South IS different from Christianity practiced elsewhere in the USA.

I want to interject that I know there are “liberal” churches in the South, just as there are “conservative” churches throughout the country.  In the 21 years that I lived in Tennessee I had five active Christian friends who walked the walk and loved me as I am with no “need” to fix me.  And I have also met others in other areas of the country who very much want to “save” me.

The point Mr.De La Torre wrote and I sensed is that when a culture has a majority population with a similar mindset, it influences the mores of the area.  So, with a pervasive attitude in the Bible Belt that the fundamentalist spin is the ONLY right way to Christ, it makes everyone else an “other”. That means the unchurched, the nonChristians, and so many others need to be fixed or made to leave.

I very much felt like an “Other” in the South and there are a few people around me that may try also.  Because white men essentially run this nation and the conservative Christian church has learned how to make their voice heard, we are all immersed in this struggle.  The first step is to stop denying it.

 

 

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Aim for Information NOT Confirmation Bias

Seven years ago, about a year before we planned to move from West Virginia to Oregon,  I got deeply involved in helping establish The Wild Ramp, an indoor year-round local food market. Among other things, I visited the farms and other food producers basically to get their stories to tell consumers, but also to verify that they were raising or producing the yummies they brought to sell at the store.

For a person who grew up in the paved part of the Garden State and one who earned a degree in urban planning, finding myself knee deep in mud was one of my earliest experiences and I immediately bought muck boots for later farm visits. I am a quick learner…at least in some issues. 2014-10-07 10.48.42

I believe the first farmer’s patience with me and my questions helped establish my process: I spent an hour asking questions sitting usually at the kitchen table, and only then did we walk the farm and I got to see and take photos.

Because I knew next to NOTHING about farming (other than going with my grandpa into his chicken coop when I was 3-years-old was a terrifying experience which he sure could have made easier!) I asked tons of questions. I may not know a lot but I am curious.

“What’s the issue about corn fed versus grass fed” was a question. “What kind of cows are these?” was another. (The answer to that was also enlightening: “Well, ” the farmer slowly answered, “they’re black.  Angus are black, so I guess we can say they are Angus.” And my response: “So ARE they Angus, or are you riding a marketing message?” was answered with a smile.

So I learned something there and I later learned that perhaps it is not always just the breed but also the diet that helps make some meat tastier than others.

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The point is, I was not afraid to appear that I did not “KNOW”. In other words, it was okay for them to figure I was ignorant and it was their job to teach me. And almost all of the 70 farmers and food producers I visited were happy to give me the two precious hours of their work day. The later sales jump after the blog was written and read by the consumers was worth the work interruption.

So last night I again watched the debates. And I will watch the 2nd debate with the rest of the Democratic candidates tonight. WHY?

Because I am not going to rely on what news organizations chose to tell me. I am not going to read my Facebook friends’ comments as a basis for my own decision-making. I do find comments by people I know and even people I have no idea what their background basis is for their comment. This is our reality: people have various levels of evaluation tools and their decision making may or may not be similar to mine.

When I read restaurant reviews when I am searching for a place to eat in a location I have not fully explored, I have no idea if those reviewers’ taste buds are similar to mine. I have no idea if they value food without additives, as I do.  Same kind of issue when I hear how people love or pan a movie. How can I know if any person making a comment is aligned with my values on what entertains me?

Even more important is the much more rigorous and important evaluation for the next President of the United States.  A crummy meal or movie may, at worse, provide a wasted couple of hours or a tummy ache, but typically not more than that. Playing passive on the evaluation of candidates can provide for poor leadership that will affect me…and you…and the world.

So, it’s all theater. I made a comment on Facebook as the debate started that the narrator sounded like he was introducing a sport event. But this is NOT the time we chose one winner and all the rest are losers.

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Source: Apple Podcasts

Each person standing on that podium last night had something that was important to be heard. Each one.  How would you know if you don’t put your own mind to work?

Do I think they are all equivalently experienced for the job of President. Hell no! But they have their viewpoint and it may overlap someone else’s, including your own.

Let’s be careful not to throw support to one candidate so early that we don’t listen. Let’s be careful to listen and evaluate how we feel about the various solutions to issues posed.

And let’s remember that the way the government is working now will not change much without some huge changes that are, unfortunately, needed to be made by the people who currently would not want them changed.  For example, we have clearly seen the damage to the election process that the Supreme Court decision about Citizens United caused.  By permitting money to be equivalent to free speech, and corporations defined as “people”, we have seen that our government is now being controlled by megawealthy corporations and people. Very few people. And the rest of us, working (or not) to make the changes have a tough uphill battle. How can that be changed to give the governing of this nation back to the people? Listen to how the candidates suggest changes and see if they align with you.

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Source: UMass Dartmouth

Above all, quit sitting back and only using your voice to armchair quarterback. Get out there. Locally, you can have some huge influence in the way your city or county runs.  On the national level, if you like a candidate, get involved. Give an hour a week…..that certainly is not too much of a drain when you think of what gets decided that will affect you.

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Source: Waupaca Rotary Club

 

 


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I’m Reviewing My Life: Seeing the Trend

Image result for jimmy carter not a democracyLike many of my sisters and some of my brothers I am pretty disturbed by the way things work out in Washington, DC. We have moved away from a government with checks and balances and I can agree with President Jimmy Carter than the United States is no longer a functioning democracy.  He actually has been warning about this for quite some time; the need to have millions and millions of dollars to run a campaign is one sign, the way a whistle blower like Snowden is cast as a villain because he is illuminating secrets that are not to be aired for public consumption, and because women and other groups are not accorded equal protection under the Constitution. You may not think he was a good President but he sure stands tall as a good person, a mensch.

So, I’m thinking back over my life, seeing where I benefited and where I was hurt solely because I am a woman.

I was born in 1954 so the first 10 years of my life were in the era the Trump supporters are longing for—a time when we pretty much stuck to the roles society had set out for us. I learned to cook at an early age, how to sew, but not how to change a tire. I learned how to let the man pick first, how to let the man I chose as my husband be the boss.

But I also wanted to be a cowboy. No this was not a case of gender confusion. I just saw week after week on the tv shows of the time that cowboys had more fun than the “cowgirls”. I wanted to be able to chose what I could do.

I was lucky to come of age at a time when there was some movement to hire more women (albeit at a lower salary I found out later). But here are some snippets of what I remember from my life:

  • I married a man who said all the right things “before” and then turned out to be abusive to me and others. He stole from where he worked and made it look like a man working for him had done it.  It was the South in the 1970s and the man was Black. He was fired and my husband was proud no one suspected him.

 

  • This man was emotionally abusive to me, to the inane point of blaming me for red lights and rainy days. I took it, trying all different ways to reach through to him. Whatever I tried earned me more abuse. But I had been brought up in the time when divorce was NOT an option, so kept trying.  I was sweet, I was firm but friendly, I was silent. I did not argue back. Nothing worked. But the day he crossed the line and hit me, I knew I needed to get out. He was a Green Beret and he could kill me.  His response: one more rape.  Yes, rape occurs in marriage but only when the man believes he can take it whenever he wants and has no interest in making his partner ….. a partner. By the way, I was raised to expect it every night…..but come on, it CAN be fun and does not have to be painful! And I bet he would have enjoyed it better, too…since it seemed to take forever…….maybe he had not made me cry enough.

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  • Working for the Tennessee Supreme Court in my first job after graduating college I wanted to go to a week-long training for people doing exactly what I was assigned: changing the information system (how many court cases in each court throughout the state) from a paper system to one that could be computerized.  The training was held at San Jose State University in California and the boss, a Southern man in his 60s, believed a young woman (I was 22) should not travel without an escort outside state lines.  A friend of a friend in San Jose said she would pick me up from the airport and I spent one evening at their home for dinner. Since he agreed I would be “safe”, he let me go learn.

 

  • There were about 8 of us in our group at the Supreme Court. While most of us in our division were not Southerners, one woman was the epitome of a “Southern woman”. She flaunted it (big hair, tight sweaters and a lot of things that are stereotypical of Southern women of that time) and whenever I want to “channel” how to act Southern, I think of her. I can’t even say her name without a Southern accent.  We were all in our mid 20s to mid 30s and when she told us that she went on a weekend with a guy friend and they slept together but did not “sleep” together we all laughed. We were not born yesterday. But she stuck to her story. We still did not believe her.

 

  • Back in Nashville years later, I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting my turn to go in when a unknown man in his 60s approached me and told me I would be beautiful if I would just lose 50 pounds. I managed not to get too huffy and smiled, telling him I had just lost 200 pounds. (My divorce was recent history.) He patted me on the head and told me to keep working on it.

 

  • Again in Nashville but a few years later, I was in the elevator at Vanderbilt Medical Center with my 8-year-old son. We were leaving from the Neuro ICU where his dad was in an induced coma trying to get his brain chemistry regulated…again.  (We didn’t know but the next 18 months would be the most stressful of that long illness with cancer.) Sam was carrying a stuffed bear that he had purchased for himself the Christmas before and he clung to that baby as if it could save the world. Some man  in his 60s leaned over in that elevator and said “Son, you’re a little old to be carrying a baby doll.”  I got in his face and quietly snarled, “His father is in Neuro ICU dying. He can hold on to any damn thing he wants as far as I’m concerned.” The man backed off rapidly, apologizing.Image result for women in their place
  • A man where I worked served in a position of leadership in his church. He is one who comes to mind when people ask me why I don’t convert.  Basically, after observing this man and many many others who profess they are Christian, I see nothing I want to emulate. He said to me “You know, they think they are Christian but they’re not. We’re Christian because we belong to the XX Christian Church. The rest of them are Baptist or Methodist, not Christians.” But the most telling view of his struggle was the two conversations we had shortly after his second child was born. Dragging into work one day I asked if the baby had had a rough night. No, he said it’s a situation at church. He told me that they needed a new teacher in the Sunday School but the only people who had offered were gay.  I walked him through it….”does your church have a curriculum to teach the kids?” “yes” “Does it include getting naked and touching bodies?” “NO!” “So….?” I asked. He stalked away, frustrated I didn’t understand his viewpoint. The next week he walked in again, dragging his butt. Again I asked if the baby was doing ok. “Yes,” he answered, and then told me how he heard something int he night. His wife was asleep, all was quiet, when clear as a bell he heard “Love your brother!” Not once, but twice. I think my moth dropped open. I said “I don’t think many people have had God talk to them that clearly.” And then I asked what he was going to do. His answer “I don’t know” clearly showed me where his priority lied.Image result for fear of homosexuality

I’ve lived in many places in the United States. I grew up in New Jersey in the New York metropolitan area….that is 21 years. Then Tennessee….I spent 7 years in the 1970s and 80s and then another 13 years 1990s-2000s (so about the same there than in New Jersey!). I also lived in Pittsburgh (6 months), Pueblo CO (6 months) and West Virginia (6 years) as well as Connecticut (12 years). Now in Oregon (6 years).  I have gained a perspective about regional cultural attitudes that few others have firsthand.

What I can simply say is this: in an area with the diversity I grew up in there definitely was sub-textual fears and concerns between people who had differences in religion, nationality and color, but we all lived together and worked together as best we could.  In other places, particularly the South, many of the white people I knew felt that “others” should know their place. Deviating from what was culturally normal brought up conflict.

  • Bonnie, a woman my age who worked at the planning and engineering firm in Memphis when I was there, had never learned to swim. I invited her to come home with me so I could teach her in my condo’s pool. Her first question to me “Is it allowed?” She is African-American. This was 1980.
  • When I was about 50-years-old I contracted meningitis and almost died. Recuperating afterwards  I was approached by a well-meaning man (in his 40s) asking me if I had been afraid of dying. He wanted to “save” me.  He would not take “no thank you” as an answer and I had to cut off talking with him. (This was not the only time this kind of action happened.)

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So, my personal assessment from my time living in the South is that  many people have been uncomfortable for decades over the changes that have been happening. It all shakes up the position of prestige and power if woman gain ground, if people of color really are equal, if the needs of any people with some physical or emotional or mental issues have to be met. It is as if they believe all those people should just simply be invisible. Image result for equality doesn't mean pie

I will not be invisible. Neither will my awakened sisters and brothers of all colors, religions, national origin, or ability.  We are here and we know our Constitutional rights perhaps better than many of the people who only know to spout “2nd Amendment” as their excuse for the latest round of mass shootings.

So, what to do? Keep making noise. Will people who are afraid of losing ground be won over? No. Will their emotionally beaten down wives and daughters? Perhaps. Will their grandchildren? Hopefully.

We are no longer the land of the free , home of the brave. We are  a nation of patriotic lip syncers, people who know stuff by rote but can not explain a thing because of their own perception that they know enough and don’t need to read any more.  What does the Pledge of Allegiance mean? Do you know what the Bill or Rights includes? Do you understand that the Founding Fathers were pretty wise but recognized that we would have issues so they gave us guidelines: keep religion out of government and government out of religion, for example. Image result for patriotism vs nationalism

I have long believed many of us would fail the test people who want to become citizens must pass. The actions of my fellow Americans shows me we all have a lot to learn.

 


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The Moral Majority Has Failed the Test

In 1979 Jerry Falwell, with thousands of followers, started a new political party in the hopes of presenting candidates with good Christian morals.  The issues that attracted followers: anti gay, anti abortion, anti school segregation, anti science teaching among others. The Moral Majority prided themselves as being pro Family and yet, many of the leadership were found to be having affairs or liaisons. So, despite strong evangelical Christian support, the party dissolved late in the 1980s. The people who supported Falwell waited silently for their next hero.

Perhaps they never really got silent but their more recent activities begins to beg the question about the basis of their Christianity.

Look, you know I’m Jewish but I would bet you that I pay more attention at church than cradle Christians whose memorized responses do not require any brain involvement. My Christian husband asked me to attend with him 10 years ago and I said I would as long as I was respected.  My introduction began at Ascension Episcopal Church in Pueblo where I marvelled at the similarities; of course! this was a denomination not far off the Catholic shoot and that church was derived from Judaism. Funny how the symbolism, while morphed a bit, still exists.  In West Virginia we attended St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington and once again, not only were people respectful, they sought me out at times asking if I would join a study group because they knew my viewpoint, being different, would spark more interesting discussion.  And now in Oregon we attend the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries, a combined church of Lutheran and Methodist congregations.

I listen. I study. I ask questions. And you know what?  The teaching of Christ in the churches where I have worshipped seems to be very different from what I see proclaimed by the evangelical Christians who walk a very different pathway.

  • They say they are pro-life but they have no tolerance for children who are hungry or homeless.
  • They proclaim their great patriotism but their pride in our veterans seems to appear only on two days of the year and there is little concern about the number of veterans committing suicide or those that are homeless.
  • They fight against bathrooms being used by people who identify themselves by their chosen gender, not their birth gender, and yet, we have a President who has happily walked in on young women in stages of undress during “his” beauty contest.
  • They argue against homosexulaity and then we find that some of the loudest voices have been arrested for inappropriate behavior in a public place.

Now we have this judge, twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court who is running to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was named Attorney General in this administration.  Roy Moore has been accused by several adult women that he inappropriately touched them sexually when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One girl was 14-years-old. And this morning, another woman has come forward who has announced she, also, was 14-years-old when this man took her innocence. Image result for supporting sexual abuse

I’ve read a number of essays that this is not uncommon with evangelical Christian men. They want to have relationship(s) with women that they can mold, women who will not be mature enough to know that a healthy marriage is one based on mutual respect.

While this is also very common in other societies with fundamentalist religions, few more educated communities expect women to be subservient like this.  Few educated societies permit children to become married. Fewer still think sex is an appropriate activity for budding adolescents.

As much as this angers me,  what bothers me more than the men and women who believe this is a good way of life are the many people who say they will still vote for Roy Moore despite the behavior they don’t like. They will vote for him because he is a Republican. That voting for a Democrat is worse.Image result for unthinking followers

Now, before any Democrat starts feeling superior, the same is true in that camp. Here locally we have a woman beginning her campaign for a state house district. Personally, I can’t vote for her because I do not live in her district, but I have gotten to know her and I know she would have my vote if I could. Even though she is a Republican.

There is not much difference between the warring factions in the Middle East killing people because they do not agree on who was Mohammed’s heir and people who are so fixated on the NAME of their political party that they never put any effort into thinking about the person running for office. Or effort working for that party to help make sure it runs honest candidates who WILL represent the common people.

Look at the issues, yes. You don’t like abortion, I understand. But the clinics do more than that…..don’t shut your eyes to the good that is done.  Don’t be so narrow in your outlook that your hate encompasses good.

Look at the experience the candidate has had to help you understand if they know the important aspects to do the job fairly.  It is very clear that Trump meant it when he said he plans to shut several federal departments; his appointments for their secretaries were selected carefully so the most damage could be done. While many people like the concept of “small government” few people like the idea of letting corporate interests destroy public lands for private enterprise.

Look at their ethics and decide if they are like yours.  You don’t rape little girls? Then don’t vote for someone who prefers his meat tender and juicy and well below the age of consent. And yes, “meat” is rude but surely you don’t think what Moore was doing was a meaningful relationship and one you would enjoy?  He did NOT mentor these children; he raped them.

If you vote for someone who admits sexual predation like Trump, you have something missing in your thinking process…..or you also believe women are playthings.  If you think the idea of children and unconsenting young women being sexual objects is not healthy, then you need to speak up when an abuser proclaims they want to represent you.

Image result for fake christiansSo, simply, I’m holding my “from the outside looking in” card and tell you that these people are not learning the teachings of Christ. Being an imperfect human being I can understand. I can understand that just about all of us have done things that have been unwise. But being proud of reprehensible behavior I can not understand nor support. And anyone supporting it blindly will only continue the deterioration of the American culture.

Yes, that will. Not the immigrants, legal or illegal. Not the LGBTQ community, not the NFL players who kneel to add their silent voices to the protest that not people of color do not have the same equal access to the law that is promised.

Nope, those are all part and parcel of this great land with its wonderful Constitution. But the society will continue to circle the drain if all citizens don’t start thinking about how their actions affect everyone.  Or lack of action. The time for Monday morning quarterbacking is over.  Your choice to act or stay silent is your legacy to this American culture.

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Fear or Stubborness?

It has been easy, since the campaign season, to compare statements and actions by Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler.  Image result for compare trump and hitlerAlso comparable is  the excited reaction of support by a significant minority of the population.  Additionally, what can also be compared is the silence of a larger minority of the populations, providing tacit approval.  These two groups provide a majority base for power.

So, using Nazi Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s as an example, why do “good”  people stay silent when witnessing discrimination of others? Later on, it can easily be understood that they were frightened that they too would become a target for internment or death. But at the beginning of the growth of power, why the silence?Image result for Germans quiet about Hitler

All  the insight I have is based on discussion with people I know who supported Trump during his candidacy. I was told “He doesn’t mean that” many times. When asked how they knew that, the discussion faltered, but the tenacity to that one statement was evident, “I know.”

Each of us is indoctrinated to think certain ways. It may be the way you were raised, or it may be completely opposite the parental viewpoint, but our upbringing-the ethics displayed in our households, the education we had (meaning how we learned to learn, not just how we did on tests), and the people in our close circle all influence the way we think and act.

I, for one, was taught early and often about World War II. My grandparents were immigrants in the early 20th Century and we lost family members in the Holocaust. It was personal and there was no doubt about it but I was taught to hate Germany.  As young as 3-years-old I watched the documentaries showing newsreels of US Army liberating the death camps. I know what slow starvation looks like. I also know what determination to survive despite the odds looks like.

When I had the opportunity to travel for work to Germany to spend six months there on a project working with the US Army, I was uncharacteristically slow jumping at the chance for free travel. I understood why and I tried hard to face that prejudice, learned as a baby, and overcome it logically. And I accepted the assignment.

Waiting at the Frankfurt airport for another part of the team to arrive from the States, I had plenty of time to people watch and came to an obvious but, to me, important understanding: they look just like me. And when our coworkers arrived, we got on a train to head to Kaiserslautern, and I thought, oh yeah, here I am, a Jew, on a train in Germany.   The next morning, reporting to the military office, I noticed the swastikas that were part of the architecture. The base had been built in the 1930s. The spector was all around me. Despite my best intentions, a certain low level anxiety showed I had carried much of my baggage with me.

So why did “good” Germans and others in occupied Europe, for the most part, stay quiet about the actions being taken against the Jews, the Communists, the homosexuals, the gypsies, the handicapped?  Was it mostly fear that they might be next?

Or was it that they really agreed that these groups of people were inferior and the nation, the world, would be better off without them?

We see denial of similar issues here and now in our own nation. For example, we hear lots of white people complaining about the silent and nonviolent kneeling protest  during the national anthem at professional football games. They believe, because it is the information being presented by news sources they trust, that the protestors are not being respectful of the flag and thereby the veterans who fought to protect our rights. They will not recognize the actual purpose of the protest. They believe that people have trouble with the police because they are bad people, but 100% stop talking about the  issue when I asked what a 12-year-old sitting on a playground swing holding a toy gun did so bad that he was shot dead within seconds of the police arriving on the scene.

This lack of facing facts is a clear sign of cognitive dissonance, the stubborn and willful choice to not consider information that is not aligned with their convictions.  And all of us have some level of this infliction.Image result for cognitive dissonance

It is so very easy to think that what I believe is THE RIGHT WAY TO THINK and that everyone else is crazy or stupid. But that way of thinking is also cognitive dissonance.

This morning there are statements by various high level Republicans who have an opinion about Roy Moore’s alleged sexual behavior affecting the upcoming election for Senator from Alabama to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that if the allegations are true, Moore should step out of the race. But other Republican leadership are once again blaming the women (why did they wait so long?) and are supporting Moore fully.Image result for sexual assault by men in power

With the recent #MeToo social media campaign I remembered and told my kids about one incident in my life where my boss tried to inappropriately insinuate himself into my life (I was 24 at the time and he was 49). Recently I read there is a new social media campaign gaining ground  to “Name the Pig.” Instead of telling how we were assaulted, we are encouraged to name the person who behaved illegally and unethically.  So, I think about that former boss of mine.  He would be 88-years-old now, if he is still alive. What good would it be to “out” him?  None, I believe. (I dealt with that boss directly, facing him and telling his he had been inappropriate and it had to stop. He listened and complied…..at least with me. )  But I also support every woman, from Anita Hill to the women who named Bill Cosby to the ones in the Moore situation, for speaking out when we are dealing with a man who has been a role model or could become politically powerful.

Meanwhile, we continue to have at the head of our government a man whose code of ethics seems to be best described as “ME FIRST.” The die hard supporters still believe in what the rest of us know are empty promises (I’ll get your coal jobs back, I will make sure everyone has affordable health care coverage….and more, so many more).  One supporter, in the course of a calm and reasonable conversation stated, “I think Trump is the savior of this nation.”  I knew that the ground had tilted and there was no middle place to find a commonality there.

So why are these people this way? Simply, they are not hearing nor reading what the rest of us are learning.  They typically rely on media that comes from the same viewpoint and never cross check with other news sources to see another aspect of the same issue.  Before condemning him or the countless others, think first. Do you? Do you cross-check issues that are getting your blood pressure up? Or do you just confirm with other sources that are in the same camp?

Image result for cognitive dissonance

Most of us react emotionally first and often speak next. Few recognize that if the information just received appeals to your sense of greed or outrage it MUST be verified by cross-checking across the media, liberal and conservative.  I urge everyone to take the few minutes it takes to do that search and read before climbing aboard some bandwagon that you might not like to own later.

Remember, the “good” people of Germany allowed things to take place that eroded their prior sense of right and wrong because it was not directly affecting them…until it it did, and then, it was too late for most to take a stand.

Image result for bill of rightsWe live in a nation that has an amazing set of laws backed by the Constitution that provides protections for all people here to speak their mind, gather in public, practice their faith, purchase weapons for home protection and hunting, keep from illegal search and seizure, protection from having soldiers living inside your home, certain rights of prisoners and people arrested, and other rights kept by the people and by the individual states. The NRA has massaged the fear of firearms being confiscated to drum up massive purchasing by frightened people.  The fact that some news agencies report on the inept leadership currently in Washington does not mean they are fake news; it means the people responsible want to distract you by blaming the messenger.

Don’t ignore the message.

 

 

 

 


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Thinking it Through

I came of age during the VietNam war and so, the diversification of our nation now is not a new issue to me. There seemed to be three camps in those days: my country right or wrong, things are not right so I have an obligation to protest to get change to occur, and the silent majority.  Once again, we have proof that the more things change the more they stay the same.

A close friend recently posted on Facebook how dismayed she felt when at a kids’ recreational football game, the opposing team took a knee during the anthem.  She has felt the protests at the NFL games are primarily a disrespect to the flag, to the military and to first responders. Her husband is a retired cop who walked his beat with patience and persuasion, so I understand well how they are angry that all cops have been brushed with the unethical and illegal response by others.

My understanding her viewpoint is the first step to initiating a discussion. That discussion may go no where, butting up against the brick wall of inflexible consideration of emotions and facts that do not fit an acceptable scenario. But it might also open a window to a new enlightenment.

What has particularly bothered me about people who condemn the protest is that they never address the base issue. They never talk about WHY the protest is taking place.

They don’t understand it is that silence, that negation of importance, that drives the need for protest.

And when I ask people what kind of protest would be acceptable, the silence is deafening.

When there is silence, there is acceptance. There is complacency. There is collusion.

People I know who protest the protest are usually loud in their argument that they are colorblind, that they treat each person equally.  That may or may not be true and in truth, if each person actually believed in and lived the Golden Rule, we would be living in a whole different culture.

But the people who protest the protest NEVER say anything about the innocent people who are shot and killed, not because of their behavior but because of their skin tone.  They NEVER say anything about court decisions that absolve responsibility for a death of a person of color whose actions in no way required being killed.

They argue black on black crime. Not the issue being protested–stick to the point!

They argue women are also subjected to discrimination. Oh yes, but not the issue being protested-stick to the point!

They point out cruelty to animals. Horrible, but not the issue being protested-stick to the point!

There are a lot of things that can use improving in our society. I can’t fight for every issue that calls to me and neither can anyone else. But a strong emotional response sure indicates this may be an issue that needs more attention. And attention means education first to gather the facts and reduce the emotional response as much as possible. To think calmly and logically. To even place yourself in the same situation, empathically.

Adding anger about protest is adding fuel to the fire.

 

 

 


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They are Making THEIR Choice Known – What’s YOUR Choice?

Back in the late 90s I worked as an administrative assistant in the Vanderbilt Hospital office that maintained the electronic machines that go beep, among other things. One of the technicians had the opportunity to go to a training seminar out of state and was excited about that until he realized he would have to rent a car to get from the airport to the training site. (No uber or lyft in those days.)  He asked if I could arrange to get the department credit card for that expense. I presented his request to the supervisor who had an interesting reaction.

He not only immediately said no, as he was wont to do anytime anyone asked anything “nice” of him, but he then went on a demeaning rant about how anyone could be so inept with their own personal finances that they could not float a $500 expense that might take a month to get reimbursed. He not only had no understanding that not everyone he knew was as financially solvent as he was, but he had no empathetic ability to recognize times may be hard for others and what small thing could he do to help.

As I was myself in severe financial straits at the time dealing with a serious long term illness in the family, I could immediate understand the technician’s situation, and so, went to bat. We got the department credit card, the technician went on his training trip, and all worked out.   But the message hit home. Some people are so narrow in their view of the world that they have NO ability to recognize anyone may be different. And when that different worldview is thrust upon them, they refuse to learn about it, and so more easily want to brush it under the table. Make it disappear.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like that supervisor. Many are in positions of authority as he was, and so exert control with little signs of benevolence. Instead, they are judgmental and their aim to make people causing them problems disappear may not be hidden well.

Years before, sometime in the 1970s I read a book which stayed with me.  Triage by Leonard C. Lewin, published in 1973, was not a best seller and is not a spellbinding page turner but it is a view of a dystopian society where the government and individual corporations make decisions that can and will cause death of “stupid” people, “old” people, “sick” people, “worthless” people.triage-definisiton

triage-bookThe one story I remembered from reading 40+ years ago was about how car manufacturers had come up with a motor that had NO unhealthy emissions and so would eliminate pollution. Sounded great as they they made their presentation to what is clearly recognizable as the EPA until someone finally asked a question they were hoping would go unasked. Simply, the revolutionary motor needed to be started with a proscribed sequence and if not done correctly would blow up. The manufacturers had rejected installing a switch in the car to inhibit imperfect start-up because then they would be accepting responsibility if it failed. The best thing they could offer is that it would only kill the driver who would be showing his lack of intelligence by not following instructions. Passengers would only be injured. The roads would then, they argued, have one less unsafe driver and so driving accident rates could be expected to decrease.

When I went to purchase the book recently to refresh my aging memory the reviews talked about how this is a libertarian viewpoint. Each person is responsible and no paternal oversight should be expected.  I don’t know about that but I do know there is something very much missing in the actions described in the book.

Today we are about three weeks into the new President’s administration and the view from here is one where decisions are being made without much thought about consequences.  It seems like backs are being scratched and the promise to clean up the government by “draining the swamp” is resulting in an exchange of self-interested people with long term experience for people who have paid for their new position and have considerably less experience and a demonstrated predominant display of self interest.triage-decision

I am not inclined to buy into conspiracy theories but it is getting clear even to a Pollyanna like me that something stinks. We The People are not relevant to the people in power.  We WILL be killed off by restricting health insurance, astronomically raising the price of life saving medicine for increased profits,  eliminating environmental protections for water and air, allowing food to have increasing levels of potential carcinogens. Discussions about a new educational policy has not included improving work and life skills nor cognitive reasoning skills. We have been promised that rules restricting businesses will be reduced, thereby helping small business people, but the candidate to run the Labor Department has a long history showing he cares little about wages and work benefits. I fully expect more, not less regulations affecting my own business.

In addition, we are seeing the formation of a shadow administration.   We have a President who has already demonstrated he is unwilling to be informed to make decisions and thereby  relying on his advisers for their input.  In Steven Bannon we have a person who has a history of showing a very narrow definition of who is acceptable.  His advice to the president will ONLY be in their own best interest and those of their cohort.

The rest of us are expendable.  Get ready to play. You’re in the game whether you want to be or not. dice