Month: December 2014
A talented take on the human condition and what it means for people to work with and care about others.
I briefly considered being a therapist in High School. I’m a good listener and fairly analytic, so it seemed like a good fit until my mom said, “Yes, but you’d have to keep your distance.” My mom knew that I have a lot of empathy and sometimes have trouble not getting emotionally involved in other people’s problems. (Just like she knew that my 6 y/o self would have a hard time putting animals to sleep if I grew up to be a veterinarian. Which I proclaimed was fine, because I’d bring all the animals to live with me. And she just nodded–bless her.)
Both of my parents are medical doctors, so I was familiar with the “shell” that doctors have to develop so they aren’t emotionally traumatized every time a patient dies. Like army commanders, they have to maintain some distance from their patients so that they can continue to…
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Merry Christmas to all! I don’t think there are many people who genuinely resent my wish for happiness and community, however, all around the world there are people celebrating their own seasonal holidays that have little or nothing to do with Christmas. There are dozens if not hundreds of traditions near and far all packed tightly together thanks to the relative position of the tilt of Earth’s axis to the sun. I want to contemplate this fact for a moment. The seething mass of humanity has picked sometime between November and January to think about what is good in the world and about each other. It’s not enough to cancel all the wars and oppression in the world, but it’s a wondrous notion worthy of contemplation. It seems that given the hardness of people throughout much of the world so much of the time that taking even a day or a week to celebrate our commonality and good feelings can not go amiss.
It seems somehow terribly petty to limit this sentiment and joy to just Christians. Are we so small that we can’t wish goodness on others? Is there not enough goodness that we must horde it for ourselves? I reject the notion that we can’t include other people, other religions, other traditions in the spirit of the season. So happy holidays to everyone! From the entirety of my soul I wish you well. Even angry Christians, I wish you the best.
Yes, Christmas is undoubtedly of pagan origin. The Christians brutally wiped out the pagans and appropriated their holidays to make assimilation of whoever was left easier. The rise of Christian dominance in Europe and the Americas is a dark and miserable story. Certainly not one that I want to think about today. But I know that people are furious with the paganism of Christmas. They want to reclaim their spirituality in some way. But I have a better solution to fighting the ghosts of the past. Celebrate the divine in humanity. Do you think ancient druids did not love their children? You think the cults, and the devotees of forgotten gods, didn’t bring home toys to their kids? Husbands were passionately devoted to their wives. Families worked hard, celebrated moments of joy, mourned their losses. They built, laughed, loved, created, lost, mourned, looked to the future, complained about “kids these days” and how everything was going into a general state of decline, and how the new music styles were completely terrible. Teenagers made awkward small talk and complained about how lame their parents were, and yes they celebrated what was good in their lives, expressed their hope for the future, and had a day of fun simply for the sake of fun.
Do I know this for certain? absolutely. I’m positive that humanity hasn’t changed that much in a few thousand years. We even have scraps of ancient texts with “old man” complaints that haven’t changed substantially in two thousand years. We criminalize the ancient past, we refuse the basic humanity of each other, and we obsess over our own grievances.
In the best of the Christian tradition, let it go. Celebrate the fundamental qualities of christmas: Generosity and compassion. Seize and share the joy in the world that is all too rare for so many people. You can not serve the cause of evil by celebrating what is good in the world. You will not limit or “waste” good cheer by wishing it on others or limiting your respect to merely those with Christian traditions.
I don’t see race. I don’t see your gender. I don’t see your age, or your family. I do not see your height, or your width. I do not see your shape, your hair, or your color or your eyes. I don’t see your education, your job, or potential. I don’t see your culture or community. I don’t see your neighborhood, your city, your state or your country. I don’t see your accomplishments or failures; your hope or fears. I don’t hear your accent or language. I do not hear your voice. Not your shouts; not your whispers; Not your dispassioned reason or your impassioned thunder.
I don’t see your beliefs, your religion, traditions, or symbols. I don’t see your churches, temples, mosques, or holy places. I don’t hear your stories, your fables, myths, old wives tales, or superstitions. I do not see your elders, prophets, and wise men. I don’t hear your singing, your chanting, or your poetry. I don’t see your dancing.
I don’t see your strengths. I don’t see your needs. I don’t see your struggles. What you have overcome and what you have left to do. I don’t see your heartache when tragedy befalls your brothers or sisters. I don’t hear your cries of anguish, your sorrow, your tears. I do not see your torn clothing and your sackcloth and ashes. I do not hear your prayers or pleas. I don’t hear your anger or frustration. I do not see beyond boxed illusions.
I don’t see your history. Your comings and goings. What you’ve been through. What you’ve taken and left behind. What your still going through, and will continue to go through. I do not see the mountains and valleys, the sun scorched deserts, the plains, or the jungles or the tundra. I don’t see the tapestry of your life. What makes you who you are and who you are not. I do not see you apart and a part of the aggregation of humanity. I don’t see the road you are on or the journey you must travel. That is not what I see. I don’t see race. I don’t see you. If I can not see race, I can not see anything about you. I am blind. I see only myself reflected all around me. Endless reflections as if looking across mirrors. An army of me from every angle and I think myself wonderful.
The chief business of the American People is Business. They are profoundly concerned with buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. — Calvin Coolidge 1925
Well? Is it true or isn’t it? America created history’s greatest mercantile empire. We believe in Capitalism so much its nearly a self-destructive religion. But in light of recent events, one wonders if that’s really what we believe in at all. Particularly Republicans. The hue and cry in the name of Capitalism, the flocking to shrines to Reagan and Ayn Rand those patron saints of Capitalism, would all give one false hope that Republicans have anything at all to do with the philosophy. Yet, time and again, they act against it. One wonders if they do not understand, or if they do not believe.
If they believe in the power of capitalism to reshape a society to bring prosperity, then why do they resist using capitalism in just that capacity? All around the world in our bloody history, we have fought wars, embargoed nations, in order to bend them to our will. Why? If our ideals are so powerful will they not naturally dominate those other cultures? More importantly, why do you care? Cuba has an autocratic brutal dictatorship. So? It’s not our problem. What can we do about it? We can invade overthrow the government and institute a puppet state, because that’s worked really well for us. We could embargo the Cubans because after 53 years they’re sure to crack any day. We could throw a giant hissy fit which will get Republicans re-elected but it serves no one’s interest. For political and social conditions to change in Cuba, it’ll have to be Cubans who will do it. The US can do nothing in this regard.
So, let’s use the one thing we’re really good at. Making money. Maybe normalizing relations and opening trade between our two countries will bring about modernization and moderation. Maybe it won’t but at the end of the day you have to have a fundamental respect for the choices people make. You could argue that socialism and communism is doomed to failure. Again I ask, So? Again, not our problem. Ideally you’d want other countries to be as prosperous as socialism will let them to be, because a prosperous country is a better trading partner. It doesn’t matter if their socialist. A complete non sequitur. If it works for them, great! if it doesn’t, we’ll be there with IMF loans, fiscal policy reforms, and foreign investments to help get them back on track.
I believe in Capitalism. I truly do. I see communist countries adopting capitalist reforms and trying to modernize. And it works. Growth and prosperity have transformed places like Vietnam and China and the transformation is on going. Even if it is a slow painful process. That’s fine with me. I’m not in a place to dictate to another country what the pace of their progress should be. But this cold war era mentality was toxic. It was toxic for 50 years. That’s why they called it a war.
The business of America is business. We shall not fight useless battles toward unprofitable ends. Normalize relations with everyone who will talk to us. Remember, consent of the governed is not a right given to a people, they already have it. It’s natural law. We are not to govern them, and their own tyrants do so at their peril. Let’s put our faith in the power of ideas, and the resolution of the people to govern themselves.
What do you want? Seriously. It’s the season for requesting and obtaining miracles I think it’s far past the time for a list of demands.
The trouble with populist movements is that while the outrage is genuine, concrete objectives are typically lacking. There’s been a lot of populist outrage in recent years, very little of it successful. Let’s see your goals be grand, or small. I don’t care if you want something as simple as the right to sit where you like on a bus or as something as complicated as an end to world hunger, but you need a list.
No one cares. They don’t. The people who genuinely believe this will not be moved by your hashtag, and the people who don’t believe it simply respond with #alllivesmatter See? they’ve got a catchy hastag too. So at the moment it sounds like your trying to make the world feel sorry for you. Ooookay. It worked. Success! Now what? I don’t think sympathy is going to prevent the next police attack. If you don’t know what it is you want, go home. You can scream, shout, weep, march, carry signs demanding justice but justice is ephemeral. It’s abstract. There is no justice in this world, but if you have thoughts on reforming the court systems the country would like to hear them. But I don’t hear a proposal. I hear the same firebrand speeches from the same firebrand “leaders” that we’ve heard for 30 years. If black leaders had an ounce of integrity they’d resign from whatever posts they currently possess because they’re lying to you. The speeches and marches and rabble rousing have more to do with creating a cult of personality than effective positive changes for black and other minority communities. In short, they don’t know what they’re doing either.
It’s been pointed out to me that true black leaders tend to get assassinated. Let me ask you a question. Who is the CEO of ALEC? If you shot him, would it matter all that much? The Heritage Foundation? The CATO Group? If you’ve never heard of these organizations or don’t know what they do, congratulations, you’ve let conservative white America win without credible opposition. It’s easy to blame problems on conspiracy and racism. It’s much harder to blame failings of your own leadership. To know that if your leaders weren’t completely useless, incompetent and more than a little crazy you might make tangible improvements in government.
But it’s not just minorities. Remember the Occupy movement. Same deal. Huge groundswell of populist sentiment. Really fantastic news coverage, great use of social media. Got zilch for their efforts. Why? They didn’t ask for anything! What the occupiers wanted was a vague collection of campaign finance reform and something about wealth inequality. They got nothing. If everyone who had come out to march had donated $10 to a credible lobbying firm that had the expertise to write legislation and guided through congress they could have achieved something. They didn’t.
After Sandy Hook and other school shootings there was a massive outpouring of community sorrow and rage and what happened? gun control was rolled back in a dozen states and soundly defeated on the national level? Why? because the NRA is the only lobbying firm active. Because congress and state legislatures know that the NRA will deliver not only the money but the votes of millions of crazy gun nuts.
If black, liberal, and other minority groups want to accomplish anything they’re going to have draft a list of legislative demands and then turn out en mass to vote on them. You managed to turn people out to rally for your useless marches are you saying you can’t get people out to vote on something that will actually make a difference?