Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Keeper

re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it. Malcolm X
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You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it. Malcolm X
Read more at:'re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.                                                                                                                      Malcolm X

You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.                         Malcolm X

A few years ago in our StoryTellers program I worked with two twin brothers from Somalia.  Their lives had been hell, filled with wars, child soldiers, death, abuse, and domestic violence before they managed to flee with their mother and older brother.  They traveled thousands of miles across deserts, through strange landscapes and foreign countries, most times in the dark of night with nothing more than the few possessions they carried on their backs so they could immigrate to America.  Even here they lived in constant fear that their father – a government official in Somalia - would someday find them and return them to the horrors of the world they left behind. During months of writing sessions they shared stories filled with pain, fear, and distrust, but also stories deep in excitement about their new lives and happiness at the chances they had been given.  They worked hard to assimilate, learning a new language and culture.  They learned to smile and laugh again. They studied hard, got good grades, and seized every opportunity life in America provided.  They worked for it.  Earned it. Nobody gave them anything. 

And yes …they were Muslim.

I doubt many Americans – especially those worried about jihads and radical Islam and the Muslim boogeymen coming to get us – have ever had any real contact with Muslims (the guy behind the counter at the local convenience store doesn’t count unless you took the time to talk about something more substantial than the cost of that bag of Doritos and six-pack of Bud). Strip away religion. Take away misguided fears about a culture and misguided ideologies we don’t take time to understand. We are all just people. Looking for happiness and love and sometimes even acceptance in a country based on the premise that everyone – no matter where they come from or who they worship – is welcome here. And that we are all created equal
You can learn a little more about StoryTellers HERE

If you're curious about the title, check out this video from Chris Cornell called The Keeper

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Not Today.....

New Colossus

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Culture of Swine

“Buy the ticket. Take the ride.”
Hunter S. Thompson

It is the morning after the nastiest, most divisive presidential election ever. Not just in our lifetime. EVER. And while banshees scream about the death of democracy, the dogs of hell are already barking and howling a victory song marking the beginning of what may very well be a long, nasty period in American history.

The Trump years will be a horror. Now that the Republican Party has sunk its talons into the heart and soul of Washington, the repercussions will be painful and long-lasting. Generations will feel those effects.  Trump-ism will allow the Republicans to pass massive regressive tax cuts, yank access to medical care from the poor and sick, deregulate the financial industry, gut the EPA while looking away as polluters and fossil-fuel emitters rape the environment, and promote racism disguised as patriotism under the banner “Making America Great Again”.

What a load of shit.

As if America ever stopped being great.

And sadly, that is just the beginning.  Trump is a monster. He is an impulsive, egotistical bully, intolerant of any and all criticism and attracted to power like a shark to blood (or maybe in his case – a fly to shit).

HST’s comments about an equally evil individual once in power (Richard Nixon) are appropriate: Trump represents that “dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our… president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…” 

The fifty-nine million Americans who elected Trump will not be helped by his agenda nor any of his programs – he avoided policy specifics in every debate, so it’s difficult to say for sure what those programs might be, except that they will all be “tremendous”.  To the people who bought into his bullshit, Trump-ism represents the opportunity to rebuild our nation and renew the American dream.  Tremendous potential. It’s going to be a beautiful thing. Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential.” 

Except that they won’t.  Not if they are Black. Or Hispanic. Or women. Or Muslim. Or refugees. Or LGBT. The only people who might be satisfied by a Trump presidency are the ones who voted for him because of racial and cultural resentment.

The depths of a Trump presidency defy any sane, rational person’s imagination. Based on the seismic divisions within our country – race, cultural, religious, and gender  – that his candidacy preyed upon like a vulture eating road kill, it’s safe to assume his presidency will not be popular. At least not for long and not with everyone.  And Trump, his henchmen, and gnarly co-horts will most likely respond with vicious anti-democratic measures that threaten the basic tenets of our Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees. But fighting for democracy is part of America’s heritage – it’s what we do.  We fight to make things better and stand up to racism, bigotry, misogyny, discrimination, and oppression. It may take us a while to get it right, but we stand up for the rights of others.

No matter who is in the White House, we need to fight hard for all people of color, LGBT rights, religious freedoms, a woman's right to choose, medical care for people who cannot afford healthcare, etc. - maybe now more than ever. We are stronger together.  And we need to keep fighting.

It is the morning after the nastiest election ever. The sun still came out. Many of us still woke up next to the person we love, surrounded by family or friends who matter. Still hopeful for a better future than the one our parents gave us.  I love this country. I believe in it. I still believe in America.  I’m not leaving - I’m going to stay and defend truth and democracy. There are a lot of people just like me, who feel the same way I do.  We are not going anywhere. 

We are going to stay and fix this.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Things We Lost On Tuesday

“America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.  Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

                                                                                    President George W. Bush        9.17.2001

Fifteen years. 

A lot can happen and change in fifteen years.

It’s been fifteen years since two planes ripped through the Twin Towers in New York, another slammed into the Pentagon, and a fourth crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In a single day the face of our nation changed in ways that went beyond the gaping hole in the Manhattan skyline where the Twin Towers once stood.

Yesterday we again mourned what was lost - social media pages were filled with images and memes commemorating a day in American history that still gives everyone pause.  Ask anybody about the date and they will tell you where they were and what it means to them, and then share their experience - as if what happened is somehow about them and not about the people we lost in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

In the days and weeks that followed the events on 9/11, Americans came together in shock and pain, and found comfort in our spirit and collective unity.  We mourned with dignity and decency – joined in pain, hurt, loss, and patriotism while determined to be as one….”indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  For the first time since grade school, Americans actually understood what those words meant.   We shared a common bond that transcended the inconsequential differences in skin color, language, where we worshipped, and who we chose to love. Political ideology became less important; working together for common goals was all that mattered. We put aside differences and focused on unifying our country and strengthening our ideals. The carefully measured words of our leaders mattered as we embraced ourselves and our values after the attack.

President Bush spoke of Islam and said, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That’s not what Islam is about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.   When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race –out of every race.”

But fifteen years is a long time.

Words like the ones President Bush offered fade and disappear in fifteen years.

The America we live in now is one that is more fragmented than at any time in recent years.  Torn apart by differences in skin color and sexual orientation. Distrustful of other religions. Fearful of immigrants seeking a better life than the one left behind in war torn and oppressed countries. Instead of celebrating the election of an African-American to its highest office, we became a nation that questioned whether the president was actually a Christian or even an American.  We filled our political stage with candidates adept at name-calling and hate-mongering.  The Republican Party that openly embraces fear and loathing, is led by a presidential nominee, Donald Trump, who claims that he saw footage of thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the attack on 9/11, even though that never happened. The same nominee who wants to build a wall on our southern border and with few specifics on how to do it, force all immigrants to go through an "extreme vetting" that would attempt to establish whether applicants' beliefs match US values on gay rights, gender equality and religious freedoms. One of the tenets this nation was founded on (a republic – not a democracy-  in case anyone missed that in high school civics class) is freedom for all. We are a land of opportunity and a land that opens its doors to all who need freedom from persecution – there are no qualifiers about that. No gray areas.

As a nation, that’s not what we’re about. Except in the past fifteen years, that’s what we’ve become. So much for values and principles…..

We can’t agree on solutions to any of  the problems that face our country.  We haven’t fixed our schools. Too many families struggle with poverty, finding meaningful work, and putting food on the table. Inner cities are a mess and our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling.  We’re spending too much time hollering about Colin Kaepernick and not enough time talking about the issues he is protesting – as if there are only two sides to the debate and choosing one eliminates open discussion of the problems and possible solutions.

The America I value is the one where we start to look beyond our differences and work together. The one where the former President said, “This is a great country.  It’s a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth.”

It’s sadly ironic that the people who scream loudest that “we will never forget” are in many ways the same ones who want to “take back our country.”  The ones who have forgotten the ties that brought us all together and the promises we made to work together to make this a better nation after the attacks.  To regain our values. To stand as one with respect and dignity for each other.  The same voices that want to take back our country seem loudest from the people who have divided more than they have unified in the past fifteen years.

What we lost on 9/11 goes deeper than the friends, relatives, neighbors, and strangers in the Towers, four planes, Pennsylvania field, and Pentagon. We lost the vision of what America should be.

Fifteen years.  A lot can change in fifteen years.  America could have been have been better than what we are now.

We need to be better.