Sunday, March 05, 2017

There is no vaccine for this.

I had the flu this month, in spite of having had a flu shot. It was miserable, and I was a little bit resentful at my flu shot for not working. But I had so many hours to lie about, listen and read to the unfolding political drama, and contemplate my over-arching question, that in some respects, it was helpful to be sidelined.

I thought a great deal, as I always do, about how far removed I am from the dangers and threats faced by the people who are directly affected right now. Yes, cuts to health care and medicare would surely affect me and people around me. But I am white, I live in a nearly crime-free rural area, I can grow and raise my own food, and I don't face deportation or homelessness.

Nonetheless, I am filled with anxiety and dread because the people of the world and the world itself, that is, the earth itself, are my community.

I am shocked every day when I wake up, to realize that a significant portion of the people I know, or thought I knew, and love or thought I loved, are actually heartless, racist, biased, and cruelly indifferent to the plight of their fellow beings.

Here's why I make such a harsh statement: Because, even if they didn't vote for or support Trump, even if they disapprove of the racist and discriminatory agenda that he has unleashed, they are, it appears, going about their daily lives unperturbed, or, if they are perturbed, it's about some personal inconvenience. My symbol for this is the suburban white woman who is so obsessed with getting her bathtub replaced until she finds a company that can put a liner in and make it like new... it's as if all of her troubles have been washed away! Imagine being a person of color today, or an immigrant, documented or not, and this is how you see most white people.

I'm not suggesting that we spend all day, every day wringing our hands over the travesty that has been racism for centuries, but is now being brought clearly to the surface. But I do think, if we call ourselves Christians, people of faith, people of conscience, or even human beings with hearts, we must, each day, be learning, listening, and witnessing, to our participation in white privilege and white supremacy.

I can hardly believe that Trump and his "Kremlin Klan," as I love to hear Maxine Waters call them, are being permitted to get away with this desecration of our systems of education, environmental protection, energy, health care, and so much more. Nothing is as painful to me as the heartless and brusque way they rolled into office and signed off on the Dakota pipeline, then crowed and bragged about it as a big accomplishment, with nary an acknowledgment that we literally stole this land by virtue of genocide from the native people, and this was one time that they had all come together to ask to be honored.

But as James Baldwin says, in the important documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, we cannot change what we will not face. In Buddhist practice this is known as sustaining the gaze. I believe that our schools must take the lead in educating young people for anti-racism, and go far beyond the niceties of MLK holiday and Black History month, to a more nuanced understanding of the history of racism. They (and churches) have a moral obligation to augment what parents are evidently not doing at home. Children aren't born racist. They have to learn it, and I'm afraid they are learning it from their own parents and relatives.

The thing that heartens and delights me day after day is the courage of those who are taking risks to protest and fight, to organize, call and rally, for others who are marginalized or who may be facing threats of deportation or other discrimination. It seems that apathy and silence has finally come to an end. The immunity to the sickness may not have worked. A virus too hateful, too horrible, came along. So we, the people, had to raise our own defenses, and we've found that we have, collectively, a heart and a will.

In the strangest way imaginable, Trump really has brought us together. To fight for our country. And to stand for those who, even though we acknowledge we have sinned against them, we have not truthfully and without fear acknowledged our own privilege over them, we still finally do care, we do love them, our hearts can be broken open by their suffering and their pain. We will fight for our brothers and sisters of color and of all statuses that render them marginalized. I can feel that this is true.

Next: Reparations.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Truth, Lies, and Consequences

Since I last shared my thoughts here, we’ve had a tsunami of outrage, protests, travel bans, court orders, tweets, press conferences, and anxious new reports, topped off by a moment of relief in a Saturday Night Live parody.

Facebook, Twitter, and other internet venues have become organizational tools for what is being called the resistance. Resistance is not just a political term. It’s a spiritual battle between the forces of decency and truth, and the forces of deceit and hypocrisy. It’s essential to keep clarity about what is true, what is real, and what is deception. This alone is a gargantuan spiritual task.

When I was a young child, I went to the Statue of Liberty. We actually went several times, since I grew up in New Jersey, and this was a typical school field trip. But this particular time, we visited the parents of our then-new stepmother, who’d married my dad a few years after my own mother died when I was five. These step grandparents lived on the tiny island because my “grandfather” (I am now going to call him my so-called grandfather for reasons I will get to) was an engineer who worked on the design of the museum at the base of the statue. I was about eight, and I remember walking around the few streets of small bungalow-type housing, playing on the steps of the museum, and climbing up into the statue. Early on, it was possible to climb into the torch. Later, that was changed, and only the crown could be accessed. The one thing I don’t remember was hearing or seeing anything about what that statue meant to refugees coming to America. It would be years before I would begin to comprehend that awesome and moving symbolism.

It was while I was in Ireland, 5  years ago, that I saw this photograph in a restroom. Until then, I'd heard the words "a gift from the people of France," but had never been aware of what creating this masterpiece had meant.

But even then, I was at the beginning of a family dynamic that would rest upon a foundation of deception and cognitive dissonance, and that would impact the lives of many people in future generations. The oldest of the four sons that my stepmother brought into the marriage was (and probably still is) a pedophile who victimized my siblings and me, to different degrees. We lived with this untold truth for decades, until finally at the end of her life, my sister was able to convey this to my step mother.

Living with a lie is stressful, anxiety-inducing, unhealthy, and insane.

So much so that the simple act of facing and telling the truth takes enormous courage.

When an entire family system colludes in a lie or deception, anyone who names the lie and speaks truth can be dismissed, demonized, or even expelled.

This is the nature of an addictive system, except that the lies and the layers of deception and mistrust are compounded, layers upon layers. And this is very much what is happening at a macro level in our country right now. If Trump is the identified patient, or the addict, and his staff are the enablers, Bannon is his dealer.

It’s no wonder people feel traumatized and immobilized. Other are motivated, angry, and are seeking out community to work together against oppressive orders, unacceptable appointees, and policies based upon untruths.

Most important is that we learn for ourselves how to discern truth, and how to differentiate truth from lies.

We also must have the courage to call a lie a lie, even if it means offending someone we love or whose feelings we care about.  It doesn’t need to be a fight. “Everything I have read confirms that there was never any massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky, so we will have to agree to disagree.”
We are surrounded by people who live with cognitive dissonance. Our school system teaches children to believe things that aren’t true. It's not that our schools teach only lies. But they elevate mistruths through selective teaching of "facts" and by ignoring entire swaths of human history deemed too un-patriotic or controversial to be taught. People attend churches and believe literally things that are given as metaphor, as stories. People believe advertisements, gossip magazines, horoscopes, and all sorts of quackery. Simply being still, and trusting your own senses, and speaking your own truth, is an act of resistance.

From this Universalism was born, when our fore bears would not advance the falsehood that those who were not Christian would go to hell. Teaching, at first, that all God’s children would be saved, Universalists ultimately did away with the whole fable of “Hell,” acknowledging that it was a tactic used to scare people into being faithful, and reasoning a loving God would never send his creations to such punishment. Theology has continued to evolve, but this early Universalism was based upon reason, and truth.

We are all living with some distortions of truth. But how many, and how sick is it making us? Knowing what our bodies tell us about when we are allowing ourselves to be enablers or even perpetrators of a dishonest system, and finally refusing to continue, is a spiritual victory.

You will not be popular.

You will not be adored.

You may, however, be respected. At the very least, you will gain self-respect.

But you will be at peace when you go into prayer, meditation, or quiet contemplation, because you and God as you understand God, will see one another in the light of love and the certainty of truth.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


I’m keeping my subscription to the New York Times.

We’re on a tight budget now, and I’ve thought more than once of canceling my digital subscription. But the NYT is the one mainstream press that has actually used the word “lie” in its reporting on Trump, both before and since the Inauguration. Other media outlets have opted for “falsehood” or “fabrication,” or at best have said that he “repeated a lie.” They insist that using the word “lie” means that they have to know that he intended to deceive people by saying what he did: in this case, that his Inauguration was the best attended ever, and (this is even more dangerous and delusional) that 3-5 million people voted illegally, calling into question the fact  that his popular vote was far lower than Clinton’s.

Now Trump plans to use taxpayer dollars to launch an investigation into this outright lie. As Rep. Elijah Cummings said on MSNBC last night, “This is chilling.” When we hear people use the word, chilling…  what are we hearing? We ourselves feel this. We are more than angry. We are far more than fearful. We are way more than upset. We are seeing a horrendous nightmare, the stuff of dystopian novels, play out in real time, and we pass every day, in the marketplace and workplace, people who facilitated this or allowed it to happen. Chilling  is our visceral reaction to that. It is the body’s way of saying,  No, this is not be okay.

Maybe you don’t feel that way.

Maybe you feel numb, or paralyzed, or deeply depressed. Those, too, would be expected reactions. Evidently, some people are delighted. They want to see happening the policy changes that Trump is bringing about. Rounding up of immigrants, splitting up families, huge amounts of taxpayer money spent on walls with Mexico, creation of bad will with NATO and other countries, a sure-to-be deadly pipeline through native lands, exploiting our natural resources to make the few rich, while providing a relatively small number of temporary jobs, for what? Fossil fuels, when all indicators show that renewable sources of energy are where our money needs to go. Silencing of national agencies that protect and preserve our climate and resources. Anyone who is happy about this, or excuses these things because it will “help the economy’ or “bring back jobs” is enabling the machinations of a madman who has been given the reins of power. They believe these orders and bills are so great they can excuse the lies, the abuses of power and the outrageous behavior of Donald Trump.

Cuba. I'll be talking more about propaganda. Later.

So. It’s interesting that Trump doesn’t drink, or use drugs. Often, people who do not drink come from a family in which there was alcoholism or another severe addiction. They repress that addiction in themselves, only to have the genetic tendency come out elsewhere: food, religion, or, in this case money and power. In my years of counseling, I saw this again and again.

I think Donald Trump, like many addicts, is starved for love and affection. No matter his wealth and power, he will always suspect that everyone around him, his sycophants, his wife, even his children, are loyal because they fear/ need him for his money and power.

His behavior is like that of someone in the downward spiral of addiction. It can only get worse.
Everyone (and this includes NPR, all the news channels who’ve decided to normalize his presidency, and, sadly, most of the Democratic congress so far) who does not actively resist in some way is enabling him.

Those of us who grew up with addiction of any kind are suffering a bit more than others. We see playing out on a national/world stage the shame-filled and destructive scenes of our past. The rants, the outbursts, the enablers, the excuse-makers, the tap-dancing, and the lies.

In AA the saying goes, “How can you tell an alcoholic/addict is lying? A: Their lips are moving.”

Addicts lie for no reason. They believe their own lies. They live in a world of self-delusion, and we, their families, are faced with the painful choice of listening (which they will take as acquiescence) or confrontation (which they will turn around on you and blame you for as an attack.)

This is one of the reasons people in recovery strive to be scrupulously honest. I'll go into that a little further on.

So take a moment each day to separate truth from lies. Make sure you speak truth always. I know sometimes I tell the little lies, saying I like something that I don’t, that things are okay when they’re not…that sort of thing. Today I will endeavor to be honest in all my speaking and writing.

By the way, it’s in the Bible, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” And lying is condemned in about 10 other places in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. How do all the Christians who voted for Trump feel about that?