Don’t Say “I’m Okay”

Habits can hurt you: don’t just say “I’m okay.”

The other day, I walked out of my kitchen to find my next-door neighbor wandering around my house in her nightgown and bathrobe, carrying a towel. She had no idea where she was and did not know how to find her way back to where she belonged.  Throughout the entire episode, she said, “I’m okay.” I’d ask her what was wrong, and she would reply, “I’m okay I’m okay.” I asked if she knew where she was, and she would say, “I’m okay.”  Yet, it was obvious that she was not.  As she paced around my house, it was also clear that she was not going to sit down, and she was not going to calm down until she was back in her own familiar surroundings. After a bit, I managed to get her attention and asked if she wanted to go home.  Although she continued stating, “I’m okay I’m okay,” she looked at me and offered a hint of a nod. I said, “Let’s get you back home.” When she charged outside, I got her safely into her own house and contacted her husband.

I’ll skip over any discussion of her health and get to my point. Even though she was not well, she continued to repeat over and over that she was okay.  The words seemed to be a mantra.

What is the moral of this story? Don’t get in the habit of saying you are okay when you are sick.  If you have the flu and people ask how you are feeling, tell them that you have the flu or say you don’t feel at your best. If you are getting better, that is a good comment. It’s fine to say, “I’m not doing too well right now, but I should be better in a couple of days.” But do not make a habit of saying you are okay.  Someday EMT or ER personnel may ask you how you are, and they might just accept that you are okay. To you, it is obvious that are not fine since you are sitting in the emergency room. However, even in the emergency room, saying you are okay changes the way people will respond to you.

In our society, countless people ask daily, “How are you,” and just as mechanically others respond, “I’m okay.”   However, that persistent reply might get you in trouble someday. It certainly did not help my neighbor.

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The Current Immigration Policy: A Few Words

And now Jags will prosecute immigrants…

It was horrific that President Trump implemented a program to remove children from immigrant families and from families seeking asylum. Rightfully, US citizens have been appalled. The latest news from Trump’s government modifies this program to an even greater level of horror.

Recently, the Department of Justice requested active duty Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs) to serve for six months in order to prosecute migrants.[1] The request was approved and JAGs will be sent to six cities in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas to prosecute anyone considered to be crossing illegally under the zero-tolerance policies set up by Trump and Attorney General Sessions. What does this mean? On the most basic level, it means that people who try to enter the country without prior documentation will be put on trial and prosecuted by lawyers serving in the military. Active-duty military lawyers do not have the option of refusing to prosecute people (they are active duty, after all).

We have already seen the inhumane separation of children (including babies and toddlers) from their parents even when those parents were seeking asylum. Just to be clear, asylum is not something a family can apply for in advance. However, under the zero-tolerance policy, they are being prosecuted for illegal entry.

Who is seeking asylum?  In thousands of cases, asylum-seekers are parents with children who cannot go back to the country they left. The majority of them flee from Central and South American countries, especially Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, and Honduras, due to violence.  In El Salvador, death rates due to violence are higher than in every country except Syria.[2] Honduras and Venezuela rank right behind El Salvador.

Sessions’ recent decree, backed by Trump, limits the reasons people can use in requesting asylum. Now it doesn’t count if women run away from gangs or domestic violence. Note:  it is not illegal to be an asylum-seeker — or rather it was not until Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump.  But now what Sessions called “private violence” and gang violence are no longer reasons accepted for asylum. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, murder due to gangs and private violence put El Salvador as second, Honduras as third, and Venezuela as fourth place in global death statistics. Guatemala ranks eleventh.

Is this policy specifically directed at Latinos?  Is this another example of racism in US Federal Officials?

Think about running away from murdering, kidnapping, and assorted violence, making a long difficult journey to the US border, only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. And then to have your children taken away!  Think about being deported back to the same violent place you fled without your children!

Now shift your thinking to Africa. Consider Boko Haram and the hundreds of  girls and young women they kidnapped. Consider Boko Haram stealing children to turn them into soldiers, “wives,” and slaves. Perhaps you remember the reports of hundreds of under-aged females stolen from their parents and missing were big on US news for a while. How is it wrong in Nigeria but okay in US?

And now POTUS has requested that military personnel try the people who come to the border without immigration papers. Because of this program, the military will function in a civilian court. That smears the boundaries between civilian and military and feels a bit too close to military justice and military control.

Rather than make the situation better with the latest executive order, Trump has made it worse.  People are going to be housed on military bases in tent cities. Think about living in a tent in Texas or Arizona where the temperatures easily range over 100 degrees.  This is already happening: in addition to cages in re-purposed stores, we already have children living by themselves in tent cities. Many children who were removed from their parents — causing long-term terrible and frightening consequences — are now “housed” in what the government calls “temporary juvenile facilities” in tents. What if they have to live there for a month? What if they are temporarily housed there for three years? What if they never get back with their parents?

If the humanitarian aspects don’t hit you in the heart, consider the monetary price.  “According to ICE’s FY 2018 budget, on average it costs $133.99 a day to maintain one adult detention bed.”[3]  The price rises to $139.40 for a child detained in a tent city. So, let’s do some math. If 2,000 children were heartlessly removed from their parents for 44 days (the reputed average), the cost for one day would be $278,800.00. For one day. Setting aside the indeterminable, indescribable, and unwarranted emotional and psychological consequences, the price tag to the budget would be $12,267,200.00.  More than twelve million dollars. However, “the DHS projects there will be an average of 51,379 people held in immigration detention centers each day in fiscal 2018.” [4]

Thus, not only has the current administration bankrupted our humanitarian bank accounts, but it will also bankrupt the literal ones.

 

—- Sources —

[1] Maddow, Rachel. “The Rachel Maddow Show” MSNBC aired June 20, 2018.

[2] Kight, Stef W. and Dave Lawler. “Why Central Americans flee to the U.S. despite “zero tolerance” Axios (posted 6/21/2018) https://www.axios.com/why-are-immigrants-coming-to-us-with-trump-zero-tolerance-ea01cb86-c4c0-4d8d-92d1-ae5cd6af6ec6.html (retrieved 6/22/2018)

[3] Urbi, Jaden. “This is how much it costs to detain an immigrant in the US” CNBC posted June 20, 2018 (2018) https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/20/cost-us-immigrant-detention-trump-zero-tolerance-tents-cages.html (retrieved 6/23/2018)

[4] Urbi, Jaden. “This is how much it costs to detain an immigrant in the US” CNBC posted June 20, 2018 (2018) https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/20/cost-us-immigrant-detention-trump-zero-tolerance-tents-cages.html (retrieved 6/23/2018)

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Is This Fake News? No.

As usual, President Trump has been tweeting and speaking about media sources and fake news, trying to make us believe that journalists want to publish false stories, and that they do it on purpose.  In particular he often calls out the Washington Post.

Another business Trump doesn’t like is Amazon. Interestingly, Jeff Bezos is  the founder and owner of Amazon. Bezos is part of the 1%; he’s fabulously wealthy. So why does Trump dislike him so much? Jeff Bezos also happens to own the Washington Post, and since its slogan is “democracy dies in the dark,” the goal of the newspaper does not always match the news that Trump wants publicized. In addition, the truth is that newspapers print retractions and corrections if they do print a story that is later found to be wrong.

Does it seem odd that Trump talks about supporting business but he actively works against two large companies owned by the same person?

The president claimed that costs to deliver Amazon packages were why US Postal Service has been losing a lot of money. In fact, using that claim, Trump tried to get USPS to double the rates for Amazon.[1]

However, packages are not the reason for USPS annual losses. In fact, package delivery is a mainstay of USPS income — and Amazon is a behemoth at supplying packages to be delivered. According to CBS News:

“The postal service has lost money for 11 straight years, mostly because of pension and health care costs. … Under a 2006 law, it must pre-fund 75 years’ worth of retiree health benefits. Neither the government nor private companies are required to do that.”[2]

A long time ago (about 50 years ago), another president tried to use the power of the presidential office against people he decided were his enemies. His name was Richard Nixon. Among other things, Nixon demanded that the IRS audit people from his enemies list — a totally illegal use of the IRS. That didn’t work well for him because honest individuals refused to act illegally on his demands and told the truth when they were called as witnesses. Nixon’s actions to intimidate and manipulate people he didn’t like through the federal government were listed as one of the Articles of Impeachment. You see, it is illegal for the president to do that.  Just to be clear, it’s also unconstitutional.

The Washington Post (at the time owned by Katharine Graham) and The New York Times were instrumental in disclosing the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate break-in, and several other scandalous illegal activities during the Nixon White House. (If you don’t know about the Pentagon Papers or Watergate, I suggest you learn more about history. Just Google it.) Because of the papers’ reputations, Nixon also did not like The Washington Post and forbid their reporters (and those from The New York Times) from entering the White House, an action that Trump has also followed.

By pushing the Postmaster General to double the rates for Amazon.com, Trump used presidential power in an attempt to influence Amazon. The Postmaster General refused,  stating that all businesses were given the same pricing structure.

Let’s return to that previous president. As previously mentioned, one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon was that he attempted to use the offices of the government to punish his enemies. Specifically it was Article 2 which stated that he committed unconstitutional acts by directing employees of IRS, FBI, and the Secret Service to act unlawfully and unconstitutionally. You can read the Articles of Impeachment here: http://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment.[3]

And now President Trump claims he can pardon himself.[4] So, is he saying he is above the law of the US Constitution? His oath of office states otherwise. Perhaps he is simply seeing how far he can push that line in the sand before his political party joins those who are already upset with his actions?

 

—– Sources ——

[1] Reuters Staff  “Trump urged U.S. Postal Service to double package rates for Amazon” Washington Post (May 18, 2018) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-trump/trump-urged-u-s-postal-service-to-double-package-rates-for-amazon-washington-post-idUSKCN1IJ2G4 (retrieved 6/5/2018).

[2] Irina Ivanova “MoneyWatch: Does the post office actually lose money on Amazon?” CBS Interactive Inc. (April 3, 2018)  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/post-office-lose-money-amazon-contract-usps-fact-check-trump-tweets-again-today-2018-04-03/ (retrieved 6/5/2018).

[3] “Articles of Impeachment” Watergate.info (1995-2017) http://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment (retrieved 6/5/2018).

[4] Caroline Kenny. “Trump: ‘I have the absolute right to pardon myself’” CNN (June 4, 2018)  https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/04/politics/donald-trump-pardon-tweet/index.html (retrieved 6/4/2018).

 

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Black Moon Lilith conjunct Pluto in Capricorn

Astrology: Black Moon Lilith conjunct Pluto in Capricorn

Black Moon Lilith is conjunct Pluto for the rest of the month of May. Since both of them move slowly, they are ensconced in Capricorn for a while; in fact, Lilith will be visiting there until August 2018. Astrologer Tom Jacobs states that the conjunction of Pluto and Lilith is about recovering from abusive relationships. However, I would say that Lilith and Pluto dancing in Capricorn is a placement that affects more than bad relationships. Black Moon Lilith in Capricorn is not always the happiest placement. Especially when Black Moon Lilith and Pluto travel together, the energy can be sensitive, reactive, irritable or impulsive. By itself, Pluto can bring about transformation, but with the two of them together, anything can happen. Let’s look at some examples.

When Capricorn represents the status quo in a person’s life, Lilith and Pluto may or may not fit inside society’s rules and standards. In that case, Lilith can fire up the rebellious streak, which could lead to confrontations, protests or demands for respect and transformation. When Capricorn embodies the desire to get to the top of the hierarchy, Lilith can bring anger that fuels a fight for equality.

Either of these can lead to internal or external conflicts. If a person’s status quo includes an abusive relationship, Lilith will insist on change and Pluto will apply pressure to that insistence. If an individual feels stuck, Lilith will bring frustration, and if a person experiences multiple occurrences of injustice, Lilith may push for flight or fight.

If Capricorn represents cause and effect (based on one of Jeffrey Wolf Green’s interpretations), then Lilith conjunct Pluto will bring awareness to those things that were previously festering in the unconsciousness. This new understanding can allow individuals to choose to recognize their emotions, the resulting reactions and underlying connections, and thus they can start to heal themselves.  The key is to be aware of the stuff that is bubbling up from the unknown depths — this means we need to recognize we are dealing with what some people call shadow work.

If an individual is not alert to the release of the shadow, the person could spend the months of this conjunction oblivious to their feelings and evolutionary needs. The conflict of this transformational conjunction would leave the person with reactions based on what was happening underneath the level of consciousness. Because of that, the unaware individual might feel they were being manipulated or repressed by those around them or by society itself.

Lilith in Capricorn can push people to deal with their ambitions. When aligned with Pluto, it can also bring up judgments, biases, and denunciations.  All of that pressure can lead to sudden actions taken without consideration of the consequences. Although Black Moon Lilith can bring an urge to escape a situation, the conjunction with Pluto can also create forceful, passionate or even aggressive reactions.

Lilith is associated with both the upper world, also called the heavenly realm, and the lower world while Pluto is linked to the Underworld, the abode of death. Under the influence of this conjunction, you will be forced to review your assumptions, your goals, your past, your future, and your truths.

 

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Touching the Divine or Living by Chance

Many religions have been founded on the teachings of individuals viewed as holy beings. Buddha and Jesus reached a state of enlightenment so pure that they changed everyone they met. Yet, most of us only find enlightenment in brief glimpses of the Divine. However, anyone who has experienced the feeling of being-at-one with the universe for even a short moment knows that it changes your life afterwards. It is a similar feeling when you realize that some power in the universe cares about you and is helping you.

Years ago when my son was young, we drove up through the hills into the woods. We hiked to a perfect spot for a picnic. Overlooking a green valley, in sight of a mountain etched in purple and white, we spent a wonderful afternoon. The sunlight danced through the shade of the trees as we ate, relaxed, talked, and played together.

A week later, that mountain blew up. The volcanic eruption destroyed our picnic site, miles of ancient forest, a crystal blue lake, several communities, and an entire ecosystem of living beings. Thankfully, we were safely at home when the mountain exploded. Decades later, signs of that violent transformation still show like scars on the geography.

Some people tell me that the date of our picnic was chance, but I don’t believe it was a twist of fate that we survived.  I believe Spirit protected us.  When we are protected from tragedy, either we can discount it as luck or we can recognize that Spirit acted to help us survive.  Now and then, when we are recipients of a miracle, it is easy for us to see how the Divine touches us.

But, let’s assume that we picked the day of the picnic just by chance. If so, we take chances every day of our lives. We chose to go a different direction, take a new road to get to work. Is it coincidence that by doing so, we missed a huge multi-car accident?  Could it be the intervention of the Divine in our lives that nudges us to go that way?  On the way, we stop at a coffee shop to pick up breakfast and we enjoy a chat with the person next to us in line. A year later the two people marry. Is it chance that you meet the individuals you love? What happens if you believe that your dearly loved grandparent watches over you and helps you?  What happens if you live life as if there were no coincidences?

If you accept such happenstances as proof that you are interacting with the universe, you cannot view life as blind luck. If you believe that the Divine wants to help you, wants to guide you and protect you, you must understand that you are an important part of the world, perhaps more important than you know.

Many people are haunted by what happened in the past. They compare the present to a similar situation in the past when events did not work out the way they wanted them too. They worry that if they try something new, the same outcome might happen again. They focus so much on what might happen, on what might go wrong, that they miss living their lives. Their fear of the past causes them to miss opportunities in the present.  They are so afraid of making a mistake, that they do not do anything. They don’t even make a choice. And that is the true basis of free will. We can choose to take a chance, make a mistake, play it safe or have an adventure.

Yet, the wonder of the universe exists all around us.  Parents watching their newborn baby open her eyes for the first time feel a touch of the divine. When we witness a gorgeous sunset, the ball of exotic colors apparently falling into the ocean, then we recognize there is more to life than our to-do lists, rush hour traffic, and catching a meal on the go.

Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” The advice is still faultless today. Henry Miller also said, “Until we accept the fact that life itself is founded in mystery, we shall learn nothing.”  You can choose to believe that the Divine is here interacting with you in this mystery — or you can decide it all happens by chance.

What would happen if you decided to be present in your life? What would change if you choose to believe that the Divine is present there too? What would happen if you embraced the mysteries in your life?

Whether or not you recognize your interactions with the Divine Ones, life is what you are doing right now; it is what you did yesterday, and the experiences you will have tomorrow.  Regardless of how you feel about the Divine, you are here to encounter life in this physical form. The Great Mystery — Big Bang, if you prefer — from which everything came is still here. That Infinite Spirit is a tiny part of every molecule, of every person, tree, and animal. It is there regardless of the emotions we feel — or maybe, it is there precisely because of the emotions we feel.

Life exists for you in all its glorious experiences. Go and live it.

 

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Ozone and Air Pollution: Good News and Bad

It took 30 years, but the prohibition of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) is finally making a difference. CFC was used in packing materials, spray cans, air conditioners, refrigerators and insulation. Around 30 years ago, scientists realized that CFC was one of the causes of ozone depletion. The earth — and everybody on it — needs that ozone layer to keep the right balance of sunlight, oxygen, and maintain climate patterns.  Many people and companies voluntarily stopped using aerosol sprays. In 1987 a world-wide ban was agreed to, and numerous countries implemented government bans on CFC manufacture and restrictions on its use. After 30 years, we have a bit of good news: scientists believe the ozone layer is starting to heal.

The bad news is that the Trump administration has talked about repealing the Clean Air Act and has supported reducing the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, has spoken against the need for environmental protection regulations and clean air laws — the very things he is mandated to provide.

The current Trump administration has made it easier for businesses to obtain environmental permits by changing the government requirement for impartial analyses. Now they accept the analyses provided by the companies requesting the permits. In addition, the funds to prosecute polluters have been cut and many of the regulations supporting those actions have been removed.

The rest of the world seems to realize how important it is to reduce pollution. Even China  has done a lot of work on it! I would like to leave you with a positive statement, but I cannot find a way to minimize the stupidity of the current pro-pollution policies. The cavalier attitude of the Trump administration and its Republican supporters leaves me breathless — and soon we all may be literally breathless.

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Religion, Morals, and Kindness

Recently at the end of a story on NPR, a woman thanked someone for helping her. In fact, she said, “Thank you for helping me; you’re such a Christian!”

I wanted the helper to say, “I’m not a Christian, but you’re welcome.”

I wanted the radio moderator to come up with an appropriate philosophical comment. I hoped for a follow-up story that would broaden the experience of helping so that everyone could belong to that group.

We have developed the ridiculous mindset that people must have religion to have kindness. Our culture insists that someone must have an organized religious in order to have ethics.

This concept hurts everyone. More importantly, it is a lie.

This fallacy does everyone a disservice. It allows one individual to believe falsely that others who claim the same religion must have the same morality. They might not. More importantly it permits a person to believe that those who do not belong to the same church are not moral. This attitude supports the idea that those who do not label themselves under a certain religion must not have ethics and therefore must not know right from wrong.

These are also preposterous lies.

History proves that the practice of religion does not bring morality. People bring morality — or leave it behind — and people have vastly different ideas of what defines morality.

Lack of religious belief does not mean a particular person is missing compassion.

Kindness does not require a specific religious membership.

Thoughtfulness, humanity, and charity are not limited by religion or the lack of one. Kindness is limited by the individual’s ability to relate to another person, to empathize. Kindness just like morality and ethics are related to an individual’s capacity for caring.

 

 

 

 

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Lessons of the Trickster: Coyote

Indigenous stories do not have obvious heroes. Beings are not easily divided into “bad guy” or “good guy.” The moral is often obscure. In fact, many of the stories are not for children.  Some of the scenarios deal with the consequences of improper sexual actions or other mature themes. These stories do not have a tag-line ending with “they lived happily ever after.” Mistakes led to uncomfortable results, and the hero does not always survive the story.

Many tales involve the Trickster archetype. Certainly, the Trickster has played an important role in many cultures. This complex character has been portrayed as animal — rabbit, raven, praying mantis, coyote, or spider — or as a divine being like Eleggua, Loki, Puck, and Hoyoka. Yet the active aspects of each are quite different. They range from sacred clown to wise fool, from scoundrel to sage, from conman to consultant, and from jolly companion to judge.

Tricksters have the job of teaching us about our limitations and responsibilities. While they flaunt convention (and gravity), they explain the limits of right action and the double-edged sword of power-hungry moves. One of the most popular tricksters is Coyote.

Coyote is a survivor. He trips through stories from many different traditions. In quite a few legends of North American indigenous peoples, Coyote is very similar to the sacred fool in European culture. He is shrewd and silly and seems oblivious to results of his actions.  Often he falls flat on his face, but he manages to do something wonderful while falling. In some tales, he is the wise animal instrumental in creating the world. Acting as a caring, wise person, he sets the stars in the sky and then leads a daring raid to capture fire to rescue the world from darkness and cold.

Yet, despite his sacredness, he has an ignoble side.  His greed brings him to a bad end. When he can’t control his basest urges, he sabotages himself and loses everything.  Jamie Sams wrote: “As Coyote moves from one disaster to the next, he refines the art of self-sabotage to sheer perfection. … Coyote takes himself so seriously at times that he cannot see the obvious; for example, the steamroller that is about to run over him. That is why, when it hits him, he still cannot believe it. ‘Was that really a steamroller? I better go look,’ he says. And he is run over once more.”[1]

In the oral traditions, Trickster stories allow people to laugh while learning. Ultimately the story teller’s entertaining tales demonstrate valuable lessons about the individual’s role in society. They illuminate the folly of greed, selfishness, and egotistic actions. Indeed, the best storytellers show us our own contrariness: our self-indulgence, avarice, and foolishness are highlighted through Coyote’s actions. As with the best cartoons, we may despise his actions; we may hate his repetitive silliness, but we have all been there.  All of us know people who are learning lessons of the trickster. If we are honest, we can recognize ourselves in those stories.

For instance, making an important decision can be intimidating. We analyze and fantasize about outcomes while worrying that we might choose wrongly or we might fail. Because we fear the potential consequences of our actions, we might put off choosing until someone else decides for us or we are forced into actions we don’t want. Through our fear of failure, indecisiveness, or sheer laziness, we make life worse for ourselves.

On the other hand, we can egotistically assume we have all of the answers. Consequently, we don’t even consider the possibility of being wrong. On the other hand, we might see the potential costs but choose to follow our personal desires despite them. We can ignore how our actions will impact others and do not see the steamroller coming towards us.

In all of these situations we are confronted by our own personal trickster energy. If we had listened to the message of the stories, we could have realized that Coyote did all of that before us. If we are smart, we learn from watching Coyote; if we are not, we become him.

Perhaps the most hopeful aspect of Coyote is that he persists. Coyote remains running through the countryside despite centuries of hunters; sometimes coyote finds himself lost on city streets.  This is the happy ending; although it is not the one we desire, it is the one that life teaches us.  We make mistakes, fall down, and despite the embarrassment, we rise again perhaps a bit wiser.

 

 

—- Footnote —-

[1] Jamie Sams and David Carson.  Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals (St. Martin’s Press, 1999).

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The Path and the Deer

I set out to climb the hill. I should be able to reach my goal easily.

At first it’s comfortable following the path. The grass is waving in the breeze and the trees spread branches overhead casting enough shade that I don’t notice the heat of the day.  I began this walk through choice:  my reasons were numbered and organized.  The walk is uneventful; I begin to focus on my feet. I’m no longer aware of anything around me.  Once in a while I hear a shrill bird call, but I see only the tiny puffs of dust my feet stir up as I walk.

Time passes and I realize it seems darker.  I look up in surprise.  Where did the time go?  When did it get so late?  I look around – a sharp intake of breath – where am I?  Nothing looks familiar.  How is this possible?  I’ve walked this path so many times.  I don’t recognize any of this.

My rational mind insists I can find my way again:  I’ve simply taken a turn unto a path that I haven’t been on in a while.  I turn around and walk back down the path a bit.  I still don’t recognize anything.  A branching trail appears and I follow it only to find myself back at the clearing.  Back the same clearing.   How did this happen?  That clearing was farther up the hill.  I’ve gotten turned around.  Where am I?

A sense of frustration floods through me.  I collapse onto a large rock, one of several in this clearing, and I am angry with myself.  I should have been watching where I was going. Here I am: exactly in the middle of nowhere. How could I do this to myself? Reason argues that it is not possible to be lost.  Denial of facts as  thoughts vie with emotions.  Rationalism looses. Panic. I walk endlessly back and forth searching for a familiar scene.  Hopelessness. Exasperation.  Tiredness.

After a time I’m too tired to cast blame, too tired to be frightened.  I stop fuming.  Think about the path.  I could go further up the hill; I could go on back down the path.  It seems too much effort to move.  So I stop thinking.  I stop moving. I just sit.

I become aware of the rock sturdy underneath me.  Cool and smooth, it has been here through time.  I wonder how long it has been here.  I look at it, at the glitter of the sun on the planes and dips of the rock.  My shadow, warped by the rock’s shape,  flows to the ground.  I notice the plants growing at the base of the rock.  A sound of bird.  A buzz.  Something chitters in the trees.  Leaves shadowing each other dance with the sun and breeze, circling the branches, changing color as I watch.  Mutable colors turn back to the green with which they began.

The world stops and, for a moment, there is silence.

Then I hear something underneath my awareness, underneath my analysis.  Something twitches.  I dart a look out of the corner of my eye.  Ah. . . I turn unthinking, drawn to look at what is there, realizing too late that the movement might send it running.  I hold my breathe as, instead of leaping away, it walks forward.

The luminous eyes gaze at me seeing past the civilized veneer.  My vision is swallowed up by the dark eyes, attention wholly focused on the deer.   We see each other eye to eye.  No thoughts, no impulses, no body awareness.  The world is inside those eyes.  The fur surrounding the eyes is simply a velvet field encompassing the void.   Therein rests the wisdom of the ages.

One of us blinks.  Which one?  And it is gone.  Sound returns to the world.  I look around me blinking in the light of the world with fresh sight.  My foot is asleep.  I stand, stretch and take the path between the trees following the whisper of the deer.

 

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Charlottsville and What is a Law-Abiding Citizen?

In my last blog, I asked what Charlottesville means to you. Today I want to ask you to think about what it means to be a law-abiding citizen. The violent rally in Charlottsville showed that there are multiple issues festering in our society.  Sadly, most of the news is focused on simplifications. If we are going to stick to simplifications, the first question we must ask is:  what is a law-abiding citizen?

When Christopher Cantwell, one of the leaders of the Unite the Right rally, was asked about the tragic death and the many injured people caused by the automobile attack, he said, “a lot more people are going to die before we’re done here.”[1]  Cantwell is an alt-right talk show shock DJ.  During an interview following Charlottesville, he stated he wants “to normalize racism.”[2]  Why would anyone think that is okay?

More importantly: why does he have that much hate? As a country, we need to figure that out. Then we need to find a way to heal that hate or reject it.

Cantwell’s actions rose out of that hate.  According to several sources, he has been charged with illegally pepper-spraying individuals and groups of counter-protestors. When asked about these situations, he stated “I don’t think I did anything wrong, and I’m looking forward to my day in court.”[3]

There are the key words: “I don’t think I did anything wrong.” He believes he acted as a law-abiding citizen; in fact, he made a personal judgment that he had done nothing wrong.

When asked to explain his conduct, Cantwell stated that he believed he was in danger. Under US law, people have the right to protect themselves, but the statutes are very complicated. As one attorney explained it to me, in most cases, a person cannot use more force than necessary to stop an assault. With the addition of “stand your ground” laws, things have gotten even more complex.  I don’t know Virginia laws, and I am not an attorney, but I can review events and determine if they seemed to have been reasonable. In fact, pepper spraying an attacking individual would be an acceptable method of protection. However, spraying an entire group of bystanders would not be self-defense.

Yet, we are faced with Cantwell’s beliefs: he thinks racism is okay. Not only that, he believes it is fine to act violently towards people you hate or individuals who disagree with you. And he does not think his behavior was wrong.

Do you think Cantwell’s statements are those of a law-abiding citizen?

What is a law-abiding citizen? Is it someone that always follows the laws?  What about people who live in an area controlled by terrorists or a despotic dictator?

During WWII, all of the atrocities committed by Nazis were considered legal. Should people have risen up against the Nazi racist euthenics or should they have followed the laws?

We don’t have to like everyone in our country. We don’t have to understand everyone in our country. But as law-abiding citizens, however we define that, we must allow each other the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As citizens of the US and the world, we need to consider these questions and decide what we should do — and what we will do.

 

— footnotes —

[1].  Matt Stevens “Christopher Cantwell, White Nationalist in Vice Video, Braces for Charges” The New York Times (Aug. 21, 2017) online at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/21/us/christopher-cantwell-charlottesville.html?mcubz=0 (8/21/17).

[2]. Southern Poverty Law Center “Christopher Cantwell” online at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/christopher-cantwell (8/21/17).

[3]. Under US law, people have the right to protect themselves, but the statutes are very complicated. As one attorney explained it to me, in most cases, a person cannot use more force than necessary to stop an assault. With the addition of “stand your ground” laws, things have gotten even more complex.  I don’t know Virginia laws, and I am not an attorney. Pepper spraying an attacking individual might be an acceptable method of protection; however, spraying an entire group of bystanders would not be self-defense.

 

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