Sunday, November 21

May all beings know love and peace...

Doctor Mark had a good idea this morning. He was talking about healing the world, beginning with ourselves of course, and suggested we say this affirmation, "May all beings know love and peace."

He further challenged us to say this affirmation three times a day throughout the holidays. It's a good thought and worthy of repeating every day.

Gotta start somewhere!

Saturday, November 20


"It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades." -Susan Sontag

The war is fearsome today. I looked up the word "insurgent" since that is the term used constantly by the White House and news media when talking about it.

The word means, "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially: a rebel not recognized as a belligerent."

It does not really describe the war and the warriors that the "coalition" is fighting. Many reports about Iraq describe American soldiers kicking in doors, routing "insurgents" and killing injured "insurgents" in mosques. Today's reports tell of "insurgents" killing nine Iraqi policemen in a mosque and other atrocities. Just like this war, the name we have given the enemy does not make any sense.

Amid all of the horrendous suffering, I grieve for Margaret Hassan. The insurgents killed her, a woman who dedicated most of her life to relieving the suffering of the Iraqi people. She had to suffer so much at the end of her life and at the hands of the people she worked hard to help. I can only hope she did not die bitter and disconnected from the peace she tried to bring others. She was an example of love, generosity, and hope. That’s what I’ll keep in my mind when I think of her and others like her who work so hard to create order and good out of chaos. They are love in action.

RIP Margaret Hassan. And, RIP all innocents who have been killed or wounded in America's terror wars.

Wednesday, November 17

And The Patriotic Ass Award Goes To...

Stephen Moore for this idiotic rant, Export a Liberal.

Why are there so many conservatives that sound and act like they've just been unshackled and let out of a cave?

Moore belches out the standard rhetoric of the fear-riddled, conservative combatant with this special comment, "If everything goes according to plan, blue-state Democrats are going to let us keep our guns and our money and our kids and our faith — and all the other things that government keeps trying to wrest from us."

I guess he's forgotten that since 1994's "Contract With America" the government he reviles has been run by Republicans, most of them conservative. So, if he's not happy with what the government protects and provides he's the one that might consider bailing.

I think there's a nice island in the Bermuda Triangle for sale. He could be his own government and use his assault weapons to kill everything that moves, poison all the water, pollute all the air, install the Ten Commandments in every public place, hang all evil doers even if they're children and mentally ill, have one indentured servant wife who has no say in the number of children she must bear, and invade a neighboring island, slaughtering all of the inhabitants, because it might lob some deadly coconuts his way some day.

If the island is too expensive for Moore (great name, btw), forget the fundraiser. He might like playing the game Nation States instead.

Tuesday, November 16

"Crash And Burn"

"When you feel all alone
And the world has turned its back on you
Give me a moment please to tame your wild wild heart.
I know you feel like the walls are closing in on you.
It's hard to find relief and people can be so cold.
When darkness is upon your door and you feel like you can't take anymore.
Let me be the one you call.
If you jump I'll break your fall.
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night.
If you need to fall apart
I can mend a broken heart.
If you need to crash then crash and burn.
You're not alone..."
-Savage Garden, Affirmations

I've been haunted by two news stories the past few days.

The first story is about the FBI informant from Yemen who set himself on fire in front of the White House last Monday. He became dangerously unhinged because he is unable to leave the US to see his dying wife in Yemen. Mohamed Alanssi's story is probably an epic of bad luck and bad decisions. How else would he wind up ignored, betrayed and desperate in America? I'm fascinated with this man and his mission. It's obvious that loss and grief have propelled him into the oncoming traffic called suicide, but maybe not.

The second story is about Anna Nicole Smith, the Hollywood celebrity with the huge boobs and seemingly minute brain, who set her tattered reputation on fire in front of the American Music Awards audience in Los Angeles last Sunday. Here is a woman who married a fabulously wealthy sugar daddy, fought for her riches, has her own TV show, and can do and say anything. She shouldn't be slurring her words and stumbling around Hollywood while spouting boring trash, but for some reason, that's what she's done. There is a story here that goes beyond the Hollywood bio. I'd like to say I'm disgusted with her decadence but I'm fascinated instead.

Somewhere between the informant from Yemen and the platinum blonde from Texas there is common ground. Unfortunately, the common ground these two polar opposites inhabit is filled with self-destruction and abject loneliness.

From the news reports, Alanssi's desperate act is a protest against his forced separation from his wife and family and it's understandable that he feels isolated in an alien land that probably despises him. His loneliness seems inevitable and tragic.

Anna is another story, though. She's a living, breathing cartoon living in a hedonistic world of "me, my body" shallowness that embarrasses Americans these days. People who never wander near the suicide-ravine wonder how a person with so much of everything can have so little self respect and respect for others. Smith's loneliness seems avoidable and comic isolating her even more from normal compassion and care.

Neither of them are really alone. People I've talked to who have attempted suicide and come out the other end in one piece have themselves to thank, but they each acknowledge that simple human kindness made the effort worthwhile.

One of my most powerful memories is when I was leaving the Pasadena Superior Court after failing to convince the juvenile court judge of my son's innocence. I stepped into the packed elevator feeling burdened, sick at heart and very alone. A tall man with a gold tooth glanced my way and gave me the warmest, most understanding smile I've ever seen. I smiled back. It was like a secret code. I felt such relief that another human had reached out with a little warmth. Amazing what a genuine smile can do. It sure saved my day.

Simple. Human. Kindness.

Sunday, November 14

Soul Searching and Breast Beating...

Seems like the Democrats keep trying to search someone else's soul to find out "what went wrong" in this last election. Here's Josh Marshall's take on this strange and unsatisfying behavior. We Democrats need to get over ourselves and get to work. There are so many important issues to get moving on, this shyt just gives the Republicans an extra gift of wasted oppotunity! Move on.

I got a letter from John Kerry the other day. It was a letter that acknowledge our loss, our hard work in getting him elected and, most importantly, our resolve to stand up for our convictions. These thoughts, more than any others, represent what it means to lose a campaign, but not lose your bearings or your commitment to your beliefs. I won't include all of the comments here, because if you contributed money to the Kerry campaign, you probably got the letter too, but here's a comment that resonates in my mind and heart.

"You and I owe it to ourselves and to the millions of people who voted for us on November 2, to play an active role in the political life of our nation."

His personal gratitude for my support and the support of millions is what makes me proud and happy to have been his supporter. I voted in many presidential elections and contributed to some, but this is the first thank you letter I've ever received from the losing candidate.

I'm impressed. His heartfelt gratitude and resolution to continue working toward our common goals reassures me that I did not spend my time and energies supporting a loser or someone who's time has come and gone.

We lost the presidential election. It was critical. Millions in poverty, millions of women, millions of immigrants, millions of workers will suffer the consequences at some point. It would have been better if Kerry were elected. He wasn't.

The majority in this country showed up and voted their consciences. I respect their convictions, even though I don't share them. I have always found common ground on which to walk and talk with people with whom I have political differences. The common ground is love of family, love of God, love of country.

Given those common denominators, it's important to recognize that Americans "agree to disagree" on major governmental policies and stop buying into the fearful and stupid campaign marketing machines on both sides.

I appreciate Kerry's "thank you" letter. It means a lot.

Thursday, November 11

Which Ornament Should I Buy?

You know it's getting close to Thanksgiving when the Christmas mail order catalogs start flooding your mailbox. I regret buying stuff out of them because they share my address with similar companies, so the junk mail has doubled, again, this year.

I can't help it though. I know I can go to the 99Cent Store and get many of the things they sell even cheaper, but I tend to buy different stuff. Stuff not available in every World Wildlife or Solutions catalog.

Right now, I'm trying to decide which Christmas ornament I should get. Or, maybe both of them? Or, maybe a couple more since they're so special. I suppose I should get the one that reminds me most of Jesus, since the holiday celebrates his birth. It will be a holiday reminder hanging on my fake Christmas tree of all that is done in Jesus' name these days.

This one?

Or this one.

Maybe I can find an ornament that celebrates America's supreme homage to Jesus with a right-to-life Christmas button. The savior would be proud of all of the strides made to protect the unborn and the suicidal. I guess this half-dead, bombed and starved Iraqi kid doesn't qualify for a right to life since he's not unborn, or suicidal, or an American or a born again believer.

How can so many Americans condemn people who choose to use contraception or get an abortion, or use assisted suicide when they support the killing of innocent people in Iraq? This is how George W. Bush operates. He says it's wrong to deny life to the unborn or terminally ill while saying it's right to invade a country, killing thousands of living innocents, because they might be an enemy. There are a lot of smart, compassionate, kind people that understand this seeming hypocrisy and who voted to re-elect Bush. I don't understand it.

Well, while I'm buying ornaments, maybe I can drop some checks to UNESCO and the Red Cross so they can continue helping desperate kids. I can also do more in my personal life to be peaceful and keep the com lines open just in case a right-to-lifer has a question about my beliefs.

Tuesday, November 9

Margaret Sanger is Rolling In Her Grave!

The battle for the hearts, minds and bodies of America's women is heating up. The Serena Joys of America are wielding the cattle prods of anti-women legislation, primarily in their own states, and things are definitely getting ugly.

The smoke is clearing from the presidential campaign and while Bush and Kerry have been busy beating their chests about who is the biggest and best terrorist-killer, Julee Lacey in Fort Worth, Texas has begun to realize that religious fundamentalists have infiltrated her local pharmacy and are permitted by law to deny her access to birth control pills because contraception goes against their religious beliefs.

Lacey rightly pointed out that, "Their job is not to regulate what people take or do. It's just to fill the prescription that was ordered by my physician."

Unfortunately, women have not been energized, myself included, or compelled to keep up with the rapid increase in Bush based anti-women, children and minority laws, legal rulings and federal interferences that now threaten to either change or eliminate basic civil rights for over half of the population in America. NOW has a pretty good punch list of the damage done at the state and local levels and it's a no-brainer to image future damage once Bush begins to replace current Supreme Court judges with his picks.

If I had any residual doubt that Reagan, Bush I and now Bush II have knowingly and actively enfranchised conservative religious zealots and disenfranchised the moderate and liberal element of American life, it's gone. I have to get actively involved in the women's movement and not sit back when a battle is won and watch us lose the entire war.

Wednesday, November 3

Reality 0 - Perception 2

"Subliminal perception, perception that occurs without conscious awareness, is not an anomaly, but the norm. Most of what we experience we can never tell each other about — with or without information technology — because we are not even aware of it."
- Tor Norretranders, author of The User Illusion

George W. Bush was re-elected President of the United States yesterday. He did not "steal" his re-election, nor was voter apathy an excuse. Both political parties delivered unprecedented numbers of voters to the polls; some say it is the largest voter turnout in over forty years.

John Kerry was defeated and Democrats throughout the country were defeated and at the end of the day, Republicans had gained seats in the House and Senate. The Congressional gains by Republicans together with the popular vote edging toward Bush must have propelled Kerry to concede the election, even before Ohio could count provisional ballots. This is the act of a brave and wise man. This is the act of any sane person wishing to avoided political death by majority strangulation. No Democrat can be an effective President with a forceful agenda if his plans and projects are consistently voted down by the ruling Republican party. Kerry ran his campaign with characteristic political savvy from beginning to the end and will be around to fight another day.

"In America, it is vital that every vote count .. but the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal fight," Kerry said.

So, what now. Here are what some of the political pundits representing all sides of the political spectrum are predicting. For those of us who like to lick wounds, there are post-election opinion pieces that soften the blow for the Democrats and progressives, and there are opinions that hammer home the unavoidable truth that religious fundamentalists now determine the fate of the nation.

I've discussed the Bush victory with family and friends, and it's clear to us that Bush supporters "voted from the heart" and Kerry supporters "voted from the head." Despite four years of an incomprehensible economic agenda, and four years of ever widening divisions between the rich and poor of America, and four years of environmental recklessness, and almost two years of horrendous bloodshed, Bush is perceived as a compassionate conservative. Still.

He keeps his language honed down to its most basic and appealing level and his speech writers and press agents have perfected the two-syllable spin (e.g., flip flop). He loses his temper, he tears up, he bows his head, he twangs his phrases with heartland fervor, and he is convincingly godly because he rules his obedient wife and honors his parents and pushes faith-based issues which are in direct conflict with America's laws. Even Jerry Falwell could learn a lesson or two from GWB as far as manipulating the masses with "heartfelt" messages while diverting their hard earned dough to create castles in the sky. He is every televangelists' wet dream.

Is America about to enter it's Falwellian Phase? A focus on limited social values such as the non-issue of gay marriage provides the Falwell's with two things: 1) a smokescreen to cloak a government which blatantly promotes the torture, repression and destruction of people it deems as "terrorists" in violation of international human rights laws, and 2) a vehicle by which Falwellian religious bigots can avoid tackling real issues, like the damage caused to families because fifty percent of traditional marriages end in divorce. The Falwellian style-over-substance approach glosses over the issues of the brain and even denigrates the "brainy" relegating them to the fringes of a well ordered, homogenized society.

Lately, whenever I visualize the difference between the Perception Citizens (PCs) and the Reality Citizens (RCs), a scene in The Pianist comes to mind. It's a pivotal moment where Szpilman, the pianist, is discovered by Nazi Captain Hosenfeld. In this scene, Szpilman is starving in a bombed out mansion in the Warsaw Jewish ghetto after surviving the devastation and horror of months of Nazi occupation.

****SPOILER**** He has just found a large can of pickles and is struggling to find a way to open the can. He's emaciated, grimy, shaggy with facial hair and in his weakened condition, he manages to puncture the can but it rolls away from him, spilling precious juice.

In an agony of thirst and hunger he grabs for the can and notices that it has stopped. Just beyond the can he notices a pair of gleaming Hessian boots and the camera pans slowly up the immaculate pant legs, belt, coat and face of a Nazi officer. He's gazing calmly at the Pianist. The contrast between the wild haired, hungry and desperate Jew and the well-fed, polished and confident Nazi is so stark and immediate, it's like a mirage, a fantasy.

Szpilman's reality is finding ways to survive a world bent on killing him for no good reason. Captain Hosenfeld is Szpilman's agent of destruction, but in his mind, he is part of a glorious ethnic cleansing crusade which will return the German homeland back to its pure warrior roots. Their eye contact in this scene is a strange and terrible moment. Reality is struggling with propaganda and when Szpilman is allowed to play the piano, the music transcends the lies and failure of the Nazi crusade. It unites them in a sublime moment of grace, a moment Hosenfeld recognizes as being natural and inevitable and he helps the Pianist survive to greet his Russian liberators.

Bush proclaims that he is a uniter and it will be a challenge over the next four years for citizens who value reality to unite with the those who value the Bush perception of reality. As I see it, Bush perceives the threat of gay marriage as more devastating to the Republic than the threat of a theocracy. Here is where the challenge begins and ends. America was formed as a secular nation, respectful of all religions, races and political views. Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution proclaims the good news that....

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Truth can be based on perception but is always grounded in reality. I intend to keep it real over the next four years for truth's sake.

Monday, November 1

John Wooden

Promise Yourself...

"Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." - John Wooden

Just read a good article by Mitch Horowitz about the "winningest" college basketball coach in American sports history, John Wooden. The article is titled, From the Socks Up, and shows a picture of 94-year old Wooden with an NCAA basketball in his hands and a happy smile on his face. It's his eyes that fascinate me, though.

His eyes show a free and young spirit. The brief article describes how he lives his life today with simplicity and a focus on what is really important. I've seen this look in my parents eyes. It is a look filled with so much good that there is no room for regrets. Pretty amazing. I like his famous "preparation" quote, but the quote that probably says more about living a good life minus regrets is this one:

"Promise to think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best in yourself and others."

Where's the catch in this? Seems too simplistic and almost silly. The catch is in the limitations I put on myself by expecting the worst, I've learned recently. The catch or barrier is in complicating life with crap outside myself designed to make me a good consumer, a good patriot, a good worker, a good driver, ad naseum. The catch or barrier is really my own thinking, my own mind-over-matter or lack of it.

I remember rolling my eyes when my Mom would respond to my drama by stating that, "Everything works out for the best."

She and John Wooden share the same philosophy about life. She never gave up listening to my sob stories and when I became a mother, we became friends and shared triumphs, defeats, joys and burdens. She'd focus on the big picture and I'd focus on the often irrelevant details. She'd show the importance of not judging people no matter how wacky or out of control they appeared to be, and I'd learn that if I didn't have something nice to say about someone, I'd keep my mouth shut around her. She focused on solutions and taught me to stop taking every slight, every hurt, every set back as a personal attack. She taught me to keep communicating and to never give up on a friend or family member.

She taught me that everything works out for the best whether you realize it or not. Even though she's passed away, I continue to learn more and more about living a good and happy life by realizing the truth behind her simplicity and by valuing the truth behind the simple words and deeds of those around me.