Doubling Down and Drowning

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In the wake of yesterday’s turkey shoot in San Bernardino, which eclipsed last week’s Planned Parenthood shootings, does anyone even remember the community college in Roseburg Oregon? It was exactly two months ago. My friends on the left rage that meaningful gun control must happen. My friends on the right demand that an armed citizenry would diminish bodycounts. From my perspective they’re both wrong.
The raw facts on sheer numbers of weapons in the U.S. dictate that it is no more possible to limit guns in America than it would be to follow through on Trump’s half baked idea to round up and deport 11 million illegal aliens. They’re here, they’re queer, get used to it.

The concept of a good gun owner taking out a bad gun owner is why nearly all of us have a pistol in our castle to protect our family. The right likes to trot out an occasional incident where that actually worked out for the home owner but they’re quaint when put head to head against the huge numbers of accidents, suicides and domestic violence killings they’re actually used for. The strategy of conceal carry is already an unmitigated disaster in every poor gang turf in America. Sadly our movies and television reinforce the fantasy that we’re all potential antihero bad asses, exacting righteous one to one head shots against hapless, aimless storm troopers. Newsflash Mister Eastwood: It’s. A. MOVIE!!! (Or tv show or video game). We’re fed that imagery a dozen times a day. Never the reality of being so coursed with fear and adrenaline that you lose coordination, can’t hit the side of a barn and probably run out of bullets in your panicked first five seconds. Stop it.

From where I sit the enemy is fear.

As a citizenry we’ve always had guns. That’s a constant. The real variable is hope and the lack of it. Always a constant in poor areas where killing is a regularity and doesn’t make the news is a perfect microcosm of what “normal, white America” is sliding towards and we’re freaking the fuck out in the worst possible ways.

I grew up with a small dog named Burgie. She was an unusually well tempered Dachshund. She got along with everyone, four legs or two. She even showered our Culligan man with kisses every month. As she got old and couldn’t walk well, went deaf and her vision was clouded by cataracts she became increasingly snappy. Everything started scaring and threatening her. She didn’t feel safe and felt helpless to cope with her circumstances.

My childhood pet is a perfect corollary for America. The middle-class is being choked out into a paycheck to paycheck existence. Far from the idealistic dreams of Babyboomer bra burners choosing to have careers outside the confines of “Domestic Engineer”, no one has a choice anymore. The traditional fabric of a stable family and neighborhood is all but gone. Everyone is from somewhere else and no one has time to get to know their neighbors. My last decade of employment was with a company who stubbornly held onto the classic 40 hour workweek, health benefits and retirement fund blueprint. We were small so it was easy to watch in real time how, through privatization, increased shareholder over worker focus, pressure to jettison classic employment packages for temp, contract or part time workers not qualifying for benefits increased anxiety. Job security was replaced by “be grateful you even have a job”. I watch it play out louder and tighter, at every level. Thank goodness the media is here to point at our neighbors as being the culprits and cause of our personal collapses. Out of neurotic frustration and pent up impotent rage we’re all too happy to buy in and lash out. At the exactly wrong thing.
My friend Kevin posted a comment last night suggesting 2 Chronicles 7:14 as our hope. I’ll spare you the peek at google.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

As an atheist it would be super dooper easy peazy lemon squeazy to roll my eyes and dismiss any verbiage from my favorite fiction fantasy book. But Kevin is a christian and that passage provides direction, focus and comfort for him. My decidedly irreligious eyes read this as hope. Inner reflection. Reinforced by better action. Toward myself, you, and my neighbors. What influences you in a positive way? When was the last time you fed your heart by reading, practicing, and expanding your better self? What do you do to be a part of any sense of community? How do you help yourself by helping others? These aren’t fluffy, esoteric questions. They’re the only things that keep the claustrophobic terrors of day to day life from killing hope.
Another law, another gun, another person or people to blame won’t make me feel safe. Only hope. And hope comes directly from what I think, say and do every day. Fear or Love – which am I worshipping right now, this very second? Because that thought, idea or action is the life I’m choosing moving forward.

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The Vilification of Virtue

frank

As Pope Francis parades across D.C. I am reading a resurrection of hatred for the man across my news feed.
By Christians.
It disgusts me.
As an atheist I have no dog in this fight. But as an outsider looking in I have a great deal of affection toward Frank because though we surely don’t see eye to eye on everything (not a prerequisite for my admiration btw) he does espouse the spirit and ideals of what I understand to be the core of Jesus’s philosophy; Love, Tolerance, Humility, Compassion, Service. Principles that, for myself as a Humanist, are just as imprinted on my heart. Principles and ideals that seem to be, in practice, anathema to what worshippers of Republican Jesus preach. A sort of hate-filled, paranoid mantra of fuck you, I got mine, wealth ministried, god hates poor/brown/gay/foreign/liberal devils because they’re ruining God’s Chosen Country… in Jesus’s name, Amen.
Seriously. What the actual fuck. That’s some serious Through The Looking Glass shit.
I understand the cynicism of some of my fellow unwashed heathens who decry Frank as a propaganda pitchman for a corporate brand that’s been tanking for 20 years looking to rebuild it’s stock. I don’t agree with it but I see their point. My own perspective is that even if this were true, he is the CEO of the world’s largest social services conglomerate on the planet. Public displays of washing female muslim prisoners feet, holding the disfigured in prayer, defrocking high ranking clergy who harbored child molesters or used church funds for lavish personal excesses, personally discarding the plush environs normally availed to a Pope/CEO for modest furnishings and clothes – as he apparently has done his whole life, offering olive branches to gays, atheists, women who’ve aborted, acknowledging their humanity, these are all ideas worth living up to, whether you’re me writing this blog, a single mom raising a family, a 30something middle manager at Walmart in Tallahassee, or God’s celebrity pitchman. Whether he’s looking to refill pews and coffers or not, he’s setting a tone of brotherly love and inclusion that has to affect 1.3 billion people. The fact that so many old guard Catholic practitioners and bishops are pissed off by this to me shouts volumes about how much they’ve forgotten what Christ’s message was in lieu of their own personal security and power.
I admire Frank because his message is double dog daring me to love you whether you’re like me or not. And people hate him for it. Jesus was said to have been considered a radical. Frank must being doing something right.

Aim Low, Shoot High

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When I had a few years clean and had already worked the steps a couple of times, Emmet Fox’s Sermon on the Mount had become all the rage around the rooms. As it turns out, that book was an integral influence on the original writing of the Big Book and after reading it I could see it’s stamp all over Bill’s words. But that’s an interesting side note. What’s in my head this morning is the profound effect Fox’s book had on me as an Atheist. (which is only to say it could probably have a profound effect on *anyone*!)
You see, studying Sermon on the Mount changed the way I saw recovery in AA in a most fundamental way. Fox talks about principles in terms of absolutes. That Honesty, Humility, Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Brotherly Love are perfect ideals. At the time I was a very angry young man, though my two runs through the steps had provided me some relief from that particular bondage of self. Just enough relief that reading Fox’s ideas on practicing principles in all my affairs struck me as something I needed to pay attention to; it mattered not that when I threw a rock [principle] at the east foothills [ideal] that I didn’t hit the east foothills [ideal]. What mattered was that by trying as hard as I could in the moment – I made progress.
What I read in that book was that being human meant that I could never achieve perfection regarding these principles but that every bit of suffering in my life was directly connected to the degree by which I worship my exceptions to practicing them in each affair of my life. My serenity is inversely proportional to my “yeah but’s…”.
Mind blown.
On a very core level I thought to myself, “fuck.” because I knew it was absolutely true even as my mind came up with several favorite, well polished, lifelong trophies of justified rage that I loved (in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way) to hold up regularly as my righteous burden qualifying me to treat you badly.
Thus began my going on 25 year snipe hunt to eradicate my “yeah but’s” regarding practicing principles. Not because I’m a saint (as all of you who know me know for damn sure!) but because I’m practically Don Quixote when it comes to trapping my own hypocrisies and hoisting them up to be mocked! Sometimes they’re vanquished. Sometimes they’re accepted as being a quirky part of me that I may not be ready to let go of yet. A catch and release program of sorts. But acknowledging my “yeah but’s” means they no longer scurry around ruining my happiness without my permission. Which starts making them look and feel kind of silly.

“12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” never looked the same to me again after that.

The Whitewash of Blackface

269614_2125700498792_1134296117_2405887_3679363_n I have a style of posting on Facebook that encourages audience participation. I throw something out there, often it’s inflammatory. But posed in a way that makes people think. Above all else I want people to think, whether they agree with me or not. I want them to be awake to where they stand on a thing. To own what they believe, not merely recite it like pulling a string in their back. I encourage discourse and opposing views. My only rule is you can’t attack anyone else’s beliefs. You can’t bully. Yesterday after reading the teaser for an article someone posted which had three photos of President Obama, Eric Holder and Al Sharpton with the word THUGS in the title. Behold, my topic for the morning: You *do* realize that when you use the word “thug” we all know you actually mean “nigger”, right? The discussion that followed was interesting and at one point it was suggested that by posing this rhetorical question I was exasperating the racial divide in this country. Now I’ve been chewing on just that idea for the last month. And this is what fell out. I’m not furthering any divide. That divide is plainly there. I’m just calling out the fart in church. The etymology of the word “thug” is of little relevance to the discussion. Very pertinent is it’s popular usage. I’m reading things encouraging conciliation in the wake of the cops getting shot over the weekend. I say the opposite needs to happen. Not an out and out race war but for the topic to not be hastily stitched closed by people saying all the right things to smooth egos, hurt feelings, and retain status quo. We NEED to talk this out. We need to be made to see our willful blindness that keeps things comfortable for us and not for everyone else. (see: U.S. population NOT white, straight, male) The isms in our country are institutional, pervasive and part of every bit of it’s fabric so much so that it is stunningly easy to be blind to it, akin to a fish being asked to describe water. There is much talk about women, brown people and all the other crybabies of society sucking America dry one welfare check, crack pipe and illegitimate rape at a time. That they need to get over it, get a job, stop with the victim mentality. Every meaningful social statistic says that societal opportunity is stacked against them, from birth forward. Blacks, asians, women, hispanics are rarely shown in any media as anything but stereotypes. Caricatures. If they’re strong, capable, smart, well they die to save our white hero (who avenges their death). Or the white savior makes a stand to save them. Educational resources are funneled away from poor neighborhoods. Police arrest nonwhites at 4 times the rate of whites even though drug usage rates are equal. No one except double digit I.Q.ed neanderthals actually say “nigger” anymore, they say “thug” and everyone in the club knows which side of the fence they’re on. All levels of any meaningful career is still firmly a good ol boys club. Even Silicon Valley only has maybe a 25% female employment rate. It’s bullshit. The protesting going on didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s been brewing for a long time. Most of it isn’t being done by people breaking windows and setting fires. Hell, protesters outed a cop in Oakland undercover as a protester breaking windows – instigating chaos. When confronted he drew on them. It’s insidious. And the media is all too happy to produce the narrative. One crackpot shoots two cops sitting in their car and it wipes away decades of police abuse. I don’t accept the “a few bad apples” argument regarding rogue cops the very same way I don’t accept the “not all men” tactic. It conveniently hands the worst characters over as appeasement to keep everything the same. it looks absolutely nothing in the eye. And that desperately needs to happen. I am not a race traitor, a gender traitor or a closet homo. Those aren’t filters I see through usually and whether you think I am speaks a great deal about you, not me.  What I am is awake. And being so makes me sick. The consciousnesses that need to be raised are *ours*, not the people we keep held down by the fiscal, social throat, insisting that if only they had more character they’d be just like us. Everything about our society is rigged to favor me. Ann Richards, governor of Texas once said of George Bush, “Poor George, born on third base and thinks he hit a home run.” That’s you and I. Maybe you’re relatively poor and you aren’t feeling that statement at all. But the word “relative” is significant. You probably work your ass off just to get by. The people I’ve listed at the outset of my post – they work just as hard, for less, with even less hope of leaving their station in life. The consciousness that needs to get raised is mine. Ours. Step out of your comfort zone. Pay attention to how you get access, privilege, a basic assumption of benevolence simply by nature of your gender, race or orientation. It’s easy to do. Think of the superlatives you use reflexively to describe a black person, even complimentarily, that you find unnecessary to use to describe someone from your tribe. Try it with a woman. A gay person. Those words are unconscious prejudice. And deeds follow words. America is at a turning point. “All lives matter” is a worthless rebuttal to “black lives matter” because we already know white lives matter. Acknowledging that black lives matter brings them into the equation. It has to happen first before “all lives matter” is a truth and not literally a whitewash. I don’t lose a damn thing by offering women, blacks, asians, hispanics, and gays the same humanity, dignity, opportunity, access and rights that I receive simply by virtue of half my bloodline (I don’t have the energy to get into what’s been done to the Native American part of me). We all gain by bringing as many great minds to the table as possible because America isn’t doing well. We need one another.

The Typecasting Couch

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Lately I’ve run into a spate of people (though not risen to the level of plethora) who stubbornly refuse to date this guy or that girl because “they aren’t My Type”. End of discussion. Not coincidently they are, to a man (or woman) keenly lonely. And that breaks my heart because I’ve learned a lesson or two about being loyal to My Type.

For a good 20 years you could sew by the pattern of My Type. So practiced at it was I that I’ll condense it down for you right here; Little Stoner Girls Looking for Daddy. Bonus points for little titties and red hair. The closer you were to that, the more I was smitten. The further from it, the less visible you were to me at all as a potential partner. It was on par with being a love geiger counter. Only it took me those 20 years to grasp that the louder the clacking the more radioactive the relationship was going to be. Because the more you were My Type, the more I was going to practice working from my script of who I thought I was and how I thought I needed to act. And you were going to love me back. And it was going to be uh-MAZ-ing. And it was. Until the very same intense fire that created that passion also burned everything down around us. Every goddamn time. Brand loyalty to My Type gave me license to act a part in a script that you had no idea you were reading for. And largely I had no idea either. It often got fugly.

:::clackityclackbzzzclackclack:::

Each attempt more toxic and shorter lived, the more I held rigidly to the idea of the Holy Grail of lovers – the Unicorn! The shining exception to the golden rule of dating: crazy in the head, crazy in the bed! The longer I pursued it the less epic it became until from the outside looking in it was more reminiscent of Monty Python than King Arthur. Indeed I’d become the Black Knight, ineffectually bleeding on things while demanding loyalty to My Type as the one true way to love for me. Shiny had become glaring. I was loyal alright. Loyal to my suffering. Because never deviating wasn’t honorable. It wasn’t even being true to myself. It was only being lazy and scared with great conviction. The really douchey part was that by seeing you as a ‘type’ I also wasn’t seeing you as a person. What a dick!

Here’s what’s helped break my self-deluded spell.

Chaos.

It gets a bad rap in our society but Chaos was the key to smashing My Type. First of all I stopped dating. I know, the next boy or girl you have on your My Type radar has potential. Trust me, it’s the same shit. Because you’re the same. So just fucking stop. Take a breather. Remember who you are when you aren’t trying to complete you at someone else’s expense. Write. Go strange places. With new friends. Or really old friends. Don’t fuck them. Pay attention to what feelings come up when you don’t fuck them. Write about them. Breaking patterns creates chaos. It jars me awake when I didn’t know I was comatose. Only do it while being present. You’ll learn incredible things about yourself. You’ll finally see some ick about yourself that you can actually sluff off and walk away from. Keep writing. Double dog dare yourself to do new things. Discover who you’ve become while you were busy thinking you were someone else in an ill-fitting suit or dress.

That brilliant sense of alertness? The sharper colors? Vivid scents in the air? Those laughs from your belly? Chaos. Write about it. Putting it down on paper essentially makes a contract with myself that this is who I am today. Feel free to tear it up tomorrow. But writing it down cements that I, in fact, am awake!

Now date someone different. Someone outside Your Type. Be awkward. Don’t feel instant lust. Don’t have any idea what charming, clever thing to say. Put the fucking script down, because it isn’t who you are anymore. Just look across the table at this new person, take a deep breath, exhale. And be genuine. You’ll be shocked at what falls out your mouth.

You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose and the world to gain by being who you are with people who expect nothing else. Have an adventure.

#Not All Men (Are Cowards)

You probably think the guy who shot up Santa Barbara because women owed him is a psycho. But if you’ve pressured a woman for sex, exclaimed “I’d hit that!”, called her a whore or a slut when she didn’t act right, made her feel creeped out or unsafe by how you look at her, touched without permission, scorned or punished her for not putting out, or lack the ability to hold a conversation that isn’t rife with innuendo then you’re part of the same psyche that felt the need to make women pay.
NEWSFLASH women are human beings, not a life support system for a pussy. Stop for a minute and flip it backwards – what would you think of a person who treated you the way you treat the women in your life? Think about it.

UPDATE: I caught massive shit for posting this. Even so far as to be called a traitor to my gender. I couldn’t be prouder. I am not a traitor. I want to shove my gender kicking and screaming into the 21st century that it might earn the dignity of being humane.