10 Things I Hate About You

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I was sitting around our fire a couple of evenings ago when someone mentioned the popular sentiment that no one is born racist. A buddy of mine chimed in that he heard someone recently, he couldn’t quite remember who, actually trying to tell him that this wasn’t true at all, that more recent “studies” showed small children preferring dolls and playmates that looked like them over those that didn’t. “It was ridiculous” he scoffed.
“Who was this?” I asked.
“I’m not 100% sure, but I have my ideas”.
A wry smile came across my face as I reminded him that it was me.
Then I went into a little bit of the study I’d watched sometime back by University of Chicago professor Margaret Beale Spencer that replicated the research done in 1947 which was eventually used in Brown v. Board of Education to, at least on paper, end segregation in schools.
This led into my segue on Robert Wright’s research on Darwinian psychology and our unconscious predispositions toward any and every way we make choices all day long to improve our odds of propagating our genes with the best possible compatible genes.
His eyes glazed over as he tried to disagree without being disagreeable. I understood his dilemma and didn’t take it personally at all. It’s a reaction I often see when I try to bring this stuff up because it’s utterly anathema to what we’re told everyday in books, tv and every media flavor on the planet. That our nature is love, that hate is taught. That with Jesus, or Buddha or this self help book, I’ll be able to reconnect with My True Self.
Which is all great and good except it’s bullshit. And it does you and I a great injustice to sell us that. My True Nature is not Love. It’s fearful as fuck. Love is actually pretty damn hard to attain. Everything you aren’t telling me but that I’m watching with my lying eyes tells me so.

Every job I’ve ever had has a built-in disdain for anyone not in my department, or in my group, or in my company. Workers dislike management and visa verse. People in my home group talk trash about other home groups as sport. Or the way “others” work steps, or don’t work steps. Families talk shit about one another, and other families, other towns, states, countries, cultures and races. Sexual identity factions tear at each other, jockeying for status. Insert any and every sliver of society into that sentence and it’s no less true. Just not in public. Only with certified cosigners of our particular point of view. And we’re horrified and betrayed if they break that unspoken pact by disagreeing or exposing my secret squirrel real opinion on something. It’s everywhere and all encompassing and so ever-present that “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” or the next Maryanne Williamson best seller doesn’t stand a chance of buoyancy.

Unless.

Unless I am first honest about being the supremely fearful, self-serving asshole that I am in the first place. That this is not some character flaw that I must discard in order to get back to My True Self (which is the Self Help version of the old adage stating that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince us he didn’t exist) but that fear IS my nature.

As an animal this instinct is reflexive, from the amygdala portion of the brain that processes survival threats and also signals the presence of food, sexual partners, rivals, children in distress, and so on. It’s connected into most other portions of the brain. (interestingly, this little portion of the brain is larger in conservatives – but I digress) It’s literally how we’re wired.
But we’re evolved! Enlightened! Self aware!
Well, barely.
My ego gives me much more credit than I deserve. It’s actually pretty stunning just how not those things most of us are 23.5 hours of any given day; running on autopilot responses and reactions to life all the while thinking we made a choice, a decision, took a stand. Naw. You probably did and said what you always do and say. And patted yourself on the back for it. We build stories and books, erect statues and laws and traditions celebrating our evolved nature, lining the streets to worship… the Emperor’s New Clothes. And in an awkwardly uncomfortable way, we all know it but cheer anyway.

Ever notice how truly happy people stand out? That’s because they’re the exception, not the rule. Fucking well regulated serotonin levels. I hate em!

I don’t go on about all this to harsh your mellow. I say it because being honest with myself about where my feet are really planted is an absolute requirement if I want to walk forward without walking into walls or off cliffs; Further pissed that I’m a sinner or that the steps are bullshit or that I’m a horrible Buddhist because I shouldn’t be angry so I’ll just be passive aggressive. Fear IS my True Nature. The principles of altruism; brotherly love (not directly toward someone that will benefit me), hope, courage, openness, faith, integrity, willingness, kindness, joy – these are hard! They aren’t reflexive traits, for anyone! They take practice, especially when they are inconvenient. Not to make me a better person, or to bring me closer to God, but to create larger, more defined pathways in my brain for serotonin and other “happy” chemicals that trigger those feelings and responses to flow through.

I am no fan of the term “Miracle” or “Spiritual Experience” as they are the thinking version of magic. That word often invites the equivalent of a bill in congress packed with pork before it gets passed and signed off by the president. All kinds of half baked shady bullshit slides through under the guise of “magical” that was really just code for “I just got a super killer dose of endorphins or serotonin!” But when I try to replicate it for further Scooby Snacks it fails. And then I’m bitter. What a gyp!

The truth about me is I’m a hater. So are you. There, I said it. Now I can actually move on towards something better.

The Comfort of My Own Private Echo Chamber

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I’ve mentioned before that I make a point of following a pretty broad spectrum of sociopolitical perspectives on my feed because I want to get a good barometer of what people who don’t think like me are feeling about daily events. It doesn’t serve me to react to any differing perspective with a collective reaction of the see, hear and speak no evil monkeys and ban them from my social media feed and favor only the soothing sounds of the echo chamber of like-minds. That only fortifies each camp’s perspective and digs greater rifts between all of us. We all lose.
The memes, articles and posts I’m seeing running down my Facebook feed regarding Baltimore are, I feel pretty indicative of race relations in America. From pining for the good old days which never existed to utopian temper tantrums for a world that doesn’t exist to uncle toms, apologists and race traitors of all ilks. Each with a surety that they have a much greater understanding of the situation than their fellows. (unless they agree with me!) I read and watch each of their rants, pithy snippets and sound bytes and what I get is that everybody is afraid. No one sees an out, no one likes where we all stand and no one really knows what the fuck to do except wish for better and blame the other.
It’s even worse if you scroll through the comments section of any video or article posted up here. That’s where I get to read the hideous underbelly of what people actually think but don’t say in polite society. It’s fucking gross. But it’s America.
The one good thing I’m getting from this cacophony of opinion is that we’re starting to have the discussion that America needs to have with itself regarding race, class, opportunity and responsibility. Yes, it’s fugly. And it desperately needs to happen.
It is a common trait amongst humans to choose comfort over courage. But I think you’re up for it. I double dog dare you to click “follow” on your friends from high school, coworkers, relatives and people you slept with back in college who you hid because you couldn’t stand what they said on their feeds. Have it out with them. But remember – there’s a reason why you liked them in the first place. Remember that while you’re disagreeing with them. Yelling louder won’t get us where we need to go. Remembering and finding common ground will. Only love. …but I could be wrong.

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.