How to Find Good Beyond the Evil

This is a complicated holiday season.  The glitter, the shopping and the decorating can feel imposed by the calendar, out of sync with our daily headlines of war, hate, bombings, shootings, election results and humanitarian concerns.

The tendency to feel overwhelmed by all the darkness in the world can easily let the air out of our sense of personal well-being.  It can suck the air out of conversations. It can lead to isolation and depression. Many I know seem compelled to relive the results of our November election, looking to place blame, as if that somehow could change the outcome. I don’t have all the answers, nor do the pundits, as far as I can tell.  Maybe history will inform us. It’s the same in trying to understand how the world has stood by watching the suffering in Syria.

I do sense that all the toxicity is becoming toxic in itself.  It can lead to an obsession with “news” and with social media. It’s not far downhill to pessimism and cynicism.  There is a steep personal cost in holding on to the disappointment and rage.

me-and-natana

This morning, when I opened Facebook, I was greeted by a photo of myself taken a few  years ago, dancing with my youngest granddaughter.  My heart melted. I thought THIS is the kind of thing that I need to keep in front of me. I was tuned into NPR. Randomly, the program I “needed ” to hear turned out to be a compelling discussion on KQED’s Forum  about The Book of Joy, Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

 The message from the two giants of the spiritual world is that one must look at the arc of time during difficult times like these.  This period is an aberration.  If it were normal human behavior, we wouldn’t find it so disturbing.

Both men, coming from very different traditions, despite their incredibly difficult journeys, kept stressing the goodness of humanity.  After finding myself so moved by the photo I saw this morning, I immediately agreed.

At the risk of sounding like a Rogers and Hammerstein play,

Think mother and family love, the bonds of friendship, the arts, nurses, doctors, teachers, the White Hats in Syria, philanthropy.  If this isn’t enough, bring home the most beautiful flower you can find and place it in a vase where you’ll be able to appreciate it, watch a snowfall, find a friend who makes you laugh so hard you cry, watch the clouds change color at dusk, bake cookies and distribute them after eating several, surprise a long lost friend with a phone call, play with a puppy…well you get my gist.

white-hats

If none of that helps, you have my permission to indulge in your drink or drug of choice and have a long cry in your beer.

It’s a Hard Rain

LIfe continues to hum along as if nothing is out of the ordinary is happening.

But there’s a soundtrack in the background of my life that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.  It usually begins with two words:  Donald Trump.  Some new phrases have caught my attention too.  Alt right, anyone?  fake news? false equivalencies?

“Every president has lied,” I heard a Trump supporter announce this morning.

La cantautor estadounidense Patti Smith canta "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", de Bob Dylan, durante la ceremonia de entrega de los premios Nobel en Estocolmo, el sábado 10 de diciembre del 2016. Smith tuvo que tratar dos veces antes de que le saliera bien el tema. Dylan fue el ganador de este año del premio Nobel de Literatura pero no asistió a la ceremonia porque dijo que tenía otros compromisos. (Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency via AP)

I watched a video of Patti Smith at the Nobel Prize ceremony, sing Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.  There was the Reality, sensed by everyone in attendance, impossible to ignore, a seer’s acknowledgement of the dystopian place we’re now in.  Every day, it’s more unwelcome information.  Donald Trump’s tweets.  Donald Trump’s vindictiveness.  Donald Trump’s non-stop celebration of his own ignorance.  You couldn’t make this shit up if you wanted to.

Where oh where are we headed if this poor excuse of a man with an imaginary brain can create so much confusion and turmoil before he takes office?  An avowed anti-environmentalist heading the EPA?  The foxes are all guarding the henhouses now.  Checks and balances?  Teetering or fallen.

The mainstream media seems to be at loose ends. They know that they’re being manipulated but have no idea how to respond.  What is fairness when truthfulness has lost its meaning?  Why are most  journalists unwilling to demand the truth from politicians?  So many questions.  My anger and disdain at the impotence of the television media is at a rolling boil.

I think I care more about the USA and what we have represented to most of the world than I have realized.  Now, that so much of the legacy seems threatened, I want to protect it.

Mainstream Republicans are keeping their mouths shut when asked to comment on Trump’s most ridiculous pronouncements.  Come’on boys, where’s your spine?  Please consider what’s at stake.

To preserve my own sanity, I’ve cut down on watching television reporting.  Nor, do I find it particularly helpful to listen to the journalists I trust give voice to my own fears.

I am at a loss in knowing what to do that might alter the outcome of the election.But I   hear people grumbling louder each day and preparing for battle.  There’s a sense of growing discomfort in our country.  Maybe the battle lines are being drawn as I write.

Sooner, rather than later, It must be regarded by all Americans as unacceptable for the president elect to lie and distort the truth. There must be consequences. At some point, fake news cannot be tolerated.  We must also look carefully at our educational system which made it possible for millions of Americans to be rendered unable to think critically and discriminate the truth from the fabricated.

etc.

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The Day the Earth Shifted

Did the earth just shift?

earth-shifting

After looking over my  Facebook feed yesterday morning, I could only imagine millions of us Hillary supporters simultaneously reacting in the same way, at the same time,  when we learned that DT had won the electoral college and was now destined to become the next president of the United States.  Collectively, according to the posts I read, it was as if the breath had been knocked out of us. Then, Denial.  Confusion. Disbelief.  It was a similar reaction to  learning someone we loved had accidentally been killed.  Impossible to take in. Universal in its response.

My husband and I, who are in Japan, were at a museum.  He’s the one who, after glancing at his iphone, grimly announced to me, “It’s over.”  Knowing his tendency to seeing the glass half empty, I was sure he meant only that HRC had lost a close race in one of the battleground states.

“You’re kidding.”

“No, it’s over,”  he said flatly.  uh-oh.  He meant it.

Suddenly, we didn’t care about the museum or any other part of the outside world..  We both just wanted to retreat to the inner world of our apartment. We pulled out a bottle of sake and began to drink well before the usual five o’clock starting hour.  It only helped a bit.

This was an event of profound impact.  I know I’ll always remember where I was when I learned that DT had become the president elect.  This is a man whose MO I find despicable. He’s incapable of reflection, if he’s not at the center of it. (I want someone to cut off his colored hair while he’s asleep.)  He’s not able to bother with the distinctions of truth and falsehood.  He’s crass. (He wears bad, shiny suits!) He’s  an object of ridicule. He brings out not our best angels, but stroking and encouraging our angry, nasty, childlike impulses at self defense.  He’s the very definition of a misogynist.  He’s a vicious, snarling attack dog. He’s pathetic, really and truly. ( Melania, after Michelle?!!) How to come to terms with the fact that he and his cronies will now wield so much power for years to come?  How to stand seeing his nasty faced image and listening to him speak nonsense and lies for years to come?  How to watch the upcoming transition of power from one of intelligence and grace to one so out of control and looney tunes?

I don’t have any answers. I’ve read a few analyses of how this happened, but it’s still over my head.  I don’t want to take in the dire implications of a DT reign.  It’s almost as if he became president only by being the deranged first son in line for a dysfunctional monarchy, I still can’t imagine a rational individual from the USA casting a vote for him.

I realize our country is exceedingly complex and divided.  I now realize that large numbers of our citizens live in an alternate reality to mine.  A reality that makes it possible to overlook Trump’s toxic words and toxic behavior  and somehow see him as a savior.

I look forward to regaining my balance in my country of birth, but I am deeply saddened by the choices it has made.  I am uncertain that our democracy and our planet can survive a DT presidency.  I’m struggling to take a long-term view, when at my age, long term is all relative.  Maybe some positive changes will emerge from the coming struggles.  That seems to be the most I can hope for at the moment.

But life does go on.

When we awoke this morning, and my husband looked out the window, he remarked,”Well , the sun came up.”

 

sunrise

How to Respond?

questions

Like many of us, I suppose, I have more questions about the world we live in than answers.  In fact, I have only questions.  The majority of answers provided by the experts are unsatisfying and incomplete to me, because they don’t appear to “know” either. From where I stand, no one seems to get the big picture. This recent round of violence is a complex, fucked up mess.  My guess is if you think you have the answers, you most likely don’t.

I’ve been reading lots of opinions about our current state of affairs, nationally and internationally.  So far, nothing has helped me to come to terms with it or show a sensible and possibly effective direction out of this.  Do we accept the fact that this might be the new normal or do we fight (somehow) to see that it isn’t?

How do we fit this current state of affairs into our lives?  What is an appropriate response?  Is there an appropriate response?  Is ignorance bliss?  Do we ignore it at our peril or will it help keep us sane?  I think it’s important to try to keep the violence in perspective.  It doesn’t represent the bulk of our humanity.

Some shout, “strength! and war with Isis!” That might provide a knee jerk short lived solution, assuming that we hit a knock out punch. But, wars only create misery and the repercussions from them come back for generations to bite you in the ass.  If one part of this monster’s head is cut off, I imagine it wouldn’t be long before a new and uglier head appears.

monster

Is it realistic to strive for a world where the kinds of vicious attacks on the innocent can be prevented?  It seems to me that if someone is demented and determined, opportunities for acting out one’s demons can be found pretty easily.

More weapons and guns?  I think the more gun scenario aka arm everyone has helped get us into this mess.  Moreover, it sure ain’t helping those who have been targeted, so fortunately, that’s one theory down.

It’s unfortunate that several of the shooters in recent attacks have been in the military and served in war zones.  In order to kill anyone, most individuals have to be hardened.  In war, it’s kill or be killed.  It might not be easy for some individuals to turn that training off, particularly if their mental stability is off, possibly, because of war.

It’s tempting to just retreat from the media all together, but that seems cowardly.  And yet, the imagery and the feed that we get can be distorted and unrealistic in its intensity and desire to drive viewers and readers. Where does the truth lie?  In some truly awful way, these acts of violence can bring excitement to a dull day, as long as it doesn’t touch too close to home.  We all become voyeurs, as we shake our heads in sadness.

The instruction to “love” has almost become a cliché.  As has the consolation ” our hearts and prayers go out….”  That alone ain’t gonna do it.

There’s no magic wand we can wave to have everyone agree to the Golden Rule, although it’s the basis of every religion. I do believe that acts of kindness beget other acts of kindness and vice versa.  That might be a start.

the golden rule

 

 

Bill Moyers & Me

bill moyers

My eyes betrayed the depth of my feelings as they spontaneously filled with tears when Bill Moyers made his way to the microphone to deliver his recent talk here a few nights ago.  I have been a devoted follower of his for decades now, but seeing him in person for the first time and listening to him speak, was an incredibly powerful and revelatory experience.

In fact, I have never before listened and focused so intently to an hour long speech. My mind never drifted.  He deftly wove together the pieces of this gigantic puzzle we call electoral politics in the USA to help his audience gain understanding of our current national situation . Moyers is the Real Deal. I view him as a contemporary oracle. He personifies integrity, decency, compassion, thoughtfulness, intelligence, and commitment.  He’s in possession of the rare ability of one who can see the forest for the trees.  He doesn’t paint with stunted brushes. He uses all the considerable tools that are in his possession to make his points, be it quotes from philosophers, lessons from history, or the latest news. His message is CONSIDERED and not the usual worthless opinions that emerge from the blabbering mouths of the so called pundits in the electronic world.

This night he painted a grim picture of our current state of affairs, pulling no punches about the challenges we face as a nation. He did not mince words or offer glib or partisan solutions.  He described a problem and its genesis so that we could better grasp its significance.  I walked into the theatre somewhat aware.  I walked out with his message reverberating within me.  His words were too powerful to ignore or deny. After listening to him, I think it’s inviting disaster to pretend this crisis might just evaporate.

Civilization is but a thin veneer stretched across the passions of the human heart. And civilization doesn’t just happen; we have to make it happen.”
Bill Moyers

A brief summary:  Our democracy is in jeopardy.  Sarah Palin set the stage for a candidate like Trump to become acceptable to many Republicans. The coddling of the Tea Party laid groundwork for Candidate Trump as well. Add the disintegration of the Middle Class, the huge reductions in real reporting that has come about as the result of failing newspapers and reduced numbers of reporters, the Citizens United ruling…then add in our fascination and worship of celebrities.  Our system is rigged, no doubt about it.

“Our media and political system has turned into a mutual protection racket.”
Bill Moyers

Trump is nobody. No body.  His followers project whatever they want to see on his image. There’s no there there.  Basically, he’s a mean egomaniac.

Although Moyer’s talk was grave, I left the theatre determined to play whatever role I can to see that the Donald doesn’t become president or ever come to represent our country.

Bill Moyers represents everything I admire in a person.  It was good to be reminded that there are still people like him in public life, living life not for his own gain, but for the well being of us all.

“What’s right and good doesn’t come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it – as if the cause depends on you, because it does.”

-Bill Moyers