Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Shake the dust of knowing better off from your tired mind
Blink away the tears for those trapped behind their walls
Open your hands to let all you’ve clung to fall away
Strip off the uniforms and recognitions of all the groups you’ve joined

Stand naked and true, love the skin you’re in as the only identity that’s real
Feel the tenderness of your own palm and fingers, and of those around you
See all the walls for what they are — habits, just habits, whose time have come
Let your mind be a fertile soil for whatever seeds the wind may blow your way

Don’t picture them
Don’t judge them
Don’t react

Be surprised
Be emboldened
Be overjoyed

Let them sprout, let them grow
Let them show you their beautiful flowers
Then drink down their precious nectar and bring their fruit to bear

It’ll be pretty wild
But it’ll be true

Be, in your own way, one of those odd mystics spinning forward our new world


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Waves of chaos crash
while compasses keep spinning.
Inner Sun guides you.

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There’s this myth out there that Bernie Sanders hasn’t taken Institutional Racism seriously enough. The attack goes that his fight for Racial Justice is lesser-than and separate from the shared struggle for Economic Justice, ignoring the key lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King’s final fight before his asassination. We need Senator Sanders to dedicate a speech to sharing his powerful story of how Dr. King’s #OneStruggle moves him to continue that fight today.


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Eric Arthur Blair had the opportunity to pursue the life of an educated Englishman, contributing his own part to the furtherance of the British Empire, rewarded by a steady, if boring career. It would probably have been an easier life than that of a hobo in East London, falling gravely ill and getting his belongings stolen by the hospital staff more than once, and getting his throat shot in the Spanish Civil War. It certainly may have been easier for him to avoid getting embroiled in political controversy through his social and cultural exposes.

Easier, I suppose, if he didn’t have such a burning need to explore the depths endured by those around him, and report on those struggles to the broader world.

George Orwell was the first author whose works made a profound impact on the way I experienced my world, and the framing propped up around it by my culture. I read Nineteen Eighty-Four first, then Animal Farm – A Fairy Story, borrowed from my grade school library. I was in an age of reading voraciously to try to better understand how life is understood differently by others, and these two books helped me understand how crucial it is to search below the surface-gloss of how we’re led to assume things are.

It’s more than 65 years to late to be able to thank him personally. Yet as I realized his birthday was coming up, I also realized that this August 17th will mark 70 years since Animal Farm was first published: its Platinum Anniversary.  He had finished the book years earlier, but the political climate wouldn’t allow it. The British elite still considered Stalin an ally, so his obvious criticism of Stalin’s regime was intolerable… until the Cold War suddenly made it popular.

Deeply inspired by Orwell, I wrote a book a few years ago that I fairly quickly quieted down, as I didn’t want to deal with the political controversy it was digging into. I was (and am) concerned about how Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is used as though it is a textbook for how society and economics best serves the most callous assumptions of human nature, but I didn’t feel my contributions would do much to help people consider a more egalitarian — a more humane view.

Yet, seeing these anniversaries on my calender, I decided a few days ago that I could do more to honor the impact this author has had on my life. So to celebrate the 112th Birthday of Eric Arthur Blair, today I’m putting my book up as an ebook for Pre-Order: Galifesto – A Love Story.  It will release on August 17, 2015.

It was written as a narrative, so I’m setting up shop to record it as an audiobook, and am also working on getting the print version to release the same day. This takes significantly less than spending time as a hobo or fighting in a civil war, so I figure I can do this much to help this world in its path to seeing one another with truer eyes.

If you haven’t read anything by Orwell, please visit your library and browse his section, see what catches your fancy. Or even just take a fresh look at the people you pass by in your day, holding an appreciation for struggles they silently bear in making it through this world we share. In this, I think you’ll be taking part in the impact he wished his work to have on the world he left behind.

Thank you.

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I’ve been thinking again about the addictive nature of certainty, and how tough a habit it is to break. Our Commander Brain tends to require certainty in order to feel it knows who “I am” and has the control “I need” to keep structure and predictability in our lives. That’s why it’s so important to first learn how to break the addiction to certainty, so we may be able to learn HOW to learn more about what we don’t yet know.

To break this addiction, I once spent possibly a whole year practicing being uncertain. Each time I felt I had a solid ground to stand on, to start building a new “what I know” foundation, I deliberately went searching out alternate ways to think and feel, pulling the rug back from underneath my feet. I wanted to stop allowing the habit of trying to find one solid place to stand firm forevermore. I wanted to get used to walking a path of personal growth and lifetime discovery. There will always be core values that will guide and comfort me, but these are gifts I carry in my heart, not anchors that hold me down.

Allowing myself to be trapped in the comfortable chains of certainty endangers that freedom to learn and grow.  I have to thank an article I read today for describing these dangers:

Certainty is the most dangerous emotion a human being can feel in politics and religion. Certainty stops all outside thought or reason. It closes the door and is a metaphorical spit in the face of anyone who disagrees. Changing one’s mind is the essence of critical thinking. As Thomas Jefferson himself said, “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

Fox News tried to tear my family apart: How they failed to incite my father, by Edwin Lyngar on Salon.com

We are blessed with a bright and beautiful world, and equally bright and beautiful minds with which to enjoy it. Let us practice freedom and skill in our minds, that we may live our lives with skillful freedom.

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Things I’m thankful for:

  1. Massachusetts has elected their first female senator, Elizabeth Warren
  2. Thanks to Wisconsin, the United States of America has elected our first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin, who is also Wisconsin’s first female senator
  3. Maine and Maryland are the first states to affirm by popular vote the right of two people to marry whom they loved, regardless of gender
  4. Minnesota is the first state to reject by popular vote an attempt to deny that right as an amendment to the state constitution
  5. Colorado and Washington are the first states to legalize marijuana with strict regulations, taking us one step closer toward ending the failed War on Drugs and gutting the support pillars of the deadly Mexican cartels
  6. Maryland also upheld a law allowing in-state college tuition for children whose in-state high school attendance and parents’ in-state tax-paying qualifications, even if they weren’t documented immigrants

There’s so much more, to be sure, but these are my top six right now.  I have a very positive and loving view of human nature, and a faith in one another that’s reaffirmed by trends such as these.  The more we’re getting to know the stories of the diverse people around us, the more we’re coming together.

That’s all I have time for, but wanted to share.  Take care!

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Today, Ed Kilgore posted a blog called No More “Enemy Turf”, about the importance of not writing off any potential allies in your fight for what you believe in:

Yes, certain demographic categories may be “lost” to conservatives if you insist on a winner-takes-all definition, and no, aggressively pursuing support among such voters isn’t worth it if it involves abandoning key principles or essentially adopting the opposition’s point of view. But reducing the margin of defeat on “hostile ground” is often achievable simply by paying attention and not wilfully repelling voters, and in the end a vote is a vote whether it comes from a segment of the electorate that progressives are “winning” or “losing.” […]

A vote’s a vote; reducing unnecessary losses on “enemy turf” has enormous political value; and progressives need not concede, explicitly or (by silence or evasion) implicitly, religious or military voters. It’s good to see these simple lessons are being taken to heart.

I think that’s a lesson that’s vitally important in all aspects of life, not just the portion of it labeled “politics”.  Where you think there are only enemies, you are missing vitally important allies.  They may not (and probably will not) always agree with you on things you’d really like to convince them of, and they may even try to convince you of some things you really aren’t on board with.  But so long as that doesn’t get in the way of coming together to work toward much-needed help for those who need it, the work itself will provide you with the common ground you need to move forward.

And that’s the sticky point: where we feel others’ actions or beliefs are antithetical to what we hold to be self-evident, it can be awfully hard for us to give up the habit of “I’m Right, They’re Wrong, and that makes this Their Fault”.  It becomes a default mental and even neurochemical response to throw up the barriers between “Us” and “Them”, creating an addictive feedback loop that works both ways.  So instead of taking responsibility for bridging those barriers and doing what we can to create new solutions, we either get bogged down in tracing blame or just abandon “them” entirely.  Gay Hendricks’ The Chemistry of Blame is a great article to read in full regarding how this works in terms of personal relationships and “becoming a conscious creator”-style approaches, but here’s the quotes I feel are most relevant here:

There is a great fundamental issue that overrides many of the things we can do to heal ourselves and the world: the human tendency to step into feeling like a victim and blaming others, instead of taking personal responsibility.

Usually in couples therapy, the first issue to be addressed is: Are you willing to make a commitment to solving the problem? One of the most typical responses is, “Well, I’d be committed if she were.”

“Are you willing to stay completely away from blaming anyone, and instead make a sincere commitment to resolving all the issues we confront?”

There’s only one solution, and that’s to take 100% impeccable responsibility – and create a space for the other person to take 100% impeccable responsibility as well. Responsibility has a contagious effect.

As a therapist, I point out repeatedly, “Okay, having said that your husband is a worthless piece of shit, tune inside. Do you feel happier?” The person begins to recognize that although they feel that “glee-gotcha” feeling that comes from assigning blame, they don’t feel happier.

“Do you choose being right or being happy?”

It’s the same with mastering personal responsibility. Once a person shifts out of glee and experiences the real joy of claiming responsibility, everything is changed.

Like it or not, “those people” are in this boat with us, and we’ll sink if they do.  It doesn’t matter if we think we’re the only ones trying to bail ourselves out while “they” are poking holes in the hull.  It doesn’t matter if “they” feel the same way about us.  Because in reality, there is no “Us” that excludes “Them”; there’s merely “We”, all in the same boat together.  And while we’re busy getting angry or despondent or vindictive or even just exasperated, the boat is slowly sinking.  It doesn’t matter who’s right, it just matters who’s getting their hands on deck to pull our ship out of the storm.

And the thing is, at the core, we generally want to steer our ship down the same basic course.  The problem isn’t that our values are different, it’s more that we’ve gotten so sidetracked by our different perspectives on why they’re important.  Once we can set aside those differences we can free our energy to finding ways to work together toward our shared values, even if it means taking our hat in one humble hand to hold out the other.  As I wrote in Fighting Fire with Water: The Christian Role in the War on Women:

[T]he answer to the War on Women isn’t to fight back against our perceived “enemy” with the same condescension, derision and dogma we feel assaulted by.  We can’t win by returning anger with anger, and fighting fire with fire.  Instead, we must fight fire with water, returning their anger with patience and love.  We must struggle to develop new ways to show them how we’re ultimately on the same team.  We want the same things: a peaceful world where families can grow up happy and healthy and complete, cared for by each other and their community.  We need to show them how their actions are preventing these values from bearing good fruit.  We need to find better ways of working together to make our shared goals real.

And we won’t build these bridges toward our shared goals by trying to convince them their values are wrong, nor by refusing to understand how they can be as sure of their rightness as we are of ours.  This is especially difficult because in today’s world, the strongest dividers of “Us” and “Them” are on religious grounds, with the American Political Theater cycling through nonstop reruns of The Righteous Religious Right versus the The Superior Secular Left.  Each side is constantly being poked and prodded with how dangerously unhinged the other side is, and how the only way to stop them from destroying our world is through political (or literal) scorched earth tactics.

But this story has worn thin, and more and more, people are waking up to the holes in it.  I wrote When Atlas Shirked to explore how this “Us Versus Them” plot is breaking down, and share the narrative of what happens when the characters are ready to fix it.  A very young, very patriotic Christian American learns from those of other faiths who are working to strengthen families and communities, bridging the gulf where others may have widened it.  Those of other/no religions find her Christian group to be staunch allies who tirelessly give of themselves for the hungry, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  After learning of all the many (very familiar) corruptions and injustices plaguing her Orwellian American dystopia, she and countless others set aside their differences to start the heavy lifting of building a better world.

It’s a fairy tale, sure, but it’s one that I sincerely hope could come true.  I truly believe that we each have the means to make our corner of the world a better place, simply by committing to finding ways to take responsibility for our place in it.  And we don’t have to storm a capitol or go all that far from home to do make this difference.  There are opportunities all around us to help those in our very own back yards.  The more we look for these opportunities, the more they’ll show us ways we can pitch in.  It doesn’t matter if we can give only a little at first; this is one of those times where every little bit quite literally does help.

Don’t be surprised if the opportunities might be with those that others might call “your enemy”, because there are no enemies when it comes to doing what’s right.  There might be good times and ways to gently share your perspective without having to call theirs wrong, but that’s not what’s important about doing good.  The most important thing right now is to make sure that good gets done.

People are hungry.  Children are being kicked out into the streets.  The sick and the hopeless are being abandoned.  They need our help, not our ideologies.  They can’t seek shelter under our philosophies, and they can’t eat our prayers.

So there we have it: it’s our job to do what we can, with whoever will join our efforts.  The task now isn’t to bar the doors against those “on the other side”, but to open our own doors, and knock wherever we think we see a light on.  Some will get slammed in our faces, and some will open for a while, only to slam shut again.  That’s okay, it’s not up to you to make anyone else do what they need to do.  Just keep taking full responsibility to do your part.

When you’re working to fulfill your part in all this, you’ll know it’s less important to convince people of what you think is right.  You know that what’s most important is to get out there and do what’s right.  The rest will follow.

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I’ve had quite a busy, big day, zigzagging back and forth mentally and physically.  I was off work, but wasn’t able to be off from chores, but the upside is that I got to spend a lot of time with my baby who needed me.

So today, I’ll just share a link to something I put together for Tumblr last night, my own little Why I Occupy (America) video.  I was thinking about the people I’ve met, and the countless ones I haven’t, who are working toward their vision of a better world.  Some of them meet up through the Occupy activities, some through other political or community groups, and some through church or school.

I haven’t been that good at connecting with people on things important to me, as I’ve said.  But I figure it’s time to get better at that.

So, here goes.

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I’ve always felt the biggest obstacle for Occupy is getting the 99 Percent to realize we are all, in fact, the 99 Percent.  We see news reports of the big marches and protests, and think of Occupy being for those who chant slogans and get arrested.  For about 98 Percent of us, that sounds like a pretty radical step to take.  Love or hate, people tend to think that Occupy is for the fringe and the furious out there in the streets and public squares.

Not to say that I’ve been all that engaged.  I’ve been a dedicated fan of Occupy Wall Street since they first hit the news, and was thrilled to see people embrace the Occupy spirit in every aspect of life.  It was a brilliantly galvanizing idea whose time had come, bringing together all the groups that had previously been struggling to coordinate in a consistent and efficient way.  But I had suddenly started writing a book the day before the first gathering in Zuccotti Park, which was occupying my every spare moment, and then some.  I followed Occupy and a zillion other issues as I researched and speed-wrote in a parallel reality, wishing I had the opportunity to get more directly engaged.

Finally, I hit the Tax Day release deadline my subconscious had set for myself, and came up for air, just in time for the May Day General Strike.  I promised myself that if there was an activity I’d be able to make it to for solidarity with my fellow 99 Percenters, I’d be there.  I’d sacrificed a lot of myself for seven months over a message of solidarity that maybe nobody would ever read, and I’d be darned if I didn’t then sacrifice a little to connect with actual people.  So after hosting my sister for a week and catching up with work and family, I started my search.

I was disheartened to find out that Occupy Miami didn’t have more hope for a big May Day turnout, but looked up Occupy Fort Lauderdale and saw that there was a gathering the next day at a church I’d meant to visit, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale.  It was only about 20 minutes away, and was scheduled to be right during my baby’s naptime so he wouldn’t miss me.  (And no, Frank, I couldn’t have brought him!  He’s coming off a clingy growth-spurt and never woulda made it!)

So the next day I tucked in my little guy, put on my favorite dress and my best hat, and on a whim grabbed my three sheets of test-run Business Cards so I wouldn’t be scrawling my email address on sheets of paper.  Shy Nyn had to take a day off, and I resolved to meet at least one person I’d want to keep in touch with.

Now to live in the Sunshine State is to embrace the rain, and it was pouring hard as I hit the Florida Turnpike.  Unfortunately, when it pours like that, everybody drives like they are frightened of this strange water that falls from the sky.  I drove safe and kept my focus by singing “Holy shining jewel of love!” over and over to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, something that came up while I was writing and stuck with me.  This put me in a great mood by the time I reached the church, which was blessedly easy to find.

After seeing how scant the participation seems to be around here, I was actually really glad that I had a hard time finding a parking space.  I apologized to the grass as I parked on it, then was glad for my umbrella as I was held up in the parking lot reading the best array of snarky and compassionate bumper stickers I’d seen in some time.  The one I hadn’t seen before was “Socialism: Tax the Rich, More Money for You!”  Given the appeal to self-interest, I just found that hilariously ironic.

As I walked up to the church, I remembered how tickled some people have been about the idea of strong religious support for Occupy Wall Street.  Naturally, a Unitarian Universalist church would be a perfect host to a gathering of unity, but whenever there’s more traditional Christian or Jewish community support, people make a double-take.  And that tickles me, because I grew up with the idea that Faith and compassionate fairness went together like chocolate and peanut butter.  I seriously can’t help but picture it like an 80’s commercial, “You got your Bible in my Occupy!  You got your Occupy in my Bible!

The welcome was of course warm and enthusiastic, and after spelling my name for my nametag the greeters said “Of course, you have to have an awesome name to go with the awesome hat!”  I then went in to scout the tables that were freshly set up, and immediately had the chance to sign a petition for the Citizens for Pets in Condos, a really big issue in a part of the country where most housing is condos and generally only the waterfront condos for the wealthy allow pets.  They didn’t need to explain the importance of the issue to me any more than their table-neighbors who let me sign my support for OURWalmart, the Organization for Respect at Walmart.  (Note to self: make time to visit WalmartAt50.org to read more stories.)

I then went across the way to take a look at a beautifully simple flowchart of the Foreclosure process in Florida, done up by a wonderful woman with the Occupy Fort Lauderdale’s Foreclosure Mobilization team whose name I didn’t quite catch.  It was really easy to follow, and made me realize what a simple process the whole thing was, if you could take a step back and look at it.  She insisted that it really wasn’t a complicated process, so she put together the chart to illustrate that.  This made me finally break out a business card, where on the back I had a link to a free copy of my book (free at least through May Day, in case you’re curious), as I asked her if she had the chance to take a look at Chapter 8 and let me know how well I broke down the tax structure, which to me seemed simple but I wasn’t sure how well I did.  (Typing that now, I see the Chapter 8 / Bankruptcy connection – funny!)  Now I realize she won’t likely have time, but she was kind about it, and it broke the “my card” ice for me.

As I was letting her go, Steve of the Mardi Gras 10 approached me and asked if I could sign in support of those who were fired for attempting to organize for workers’ rights.  I only had to hear the word “unionization” to grab a pen, while he filled me in on their fighting back and upcoming March for Freedom, Not Fear on May 8th.  I thanked him quite sincerely for fighting back, when it would be so easy to keep his head down and try to just ‘get along’.  It is because of people like him that I even have the right to vote, so I genuinely am grateful.  I tried not to gush and moved on so he could get his signatures.

I then made my way to the tables on the other side, overhearing someone saying he was Internet famous.  Very curious, I asked who he was and what he was famous for!  The very genial and boisterously unassuming Marc Luzietti introduced himself, aka chegitz guevara.  He’d said that he was talking with a friend of his from the area, and wherever he travels, he’s asked if he knows chegitz, as there are so few radicals connected with one another in South Florida.  And the funny thing is, because there are so few, of course they know each other.

Marc was there with One Struggle South Florida, who had brought a very nice Volume I, Edition I of the mini-paper captioned “Anti-Capitalist News and Analysis”.  I got to meet the brilliant Stephanie McMillan before I realized she was the cartoonist of Code Green. (I’m a fan, and there’s a Code Green on the back of the paper!)  I asked her how she got involved with One Struggle, and it turns out she’d founded one years back, and recently they decided to revive it.  Good timing, I figured.  I brought out my card again and we talked about my book, which ended up being the anti-Atlas Shrugged without my quite meaning to start out that way.  Given the title is When Atlas Shirked, she pointed out that it’s a much better story if that was my intention all along.  I agreed, and really it’s not far from true, so that’s now my story and I’m sticking to it.  All the Politics, Half the Page-Count!

I wanted to talk more with Marc, but I was too hard to hear from across the table so I went to slip in behind him, those at the table next to his being momentarily away.  He told me it was too tight and I’d never make it, to which I replied, “Watch me.”  I ungracefully moved down and he helpfully moved a seat over, and filled me in on just how small the radical group in the area is, as he’d mentioned before.  There were only about 18 in their group, which didn’t surprise me.  I mean, I let him know it surprised me at first when I moved down here, as it was super easy to find groups a few hours north in the much smaller Gainesville, and even easier in Salt Lake City.  (Shout-out to the Rudies and the Straight-Edge of the early 90’s!)  He said that most major cities there’s an easier time, but when he’d come down from Chicago, there was like nothing.  He didn’t even find the group here until he happened to pass a protest on his way to work.

A friend of his came up and ribbed Marc about missing a gathering because he had to work, then launched into how he was going to kick off a speech at an upcoming gathering.  He asked what we thought about Obama opening up oil drilling or somesuch with the idea that it would remove our dependence on foreign energy sources, which we both figured was a political grandstand with no actual effect.  Marc then went on to explain about the fuel reserves and the extremely cost-ineffective nature of the oil left on our soil, and that’s when I realized that things I figure are self-evident from my months of engrossing myself in major political crises like what Marc was explaining… aren’t as well-known among the politically involved as I’d thought.  It actually surprised me that all needed being said, which humbled me in my assumptions.

Marc, his friend and I then debated for a bit about whether the Democratic Party was ever for the people, and I argued that we at least had a window of history where those who were actually getting stuff done at least had a sixty/forty… okay, fifty-one/forty-nine majority.  He then reminded me about being the original party of segregation and having to be dragged into supporting civil rights, and we agreed that essentially, America has always been a one-party system: The Money Party.

The song playing then switched over to Give Peace a Chance, and Marc said he had a love-hate relationship with it. I agreed, but he actually had a real good reason versus it just being overplayed.  He was at a protest in Chicago once, and the song was being led by a woman who was a bit off-key.  Worse, the news coverage managed to capture just her singing in the mic without the large crowd’s vocals or even presence in the footage.  Conversely, a small group of fifty or fewer pro-war protesters were there, and the news team managed to get a photo of them at such an angle that implied they were a gigantic crowd versus this one “crazy woman” (because clearly, singing about peace makes one loony, particularly if one is not blowing the roof off Carnegie Hall with the performance).

That’s about when I borrowed their pen and started scrawling the word “FREE” atop the back of my business cards and staked out my empty space at the table to hand them out, at Marc’s suggestion.  After slipping under the table real quick for a mug of some of the best coffee I’ve had in forever, I sat back down to listen to Marc’s and Stephanie’s conversations with friends and putting my card into peoples’ hands.

That’s how I got to meet Jarek Loovali, who moved here from Estonia “way too long ago”, as he put it.  He mentioned how tough (or was it strange?) it was to come here from Estonia, where they had free healthcare, free secondary education, and support for their people.  I commented how there are so many Americans who’ll laugh off Estonia as “a small backwater country with nothing”, and yet there, people have so much more they share with one another.  Jarek commented that he thought it was easier for smaller groups to come together like that than larger ones, which really is about spot-on.  I supposed it was a matter of “Oh, these are my family, I can help them!” versus what we’ll have here, of “But not those people, THOSE aren’t my family, and I can’t let them take what’s ours” or somesuch.  It was time for a coffee refresh, so back under the table I went so I could be ready for the meeting’s start.  I made it back just in time to find the table-neighbors returned, but not minding my squatting one bit.

And that’s how I found myself handing out info on a Christian Progressive Political Galifesto between a one-time Socialist Florida Congressional Candidate on my right, and the South Florida Raging Grannies on my left. I didn’t catch the name of the marvelous woman with the long grey braids, but she had the kind of presence that was unassumingly dominant in a kind sort of way.  I thanked her for sharing her space and shared my card, which she accepted while trying to very tactfully admit that she’s not Christian, but she respects a lot of Jesus’ message.  I let her know that’s perfect, because my project tried very hard to illustrate how a very valid Christianity is incredibly generous and community-oriented, dedicated to taking care of those around us.  That struck a note, because she expressed some frustration with the gulf between what Jesus seemed to teach, versus all the harm that’s done in his name.

We had to break that off, as Reverend Gail Tapscott kicked off the meeting.  We heard from Hatian immigrant Romane Petit about the commonalities of the struggles faced in Haiti and here, and from Steve in the difficulties faced by himself and his coworkers.  One strong example was the woman who was working three jobs at minimum wage to support her five children, and couldn’t afford health insurance even though it was offered through the union.  Following him was Alex Johnson to talk through the foreclosures process in  Florida and how to fight it, but about halfway through I spotted the back of a familiar head.

It was Enrique, one of my favorite baristas at Your Big Picture Cafe, where my son loves to go flirt and play with Legos while chatting along with us as only a 17-month-old can do.  (For the record, they’re all my favorite, and Jasmine we’ll miss you terribly!)  He was there with Food Not Bombs, yet another group I’d kinda heard of but not fully connected to in my psyche until meeting them.  I ended up chatting with him and his friends for a while, missing some of the meeting and losing track of time.  (Thanks for the coffee folks, the food looked great but I wasn’t very hungry so I left it for others!)

It was a very busy time for them, so soon they had to go, and I happened to run into one more guy I’d spotted and wanted to hand my card to, just a’cause.  He was interested in what I was up to, and we sat outside chatting for a while rather than going in.

My new friend was Frank, who said he’d recently been of the planning committee, but as of last week was taking a break to take a step back.  (I’m sorry I forgot your last name, Frank, but it was a highlight of my weekend to be able to talk with you!)  He asked if he could read my project online or if he’d have to print it out, and I advised him that printing it out would be quite a bad idea, as it’s about 500 pages.  He very politely balked and asked if I had an editor, and then seriously insisted, had I an editor?  I answered yes, but it was a quick volunteer job, and I’m afraid my style is so “incorrect” it worked against the generous help…  (And yeah, I’ve got a technical writer and also an avid reader going over it again, making a few more corrections, but I figure it’s more important to own up to an correct my mistakes than freak out and hide them away in shame.)

Regardless, I asked him where he’s from, and he ran through the different places he’s been since Jersey, where he was originally from, and then quoted Robert Frost to say that if there’s any place he can go that has to take him, it’s here.  And as I told him, anyone who quotes Robert Frost makes me happy.  I mentioned where I’m from and what I do, and talked about “helping make sure what we can afford to offer and what we need to charge”, and he questioned the “we”.  “Don’t you mean they?” he asked?

And I explained that I did mean “we”.  Oh I don’t get too wrapped up in identifying with the company I work for, but I also don’t believe in trying to separate myself from what I do.  Where I participate in what the company does, I own it.  It’s my decision, it’s my work, and that makes it “we”.  I get frustrated at times though, and we talked about how hard it is to have patience with others, particularly when they don’t always have patience with you.

“But that’s the thing,” I said, “because the measure of who you are as a person is not how others treat you, but how you treat others.  Especially if they aren’t treating you so well.”

“That’s a pretty hard thing to remember,” Frank laughed as he said, or something to that effect.

I laughed, too.  “Oh definitely!  I never said it was EASY!  Just that it’s important.  So it’s worth the effort.  The important bit is to not let the frustrations bottle up.  You have to keep them in a bucket, and pull them out now and again with a friend, to let them out with some Recreational Griping.”

The term tickled him, and we talked a little more about the importance of letting off steam, and the concept of Master Teachers.  I was talking about the people who are most frustrating in life being those who can teach us the most, and he referred to the teachers of the autistic child in his life who call the children Master Teachers for their unique perspective.  For example, a six year old calmly explaining something to a teach who had spent years in graduate school attempting to master.

And that was when I heard the Raging Grannies were starting their bit, so I had to bid Frank goodbye with my thanks for the lovely chat.  I had stayed longer than I’d thought my ears would make it, and I didn’t want to miss their song in support of the Postal Workers, who’ve always been there for us.  (And not just my family friends growing up, I seriously love the U.S. Postal Service and want to see them get a fair deal.) Once they were done, I dropped the last few of my cards onto the table where Jarek was with the rest of the mini-papers, and he said he’d get them handed out as we said goodbye.

I got the chance to say goodbye to my friend with the grey braids before I went, and she laughed off my compliments with a “Yeah, we were a real professional group, you could tell!”  I dismissed her dismissal by insisting I thought they were perfect, and was grateful for it.

Then it was time to go.  So I collected my umbrella from outside the door, and trekked back past all the merry bumper stickers to my car.  And on the windshield was a final little connection from my first reaching out to the Occupy movement.  There were three feathers right in front of my eyes, like a miniature angel had popped by with its blessings from the realm between the righteous and the wicked, where everything is Shades of Grey.  (I presume the pigeon was not harmed in the shedding of these feathers.)

And that really was the perfect way to sum the whole thing up.  People can tend to think of Occupy as a hard-edged band of rabble to whom everything is an Us versus Them of Black and White.  As though they’re just another case of You’re Either With Us or Against Us.

But that’s not it.  It’s not even close.  Because we all have this sense of something not quite right in the world, of there being something we’re supposed to be or have that isn’t quite coming through.  Some of us turn to our community for answers, some to a church, some to politics, and some to all three.  But however and whenever we seek out a way to fix that feeling of brokenness, the fact remains that it’s up to each of us to make our own solutions, however we can.  Even the top 1% of the top 1% who are doing so much to harm those around them, they also bear the same problems and responsibilities of a fractured world.

So in this quest against that feeling of Something Not Quite Right, there is no Us, and there is no Them.  There is only team We the People, and nowhere is that open-hearted community more genuinely felt than the welcoming arms of Occupy groups and those who comprise them. The marches and protests and fighting against police-state abuses are very important, but equally or even more important are the meeting of minds and hearts that don’t always agree, but struggle to find the common ground from which we may all move our world forward.

So if you’re looking for ways to try a new patch-job on that aching hunger in your soul, I strongly recommend you take a look at the resources on Occupy Together to find a group near you. If there isn’t one, or if for some reason you can’t make it in person, start following an online community, maybe even add a comment or two. You don’t have to put yourself on a police line to make a difference.

Just please, remember, Occupy isn’t an exclusive club, or even a militant movement.  It’s a mindset of exercising your Inalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and protecting those rights for others.  Even if you keep to yourself, make it a point to be more mindful of who and where you are, and occupy your own space.

Above all, please, learn the courage and self-confidence to Occupy your own space.  And when you find you need some help in that, you don’t have far to look.  There’s people all around you willing to stand by you and Occupy Together.

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Recently I was talking again about the so-called Crab Mentality.  I don’t know how accurate this is about actual crabs, but the idea is that when you’re out gathering crabs from the shore, you don’t need a lid for your bucket.  You just need two or three in there, and they’ll keep pulling each other back down if one of them starts to make it out.

I’m sure we’ve all got examples the analogy brings to mind.  What I’ve started to think of lately, though, is how we’ll pull ourselves back and hold ourselves down, rather than wait for someone else to do it for us.  We’ll keep our heads down and our mouths shut rather than let us put ourselves out there or otherwise break free of our quiet little rut.  I’ll bet that idea brings some examples to mind, too.

Now don’t think I’m saying we oughtn’t be mindful of how and when we put ourselves or our ideas forward.  I’m all for the habit of taking a moment to think about how something you do or say may come across.  Big-headed arrogance not only puts people off what you’d otherwise have to share, it obscures your own view, too.  The little voice that says, “Did you think this one through?” — that’s worth listening to.

But the voice that starts off with “Do you really think you deserve…”  That’s the Crab Mentality.  When we start to share our thoughts and talents, the Crab Voice butts in with “Do you really think you deserve to take the spotlight?”  When we step forward to take our turn, it pokes at us with “Do you really think you deserve to go ahead of all those other people?”  And worst of all, when we stop to appreciate all the beautiful gifts life has given us, our hearts are weighted down with an oppressive, “Do you really think you deserve these things when there are so many who want?  What makes you think you have a right to be happy, when there is so much misery in the world?”

That last bit is what hit me this morning.  I was thinking of my fantastically wonderfully rewarding life, with enough food to eat and safety and shelter and so much love and joy and plenty, and I actually started to feel guilty for being so lucky.  As though receiving these blessings meant another had to go without.

And this is even though I already know that’s not how the world works.  Life is a place of plenty, and the more we enjoy and share that bounty, the more of it there is.  If this was about wasting water or gobbling up limited resources, that’d be one thing.  But this was about treasuring the fulfillment of simple wants, and basking in the glow of tender moments.  You know, the sorts of things that make the world greater, not less.

I know that taking suffering into your own heart doesn’t remove it from others.  I know that you can’t lessen the hurt in the world by embracing pain.  I know that the world needs happiness and joy to be shared within and among as many hearts as possible, that this is the only way to reduce the misery and pain that’s out there.

That’s why it feels so silly to admit I actually felt bad about being happy.  Because I know better.  I guess that just goes to show that being aware of the subconscious push to commodify and objectify happiness, doesn’t always make you immune.  It’s so easy to let yourself be just another prisoner of the war against a more peaceful world.

So I decided that’s what I’d write about today.  I still feel a nervous twinge of guilt, but it’s fading.  Cause as I’m sitting here typing I realize I have a choice: I can either subtract from the joy in this world or add to it.  Everything else aside, it’s just so darn much more fun to choose the latter, so I’m gonna practice that.

And as much as I hear unspoken voices asking me if I have the right to indulge in this happiness, I can’t help but ask, “Voices, what makes you think you have the right to add to the misery in this world by demanding mine?”

And a poem for National Poetry Month…

It’s what you wear from ear to ear
at least, that’s what they say
But when it’s time to curse or praise,
they tell it another way

“Who does she think she is?” they ask
if she’s too pretty or too plain
“He’s drowning in denial,” they sneer
if his failures don’t show enough pain

“Money can’t buy happiness”, they nod
while they try to sell you a slice
All while they claim to measure Success
not by merit, but by amortized price

So they hound as they hoard and condemn as they preen
While they suckle at wealth they demand we all wean
If you hurry after them, you just might see and be seen

But for my part,
with a peaceful heart,
I’d far rather bask in the glory of Nature’s green.

Join me my friend,
and through to the end,
and we’ll hold court with life’s true kings and queens.

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