MISSION STATEMENT

If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance. ~~Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book VI

I’d Like a Piece of that Peace

images (1) Ya ever wonder how two words end up sounding alike yet have nothing to do with one another? I mean, a piece is a part of a whole, a unit unto itself. It is a “something” that together with some more somethings makes another thing.

Yet it also means having sex with someone “a piece” or giving some of your thoughts to another as in “piece of my mind”, which is not literal as in a piece of pie would be, but rather an idea conveyed, which still remains with the thinker. I can also demand a “piece of the action” claiming that for some reasons I’m entitled so share in certain activities or profits.

Confusing?

How does a word get to mean so many diverse things?

Now peace means no war. It means tranquility and freedom from turmoil. It relates to countries, groups within a country, families, or even the individual. Wherever there is upheaval one desires cessation. Calmness is desired.

I am not sure why we crave peace, but we certainly do. We say we do all the time, while we of course war. We say our aim in war is peace, but we curiously think that comes at the end of a gun rather than at the end of a string of sentences.

To want a piece of peace is to lay claim to some place physical or otherwise where we impose peace. Our island in the midst of chaos. It’s often our home, our castle as we construe it.

While it seems for there to be peace there must be all peace, we insist that if we can’t get real peace, we will settle for this semblance of it. We will have a cabin in the woods. We will meditate into our piece of peace.

It will be contained within our minds. No matter what you say or do in front of me, I won’t give it up. This piece of peace I have established. I’ll fight pretty hard to maintain its perimeter. But somehow that is not violence, since I’m preserving my peace.

People say, I won’t talk to you about politics or religion; it will disturb my peace. There are rules to peace so it seems.

I will sit and watch all around me go to hell, but it will not disturb my peace. That is something isn’t it?

I’ve got my peace, screw you buddy.

I’ll not only take no responsibility for this fine mess, I won’t lift a finger to fix it, cuz it ain’t my mess.

They gotta meme for that.

not my Catchy huh?

Yeah, I know.

Climb into your blanket fort and pretend it ain’t yours.

Peace at any price?

Now that will start a row.

Neville Chamberlain is reputed to have desired peace so much that any peace would do. Not yours or theirs, but England’s was enough.

That didn’t work, because Hitler wanted to his fantasy at any price.

It is your mess.

You can’t avoid it.

You can only look the other way.

So that means peace can be really fake.

It can be a pretence for peace, one imposed on an ungrateful world which refuses to go away, or at least just keep it’s horrors to itself.

I wanna get a hold of some peace, but my heart keeps looking around and seeing injustice, and I can’t get my piece of peace until I can wipe those images from my brain.

And I can’t do that, until I change the world.

Imagine that.

Talk politics and talk religion and stand forth against the raging tide of ennui and lies and speak truth to whom ever is standing in front of me. Imagine that.

If they gave a war and nobody came would there be war any more?

If we don’t care enough to learn how to tell a liar from a saint are we seeking peace, or only a piece?

It’s Earth Day.

The earth would like some peace. It needs a lot of pieces of peace these days.

Whales need a lot of peace. Not only are their seas and oceans being polluted, but they are still incarcerated and forced to perform for humans.

Women need a lot of peace. In a lot of places for a lot of things.

The list would be long. All the shit that needs some peace.

God probably needs peace too. I bet She never figured that this particular human sentience would be such a pain in the ass. We write books and then claim that God wrote them, and then we tell each other what they mean, and we all disagree, and we call each interpretation “being the real church”.

We all need peace from politics, so we say. As I said, some say they won’t talk to people who mention that stuff. I guess that’s why we got a House and Senate full of morons and when you travel around the states and cities, you find even more of them.

They say, that to achieve peace, you have to be peace. I guess that might be true. You are becoming a piece of peace, and when there are enough pieces, that makes a whole peace.

But it’s not enough to be peace. It’s not like seeping into the fabric of evil and suddenly it’s not evil any more.

You gotta actually speak up and speak out and call it what it is. Name it.

When it ain’t fair, you gotta spit out that it’s unfair, and how it can be fair. That’s transforming. Because it’s all too clear a whole lot of folks have no clue what is fair.

So are you gonna do peace today?

Are you gonna take your piece and go out and explain truth to the world?

Or are you gonna stay in the blanket fort, and pretend you got it all by yourself?

Brought to you by SoCs

Why The Dividin’ Works So Well

divide-and-conquer If you happened to catch Jon Stewart last week he did what has become classic for him–pointing out the heaping hypocrisy that the uber Right always seems to manage to live with. Entering the head of a right-wing expert is sorta like entering the minotaur’s labyrinth. A normal person gets lost in all the dead ends.

Anyway, Jon was talking about Kansas. Kansas just passed a law and gol’ darn it, Sammy “spittin’ Brownback signed it, removing all restrictions to concealed weapon carrying, including even having a permit. That’s cuz Kansans are so dang trustworthy and kin do the right thing. Kansas is also real big on the notion that poor people are not like regular Kansans. They are akin to kidlets and must be told what to eat and what to buy. If you get assistance from Kansas, you get a list of what you can use it for, cuz you aren’t grown. Jon pointed out that the inconsistency here is that Kansas receives $1.29 from the Federales, for every $1.00 it pays in. Which makes them welfare moochers ya know. So, um, if we wanna be consistent, I guess we ought to be tellin’ the Kansans what they spend their free monies on huh?

Kansas is not alone in this sort of thinking. Republican-led legislatures in many states seek and do impose lots of restrictions on the poor of all sorts, treating them like they are not fully grown, nor citizens. One wonders why Re-huh-ligans think this way. I mean plenty drug test anyone seeking assistance, even though the results of all those tests suggests it costs way way more to give them then it ever saves in “drug users don’t git no help” fails.

It’s all illogical, demeaning, and downright awful and one wonders why, as I said.

See, iffin’ you go back far enough, we were a very tribal species. Sorta like lion prides. New folks from other lands were not invited into the tribe, much as alpha males drove off traveling loners who sought to join the pride. (This all drives fundies quite mad, since they don’t believe we humans go back far enough for that, but fundies seldom can force themselves to take the giant step to actually read out of their comfort zone, so no matter.)

Anyway, we tend to be tribal still, some of us more so than others. The tribe is generally quite artificial these days, but it often relates to religion, or ethnic origin, gender, and stuff like that.

We live with a lot of folklore here as they do everywhere. We were raised on the Protestant Work ethic which should tell you a whole lot just by the name. It had to do with religion and salvation, but has become twisted into some sort of “this is how grownups behave” notion that hard work brings success economically.

Our start as a nation also caused people from time to time to strike out on their own, urged on by such things as primogeniture, to make a life in the wilderness. This became “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps”, in other words, making it on your own.

These things, when done successfully give one a sense of accomplishment and capability. Such people like to look a bit down at others who for a whole list of reasons can’t succeed as they did.

Of course, this whole thing gets extended and twisted until it doesn’t really resemble what it started out as. We aren’t any longer a new country with a vast Western virgin expanse where one can strike off and create a new life. You can only invent the hula hoop once. It gets harder and harder to make it on your own, and hard work can end up bringing little more than basic survival.

But as long as one is surviving, albeit at the lowest level, one can still, and one is encouraged, to look down askance at those who have failed to even reach basic survival.

When we have priced education out of the range of most working class kids, it’s time to put down the idea that elite educations matter. All that matters is common sense after all.

The political hacks who do the work of big corporate interests have gotten very good at all this. They keep the barely differentiated in reality yapping at each other for all sorts of nonsensical things so that we fail to see what is really wrong in our country. We break into union/non-union, religious/not-religious, right-kind-of-religious/not-right-kind-of-religious, gay/straight, unregulated guns/regulated guns, and the divisions are infinitely divisible at this point. Somehow it all becomes liberty-loving patriots/commie-socialist-atheists. It all becomes prideful, and the alpha males snarl and gnash their teeth around the perimeter while the king of beasts patrols, defending.

The poor, become child-like, and lazy, because the working poor who are scraping by, must see themselves as successful. The liberals become elites who want to take what little the working poor  have and trade it for votes among the child-like and lazy. The conservatives want to encourage entrepreneurship in theory to “grow jobs” by reducing taxes and regulation, and the workers are encouraged to believe that they could be entrepreneurs if only they didn’t have to pay for the child-like and lazy.

It all is quite silly and wrong and indefensible by the actual facts, but that does not matter since the working poor and barely holding on middle-class wants to believe they are doing all they can, and it’s somebody’s fault. They are actually right. They are doing all they can, and it is somebody’s fault. Just not the folks they think. For the machine works tirelessly to make sure that their anger is directed away from them.

We have gone in this country for feeling pity for the poor to actually hating them. For they are us and deep down we know that. And we are desperate to keep that fact buried deep in our subconsciousness, so that we can go on feeling successful and proud of ourselves.

Not just hate, which we camouflage in “tough love” rhetoric, but bitterness as well. They remind us of not just of ourselves, but of the opportunities we have missed, abused, and let go by while we took the easier course of listening to our “betters” and their constant propaganda. “You could be just like us,” they whisper, “if it were not for them.” And we have listened and we have nodded in agreement, and we have gone back to our Archie Bunkers and laughed uproariously and told ourselves that we are not Archie, all the while we have been Archie and continue to be that caricature in all his bigotry and blaming.

And we feel self-righteous in our demands that you don’t get to buy steak or get your nails done if you are getting my tax dollars. And we claim we are just helping “them” act like us, which is what we have been told is the “right way to be”. And what we do is ugly and mean, and makes people feel bad about themselves and they hate right back.

And the corporate masters cheer and clink their glasses and laugh and discuss the latest results of the polo match and whose going to the Mediterranean this year, and who will be at the Met this season.

And the wars go on. And nothing changes. And we teach these stupid lies to our kids and life goes merrily along for the rich and powerful and we keep dancing.

Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends
Then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

 

Anecdote to Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance - Clean Life is sure simpler if you avoid conflict. I know how easy it would be to just shrug and say, “well, that’s me, complicated” and just return to my purchased serenity. But the price is the incessant nagging that won’t leave me alone. Conflict must be resolved. It seems, well unseemly to do anything else.

Let me dispel any notion that I was someone of importance in the feminist movement. I was a cipher to put it quite bluntly. I came along at a time when the movement to date meant that I didn’t have to struggle with some things and too late to matter regarding others.

For instance, I showed up right on time when it came to law school, with all universities working hard to bring their women’s numbers up. I benefited no doubt and probably got in when say ten years earlier or maybe even five, I might not have.  I was probably too early yet to be an air force pilot, and other occupations like police officer or firefighter were still male bastions. I consider myself lucky that those jobs were not within reach for me at the time.

I recall no march that I participated in, since those were few and far between. I was one of those “fellow travelers” who made their point largely by commenting on doors opened, “I can open my own door thank you,” and ladies first, “I’m fine being in the place in line I arrived at.”

But my heart was surely there. And as with most women of my time (and those who became politically aware) I read the required texts of feminism, listened to the words of feminist spokeswomen, and re-evaluated most of the “advice” I’d been offered by mother and other female family members. I mostly began to rethink the notions of what women want, and what they need to do to get it.

We rejected the casting couch. We demanded a say at the table of decision making on serious issues, not just those pertaining to “women’s issues.”

But old habits die hard.

I know there are women my age who married their childhood sweethearts. And bless them, if that turned out well for them. But most of us did not, and the 60’s and onward provided us opportunities to test out our sexual freedom as well. And with that came the perils. I would bet that not one woman who was sexually experimenting (meaning separating sex from love as men always do) was not subjected to some form of rape. Date rape is what I refer to. It need not have been violent, but it was insistent to the point that we succumbed rather than continue objecting. We told ourselves or were led to believe by an insisting man, that we had encouraged it, or brought it on, and we can hardly blame him now for wanting to “finish.”

So we understand about emotional and physical abuse, whether overt or “benign”.

Over the years the struggle has had its ups and downs and re-orientations. It has focused on poor women, and women in the boardroom. On wage equality, job opportunities, and image. Lately it has focused on abuse.

Many have recognized that until women and especially young girls have better images of themselves regarding power and influence, real progress won’t be made. This is because too many female children are still being raised in traditions that value being quiet and “polite,” and above all knowing “one’s place.”   Until we teach our young boys and girls that gender is fairly insignificant to their dreams and responsibilities in life, we cannot effectively marshal the numbers necessary to push old white men off their pedestals of entitlement and take our rightful place alongside.

We must however, not merely preach the message, but we must live it, and therein lies my conflict of the day.

We are a culture that deifies to a great extent anyone in the public eye. Whether they be movie “stars” or singers, or sports professionals, we look upon them as objects to be admired. We seek to act like them, in however that translates to the average life. We dress, eat, drink as they do. We attempt to live in our modest means with trinkets that resemble their splendor.

To a degree we do this with politicians as well. Who doesn’t admire those who have managed to become known to large segments of the world simply by wielding power?

We fantasize these people into very inhuman beings, almost in some cases, as incapable of being anything but the perfection we infuse them with. They are bereft of the failings that we suffer. We tell ourselves that this is not the case, but truly we do so.

And yet, many if not all of them are flawed, as deeply flawed as we.

And of course there is a tabloid press out there ready and willing to make a buck trading on their failures. This is good in one sense of course for it reminds us of their feet of clay.  But, to those we worship from afar, we tend to find ways of avoiding what we don’t want to believe.

I and my husband have determined that we cannot bear the ugly underbelly of hate that a Mel Gibson exhibits to the world when he is sufficiently drunk or angry to let his true beliefs come forth. Gibson is nothing but a hateful racist of the worst kind. Yet we recognize his talents in acting and are saddened that we miss the opportunities to enjoy it.

There are others. Many others.

Woody Allen is my nemesis. Such a huge talent, such amazing movie-making, yet  an ugly man in his abuse of girls. One can only claim so long that the charges, which he denies, are false. The fact that he married his adopted daughter speaks volumes. Mariel Hemingway was 17 years old when Mr. Allen tried to convince her to come to Europe with him.  I cannot ignore the obvious any longer, even though Diane Keaton seems to manage.

We cannot continue with “artists must be allowed their quirks” no matter how inappropriate.

Bill Cosby was easier. The sheer number of accusers is all the evidence needed. This man abused women in a ruthless  “because I’m Bill Cosby” sort of ugliness that offends on every level.

Charlie Chaplin abused girls. So did Roman Polanski.

It is said that John Lennon beat his first wife and so did Eric Clapton. Ike Turner beat Tina.

We make allowances because of who they are.

We cannot continue to do so. Lennon, I’m told, publicly confessed his sins. Ike certainly didn’t.

There will be no more Woody Allen movies in my future, much as it pains me to do so. He is a genius of sorts, but a sick bastard as well.

I cannot and will not pick and choose based on how much I admire the work they do. I cannot, because I have a responsibility to girls growing up in this very difficult world. I cannot send mixed signals.

WE cannot send mixed signals. We must stand up for all women everywhere who are subjected to emotional and physical abuse, who are beaten down into believing that they are entitled to no more than they get. We must stand up, or collapse into our suburban retreats being nice grannies while organizing family get-togethers in some refusal to be a part of the reality that confronts our youngsters every day.

That is what it means to be a grown-up. We must leave the world a better, safer place. Damn us if we don’t.

Wisdom of Ages, or the Aged

old-woman-smoking-sandy-powers I often quote a friend of mine because I consider her wise. In some ways she’s wiser than I, and her remarks generally strike me as more right than not, and always worth a listen. She’s a good bit younger than me, and I was surely not as wise (nay not wise at all) as she at that age.

That suggests that wisdom is not a function of age entirely. I guess there are a number of ways to go as one moves from running to striding to walking to hobbling down life’s hopefully long road of destiny.

One can become everyone’s favorite auntie and grannie, always ready to play a game of Chutes and Ladders keeping the little ones out of the adult’s hair. One can be the always helpful always ready to drop everything to babysit, run an errand, bring a dish, drive a friend, sit by the bedside of the dying. One can go through a second childhood, with a long bucket list of “things to do before I die.” One can specialize in not giving a shit, or in giving too much a shit by championing causes. There are several thousand permutations of all these and more.

A lot of choices, I suspect are not made consciously. Only in the rarefied atmosphere of eccentricity does one start to see really conscious choice. The rest tend to be continuations of personal bents just enlarged with extra time allotments.

Wisdom seems to fall fairly equally along this spectrum, but the type may vary depending on the persona. I suspect the ever helpful grannie is considered most wise when it comes to child rearing and things that have to do with keeping households running smoothly. Some become wise in how to game the system, and do pretty much what they want  with as little bureaucratic interaction as possible. “Honey, here’s what you do to get around that Medicare donut hole.” If you get my point.

But I prefer myself the sort of wisdom that is Socratic in nature, not as in method, but as in, the reason people of his time sought him out and listened to him. Because he had something to say, a new way of thinking, a better way of deciding, a new evaluation of how to live. So did Aristotle for that matter. I guess it’s why I love guys like this, and the women who forever will probably be nameless but also pushed  the world forth. People who think about really eternal questions are my idols.

This sort of wisdom, I think comes from examining yourself first. Socrates said, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” And he was correct. And he was in a minority of people who actually did it and do it. To not know why we do what we do is to be nothing more than a fairly dumb animal with a slightly bigger brain. Who wants to go down in history as the creator of the hula hoop? I’ve watched shows that show a factory in full operation making plastic spoons. People stand at their stations, gathering up groups of spoons and stacking them for boxing, or some other functional equivalent. I imagine doing that for a living for thirty years.

I cannot find the sense of accomplishment somehow. Other than one has shown incredible patience and stick-to-it-tiveness. A legacy of something I guess.

At least one has all the time to examine one’s life during the eight hours of stacking spoons, but I doubt much examination is going on. For if it were, the only thing to do is walk away, and quickly.

As I said, most people don’t do it. If they did, we would not see generation after generation re-enacting their parents lives with the same scenarios of working, grass cutting, fishing, knitting, raising kids, being grandparents, and onward, with no variation on a theme. Or we would see those re-enactments, but they would be real choices and not default, “what else is there?” surrenders.

I wrote a few days ago, that as I grew up in a household peopled by parents I did not understand nor much like in the end, I often wondered who was the alien, them or I. I’m still not quite sure of the answer. It depends on from what perch you examine the question. We were of different species attempting to ignore our blatant differences and pretend that this is what we bargained for.

They never examined the question clearly, but I did. And that forced me into examining me in-depth. It is not a difficult process in one sense, and requires no education in anything. It’s simply asking “why did I” to the enumerable stupid things we do and sticking to that question. “Why did I say that stupid thing at the party last night. Why do I never think before I speak?” That’s where it starts.

Then you answer the question. But beware the first five answers are never true. That’s the part of you that tries to defend the ego and blame it on something/someone else. With every answer comes the response, “Really?” And then the realization that you are just excusing the behavior not finding out why you did it. “My old boyfriend wasn’t supposed to be there, and I was so angry that I spoke without thinking.” Nope. Nobody “makes” you angry. You control how you feel. Keep going. “I was nervous because I didn’t know many people there.” Yep, that is a fact, you were nervous, but was it really because there were strangers there? What about strangers should make you nervous?

The process can take a lot of time, and you must be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Most people stick with the “old boyfriend” excuse and renew their anger, and that leads to a rehash of old pains, and nothing is learned. But if you take the time, you will get to the bottom of it. An answer that will no doubt leave you feeling vulnerable and raw but at least free to figure out a solution. The truth is you are unsure of yourself, feel inadequate, and feel you have to put on a pretense of being popular and witty and smart in front of all these “new” faces. That makes you nervous, and when nervous you can’t think wittily or smart.

See how it works?

You do this process relentlessly. Why do I always pick that type of friend, significant other, boss? Why do I always take that position in the office hierarchy? Why do I get into a fight with Uncle Mike every Thanksgiving?

Then when armed with the real reasons you do what you do, you can make intelligent choices to do what you choose to change the outcomes. That’s a wise thing to do.

Why do I believe this? Why do I feel that? To understand the answers is to understand why others don’t believe as you believe and why they don’t feel as you do. That broadens you in some ways, and explains a good deal in any case. You begin to see the fallacies that dog others that you are now free of. You admit your own negative proclivities and allow them theirs. You can view others engaging in blame and excuses and know the probable deeper motives at work.

If nothing else it gives you an edge. Used poorly it’s manipulation of the worst kind, used well, it can be the best of mentoring.

Me? I’m very sure that I am not patient enough to help people undo the tangles of their self-explanations. I point out the errors, and this is met often with anger and the charge of “you think you’re so smart”. That’s okay. I do think I am “so smart”, in fact I have the IQ testing to prove it, although that is not at all the point. The point is I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know a hell of a lot of things, but I can learn what I need and want to know. I don’t have to be like the herd and merely have “opinions” based on filmy desires, hidden fears, and ignorant  misinformed conclusions of what’s best for me.

I’d like to be eccentric, and wise. That’s what I’m shooting for. I prefer to give a shit a lot about life and humanity, and not give a shit about what anybody thinks of me, because in the end, the only thing that matters is that I cared about something important. I want to wear bright yellow and red because I want to be noticed. I want to laugh loudly, and curse magnificently, and be quotable often. I want to poke a stick at stupid people as I DEFINE THEM, and torture them endlessly with logical arguments that make them cry uncle. I want to be absurd about absurd things. I want to call out bigotry and shame those that hide behind false doctrines that allow them to feel good about hating.

I’m very secure in me, the only one there is. For that reason alone, I’m a good thing. I won’t come along again.

I will organize me as I choose and never give a damn what you think, but rather laugh at your “fitting in” however you define it.

And I applaud those of you who do the same. We are dancing, albeit a bit stiffly these days, down the lane leading to who knows what. We are not going kicking and screaming, but rather noting everything along the way, savoring every instant, nodding to fellow travelers, and thumbing our noses at the sleeping hoards. If I piss you off, well that’s a plus.

Now that is what I call being self-indulgent, and many will read this that way. But to those of you who are young and thinking, you just got a bit of a blueprint for living the good life. I’m sure you’ll use the information wisely.

Wise_Old_Woman_by_dalli1

 

 

The Conversation We Need to Have About Gay Rights

gay agenda I have a friend who often wonders why people care about the personal lives of other people. Why does anyone care whether somebody chooses to be single or married, have children or not, wants to sleep with this one or that one? Yet, it is undeniable that some people do care. Perhaps it is nothing more than powerless people attempting to force their lives on others in some vain attempt to feel superior, because their choices are “right” and that makes them feel better about themselves.

Some small few no doubt have deeply seeded religious notions (however wrong I may adjudge them) that urges them to compel others to live as they do, while paying lip service to a “religious freedom” that they conveniently reserve only for themselves. A great many more use religion as a shield to their own perhaps unconscious fears that they have certain stirrings which occur when the subject comes up, stirrings contrary to their definition of fitting into their particular group.

As polling suggests, the country continues to move more and more strongly in the direction of marriage equality. And the small, but adamant religious right, continues to voice its disapproval. But if it were this alone, we could all be content to “let the hater’s hate” with their pretense of “hating the sin, while loving the sinner.” Life always contains such out of the mainstream extremes so it seems.

But it is of course not “this alone.” This vocal and increasingly violent speaking segment continues to come up with innovative ways of making their animus known and felt. In reddish states across the nation (some six at the present with another half-dozen who have recently turned down such legislation), Republicans attempt to legislate bigotry in the face of a growing certainty that marriage equality will soon be the law of the land.

Republicans in general and those who appear to be running for President, reel like drunken sailors attempting to negotiate a rational path that both satisfies the “law or the one anticipated” and their growingly hostile base which insists on purity on this issue as on others. Of course there ends up being nothing rational at all in their stance.

Bush, Rubio, and Cruz are more than vocal in their support of the new mantra, that somehow there must be laws to protect the “religious” rights of people not to engage with gay people in their businesses if they don’t want to. There is no doubt that Huck, and Christie and Paul, and certainly Carson and Jindal agree as well. The fact that the argument is farcical is of no import. It “sounds” good, and that is always enough for the Right to pursue against a populace usually too busy with daily life to seriously disassemble the argument.

It’s all about religious freedom and not discriminating against Christians they intone. But is it?

As Jon Stewart pointed out, the florist who can’t bring themselves to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding, doesn’t even ask the trice about-to-be married man or woman, whom arguably Jesus would call adulterers. It doesn’t inquire into the criminal background of the pedophile, or the swindler before selling them a bouquet for their home. It doesn’t inquire of the drug dealer, murderer, before selling them the “wedding special.” All these instances are surely as egregious to God as the couple who has the temerity to love without benefit of the “right” plumbing arrangements.

These pieces of legislation are simply ruses to make you and I abide by somebody else’s personal preferences or to guard against their personal fears. Naming it “God’s will” doesn’t change a thing.

People talk about “deeply held religious beliefs” on the part of the florist or photographer. How is one to make that determination? By asking? By church attendance? By tithing amounts?

People talk about “next church’s will be forced to perform marriages against their tenets.” Really? Who has ever asked for that? There is no law in this country that attempts to interfere directly in church operations. Is anyone stopping the Westboro Baptist church from preaching hate every Sunday? Has anyone suggested that we should?

People talk about forcing people to serve others against their religious views. Well, yes, they are being told that. They are serviced, those businesses, by fire and police, they pay taxes, they receive water and electricity, the meet building codes, and sanitation requirements. They are in a fact engaged in a public endeavor, using city and state services. They are in a phrase, engaged in commerce, a public event. As such, this is simply one more general requirement of engaging in a public business–NOT DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PEOPLE BECAUSE THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT THEM YOU DON’T PERSONALLY LIKE. Live with it, or get out of public sector business.

People like Rubio and Bush and Cruz attempt to draw some lines, such as “well we don’t mean they can’t be served in a restaurant.” Why not? How is that different from a florist? Which businesses are magically exempt? Will Hobby Lobby and it’s fakery about being offended by contraceptive care when it buys most of its inventory from abortion friendly China get the exemption?

People say that being gay is a choice. The question always becomes, so when did you “decide” to be straight? But putting aside the “gotcha”, why do religionists insist upon this “choice” thing? The weight of the evidence is that there is a genetic component which probably is in some way triggered by one’s environment. Or perhaps it is all genetic. Whatever it is it is not a choice, for even in today’s liberalizing environment, who would choose gayness with all its inherent problems? Surely more gays today are happy with their gayness, but at the point of decision would they have chosen this fight? Precious few of us desire to be martyrs.

The reason the religionists need gayness to be a choice is that is simply solves a lot of theological problems for them, and thinking makes religionists heads hurt. If it’s not a choice, then God made gays that way and it must be good if you read Genesis literally. So explain why God makes gay people and then demands of them to ignore the most basic of human needs and desires–sex? They can’t of course, so therefore, it must be a choice. It keeps the theology tidy.

And of course, if Gay is not a choice, there goes the argument that “gays are out recruiting your children” argument. It makes as much sense as saying that people who love surfing go out recruiting your children to be surfers.

This is just painful to write. Because as I type away, laying out the arguments, I try to imagine what it must feel like to be the subject of such an essay. People talk about gays and blacks and browns and women, and all minorities fighting for equality as if they were subjects on a chessboard. I say “the gays” or “women believe” as if they were some homogeneous pat of butter to be added or subtracted to the mix of human stew.

This sort of thing needs to stop being discussed because we need to stop putting people in these awful categories of “people like me” and “people not like me.” It’s all artificial, all just a disguise for our own hates and fears, and confusion.

People are people. Love is love. Let people work out for themselves whom they love. Let them live as they choose with whom they love. Let them arrange their love in whatever form works for them, and mind your own freakin’ business. Nobody wants to watch you groping and rolling in your bed with your love.

Don’t get me started on “then somebody will want to marry a horse,” crap. Just don’t.

As my husband says, the doorbell has still not wrung with my government-issued gay husband that I have to marry. Isn’t that enough for you bigots?

 

Where Education is a Crime

BAHA'I If you know me you know that I value education more than just about anything. For most of us, education is available at the tip of a finger. It can be formal or not as the seeker chooses. It is largely free. There is no excuse for being ignorant.

Such is not the case everywhere. The people who don’t value education are ideologues. They are content in their beliefs, and education tends to upset that. They assault education by various guises by trying to label it as “liberal” or fantasy of one sort or another in some attempt to make it go away. So fearful are they that they ridicule it. Equality issues suffer from this onslaught and so do things like climate change.

A Facebook friend of mine alerted me to an instance of education suppression that is both appalling and telling. Telling because it so mimics what is going on in America today in certain conservative pockets in the country. That is, the attempt to rewrite history in some fashion that is deemed acceptable to a particular ideological mindset. In Texas and Kansas and Oklahoma, efforts go on to adjust American history to better suit the vision of the right-wing. This includes artificially creating a “Christian” framework to the foundation of this country, to downplaying America’s very real aggressions and misdeeds over the years.

Similarly Iran has tried to eliminate voices of education of “not the right sort” in its country.

One such voice is Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).  The Bahá’í faith values education and achieved a 100% literacy rate among women in Iran by 1973.

In 1979, the new regime in Iran expelled all Bahá’í professors and students from their universities. There are only four religions accepted in Iran today, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. In 1987, BIHE was formed, teaching mostly through correspondence. It continues today online, albeit with a lot of care being taken avoid detection.

People who are members of the faith or involved in educational matters are subject to arrest as “spies” and purveyors of propaganda. The public, both professional and lay, has spoken out in dismay at this suppression of the right to be educated.

Today, graduates gain acceptance in graduate programs throughout the world, and in at least 30 universities within the US. This is testimony enough of the seriousness of the educational work being done “underground” in Iran.

This feels eerily like some of the rhetoric coming out of areas of the US today, where it now seems that one must be a Christian to be eligible to run for any government position, and one’s version of Christianity is now picked over and defined as good enough or not by some elements. The proof is in the right-wing belief in this country that our President is not “really a Christian” or not a good enough one to suit their evangelical proclivities.

The young people of Iran are in, as we all know, a repressive religion based regime, similar to the theocratic state that some want to erect in this country. In fact there have been articles in just the past day of the similarities in philosophy of the writers of a certain “open” letter to the Iranian regime, and the philosophy of that regime itself. Such is always the case when religion turns to its most extreme and “purifying” forms.

Those caught in the middle of course are all the sincere believers wherever they may be who are judged as blasphemers or apostates because they don’t align with the created principles of the dominant interpretation. Such are the Bahá’í faith adherents in general, and students who merely want an education, in particular.

If you want to help Bahá’í students, I urge you most sincerely to go to Education is not a crime. There you can find easy and effect ways to register your dismay and urge increasing pressure on the Iranian government to stop this absurd and ugly repression of education.

Join the Facebook Page.

Buy a t-shirt.

My deepest thanks to Darcy Lewis for bringing this to my attention. I had previously read a small bit about the faith and found it elegant, peaceful, and intellectually challenging. This is a good cause folks, and I hope you will take a few moments to offer assistance to the people of Iran in their struggle for what for you and I  consider easy–to simply learn the truth.

 

How I Learned to Love the Criminal Life

Vector-ThiefThis is a snoozer. Let me say that up front. I try in almost all cases to keep these posts fresh and snappy as well as informative. This is pretty much just the latter. If it helps you in some way, that’s extra good. But mostly it’s just to establish a public record and illustrate just how insane bureaucracy gets.

Once upon a time the ACA was passed. Let’s make this clear. I adore the President. I totally get why he pursued the formation of what we fondly call Obamacare. Facing Congress and its known excesses of idiots, he figured that a health care plan that they had originally put forth as the alternative to Bill/Hillary care would garner a fair number of Republican adherents and grease the skids for an easy passage.

We know that that did not happen. What follows is somewhat critical of the Act, but I am very grateful at the same time. I believe health care is the right of all human beings.

That said, here’s what happened to me.

I applied, ran into the usual snafu’s at the beginning and was left with not being “verified”. I waited several weeks and tried again only to find that the validating company no longer had my “ticket” and I could not proceed with my application. By phone I was able to do so and I don’t fault the workers who manned those lines to assist people through the process. Mine came up “may be eligible for Medicaid”. Even though common sense told me I was not eligible, I was forced to go through that process.

I went to a “facilitator” here locally in Las Cruces. She insisted that the Medicaid New Mexico laundry list of financial questions were “inappropriate” and that all that was required was how much my income was, meaning our combined social security checks. Even though I protested, she insisted and filed an application on my behalf.

Weeks later I and my husband received Medicaid cards and a stilted letter than required a phone call to confirm that we both were given Medicaid coverage. My husband bailed on that, since he is covered by the VA. I went about life, an ensured person, seeing my doctor and filling prescriptions amazed at the wonders of health care.

Until about three months went by. We received another letter from Medicaid NM, just as cryptic, requiring yet another phone call, all to confirm that my coverage had been cancelled. No explanation was ever forthcoming other than “somebody had approved your application by mistake”. They saw no reason to explain further.

I placed a call immediately to the Federal exchanges where after numerous apologies for the bonehead play by New Mexico they assured me that the for me, the exchanges were still open (even though it was July) since my original application would be marked as “still open”. They graciously completed my application, told me of my subsidy, and went through the various plans until I decided on one.

I contacted my new insurer, paid the premium and happily my doctor accepted them and life again returned to normal.

Starting in about October I started receiving solicitations from a dozen or more insurance companies for supplemental insurance to Medicare. I was advised that I needed one for sure. Before I could even contact Medicare to see about the process of applying (I would turn 65 in April of 2015), I got official stuff from Medicare.

What a delight I thought. I was “automatically” enrolled in Part A and Part B. It was up to me to decide whether I wanted any supplemental coverage. There was reference to a Part D Medicare for prescriptions I could buy but no mention of cost, other than it would cost something more.

I soon received more official stuff from Social Security, as it related to Medicare. I was told I “might be eligible for extra help in paying for prescriptions”. It had to do with being “low-income” and receiving other “supplemental assistance” of various kinds.

I immediately smelled a rat.

Sure enough an application was forthcoming wherein there was a the laundry list of financial questions that I knew would kick me out. How much do you have in savings and checking? List your investments. What is your mortgage? At the bottom of the form was something to the effect of “I don’t want to apply for Federal “extra help” but send my application to the state for consideration”.

There were no other choices. I sent the form back without filling out ANY of the financial information to conform to the requirement. I assumed that New Mexico would look me up, see that my Medicaid had been cancelled for “ineligibility” and then I could get on to the business of choosing a Part D provider.

Not so.

I received some weeks later, a letter FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT (DEPT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, from Maryland) advising me that I had been granted extra help and that I could choose from eight or so carriers. If I chose none, one would be assigned to me.

My frustration started to really grow at that point. I did nothing. A carrier was assigned to me, and I received a lovely packet of information from my new insurance provider and a shiny plastic card to show my pharmacist.

I put off the phone calls that I knew were necessary, and finally steeled myself to that event yesterday. I gathered all the various pieces of information, made sure I had all the identifying documents at hand, and called Medicare.

I explained that I had been given “extra help” for Part D coverage, and that I was, in my opinion not entitled to. I was even over the cut off based on my social security alone, without adding in our savings and investment portfolio. I was advised that New Mexico had granted the “extra help” and that Medicare couldn’t remove it. I was given the number to NM Medicare, which is not really Medicare at all, but Medicaid.

That call resulted in being told that “they had nothing to do with it at all, and I must deal with Medicare.

I called back Medicare.

Same result.

I called back Medicaid NM. Same answer.

I called back Medicare. Same answer

I called back Medicaid NM. This time they told me I needed to call NM Health and Human Services.

I did. Their menu had nothing about Medicare at all as far as I could see.

I called Social Security, “extra help” division. They gave me a history lesson in Medicare/Medicaid, and after assuring me they would help, told me that the document I had entitled Health and Human Services, from Maryland (denoting the US govt) was from New Mexico. I was advised to call NM HHS.

I called NM HHS. They actually looked up my old file, which is still current because at the age of 64, I still am able to receive family planning care at the state’s expense. If I’m ever declared as having a post-menopausal pregnancy, I’ll be the first to tell them and the world. She informed me that NOBODY there deals with anything like “extra help” nor Medicare. We didn’t do it she insisted.

I got in the car, drove to the Social Security Office. I explained my situation. “They are trying to give me extra help based on a mistaken belief that I am too poor to be required to pay,” I explained. They will come to correct that in a few months, and that might leave me without coverage, and my prescriptions are expensive. I am trying to clear up the problem now.”

He looked at me like I had landed from Mars. “So, he said, “you are getting Part D coverage but you don’t want it?”

“NO! It’s not that I don’t want it. I would love to have it. It’s just that I don’t think I qualify for it, and I don’t want to be stuck with no coverage when they inevitably figure that out. NOBODY will acknowledge that they gave it to me, so I can’t even discuss the qualifications with anybody. If by some miracle I am entitled, I’m happy to have it. But I can’t find that out until somebody admits they granted it. Somebody put an “approved” stamp on this. I’m trying to find that person/entity.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

He made a phone call. He called the new insurance carrier and said, “she is covered by you, but doesn’t want it.”

I demanded the phone.

I gave her the information, “my insurance number”.

She looked up the file. She said, “there was a cross over from your Medicaid coverage directly here.”

“But my Medicaid coverage was cancelled.”

“I understand what you are saying, but they did it anyway.”

“Who is they?”

“It does not say. It appears that your status as having Medicaid caused a cross over.”

“But everybody denies they did it.”

“Ma’am I do understand. I can cancel it if you wish, but that may open a can of worms for you in trying to replace it. There is on its face no justification for refusing it, and so they might not give you other discounts. I really can’t say. I’d just advise you to leave it be.”

I looked at the Social Security guy across the table from me.

“I give up.”

“I’ve called everyone, talked to everyone. No one will admit they approved my being placed on this plan, so I can’t even ask the question of on what basis I’m entitled. I was here. Note that in my file. I’m done.” He smirked as if he had won the battle on that one.

Here I stand, beaten.  I thought I was being an honorable and honest person. The system does not reward honesty, it laughs at it. This stands as a testament should I ever be called to answer for my crime of trying to do the right thing.

Please tell me you have run into equally stupid bureaucratic bullshit?