Monday, August 27, 2018

Ramblings on my Absence, Hate and Human Rights

Life has been hectic which has left me little time to blog, though I've done some journaling here and there, mostly between gigs, or during rare moments when I'm waiting and have nothing but my notebook to keep me company. I've kept those thoughts to myself, however. The rise of social networking has left me longing for those days when thoughts were private and I have regressed back to keeping much of my writings in my diary. Also, during this busy period of my life, I feel its just easier to focus on the actions that puts food on the table and supports my family. Hopefully, a time will come when I can put more energy into artistic pursuits again. Writing can be self consuming and masturbatory act. Yet,I do miss having more time to write and share with my fellow artists, those people who color the world with imagination and childlike questioning. I sometimes forget how much courage it takes to speak one's mind.

But today, I'm putting some work aside to write about something that I think is vitally important and I figured if I feel this strongly about it, I should probably share it as well. I do have a strong sense of moral conscience and a strong sense of fun and humor. I hope people don't get these two mixed up as both are important. I'll write a juicy piece of erotica one day and a very elaborate story about the human condition another. Its who I am and I refuse to censor myself in order to cater to a particular genre or demographic just for the sake of marketing. I made that choice when I became an independently published author on the side that I either stay true to myself or not do this at all. I have yet to sell out or change something I write in order to appease a publisher or group. But I digress.

My recent thought has been on how hate brings us together. This is not an opinion but a psychological fact. It's been well documented that if you want to connect with someone, they are more likely to love you if you find out that you have a common dislike. This is more powerful than having something in common.

For example, if you hate the "Twilight" series because of their vegan like vampires that sparkle in the sun and you meet someone who shares the same strong opinion, you will get a surge of affection towards them. If you've been harboring a secret fear of white people and you confess this to a friend who turns out to feel the same way, you have found yourself a buddy for life. This phenomenon has been exploited by popular marketing experts and by the algorithms on the internet, as your search engine keeps feeding you more articles that promote your strong dislikes, exposing you to more people who are like you and sheltering you from those who are not. Just look at how polarized our nation has become.

Have you ever tried to convince a polarized group to see it the other way? I have, and had tomatoes thrown at me. I was simply asking a group of breastfeeding moms to be a bit nicer when they talked about how horrible non-breastfeeding moms are. I appealed to their sense of empathy and said that they are moms too and I've known a few who wanted more than anything to breastfeed but they just couldn't do it. This fact has filled them with guilt. I was told to get lost, and to find another group. One mom actually said, "of course I'm prejudice. I want to be around people who are like me," she was applauded for her firm defense of prejudice. Why was I part of the group? Because I was a breastfeeding mom. I had friends who both breast fed and formula fed and felt equally compassionate toward both. But I learned that I'm an anomaly. What was it about me, that I could love those who are not like me?
But my formula feeding friends are like me. They have  had similar trials and tribulations. And many absolutely believe that breastfeeding is good for their kids, they just couldn't do it. I suppose I tend to prefer to notice similarities over differences. It's easier to learn and relate when I see connections.

I also realize that I too am drawn to people who share my dislikes. When someone agrees with me on political matters, I feel an affinity towards them. If they dislike a movie for the same reason I do, I feel like I found a brother or sister. But I have to step back and remind myself of my folly.

If you follow my blogs, you might know that I'm terribly torn by the human condition. I am disgusted by much of our traits, like the way we love to hate, the way we love to dominate, and destroy what stands in our way, the way we've made most animals and plants extinct unless they benefit us, and the long history of atrocities that often makes me ashamed to be human. I know that pride is one of the sins that has caused all this horror and I'm not too proud to admit, that I too have human folly. We all do.

There was once a German Catholic clergy man who said something to the affect of this: They went after the communists and I didn't do anything. They went after the Jews and I turned a blind eye, so when they went after my church, it was too late.
He said this years before the end of the WWII. The snow ball of hate had started and it would just get worse as the entire world was engulfed in the hell of war and innocent people were executed for their religion or creed. Millions and millions of innocent Jews were exterminated, forced into stoves and gas chambers. Mothers and children were murdered first because they weren't capable of doing work for the German government. Just like humans, we used and destroyed what we hated. Yes, I said "we" because we are all part of the same race, and sometimes we turn on ourselves. Some Germans tried to stage a coup and rise up against this atrocity that was leaving all of Europe in ruins but it was too late. The damage was done.

I also want to point out the fact that when some people protested against the killings of "undesirables" and the Jews, Hitler supposedly stopped this mission, yet continued to do it in secret.

Look what we've done to ourselves, to our blacks, our Native Americans, our Armenians, our Christians, our Pagans, our Jews. etc... I'm sure I've left out other groups who were victims of mass genocide and hatred and for that I apologize. But the truth is, it could be anyone. At any time in history, there was always someone the masses loved to hate and often, we acted on that hatred.

Right now our president has been doing everything he can to make us hate Mexican immigrants and he has even separated children from their parents in his attempt to rid our country of them. This is how it starts. If an immigrant is illegal, its okay to hate them right? But when do we draw the line? Do they cease to be human and have the rights of any decent human being?
The Trump administration was reportedly surprised that Americans cared about immigrant kids being separated from their families at the border

To quote Proffesor Thomas Childers, "Be vigilant about your rights and care about the fundamental human rights of others. When the rights of others, no matter how small are violated, your freedom, your liberty is put at risk. Let there never be a day when we cast about in horror and wonder, 'how did it ever come to this?'"

It's very easy to fight for free speech, until someone says something you don't like. It's easy to stand up for civil rights of minorities, well, except for that one group your family has always hated. But when people put me down for supporting those who aren't like me and wonder why I do it. This is why. None of us are safe from this. Any doctrine of hatred towards someone else, can easily turn against the rest of us. A leader who is motivated by hate and domination will always turn on his people. Only a leader who is fair and just can keep the peace.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Random Thoughts for the New Year

On leaving the past behind: 2017 was such a year of chaos, full of hurricanes, shootings, earthquakes, political and social unrest etc. I guess I felt at home in such an environment since chaos and anarchy (though we needed more anarchy) does inspire me, but I spent most of my time working. I worked harder this year than I have since 1998, so I apologize for not blogging as much and canceling my google plus accounts. I just didn't have the time for it. Still, I have to reflect because 2017 was a million stories all in one, so here goes:

On Politics: Politics, it seems to me, is all about people fighting for what they want. There's still a lot of racism and sexism in the world and the transparency of the internet has made that very clear. What gets me is this belief that if we give some people their rights, it takes away the rights of others. If we give women power, somehow men will be dis-empowered or if we let blacks or immigrants speak out, whites will lose their privilege and so on and so forth. This is all absolutely ridiculous. If we all had rights, we'd all have equal advantages and no one would have to fight with each other. It's not about competition, its about cooperation. Our party system makes politics out to be a constant competition and because of this, we bicker with one another rather than work with each other to find the best solutions for our country.
I believe that if you want the government to be fair you have to pretend you are not born yet. You have no idea if you'll be black, white, male female, rich, poor, healthy, disabled; in short, you will have no other choice but to back laws that are fair to all people, no matter which class, race or situation they are in.
But humans are egotistical and we only see our own stories.

On the Me Too movement: Me too. I've been assaulted. I've been harassed. Heck, I've been harassed so many times, I've sort of accepted it as a part of being a woman. Luckily, I know martial arts or I'd probably a victim of rape too. I used to brag about the times I fought off an assailant but now I can't help thinking about what could have happened had I not succeeded. Yet if I were to get into that, I get ignored, trolled, told to shut up. I'm happy to see I'm not the only one.
I'm actually relieved women are speaking out. I was once a struggling actress and I was always afraid of the casting couch. Its one of the reasons I didn't pursue acting. I'm glad they got rid of that, for the sake of future generations who have similar dreams. I'm actually really grateful for this movement.
Just, to set the record straight, sexual assault is not the same thing as complimenting a woman or telling a dirty joke. Grabbing a woman by the pussy at work, without her consent is not the same as being afraid of saying the wrong thing. If you can't see the difference, you're an idiot and nothing I say can get you to understand so I'll just leave it at that.

On Natural Disasters: I'm not going to list all the hurricanes, earthquakes, fires etc. but it seemed that there was no respite from disasters of biblical proportions. There were so many funds and charities and just when you give to one, there's another disaster. I'm lucky I wasn't affected, at least not that much. It really puts things in perspective. Who are we to complain about adulting when there are people out there who are dying and losing their homes? And when I say "adulting" I'm referring to those who complain about having to be responsible and act like an adult. If that's the worst of your problems, you have it pretty easy.

Did Any Good Come From This? I'm always glad when a year is over but its not like it all ends abruptly, like some kind of parallel universe shift. The same issues usually continue into the next year or even the next.
If anything, I do take the time at the end of the year to make resolutions and reflect on my life. If I don't, I become one of those unhappy people, stuck in a rut who think they have no control over their lives. Life goes on. I helped a lot of people in my day job. My family is still in tact despite all the craziness going on in the world and for that I must be grateful.
There will always be social unrest and acts of nature. Life is unpredictable, except for death and taxes. We know its short. We know bad stuff will happen so we have to enjoy the sunsets when we can. Stop and watch the dew settle on a flower every once and a while. Somehow, noticing these little things makes the other stuff seem smaller too.
Life is short. Be bold. Be crazy. Kick ass if you have to but don't forget that love is still the most important thing.

This photo was taken in the middle of an ugly city. Thank God for blossoms. :)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Night I Took the Knife

I can't say I was depressed or suicidal. I was actually excited but I was suffering from sleep deprivation and I was quite overworked. I had left home and family and embarked on something most of my friends didn't have the courage or money to do. I didn't have the  money to do it either but I figured I was young and didn't need sleep, so I could work in what little spare time I had.

Yet, there was something about that night. It's as if I felt my past and future all at once. I felt bad for abandoning everyone I knew to embark on my adventure and I knew I would make mistakes in the future because I knew I was psychologically broken, which is probably why the life of an artist seemed to fit so well at the time. I felt sorry for everything, for having to be so different and leave everything behind. It was probably the loneliest night of my life. I was in this tiny little Manhattan apartment and my roommate just moved in with someone else. I was holding my favorite pocket knife and found it coming up towards my neck.

That's when she appeared. She was me from the future and she knew what I had done and what I would still do. It were as if she was warning me. She knew I could never be exactly the way other people wanted me to be and at first, it made me hate myself more. I was so scared that I would keep fucking up. She knew I would but I wished I could avoid it all. For that moment in time, I didn't want to be her. For a moment all this regret over everything I had and would screw up came over me.

Then another me appeared, one from even farther off in the future, a much older version of me. And she just looked at me, telepathically telling me that I shouldn't change a thing. She said that I would go on an amazing adventure, and just like a story book character, I would make mistakes and things would happen that I hadn't planned for but that all of those things would make me who I am. She said that if I changed anything, I wouldn't end up being the awesome person she turned out to be, and really, I was already awesome, just feeling a bit sorry for myself for a moment. But she knew I knew that and that I always knew it because I was the one who chose this adventure and if I wanted life to be easy and simple, I wouldn't have done it.

I put the knife down, got up the next day determined to do what I set out to do, open to whatever came my way. I knew that life could be messy, and if it were one blissful Prozac dream without any guilt, fear or anger, it would hardly be life. I would have ups and downs but I would get through it. It helps that I wanted to be a writer. It helps to know what great stories are made of and to see the big picture.

I think back to that night a lot and it makes me strangely calm, seeing myself from the past, present and future and knowing that no matter how much I change, I'll still always be me.

The awesome illustration comes from the from the The Four Swords Theater. I must check out one of their shows next time I'm in that part of the world.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

When Words Become Unnecessary

Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, "most of the propositions and questions of philosophers arise from our failure to understand the logic of our language and it is not surprising that the deepest problems are, in fact, not problems at all."

So I've been pondering "semantics" as many online like to call it or just the problem with the fact that words mean different things to different people. I think that my obsession with wanting to be a good writer in my youth came out of my frustration of not being able to really explain things I knew and understood intuitively. Yet unless we can express ourselves clearly, there is no respect. Plus we have the issue of people interpreting words differently depending on their education. A Freudian scholar would look at the word "ego" very differently from a Buddhist Priest, and some words just resonate differently with people emotionally. You can argue over semantics all you want but if a word is just upsetting, its best just not to use it.

I mention how some words are used as society's "hackers" in my blog:
Hacking Into Society's Code

I know I'm not the only one who has used the internet as a means to practice how to express complicated issues using the proper words but there's a point where it all gets old, all this constant communicating. Perhaps this is why I've taken a much needed break from social networking lately.

As I mature, I'm starting to not be as obsessed with explaining things with words. Subtle actions seem to make a huge difference. The writer in me still wants to put in my two cents but I'm learning that too many words can be harmful when making a point. I'm learning to understand people even if they didn't use the perfect word. I'm learning to look at the context more than the semantics. I'm learning to see the actions over the words which often lie; and I'm learning that I don't always have to explain myself to people nor do they have to explain themselves to me.

I'm learning to not get as offended if people don't understand me the way I thought they would when I carefully chose my words. I can't expect everyone to be like me. I've pretty much decided that if someone understands me enough to put up with my weirdness, that's good enough and for those who don't understand, there's no point in wasting my time trying to sway them with words.

I'm also learning that its not a competition and not everything is a debate. Its not about how brilliant I can sound to someone. Maybe I'll be a better communicator if I just shut up and listened to people's story without needing to put in my two cents. This is difficult coming from my wise ass self but I'm working on it. I'm sure it will be a constant karmic struggle in this life.

Looking back, some of the most painful times in my life came from listening to words, words like blades tearing into my soul. Some of my most peaceful moments come from silence, or from witnessing acts of affection done in silence.  ;)

To quote Depeche Mode:
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm
Vows are spoken
To be broken
Feelings are intense
Words are trivial
Pleasures remain
So does the pain
Words are meaningless
And forgettable
All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm

"Words words words" --Hamlet

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How to Get Around a Biased Media

The media is biased. This is something I've heard a lot of people complain about of late. This is something I always knew. When I took journalism in college, the first thing my professors taught me was that the "news" is sensational. Its not about publishing what's fair and making sure everyone knows every little thing that has gone on. Its about publishing what is unusual, the type of things that you don't see day in and day out. If cars are stolen all the time, publishing a report about it won't make the local paper but if someone stole a cop car, went on a 289 mile joy ride at 150 miles per hour, closing down all of our freeways, thus thwarting plans for the president to visit the city, which ends in a show down and the death of three cops and a 2 year old bystander, that's news. At least, its news unless something more interesting happened in the same day. The media's job, just like anyone else's job is to sell headlines, get people's interest and make people watch or read what they deem is interesting.

People get shot all the time but if a cop gets shot, that's bigger news. If someone is caught on tape doing or saying something shocking or offensive, that's an instant seller. A video of cops beating up a man for no reason is gold. A video of a politician caught on tape bragging about sexual assault is bound to get the attention of every media outlet out there, much more than  him stating that he gave to a particular charity. All politicians give to charity so that wouldn't make the news.

Unfortunately, if there is an interesting day or week, something you thought should make the news won't. Maybe there was a huge protest that you saw or participated in but it didn't make the news because there was an airplane crash and that is a much bigger story. Maybe you were swindled by a parking cop or someone stole your identity. You want the media to hear your story but it never made the news because there was an attempted assassination on the President.

That being said, the news is obviously biased. Everyone is biased. There is no such thing as objectivity. My novel, "The Enlightened Ones" was written in third person through the eyes of many characters specifically to show the reader how impossible it would be for any media outlet to get the gist of what really happened. Everyone's story is so different that there is no real objective source of news. One person might see one side of a story and completely miss another. If you want a really good idea of what is going on in the world, the media is a very poor source, so stop expecting it to satisfy your need for truth. Turn off the news and stop blaming the media for not giving you what you want to hear. There are other sources to help us understand what is going on in the world and here they are:

One day I was having a religious discussion with someone about Buddhism and it confused me so much that I finally just borrowed an Oxford lecture by a professor of theology on the entire history of Buddhism. This same thing happened with a friend of mine who was Hindu and was discussing yoga. I realized how little I knew about his culture so I borrowed another 10 hour lecture on the history of Hinduism. Getting such a comprehensive understanding opened my eyes so much that I didn't have to ask anymore questions. And let me just say, there is soooooooo much more to these religions than what we think we know and what we don't know, only hurts us.

There was a time when I was so confused about the terrorist situation and what was happening in the middle east that I borrowed several books on the history of the middle east, the history of America's role in the middle east and I also read the novels "The Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns" which explains the history of Afghanistan in a much more interesting way than any non fiction book. After this, I gained more clarity about the situation than watching the news ever could. The news only told me what was happening that day, assuming I already know the decades of history that lead up to that moment. A snippet of news is not enough to help us understand anything so if you really want a good source of subjective truth, you have to investigate for yourself.

Ask Professionals or Experts:
The mainstream media is one of the worst places to get information on health or science. These articles are written by journalists, not experts. They write what they research but they lack the scientific background to understand a study or current finding. Often, they write what is sensational or contradictory to what is the general consensus. For example, if meta analysis (a way of taking many scientific studies in one study and analyzing their efficacy) shows that smoking is, say bad for circulation and suddenly a contradictory study that shows the opposite is released, you'll hear about the one contradictory study. Why? Because that is sensationalistic. That goes against what the thousand other studies concluded. It often doesn't matter how accurate the controls of that study were. Most journalist aren't educated enough in a particular branch of science to know what types of measuring tools work better than others. You won't hear about the many contradictory studies that might have been conducted more thoroughly and if an academic expert speaks up against it, it just causes more controversy which will make more news. Dr. Oz once caused an unnecessary scare that apple juice could kill you despite the fact that most other doctors will say that his logic is sensationalistic and isn't based on real science, just from the fact that there's some cyanide in apple seeds, but not nearly enough to kill anyone. The news thrives on what scares the public because what is scary sells headlines, that doesn't mean its the best news so check with a real doctor if you're worried about medicine. In fact, some studies have shown that you're better off reading the blog of an expert than any mainstream news dealing with science or health, and don't take the advice of some celebrity about your health just because they made the news. You're much better off learning from someone who has made a living off of helping people in the field and has genuine experience in the subject than from someone who is just trying to get attention and sell ratings.

Check Your Source:
We have more opportunities now than ever to get accurate news. Experts now have blogs and there are journals online you can subscribe too on any subject of your interest but check your source. Is the author a true expert? Do they have experience in the field? Do they have a degree or appropriate accreditation in the subject they are tackling? If they have left no source, then you know they are an amateur. Check the journals and studies they site. I always do. If they add footnotes and extra books, here's your chance to learn more. if they quote someone's twitter, its so easy to go on twitter to see if that quote was real. If there is controversy over a speech, I just go and find a recording of the speech so I know exactly what was said. You can't take gossip at face value, so check your source to the best of your ability and with search engines such as google available, this is getting easier and easier.

Get a Life:
There is something frightening about hearing someone complain about the news day in and night, as if they spend every waking hour, looking for news sources. Much of how I see the word isn't based on what I see on the news but what I've learned in my education, my accreditation in my field and what I experience in real life. I've lived in many places and have seen many things. I also open myself up to people. I like to hear what they have to say. What's their story? I love talking to older people who have lived through wars and many economic cycles. They tell me stories that you can't get in the news. I used to take long walks in the city and see demonstrations and protests. I'd talk to strangers and sometimes witness crimes and strange behaviors from the cops. Much of my view of the world comes from what I've seen and heard, more than what I hear in the media which is always a secondary source. Please don't hide behind a secondary source. Go out and talk to people. Do some research for yourself. Make friends outside of your religion or political affiliation and treat them with respect so they aren't afraid to show you their perspective. Get out in the trenches and get involved in a charity you believe in, demonstrate or go to a protest that is important to you. Show up to a neighborhood council meeting and find out what people are talking about and what they care about first hand.You will get a much more objective view of the world when you open yourself up to it and stop hiding in your comfort zone. These days, they are even setting up social networking to coincide with these meetings so people can participate even if they are busy and can't make it to the location.

Take Time to Reflect:
This is important. Turn off everything. Put down the books and let your mind wander. You may find that your instincts and even your rational thoughts will notice what doesn't seem right and this will help you ask more questions and follow up with  more intentional research which sure beats watching the same hypnotizing propaganda over and over again. This will also give you time to rest your mind and emotions so you don't get overwhelmed. It will help you come to terms with your own values and how you fit into all of this nonsense. It might even help you find a purpose and inspire you to realize what is most important to you and how you can contribute to your community and your world.

A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing
In conclusion, what I'm offering might seem like a lot but if you turn off the news and ignore the shallow memes, this affords you more time for deep reading and investigation. It will also make you a more satisfied and happier person. The shallow media will always leave you unsatisfied if real information is what you want and usually a little learning gives us a false sense of reality. Yet, there's this sense of insecurity because we know something's not right so don't waste your time on it. As Henry Thorough famously said, "Suck the marrow out of life."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Identity, Labels and the Search for No Self

Someone was telling me about how their new psychologist talked to their kid. She asked him how he identifies himself. The child didn't know what the psychologist was talking about so she asked him what race he identified himself with.
I marveled at our obsession, here in the U.S,. to create an identity for one's self. I once read that it has to do with the evolution of the economy. If you live in a society where most people are getting enough food and shelter, the only way to get them to spend more and stimulate the economy is to create an economy of identity. People who identify themselves as Star Wars lovers will buy more Star Wars toys. Those who identify themselves as dog lovers, will buy more dog paraphernalia and so on and so forth. In fact, marketing experts specifically count on us to have an identity. They create demographics such as "working mom over the age of 40" and make ads geared specifically to that.

There has been so much talk of identity lately and its seeped into our politics. I wonder if it is a subconscious reaction to all of the identity based marketing that has been geared to us and all the child pscyologists who have insisted that children figure out what they identify with. 

We are almost forgetting that there is more to life than having an identity. The Buddhists spend their lives practicing what is known as the art of "no self." Their whole philopshy is based on relinquishing identity. I onced asked a friend of mine who is a Buddhist monk why Buddhists don't believe in identity or a self and he said that believing in this holds us back. Having a self puts boundaries on what we could learn or what more we could be. You can't be enlightened if you are attached to the notion of having to find a self. I always marvel at how Buddhism became the "religion of no religion," and even if I studied Buddhism extensively, I could never call myself a Buddhist because to do so would be to identify with something. This just goes to show how difficult it is to relinquish one's identity. Famous motivational speaker Anthony Robbins is always talking about how you have to change your identity. He says that if you see yourself as a helpless victim, you always will be. 

Beyond that, I can't help thinking that there is so much more to us than our demographic. I'm not just a working mother over the age of forty. I'm more than a writer. I'm more than my hobbies, my political or cultural affiliations etc. The other day, I was looking through my social networking stream and thought, There are an awful lot of memes and posts that are anti something or another. I've seen posts that are anti Israel, anti Palestine, anti liberal, anti conservative, anti Clinton, anti Trump, anti religion, anti atheist, anti science, etc. etc. These anti statements tend to come with very generalizing and often fallacious stereotypes.

In the 70s there was a huge anti disco movement on the part of those who loved heavy metal. It became cool to identify with heavy metal but only if you hated on disco. Lord forbid someone loved both styes of music. It became very apparent to me that finding one's identity can be dangerously polarizing. If I am this way, I am separate from anyone who isn't this way as well. We box ourselves into our own little groups and push away those who "don't get it." 

We see this in the publishing business as well. You're book must identify with a genre because we have to make sure that the public is getting what they want. All romances must have a happy ending. Lord forbid we surprise anyone and make them question their identity. Screw all the great artists and writers who thought this was the goal of literature and art. In our effort to categorize our literature, we have suppressed people from writing something truly original. 

We forget that most spiritual philosophies think that the highest state of awareness is to connect, not to polarized, to love, not to hate. Finding one's identity is an act of desperation, a way of finding a place to belong in a lonely world. But the search for no self, is an act of pure humility. It also takes courage to let go of the security that clinging to an identity can have. As I have demonstrated in my novel, "The Enlightened Ones," sometimes we wake up and realize that everything we have clung to was wrong. Our identities give us a sense of security, but often its a false sense of security, one we're willing to kill for. This is why the art of no self takes courage. It means that we have to look outside of who we think we are and see who we really are. It means we have to shatter down the walls of our own perception and accept the fact that we could be wrong. It might even mean relinquishing the stubbornness of war for the humility of peace. 

The other day, a friend of mine posted the song "Imagine" by John Lennon. He wrote something about how more veterans agree with the song than we may care to think. In the song, John Lennon sings, Imagine there's no countries, religion, possessions, etc. He said there would be nothing to fight for, nothing to live or die for, nothing to hunger for etc. Some might listen to this song and think that Lennon is being intolorent of religion or patriotism. Perhaps he's putting down our materialistic economy. But perhaps what my friend was hinting at was that after being in a war and watching people fight and kill over their country, religion, stuff, or identity, you realize how silly it all was in the end. You wonder how important it was for us to cling to an identity as if any threat to it is worth killing for. Is it really worth killing for? How important is identity, really? I will have to ask my friend to elaborate.

So what if we do stop identifying? What if we put our strong held beliefs aside and say, I'll listen because I'm not so scared that what you have to say will change me. What if we embrace other groups and cultures? What if we stop trying to find a national cultural identity and instead ask ourselves what is the best choice for all of the country in today's ever changing world? Wouldn't that open us up to more solutions and resources? What if we stepped back and started accepting everyone, not just those who we identify with? What if we saw all life as equally important? It would shatter our shields. It would make us stop fighting for what is best for us and start sharing with others. It would evolve us from being two year olds in the "mine" stage to being something truly transcendent. 

Of course, many have told me that they're not ready for that kind of higher thinking. John Lennon said, "you may say I'm a dreamer." Many would say that he is because he did have a lot of material possessions and he wasn't exactly the best father. We're all hypocrites. We're all flawed, and we have to accept that and question ourselves always. Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves that there's so much more to the universe than our identity.

So, I'll leave with this thought. Why is it that the greatest love stories consist of lovers who fall in love with someone who's supposed to be an enemy or someone from the other side of the tracks? Perhaps something deep inside us does want to transcend above the boundaries of our identity or we wouldn't love these stories. Although we are so obsessed with finding our identity, there may just be something else deep within us that wishes to seek love somewhere beyond it. Perhaps all of this seeking to belong has just made us feel more trapped by the conventions of such belonging.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Why Discrimination is a Big Deal

When I was attending a conservatory in New York, I was so busy working to pay my way through school that I barely had time to socialize. I also lived an hour and a half away from the city, but one day, my roommates and I decided to join the regulars at their regular bar. 
It didn't really work out because they wouldn't serve my two roommates. There were all kinds of issues, but in the end, we concluded that it was because they were black. I left with them but everyone else stayed. Our other white roommate didn't see what the big deal was. She said it was the only chance she had to hang out with them. That was more important to her. I understand that discrimination isn't as important of an issue to some as it is for me but the thought of patronizing that bar sickened me.

When I worked as an office manager at a recruiting firm, I remember recruiter's straight say to me, "my client won't hire that person because he doesn't like blacks or middle easterners." This happened often. Even though it goes against the 14th amendment, it still happened and no one batted an eye. Yet, being one of those people who despise racism, I held my tongue and took my anger out on a log of "office racism" which is stored in some floppy drive somewhere. I don't work there anymore. I may post this log one day, if I ever get to finding it.

Recently, the issue of race relations, discrimination against women and negative stereotyping against Latin American and Muslim immigrants and even any immigrant not of European decent has been brought up. There have also been a handful of bloggers who have said, "what's the big deal? Its not that bad." I've heard this many times in my life from people who have accepted that discrimination is a fact of life. There are always those who will try to segregate, insult and keep down anyone who is different. So what's wrong with me? I had to look at myself and ask, "am I wrong to think that discrimination is wrong? Is it a big deal?"

I'm reminded of a passage I once read in Ghandi's autobiography where he was segregated from being able to ride in the nicer part of a ship because he was dark skinned. This was when he was in South Africa. He was so appalled by this and ended up doing a lot of work in South Africa to help end segregation. However, the first reaction his friends had was, "its okay. That's the way things are here. Its their culture. What's the big deal?" Still, Ghandi didn't back down. He started huge social movements to end inequality and is credited with freeing India from England without having to go into war. 

When Rosa Parks refused to sit in the colored part of the bus because she was black, everyone kept telling her, "What's the big deal? Why don't you just accept your place and sit where you belong?" The thing is, sometimes it is a big deal. There will always be a tipping point where people who are oppressed just because they look different will rise up. History has proven this time and again. Had Martin Luther King Jr. not started a civil rights movement, very similar to what he learned from Ghandi, a civil war between blacks and whites in the United States was eminent. Already, riots were breaking out all over the country over civil rights and the war. Members of other black organizations such as The Black Panthers were gearing up for all out war. White supremacists such as the KKK were doing the same thing from their side. But MLK's movement, like Ghandi's movement  managed to overturn segregation without starting a civil war which would have devastated this nation.

Yet, what if civil war didn't break out? Overtime creating a culture of hate towards a particular race, whether they rise up or not will lead to no peace. Look at the Holocaust and the atrocities enacted by German Nazis when Hitler declared that the Jews were no good. He appealed to the country's suspicions against the religious minority who immigrated to Germany, looking for peace. This focus on hating who is different lead to a great war to wipe out Jews and anyone who was "not like them." The most destructive and horrific  world war in history got started because a man who's slogan was "Make Germany great again" decided to lead a country by focusing on people's natural fear and hatred of those who were different.

When the founding fathers of this country decided to withdraw from English rule, they wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The founding fathers made equality and fairness the main function of our government and ingeniously set it up in order to make America safe from laws and leaders that would pass laws which favor inequality.

The sad thing is that many laws that go against this fairness and against our very Bill of Rights and Constitution have been voted in by the people. This is no surprise as discrimination is not uncommon. If it weren't part of human nature, it wouldn't exist but over time, many of these laws have been shut down by the supreme court due to them being unconstitutional and dangerous to everyone's equal right to the pursuit of happiness. 

One of these laws was the search and seizure law which was passed in New York after 9/11, making it okay to do random searches on anyone without a warrant. While some people felt the law kept them safe, what it did was target innocent Blacks and Latinos. 
Also, this law goes against the sixth article of the our county's Bill of Rights:
The right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. 

Eventually, the law was put down by the courts, but this didn't stop Donald Trump for stating that this law is what we need to enforce on the inner cities when asked, during the debate, how he would improve race relations. Already, relations with cops in the inner cities are mired due to unreasonable searches and excessive force. Riots and shootings have already broken out because of it. How would passing this law, which goes against our bill of rights and constitution, help create peace? It would only increase the civil unrest that is already happening. It's a discriminatory law that will hurt this country. 

When I moved this country, I was put in public schools or the first time. I was in Catholic school up until then. I was very surprised to learn that there were other religions and I was honored to go to school with people who shared different cultures. I had so many questions for the Jews, Muslims, Protestants etc. I was open and wanted to learn. I made friends with people of many religion and ethnic diversities. My parents are not white but they are citizens of this country and are college educated. My father is a true American who always talks about and believes in the precepts of this country. He carries a pocket copy of the constitution with him at all times. Both my parents pay their taxes and have been very active in their community as I have as well. 

When I read blogs from people and read tweets by Donald Trump saying things like ALL immigrants are morally debase, rapists, criminals or whore out their daughters, I'm appalled. My Dad didn't even let me date till I was eighteen. People always say, "oh no, I wasn't talking about you." But they were. I'm an immigrant and they said ALL immigrants. 

Trump has tweeted that most criminals are Black or Hispanic. This is not true. I have so many good friends who are black and Latino who have never broken the law. I know people who are not black and Latino that have been in jail for criminal activity. Similarly, there are many blacks and Latinos who have been falsely put in jail just because of the color of their skin. Can we please look past our superficial need to profile and stereotype people and give everyone their constitutional right to pursue life, liberty and happiness and to remain innocent until proven guilty?

To quote the constitution:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I know that discrimination is popular, that many laws have been voted in by the people that do discriminate. The Gay Marriage law is one of them and I spoke out against the law. In fact, after I released my blog opposing the law (which also got me kicked off Facebook) it was taken to court and deemed unconstitutional. You can read the blog here:

Why Same Sex Marriage is a Civil Right

By speaking out, I'm protecting my little utopia. I live in a city where people of all ethnicity's get along. I'm often invited to events in other churches, temples and mosques. I once had a cab driver tell me how weird and wonderful it is that he is best friends with someone who should be his enemy if he were back in his old country. When people speak foul towards gays, women, immigrants, blacks or other religions, they're speaking foul about my friends and family. Such talk spews hate, hurt feelings, thoughts of war and violence where there was once love, openness and solidarity. 

Discrimination is a big deal, because war and hatred is a big deal. Preventing laws that go against our inalienable rights is our way of keeping peace in our world before things get out of hand.