hipster

I see you there
with the skinny jeans
your Che Guevera shirt
surplus military jacket
and silly wool hat
In the summer heat
You’re so delightfully ironic
Take another selfie
The world is waiting
Holding its breath
To LIKE your pic

You reject all that is
the status quo
Just one thing?
Do you know
what it is that you don’t?
You talk the talk
You’ve learned your lines
Your indoctrination complete
but can you speak for yourself?
You challenge
Rebel and dispel
Then expel
the lies you are fed
As easily as you reject
Those that know the world
Yet it would be odd
If the young had wisdom

Free thought is still free
But you join the sheep
grazing on the grass
that was planted for you
yonder meadow calls
if you have the goddamn balls
to put down the phone
and try some of its own
different
controversial
unpleasant
real grass

Youth is wasted on the young

the quest for open-mindedness

I have faced many obstacles in my life as I have gotten older. Health issues, financial issues and a turbulent marriage both scarred me as well as taught me many lessons. I have largely let go of anger and bitterness over things from my past and have learned to pick and choose what I allow to bother me. I can almost say that I have conquered all of my demons. Except one. I struggle with open-mindedness.

To be clear, I am not closed-minded by any means. I am largely receptive to opposing viewpoints and I am civil and tolerant of those who disagree with me. But that’s a learned behavior not a mindset. In my heart of hearts I still get annoyed, even angered by things that go against my grain. And it bothers me.

I’m sure that I am not alone in this, especially among my age group. I was raised in a wonderful time period. I was exposed to the influence of my Grandparents, people who lived through the Great Depression and a World War. They knew frugality, community and practiced old-fashioned values of honesty, integrity, civility and the unspoken bond of a handshake. I then had my parents, who had the luxury of the same influence but also of the societal shifts in the 50’s and 60’s that saw great turmoil but also resulted in an expanded view of the world and society in general. Yet, they both were largely black and white on a lot of things. Unfortunately, I have been accused of that very thing. I was very bothered by that accusation. I didn’t agree and resented it. I had a black and white reaction to being called black and white. Isn’t that irony?

Being black and white is a defense mechanism. We take between 18 and 30 years to form our identity and belief system. Our identity can either be our aura that casts light on the world or a suit of armor that shields us from that which threatens us. I feel it safe to say that as we get older it is almost inevitable that our identity becomes a shield. Unless of course we make the effort to recognize and change the pattern.

This is the road that I am on. I am annoyed at the extremes of society that gnaw at my sensibilities. While I have never lacked compassion or empathy, I have had a fairly narrow view of the world. I sometime feel that part of me fights to maintain that narrow view as another part of me struggles to escape the confines of my upbringing and take a broader view. It is a daily struggle.

The knee-jerk reaction is the thing that has to go. Life is not about what happens but instead how you react to it. The knee-jerk reaction happens when something that you don’t agree with results in a visceral and personal reaction. But it’s not personal and it only affects your life if you allow it. Very few things are actually a personal affront. Yet we act as if they are. I’m guilty of it. It took me a long time to admit and address it but I’ve made progress. I have come to the conclusion that in this day and age of bad behavior, short attention spans, poor education and general lack of civility people have taken sides. When one takes sides, it is not unlike war. Defend your position and attack when able. It’s going on everywhere but I refuse to add to the insanity anymore. I have chosen to take the “walk a mile in their shoes” mentality. Every hot-button issue exists because a percentage of the population is affected by it. It is not an attack on me and I need to remind myself of that. Constantly. It sometimes requires me to even count to 3.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. There is a caveat of course, it must be an informed and properly communicated opinion. Just as in childhood, we responded positively to a even tone of voice laced with understanding, even love. When we were yelled at, we closed ourselves off and most importantly, fought to keep the words out. I am very open to an even voice, I am angered by being yelled at. In the whirlwind of the hundreds of issues debated constantly, the message is often drowned out by the noise and anger behind it. Thus, so is the reaction to it.

I have decided to count to 3 before I speak or type, I will then look at as many angles of the issue at hand as I can. I will do some research if necessary. Most importantly, I will try to not be offended. And then, once all that is completed, I will measure my response. If I even choose to offer one. I’ve been practicing this recently and I have to tell you it works. If more people adopt this mindset, imagine the difference in our current climate?

At an age where many are closed off, I want to open up. Many of my fellow bloggers are already on this path and I openly admire them for it. They are ahead of me. It’s up to me to catch up.

I want to end with a question? Would you call yourself open-minded?

Blogoversary

1 year ago I started my blog. I was at an incredibly low point in my life and I believed that putting it to paper, putting it out to random strangers would assist me in exorcising my demons. It did so much more than that.

230 posts, not including many discarded, later I find myself in a caring, supportive community that has embraced me at best and at the very least allowed me to share my unusual, unique and perhaps inappropriate take on life, love, family, work, relationships and chronic illness.

My blog, and consequently you, have become part of me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement, support, friendship and feedback. And of course, thank you for reading…

Song Lyric Sunday

Today, on a day when I crave positivity as a flower does water, I give you Michael Franti and Spearhead, whose music absolutely oozes positivity, empathy, acceptance and understanding.

This song in particular is named Good to be alive today, which I have adopted as my blog URL…that’s how much this song means to me.

Franti can be seen traveling the world, dancing with children, coaxing shy people out of their corners to dance, spreading hope and optimism like a bee does pollen in the spring. His love for life is nothing short of inspi-fucking-rational.

I hope you get something out of this song…

It’s a long road, oh
Everyday I wake up and turn my phone on
I read the news of the day, just as it’s coming down
I do my best not to let it get me down
I try to keep my head up, but is Babylon
This world’s in crisis, we try to fight it, this changing climate
With scientists and politicians divided by it
So many ways we could solve it but they would never sign it
This mountains tumbling down, but still we try to climb it
It’s in the Torah, Quran and in the Bible
Love is the message for some how we turn to rivals
It’s come to people always picking up their rifles
Another school getting shot up homicidal
Some people tryna look fly, some people tryna get high
Some people losing their mind, some people tryna get by
And when you look in my eyes, you see the sign of the times
We all looking for the same thing
But what if this song’s number one
Would it mean that love had won?
Would it mean that the world was saved?
And no guns are being drawn today?
What if everybody had a job?
And nobody had to break a law?
What if everyone could say
That it’s good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
No matter what nobody say
People used to feel safer when they would hear a siren
Like help is on its way but now they only think of violence
Another youth in the streets and police is in a conflict
And now they hear the guns click, yo
Ebola crisis and ISIS is taking heads off
A drone is bombing a village and now the kids all
Signing up to be soldiers, but they all willing now
To do the killing now, now are you willing now?
Some politicians out there making up some problems
And tryna tell the people that they can solve them
With TV shows and soundbites and quotes
But everybody knows that it’s all about the cash flow
They telling you and me, they’re making progress
But tell it to the millions of jobless
It’s like a players club with billions of dollars
To get the votes you got to make it rain in congress
Some people tryna look fly, some people tryna get high
Some people losing their mind, some people tryna get by
And when you look in my eyes, you see the sign of the times
We all looking for the same thing
But what if this song’s number one
Would it mean that love had won?
Would it mean that the world was saved?
And no guns are being drawn today?
What if everybody had a job?
And nobody had to break a law?
What if everyone could say
That it’s good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
And we all say
One day, one day
One day, one day
One day, we all will say
That it’s good to be alive today
One day, one day
One day, one day
One day, we all will say
That it’s good to be alive today

Superman talks about race…conclusion

“Never look down on a man unless you are helping him up”

Author unknown.

Yesterday I tackled a very hot issue and revealed an embarrassing moment of my life that I deeply regret. You can catch up here.

I am deeply troubled by the state of our nation. We are deeply divided… Especially with regards to race relations. As the issue of racism continues to ravage our “civilized” society I have tried to take a broad view and expand my thinking on the subject. Infusing my vast Sociological experience as a Superhero and crime fighter I broke it down into smaller, more manageable pieces to dissect.

To truly define and get to the root of the causes of racism let’s  start with the root of the word. What exactly does the term “race” even mean?  We all think we do, but do we?

Dictionary.com defines race as:
A group of people of common ancestry, distinguished from others by physical characteristics, such as hair type, the color of eyes and skin, stature, etc.

In this day and age, not only does this definition seem less polarizing as our society continues to blend black, white and Asian genetics (the three originally stated races) but it doesn’t encompass the ongoing religious and socio-economic divisions that also dominate our “racist” society. This caused me to look more generally at the issue and what I came up with is that our penchant for oppressing others is less about Genealogy and more about Insecurity (which drives the need for Superiority), Misinformation, Ignorance, and Laziness. All of which are uniquely human attributes that are amazingly easy to control if your mind is in the right place.

Insecurity
Insecurity is a word that has many connotations. For the sake of this conversation, I am theorizing that as human beings we are generally fragile creatures who in the mildest cases seek validation and at the extreme seek to be superior over others. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to deem others inferior to you. This is where the word race becomes ambiguous. Beyond hair color, eye color, and skin color we also discriminate on the basis of religion, politics and economic status. Here, it is fitting to introduce the words Prejudice and Bias into the lexicon.

As a society, we have formed biases based on stereotypes and outdated constructs that cause us to lump entire groups of people into one neat little box and look down upon them. We do this to feel superior because that is part of our nature.  Why? Often to feel better about ourselves. It even exists in prison where one inmate can take comfort in the fact that he’s only a robber, but that guy over there…he’s a killer. I’m better than him. Social strata are everywhere. The difference between people and flowers is simple. Two flowers next to each other do not pay attention to the other and do not seek to cut each other down, they simply reach for the sun and try to bloom.
flowers
Misinformation
Racism in America is a prevalent topic and rears its ugly head in News stories every day. Some of the stories, mugshots, videos and images we see boil our blood. We all react. Be careful, I implore you, to think and do some homework before you form an opinion (or a bias or a prejudice) based on what you are being fed. There is a force larger than us, a system that enjoys bombarding us with false information; fails to provide the complete story; blatantly mislabels and edits out that which doesn’t support its narrative and simply loves to stir the shit pot. Hate sells, Peace does not. There is bad and good in the world and we are being shown most of the bad. Civil unrest sells papers and drives political agendas. It’s up to us to seek our own “fair and balanced” news. We need to wake up and realize that despite the forces that make us dance on strings like puppets, we all own a pair of scissors and we can cut them.

Ignorance
Ignorant is a word that is historically misused. Ignorant is not a hateful term,it simply means that one is uneducated or uninformed. Incredibly, in a day of unparalleled access to information many choose to be ignorant. When false, biased and incomplete information is fed to a ignorant person they will choose to believe it, adopt it as their own and in some cases spread it themselves. I recently watched a documentary on the KKK. One man that was interviewed started off on script, spouting his rehearsed, hateful, canned lines that help him sleep at night. But when pressed about the Holocaust he actually said that it wasn’t a bad thing, that they weren’t concentration camps…it was a SUMMER CAMP for Jews! His brief was that daily activities included Arts and Crafts and swimming. Ignorance on that level, from a man that has an audience, is nothing less than appalling and dangerous.

Laziness
This is an easy one. In order to stop marginalizing, judging and hating we as a society would be required to put a little elbow grease into it. We’re not that country anymore. We’re lazy.

Hate is easy, Acceptance takes work.

If we were mere skeletons we would look the same as everyone else. What separates us are our differences. No one is right and no one is wrong. We are just different. Yet our biases prevent us from reaching out and bridging gaps and finding out what we have in common, not what makes us different. Don’t we all, with the exception of a tiny percentage all want the same things out of life? Babies of all colors and religions could play together until they are taught why they shouldn’t. Prejudices are learned behavior. And these prejudices have become a giant wedge between us.
babies.jpg
Why, knowing that intelligence and talent are equally dispersed but opportunity is not, do we assume that a person born from differnet beginnings could never achieve greatness? A man’s beginnings is certainly not a predictor of where he will end. Yet we make assumptions at the least, and hurl hate in the most extreme cases if someone does not pray, speak, look or act as we do. Wouldn’t it be so much better to see a man with different hair, skin or clothes and not think “I don’t like you, you’re the problem with this country” but instead think “I wonder what that person is about, I’d like to learn his story”.

My approach to people has always been, with the exception of that one unfortunate incident, is to like or not like based on whether you are an Asshole or not. The last time I checked Asshole is not a race. People are people and all deserve our respect if not our love. I will eat at any man’s table regardless of his income, ethnicity or religion if he is a decent and respectable person. If, as a society we continue to decline in our ability to communicate, reason, tolerate and love our brothers we will surely fail. Political systems and ideologies will run their course, some will succeed and some will fail. But behind it all are people, people that were born color-blind and learned to hate, ignoring the countless societal institutions that we have to obtain knowledge; the enemy of ignorance, to learn tolerance; the enemy of prejudice, to learn compassion; the enemy of hate.

Without this, we simply have no future.

“Be kind, for every man you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

 

 

Superman talks about Racism

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors. Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values, and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes.”
Ayn Rand

I have largely stayed away from the topic of race on my blog. I was inspired to take some notes when the whole Rosanne thing happened and I read some powerful, well thought-out posts on the subject. I felt the heat of the topic on my keyboard and I chose to let it simmer a bit. But now I am ready. I intend to discuss this volatile subject in a frank and honest manner without the intention of offending. I shouldn’t offend after all, because I do not consider myself a racist.

Despite the fact that I once called a man a Nigger. A moment that I have tried to distance myself from ever since.

I was in basic training in Fort Knox, KY for basic training in 1985. Of a 50 man platoon, I was just one of 8 “white” men. The rest was entirely African-American. As a naive Northerner, unaware of the remaining and prevalent racial tensions in the South, I had absolutely no issue with the numbers and expected no issues. I think it’s safe to say that I liked everyone. But the same can’t be said for all and the white guys were mercilessly made fun of and called names. Not by all but by enough. Some of it was pretty hateful. There were some physical altercations. I still managed to get along with most of my platoon. That included Spanky, my black bunkmate. We got along really well, joked about the black/white thing and even hung out while on leave.

We were on a merit system and were awarded points and given demerits for things such as bed-making skills, uniform, conduct and the state of your locker. I was slightly ahead of Spanky in points and for some unknown reason, I didn’t see it but another party did,  he trashed my locker immediately before an inspection. Presumably to gain points over me. Without time to fix it, the inspection occurred and I was given several demerits. I was fuming. Once the coast was clear we went at it. In the heat of anger, I blurted out “You F%@ing N@##%+”. The room got quiet, he stared at me in disbelief and I immediately dropped my shoulders, apologized and told him that “I was not that guy.” He never forgave me, and I have never forgiven myself. That wasn’t who I was, I had wanted to hurt him so badly that I went at him in the worst way. I still feel bad to this day…and I am still not that guy.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

I was raised in a town that could best be described as lower-middle class. Most of us were actually poor, myself included. We didn’t know it so we didn’t care. I was raised in a very nice family that was no better about containing “folksy” ethnic jokes than anyone else. My father and grandfather made the occasional joke about blacks but they weren’t cruel. One that stands out was about my Dad’s black co-worker “Smitty”. I knew Smitty and I liked him a lot. As the story goes, one day the lights went out at work and someone yelled out “Hey Smitty, smile so we can see!” Smitty laughed along with everyone else. It wasn’t any crueler than the other slurs of my time i.e., Polacks being dumb, Irish being drunks, Asians being good at math or Jews being cheap. It was just stereotyping, all of which of course had some basis but were never all-inclusive. None of this struck me as anything more than fodder and created no lasting prejudices in me. When I met my first black kid in school, for some reason there weren’t many African-Americans in my town, I was one of the first to say hi to him. He was a great kid who would later famously joke in Gym class when no-one would pass him the basketball “what am I, Black!” We all laughed our asses off. Everyone liked him after that. Why? Because he could make…and take… a joke.

When I moved out of my childhood town I entered a much more diverse world. While working and going to school I met, and often partied with, people from all backgrounds. I had friends who ranged from Rastafarian to Muslim and everything in between. If I ever saw a difference in them, it was cultural. That only inspired cultural curiosity and a desire to get to know them better. My friends were clearly the same way because I don’t remember anyone pulling me away from the others because we were “better” than anyone.

The more I think about it, the more I know how oblivious I was to racism. My good friend in my Sophomore year Jon Silverman once said something that I will never forget. We were hanging out and he asked me if it bothered me that he was Jewish. I looked at him funny and said, “that wasn’t on your application to be my friend.” We laughed and then he told me that he had lost friends over that. I could not then, and still cannot, wrap my head around that. We’re still friends today.

As an adult, I now know that Racism has been a hot-button issue in this country for a long time, my minimal exposure to it notwithstanding.  With the exception of my unfortunate incident in the military, I didn’t give it much room to breathe in my little corner of the world. I made amends by vowing to never stoop so low again. Yet racism permeates almost every aspect of our society and a real dialogue on this issue seems completely inescapable. Hate crimes based on skin color, religion, and country of origin are on the rise. Most people reject it as much as I, some have embraced it and have run with the ball, yet still, others rely on it to play identity politics and recruit votes. As a society, we have simply not progressed, possibly have even regressed to the days of the Watts riots and the Boston Busing crisis, in this area and I fear for our future.

 

 


If we don’t soon realize that there is only one race…the human race, we are doomed and are not worthy of calling ourselves an advanced, compassionate nation.

tomorrow…a deeper look

Instant regret

I don’t know why I bother, I truly don’t.

I was on Facebook yesterday and Boston.com, along with every news and pseudo-news outlet ran a piece on the firing of Roseanne and the cancellation of her show. It certainly was the topic of the day.

Against my better judgment, I posted a comment about the firing. I strongly feel that the way bad behavior is handled is extremely uneven in this country and I felt compelled to voice that sentiment. So, without weighing in on the content of the remark or “tweet” in question I remarked that it is hypocritical to cancel the show but not to cancel or censure certain shows like The View, Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel and Samantha Bee, who routinely say horrible things about Conservatives and our President in particular. My comment was very to the point and politely stated, my point is that it is handled differently depending on what side is being attacked.

You, as my reader may disagree with me but I’m pretty comfortable with my statement.

I was immediately attacked as a racist, a Nazi, a “Trumpite” and a “Snowflake”(If you can imagine that). It became immediately clear that of all of the vitriolic responses were as if they never actually read my comment. I never endorsed her comment, it was despicable. I never said that it’s ok to liken African Americans to Apes. I simply stated that it’s a different ball game when someone attacks a conservative.

I am proud of myself for not lowering myself to the level of the commenters. I didn’t devolve into name-calling or the exchange of insults. I implored my commenters to read my comment again and finally turned off notifications.

I’m disgusted with the whole thing and I’m even more upset with myself for not refraining. See, I forgot that we no longer live in a country where reasonable discourse and civil conversation are allowed, even encouraged. We now live in an age of butt-hurt, overly sensitive and overly opinionated people who never learned to open their ears and eyes before growing “keyboard balls” and calling anyone who doesn’t agree with them names.

I am so glad to be a part of the blogging community. The people I encounter here are rational, tolerant and capable of disagreeing without long-term consequences. You all are truly special.

As for Facebook? I think I may have made my last comment ever on that platform