Song lyric Sunday

Religious or not, we all sometimes want to just put something out to the universe in the way of a prayer, a cry for help or just relief.

If you ever feel that way, just play this song on high and sing along. When I first heard it I can honestly say it changed my life.

Half Dylan, half Hillsong, Christian-Stoner group Mondo Cozmo moved me to tears the first time I heard Shine. The vocals, the haunting background vocals and the lyrics are so incredibly powerful and unique. Maybe it’s because I received an organ transplant from a woman, but I get emotional when I hear it. It makes me think of a crowd of anxious, stressed out, and spiritually lost people standing in a field singing a non-denominational plea to the heavens for permission to just live, to love and to exist. Knowing that at the end of the day…

it will be alright.

I love this group, and I hope you do as well. You’re welcome.

Stick with me Jesus through the comin’ storm
I’ve come to you in search of something I have lost
Shine down a light on me and show a path
I promise you I will return if you take me back
Let ’em get high
Let ’em get stoned
Everything will be alright if you let it go
Let ’em get high
Let ’em get stoned
Everything will be alright if you let it go
My friends are so alone and it breaks my heart
My friends don’t understand we all are lost
Shine down a light on them and show a path
I promise you they will return if you take ’em back
Let ’em get high
Let ’em get stoned
Everything will be alright if you let it go
Let ’em get high
Let ’em get stoned
Everything will be alright if you let it go
Let it go
Oh, yeah
Come with me Mary through these modern lines
Stick with me Jesus til’ the end of time
Shine down a light on me and let me know
And take me in your arms and never let me go
Let ’em get high
Let ’em get stoned
Everything will be alright if you let it go
Let ’em get high
Let ’em get stoned
Everything will be alright if you let it go
Let ’em get high
Let ’em get stoned
Everything will be alright if you let it go
Let ’em get high
Let ’em get stoned
Everything will be alright if you let it go
Let ’em get high (get high)
Let ’em get stoned (let ’em get stoned)
Everything will be alright if you let it go
Let ’em get high (let ’em get high)
Let ’em get stoned (let ’em get stoned)
Everything will be alright if you let it go
thanks to all about life for the inspiration.

Let’s talk about mortality

I woke this morning in the mood for a bit of spiritual refreshment. Yesterday, I spent most of the drive back from MA listening to Christian-Stoner music, an interesting genre, and I went to bed a little emotional. I decided to go to Church.

The day started off with Mom telling me in the car that I need to sing along with the hymns and read along with the “Responsive Readings.” Oy, I thought to myself, If she only knew how many times I had gone to church just to make her happy and she won’t stop pushing me. This is why I don’t often go. I had to remind her of my stance on the church. I hate the songs and I hate the responsive readings but I enjoy the sermon and the calming presence of many people in one room exhaling pure positivity into the otherwise tainted air. I stand but don’t sing or recite, and during prayers, I choose to have a moment of silence and contemplate an issue that is plaguing my heart. It’s still a positive experience. I’m just not into traditional religion. I call it the Kayak theory.  It goes as follows: Religion is sitting in church thinking about Kayaking, Spirituality is sitting in a Kayak thinking about God. She doesn’t get it.

The Unitarian Church in town in a nice place to be, for 186 years it has accommodated many faiths and served as a wonderful nucleus of the community. As can be expected, everyone knows everyone. What is not expected is the extraordinary generosity of spirit and resources for such a poor NH town. So even though I don’t necessarily enjoy church, I get to see the people in town that I have grown fond of. They pray for me, are always asking about me so I show up once in a while.

We were early. While the early arrivers mingled I picked out a nice inconspicuous place to sit. I often get judgmental looks when I don’t sing or read along so I choose my seat carefully. Mom and Dave can sit together as a couple, I’ll just hide over here. As I waited for things to start I scanned the room for my buddy John. He was a regular and I fully expected and hoped to see him. He is one of my few friends up here. Despite the fact that he is 86 years old.

I felt a surprise tap on my shoulder, I turned and it was John. He had sat down behind me. He looked terrible. Gaunt was the first word that came to mind. Worse than the last time I saw him. We made small talk, I asked him rhetorically how he was feeling and before we knew it the service was starting. He leaned in and said, “I have to talk to you after.” I nodded him an assurance and we settled in. I had a bad feeling.

The service began with a prayer. I said one of my trademark Billy Mac prayers. Something along the lines of:

Dear higher power, whatever or whoever you are. Give me the strength to deal with ignorance and the patience to not strangle the idiots in my life. While you’re at it, let me know why I’m here and what you want from me. Please take care of the good people and back the Karma bus over the jagoffs. And if it’s not too much would you mind getting that little cutie in the next row to notice me, yeah the one wearing what appears to be a very poor choice of undergarment to church (thank you for that btw). Oh yeah, no one ever asks you how you are…hope you’re doing great. Peace brother…

After several agonizing hymns and a lot of sitting and standing, I sat through a very enjoyable sermon. It put me into the state of mind that I came in hoping to achieve. Before I knew it we were heading to the back room for some badly needed coffee. I found John sitting in a chair near the door, I marveled at how fast he got there. I grabbed a hot cup and sat down next to him. I asked him what he wanted to talk about.

“My funeral”, he said matter-of-factly. I was taken back a bit and it probably showed on my face.

“You mean the one that’s hopefully many years from now?” I inquired despite knowing that it wasn’t the case.

“Billy, I’m on the way out. I know it. I’m not wasting valuable time. I’m planning my funeral and I want you to promise that you’ll be there as a brother.” You see, John and I are fellow Freemasons, we refer to each other in our fraternity as “Brothers”. It is a bond that runs strong and deep.

He then began to list the other arrangements he was working on. He calmly recited the list, as one would a list of what was needed at the market. A full Military funeral was in the works. There would be a Navy contingency and a Marine contingency because he served in both. As he continued to list the details it became achingly apparent to me the life this man has lived. He knows what he has done in his life, and despite his humble nature, he wants it to be recognized. He has been guaranteed participation by all involved except by the Masons. And that’s where I come in. To relieve his anxiety over not receiving the service most valuable to him, the Masonic Funeral.

I assured him that I would make it happen. He patted me on the leg and said “I’ve known you for a year and from day one I knew you were a man of integrity. I know you won’t let me down.”

I was at a loss for words but I managed to say,“no more Billy Nason’s.”

He nodded in agreement, I had hit the nail on the head. Billy Nason was a police officer from my hometown that moved up here to retire. He was a good friend of my Father’s. He was a Mason for 62 years. Despite the fact that he was ill for a long time and his death was expected, the local chapter of Masons failed to galvanize enough support to give him a proper Masonic sendoff. I, and a few local brothers were seriously pissed off. A true Mason knows that there is nothing more important to a Mason than our ancient ceremony to send a brother to the Celestial Lodge above. I’m not sure anyone feels stronger than I about it and John knows it.

Freemasonry operates in obscurity. For hundreds of years, men of good character have gathered in privacy and operated with anonymity. It is the most charitable organization in the world. We don’t talk about it or advertise it, we just do it. For the wives and families of a Mason, it is not uncommon for them to not know what it is that the Mason in their home actually does when he is away from home. Yet they faithfully supported the brother in his endeavors. The Masonic funeral is the one service performed publicly, for the benefit of the family, to show them a bit of what he was involved in and how much his labors were valued. I have participated in at least a dozen, many times for a brother that I never met. I didn’t have to know him, I knew what type of man he was. Every time, the family was absolutely grateful for us doing it. It’s an enormous show of respect for a good man. Yet, some Masons fail to see the importance and the turnout can be small. It’s a sad display when a fraternity of millions worldwide draws 3 or 4 guys because they simply don’t get it.
Pike

Not me, I get it. My new but dear friend has entrusted me with ensuring a very important part in the send-off of a wonderful man. I won’t let him down.

It was a morbid yet transcendent moment. It was disconcerting to have a dying man, one that you respect deeply, talk about his own mortality but I was deeply honored that he tasked me with such an important role.

It was an eye-opener for sure. I went to church on a whim, feeling somewhat aimless. I left with a direction and a purpose. That’s what I went in for. Mission accomplished I suppose.

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

Kayaking

Yesterday was quite a day. I got out of bed at the crack of 7:30 and went downstairs for the morning caffeine infusion. My mother, on cue, was making a pot. Something was missing. “Where’s your boytoy?” I asked her. The boyfriend stays with us almost every weekend and he was there when I went to sleep the night before.

“Gone,” she said. “He got a little too handsy this morning and when I told him to knock it off. He got pissed, packed his bag and left. Want to go to Church with me?”

What I wanted to say was Gee Mom I am actually headed down this morning to see a couple of friends before I stop by wifey’s and have cake with the 2 oldest kids for a belated birthday party so I can’t. But what came out was “I’d love to.” There was no way that she was as ok as she acted and I knew I needed to be there to support her today. I would go down after church. Besides, I needed to know what happened.

As we prepared for church I got the story. Being the Trump supporter that he is he tried to grab her by the…well you know where I’m going with this. Apparently, he woke up a little “Randy”, popped a Viagra, rose to the occasion and attempted to park it somewhere…at 6 AM.


Mom was just a little busy sleeping when the countdown ended and it was a failed launch attempt. He and Mr. Johnson were rebuffed with extreme prejudice. Knowing that he’s a golfer, I’m just a bit surprised at his lack of etiquette. You always give a heads up before you try to play through.

The church was delightful as always. As I am still in my Undefined-Spiritual-Transition-Mode I sit there and I people watch. I know the people now, The congregation consists of some wonderful, giving people. And then there are those few that have that ethereal my shit don’t stink because I love God so much that I’m going to heaven and you’re not face and I know that they’re completely full of shit. Fine by me, it’s their journey, not mine. I then caught the eye of Linda, my new buddy from the food pantry. She mouthed “hey you” to me and I smiled for the first time that day.

Linda is an attractive, happily married older woman who I am very drawn to. In the classic sense of the word, I want to be around her. It’s not sexual but exciting nonetheless. She’s educated, smart, extremely charitable with her time and in her actions and I love talking to her. Linda was present the day I told my food pantry volunteer pals my theory on religion. I was asked in front of a room full of people why I don’t attend church often. I told them:

Religion is sitting in church thinking about Kayaking. Spirituality is sitting in a kayak thinking about God“.

It’s not original but it sums me up so well.

The service closed with a prayer. Not participating in the ritual, rebel that I am, I said my own prayer of the agnostic.

Dear whoever you are. Without putting too fine a point on things please make this earth a better place. If you can’t then please show us how. Take care of the poor, don’t let babies die of cancer and punish the dicks. I don’t care how you do it just put it higher on your list than who wins the next major sporting event. Your humble servant, Amen or bye for now or whatever. Forgive me for I know not what the fuck I am talking about.

We then adjourned for the St. Patty’s luncheon out back. Mom was serving so I grabbed a plate of food. Seeing a bunch of set tables and a row of chairs I chose to sit on a straw chair. That would allow groups to have the tables. I had picked a perfect spot to people watch and that is just what I did. A few people approached me, some who I haven’t yet met introduced themselves and some that I knew, asking me why I was sitting there lonely. I assured them that I was where I wanted to be. After all, I was. I was writing my next blog in my head after all!

Linda approached and sat down next to me, smiled and said “Kayaking?”

“What do you mean?” I asked her. She couldn’t possibly be referring to the conversation we had weeks ago.

“You know what I mean. It looks like you’re Kayaking right now.”

“I can’t believe you remember that. Nice catch. Yes, I am. Always. You know that’s not original right?”

“I know”, she said. “But I liked it and you own it.” We talked for a few, I met her lucky husband and she went off to socialize with someone else.”

Who knew that my own words would come back to me someday?

The rest of the day panned out as planned. I made it down to MA to see my friends and family and made it home by 10 and made sure Mom was ok.

As of today we haven’t heard from Trump Jr. I guess we’ll see if the voters choose to let that “locker room behavior” slide.

 

 

Where’s the Grief?

Today I attended a memorial service for a man that I never met. I know his widow, she is a dear friend of my Mother’s. I know that he was a good friend of my father, that matters to me. I also know that he died of Parkinson’s, as did my father. What a terrible thing to have in common.

The church was packed when I arrived today. The bells of the 180-year-old church clanged, reverberating through our little town as I walked in.
download (40)
Just in time. On any given Sunday I could walk in and find a seat in the third row. For today’s memorial, with friends and family coming from all over in addition to the regulars, seating was limited and I ended up in the back row.

After the Reverend delivered his opening remarks and I suffered through 2 hymns and a responsive reading the first speaker, the oldest son, was invited to say some words about his deceased father. My first reaction was the admiration of his courage. He was attempting what I would not. I remember wanting badly to deliver my father’s eulogy but I was self-aware enough to know that I wouldn’t get through it, I would get too emotional. I wrote it, my Reverend read it on my behalf, and I sat there and cried. At words that I wrote. Pathetic. But I can only imagine the train wreck I would have been if I attempted to do it. So with great sympathy, a sense of kinship with a man I had never met for what we now had in common, and a curious ear, I listened to his remarks. It was a touching speech, he used a lot of big words, he referenced a lot of things that he admired about his Dad, what he learned from him and how they were different. Something just didn’t sit well with me, something was missing. May I be struck dead by lightning if I’m a shit for thinking this but, where was the emotion? Have I set the bar so high in my own mind about eulogizing fathers that I am actually grading his performance? Shaking my head and quietly dismissing that crazy notion I still don’t know why it bothers me that this guy didn’t cry or tear up a little.
download (41)
My mother cared for my father as Parkinson’s ravaged his body and reduced him to a withered shell. The last 3 years were awful. My mother didn’t cry that much at the funeral, but she’s not a crier. We are a family of “bottle-it-up-and-snap-someday” personalities. When she began dating a mere 6 months after his death I struggled with it. When I asked her how she could date so soon she said that she did her mourning while he was still alive. That his passing was expected and just the final step. I don’t get it but it’s her process. With this in mind, I waited patiently in line to pay my regards to the family and when I met him I congratulated him on his remarks. I mentioned that his dad and my dad were friends and both had the same disease. He gave me a big smiley thank you, which threw me off, and I asked him how he was able to deliver it without breaking down. I was clear that it wasn’t a criticism, only that I could never have done it without breaking down. He didn’t have an answer. Maybe Mom was right. He watched his father suffer for years so maybe he was just ready for it. But, here’s the kicker, so did I. And I was still an emotional, blubbering mess when my father died.

The first time I discovered my fear of speaking in public was at my Grandfather’s funeral in 2002. I offered to write his eulogy and I really made an effort to capture the man. He was 92 so I celebrated his life and spoke of some fond memories. As I spoke I was sad of course, he was a major influence on me, but as I said, he was 92. I focused on his best traits. His wicked sense of humor, his honesty, and integrity, his simple way of life were well known and celebrated. Still, I barely got through it, I broke down. The small crowd didn’t care, their takeaway was how much like him I was (an indisputable truth). It was a learning experience.

When my dad passed I knew that I would be the one to memorialize him. As I stated earlier, I wrote a long eulogy, perhaps too long, about his influence on me, his defining qualities of being a great friend, co-worker, dad, husband. I spared nothing, as I do in my blog, telling of my regrets at things left unsaid and how he simply deserved better. It brought the house down. As people filed past me, one even said, in tears, “I have to go and call my father now.” Moved and grateful as I was, I didn’t have a big smile on my face. I was a wreck. I didn’t want kudos on my speech, I wanted my father back.

Now I sit here and wonder if the son, the man who gave a beautiful but emotionless speech, had the same experiences I did? The ones that you would never talk about in a memorial because people don’t want to hear it.

I wonder if he ever heard his father cry because he knew, that no matter how hard he tried to hang on, he wouldn’t be around to celebrate his next wedding anniversary with his lifelong sweetheart? They were married 49 years.

I wonder if he ever saw his father on the toilet, unable to wipe himself and too weak to stand, trying (he could barely speak) to get me to get his caretaker to wipe his ass because he did not want me to see him like that?

I wonder if his father ever pulled him close and in a forced whisper say, “Gun…key” in his ear, imploring him to go downstairs, find the key to the cabinet, get a gun and let him fucking end it?

I wonder if he has loose ends, things he wanted to say but couldn’t, or didn’t. Apologies or thank you’s?

I wonder if he is haunted by feeding the man who taught him to use a spoon, his dinner through one?

I wonder if he wants to scream at the top of his lungs “Fuck YOU Parkinson’s” like I do. Every day.

I wonder if it’s just me. Maybe I’m just being a jerk. We all grieve differently and we all handle things differently. His father died a week ago, I lost mine 5 years ago. Why am I the emotional one?

it’s not politics, it’s people

download (31)

Politics is the study of how governments and countries interact and function. But the word itself, perhaps lazily, has evolved into the study and discussion of current events as they pertain to society in general. I pride myself on my knowledge of Politics. I enjoy being a news junkie and a history buff. I like being up on current events, ready to whip out of my holster some nugget at a cocktail party. Given the choice between being informed or not, I like to know what’s going on despite the terrible toll it sometimes takes. But at the end of the day, I don’t know shit.

As an American, I enjoy a sense of security that a citizen of only a few countries ever have. We have never had our shores breached by an enemy, we have a strong military and a representative government in place to see that we (hopefully) never fall victim to civil war again. With the exception of the Great Depression, we have never known widespread hunger and poverty. Our standard of living, even at “poverty” levels consists of not just food, shelter and clothing but multiple televisions, a car, a cellphone, and internet connectivity. While we could do better, we could be worse off. Even in our darkest days, we seem to look to the future with optimism. The American Dream. And when we look at other countries, it is my opinion that we see things the same way.

Yet, there are people who have seen real civil war, experienced abject poverty, experienced true desperation and watched their once beloved country crumble before them. Only our immigrants from war-torn countries could relate to such an experience, I certainly can’t. Yet today I read a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Bojana of Bojana’s Coffee and Confessions to go that details the day to day struggles of the Bosnian Conflict. It is the third installment of a series and I have been anxiously awaiting its posting. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/133032654/posts/506  It is a must read for all.

In 1984, I was a year out of High School. I was pretty big into politics even then and I was intrigued by the Winter Olympic games being held in Sarajevo. A communist European country with a pro-western leader, tarnished by the persistent memory of an assassination that led to a world war had earned the opportunity to put on a great show for the world.

Less than 10 years later that beautiful country was ravaged by a civil war. The sight of the games now looks like this:

The world, for the most part, sat and watched it happen.

I remember sitting in my living room, like many, thinking to myself “ugh…ethnic cleansing, mass graves, concentration camps, old hatreds…it’s a civil war let them work it out”. And that’s just what most of the world did. The US, in particular, was still licking its wounds over the last civil conflict that we had no “National Interest” in but, in the name of humanity, got involved in. Americans  still had this image from Mogadishu etched in our brains.
download (36)
We stayed out of it. But people were suffering. We did get involved eventually as a UN mission. We ineffectively bombed where we could. It was a band-aid at best and we acted like we helped. But millions were robbed of their lives, many of them young people who lost their youth and possibly their belief in a just world. Besides mountains of bodies, lost youth is the second biggest casualty of war.

 

In America, we loosely throw names at our leaders such as Nazi, or Fascist, or Dictator but we have never experienced such a thing. We have never had in power a despot, a dictator, a Shah or Cleric, a General or Generalissimo, or a Fascist.
images (34)
We had a King once and kicked his ass to the curb. We cannot pretend to know what it is like to be killed or imprisoned for our beliefs, religion or ethnicity. We have never walked down streets with bullets ringing by as we step over bodies. And we have never been without the support of one, centralized government that is always supporting us.

Yet with foreign policy, we act out against leaders at the expense of the people. Extreme sanctions, bombing campaigns and other harsh means of punishing the bad leaders of bad countries don’t hurt the leaders, only the people they lead. In many of those cases, the people don’t even support the beliefs of their leaders. They just want what we want. To eat a warm meal, sleep in a warm bed, to walk the streets without fear, and a future for their children.

Behind the great big wall that we call politics, there are just people. Strong, brave, resilient people who refuse to give up their lives despite what is going on around them. As evidenced by this iconic photograph of a Bosnian woman walking down the street. According to the photographer, bullets were flying close nearby, yet she walked upright and proud. Going about her day.
MP_038