A Time to Fight for the Memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Our Rights and Our Lives: For DT, there is No Right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” Except for Himself

Immediately after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, DT and Mitch McConnell were apparently plotting how to nominate and seat a loyal follower on the court. In fact, they had been plotting for months what to do when she died, and on Saturday announced they would speedily replace her. To them, her death did not mark the loss of a brave living being loved by many, but a craved opportunity to advance DT’s attempt at dictatorial power and secure the ability to possibly nullify the constitutional transition of power.

 

Even in the face of so many people grieving, they rush to fill her seat on the court, showing an unseemly greed, and revealing once again what this administration represents⎼ namely the attempted reduction of everyone from fellow human beings to pieces of equipment, machines to work, resources valued only as much as they, we can be used and manipulated. Anyone who works, fights, for the good of others is a “sucker” or a “loser”. The only beings seemingly free from this dehumanized transactional value are dictators and the super-rich, but even these people are fawned over as gods when they favor DT, and Satan himself when they oppose him.

 

Once again, DT’s actions show that for him there is no right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, no inalienable rights for anyone but DT himself and his close followers, no laws to limit his pursuit of power.

 

An article in Common Dreams makes clear what this moment, now, means to most of us. After our grief, we must act. The article quotes tweets by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Our first, no. 1 priority is to do everything possible to secure electoral college victory in Nov. This is the fight of our lives. …Opponents of democracy need your resignation to succeed. Don’t give it to them.” And: “We can win, we can succeed, but we cannot do it alone. …We must get to work. Everyone matters. Everyone has something to give.”

 

Democrats are fighting and we must help them. Even some Republicans are saying out loud that the Senate must not rush to judgment, but carefully consider who should be added to this court. Others that the election is less than two months away and we must wait to hear who the voters think should nominate the next justice (as Senator Grassley and McConnell advocated in 2016 when President Obama had the opportunity to choose a new justice). This includes Lisa Murkowski, and, depending on the moment, Susan Collins.

 

So, whether it be demonstrating, writing letters, sharing information, helping get out the vote, voting for Biden and other Democratic candidates, and calling GOP Senators, we must stop DT’s attempt to use Justice Ginsburg’s death as an opportunity to turn the Supreme Court into a tool for domination, to assume complete power over the court and our government as a whole. And we must stop his attempt to win a second (and third) term in office.

 

**Here are numbers of some GOP Senators to call: Susan Collins: 202-224-2523, Cory Gardner: 202-224-5941, Chuck Grassley:  202-224-3744, Lisa Murkowski: 202-224-6665, Mitt Romney: 202-224-5251.

 

 

The Sounds that Create Silence: A Practice that Creates Strength

I love the sound of crickets and cicadas. I sometimes sit outside and just listen, in the morning and the heat of day to hear the cicadas or in the evening to hear the crickets. For some reason, it’s reassuring and comforting. The sound begins with the warmth of summer and ends when it gets cold, so it’s a message that summer is here. And crickets become silent when anyone or anything big gets near, so their voice can be one of safety.

 

When I was working as a teacher, and the end of vacation grew near, I especially took note of the sound. If I had any regrets about not spending enough time outdoors or having enough fun or not doing enough to help others or to find moments of calm in my own heart— the crickets reminded me of what had been there for me all along. As my schedule sped up to the fall, and vacation time transformed into work time, the crickets reminded me that the essence of life was individual moments. It reminded me to take a few moments to just listen and focus on what was here right now.

 

Listening to the crickets can be a mindfulness practice. Instead of focusing on the breath, you can let your mind settle on the crickets. When you do so, their voice grows clearer and purer. You hear a concert of millions of tiny wings rubbing together to produce a sound that might calm and help clear your mind. Or if it’s morning, you could focus on the cicadas.

 

So, simply sit outdoors on the grass or in a chair⎼ or indoors, near an open window. Let your hands rest on your lap, your eyes be partly or fully closed, or open and resting on something comforting⎼ and sit with the sound. Let your mind be simply an ear to the world. Just breathe in and enjoy a concert of crickets or cicadas as you inhale⎼ and settle into the moment as you exhale….

 

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

Are We Now Living In A War Zone? How Can A Poet Help Us?

Any conversation I have now with good friends is shadowed by, or turns directly and painfully, to politics. Even responding to a polite “How are you?” can require great creativity, to somehow be genuine but not devolve into tears or rage. “Considering the state of the world, I am fine,” is one of my usual responses.

 

In one discussion, a good friend said our country is now more and more a nation at war. Another said we’re a nation ruled by an incompetent, oppressive, and wannabee dictator.

 

DT is clearly turning our nation if not into a war zone then into a zone of lawlessness. He says he is the only candidate who can protect America, but whatever lawlessness is happening now is already during his watch, and he is certainly provoking the violence and is one of the nation’s biggest lawbreakers.

 

For example, he sends Federal officers, in violation of the constitution, without identification, to create havoc in cities with Democratic Mayors, who are hosting protests against racial violence and injustice. And when white militias show up In Kenosha, Wisconsin, and police allow a militiaman with a gun to shoot and kill 2 people, DT barely mentions the murdered victims in his GOP Convention speech, likes a tweet supporting the murderer, and his supporters blame the protestors.

 

As Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, Oregon said on Sunday (8/30): “It’s you [DT] who have created the hate and division. It’s you who have not found a way to say the names of two Black people killed by police officers… And it’s you who claimed that White Supremacists are good people.”

 

He dares to call himself “the law and order President.” Talk about the Big Lie. No President has been sued like DT. He has been impeached by the House, committed more corrupt acts, has had more members of his administration indicted, has undermined not only laws but the rule of law and the constitution itself⎼ and he calls himself the law and order President? He’s the father of disorder, the violator of law and the violator of the constitution.

 

He lies so blatantly and caustically that many words and concepts have become haunted with his venom. Think of ‘media’, ‘immigrant’, ‘fraud’, ‘election’, ‘liberal’, ‘socialist’, ‘mask’, let alone terms like ‘Post Office’, ‘fake news’, ‘health care’, ‘pre-existing conditions’, ‘Social Security’, ‘first responders’, and ‘essential workers’. Although there are some words and terms that have taken on more clarity, that wake us up, like ‘vote’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’.

 

Our mouths, minds and hearts have been mined with emotional time bombs, traumas, which is just what DT wants. …

 

*To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

What We Can Do, Now, to Help Get Out the Vote

Some of us wish we could do more, and influence the election, change the world, get justice, or at least get DT out of office. Taking action to get out the vote will not only help us get DT out of office, change governmental policies, and give us the chance to actually make substantive changes in this nation, but it can make us feel stronger. To paraphrase a poem by Theodore Roethke, we learn by acting how to act.

 

Here are a few contact numbers and addresses to take action to get out the vote:

 

 

NextGen America Phone calls

https://www.mobilize.us/dailykos/event/308026/?link_id=9&can_id=940d7b7aed53dbb8a766175be328d94e&source=email-getting-out-the-vote-for-young-people-in-this-pandemic-2&email_referrer=email_905179&email_subject=we-will-win-if-we-can-get-young-people-to-vote

 

National Calls

https://www.mobilize.us/dailykos/event/291103/?link_id=6&can_id=940d7b7aed53dbb8a766175be328d94e&source=email-we-are-less-than-70-days-before-the-election-what-are-you-doing-2&email_referrer=email_9024

 

Turnout Thursday, 9/3, make calls:

https://www.mobilize.us/turnout2020/event/292970/?utm_source=DK&link_id=0&can_id=940d7b7aed53dbb8a766175be328d94e&email_referrer=email_889258&email_subject=re-a-concrete-strategic-way-to-get-more-swing-state-democrats-to-vote-in-november

 

Write letters

https://votefwd.org/

Staffing the Polling Places:

https://www.powerthepolls.org/?fbclid=IwAR2R5mB-eI3T86T63HUZpwLdZrVaCUBr28Txijj4V5UY0H8m2I5tkmEjpxc

 

https://www.elections.ny.gov/BecomePollworker.html

A Traumatized Nation

Even before COVID-19, even before DT, a great number of us were carrying the pain of a trauma. But since the onset of this pandemic in February and March, the pain and suffering has become ubiquitous. Sure, many of us can be relatively safe in our homes, quite content and even happy, and we need such a refuge. But what does it do to us when we can’t stand to hear the news? Or fear leaving our homes? We often think of trauma in terms of individuals. But a whole nation can be traumatized, as we have been at different times in our history, including 9/11 and, for multiple reasons, now.

 

I’m reading a book that has been extremely helpful for me, called Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing by David A. Treleaven. The book has expanded my understanding of my own practice of mindfulness, how to help others, as well as how to better understand this time we are all experiencing.

 

A trauma is an incapacitating form of stress. Stress by itself can be helpful or harmful. But when it is deep and we can’t integrate or face it, it can become traumatic. The DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a traumatic event as exposure to “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.”

 

Treleaven makes clear that this exposure can come in many ways, from directly experiencing or witnessing a trauma or from learning about what happened to a relative, loved one or close friend. Children are especially vulnerable. One in four children in the U. S. have experienced physical abuse, one in five sexual. Then you add war and oppression, whether it be sexism or violence directed at one’s gender identity, race or religion, etc. and you have a huge number of people who have suffered from trauma.

 

There is a spectrum of trauma, of course, a difference in intensity and symptoms. We can feel stressed out or suffer from PTSD. Symptoms can vary from repeating thoughts and memories, to images flooding consciousness, to being cut off or alienated from our own feelings. We can have trouble sleeping or feel our own bodies are booby-trapped.

 

And what happens when we come to fear a person’s maskless face or touching a surface in a public place? Or we don’t know how we can feed our family or if we will be thrown out of our homes? What happens when our social-economic-political worlds are being destroyed, our rights ripped away, and people who look like us are killed by police without being held accountable? All while the water we drink and the air we breathe is poisoned?

 

Mindfulness Practice:

 

One way to begin is with mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is both a present centered awareness of whatever is going on with us as well as a practice that develops self-regulation. Traditional mindfulness and meditation is based on a deep understanding of the causes of, and ways to relieve, human suffering. It teaches us how to study our conditioned responses to stimuli as well as our own sensations, thoughts and feelings so we can interrupt ones that lead to suffering.

 

Mindfulness usually helps me with any problem I face, even when I am ill or frightened. In fact, for the first few years after I learned how to meditate, I would only do it when I had a headache or felt sick or stressed. I had headaches frequently. Then I realized if I did it every day, maybe the headaches would stop. And they did….

 

**To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

Pandemic Time: Replacing a Future We Dread with A Present We Can Handle

I am sitting outside, on my deck, looking at the garden at my feet⎼ red begonias, lavender impatiens, white zinnias and other flowers. It’s early morning. Last night there was, finally, a good rain. And although the sky is relatively clear and the sun is out, the air is beautifully cool. There is a sense in the air, or in me, that all this is fast disappearing. That I need to dig down deep into this moment before it, and all these flowers, are gone.

 

Part of this feeling is because it is the last week of August and summer is nearing its end. After teaching for 30 years, and going to school for nearly 20, August often feels like it’s a slide into autumn, into school and work with winter to follow.

 

This is especially true this year. Due to the pandemic, I have so much more unscheduled time, and so much time is absorbed by news reports and worries about the future. When will the pandemic end? Will there be a second wave? What new atrocities will DT commit? Will we have a constitution after November? With the election in front of us, the end of summer is fraught with so much more anxiety. And if we’re not observant, it could vacuum up all our attention.

 

Living through DT and the coronavirus in the spring, summer and even the fall, when we can be outside much of the time, is one thing. Doing it in winter will be much more difficult.

 

And how do we or our children face going back to school? There are just too many unknowns. Too many dangers. And whatever is decided about how school will look at the end of August or in September, could all change quickly and dramatically, as it did last spring. School used to be a stable part of our culture. No more. Very little of what used to provide stability and clarity can do that now.

 

So, how do we find a sense of stability and clarity during the time of the pandemic, or when everything inside us cries for, or dreads, dramatic change? When we can’t wait any longer for an end to the pandemics of the coronavirus and racism. When we want justice, now. When we want leaders who will put the needs of the nation and we, the people, first. No half measures are acceptable.  We want so much because things are so bad and so little is predictable.

 

Maybe we can find ways to work both on social-political issues and to find stability and clarity inside ourselves. By taking action, we show ourselves that we have the autonomy and strength to do so. We face our anxiety over the future by working now to create the future we need….

 

To read the whole article, go to The Good Men Project.

Stealing Our Ability to Speak: The Threat to Humanity

We the people need a new pandemic relief bill. We need it now. Yet instead of meaningfully and honestly trying to get resources to those who need it, or resolve differences between legislative proposals, DT threatens and then takes executive actions most of which help no one but himself. His actions are doublespeak, attempts to steal the words, talking points, battle cries from those seriously attempting to help us, the American people. With words made meaningless, we can cry and shout but not speak.

 

For example, DT says he wants to get more money to American workers by enacting a payroll tax cut or deferral for September to December, by an Executive Order. But this action is merely a delay until after the election, to garner votes that he’s losing badly, and does nothing to help those who have no income. And since the President does not have the authority to nullify the laws dictating the collection of the taxes, businesses and corporations must collect the tax money anyway. This puts them in a possibly corrupting situation: What do they do with the money? Do they hoard it? Turn it into a corporate slush fund? They probably can’t give it back to workers, because they might be responsible for it in the future. The result: workers get nothing.

 

Another example is extending unemployment, which sounds like a reasonable thing to do until we see the details. His order calls for $400 per week to aid unemployed workers, instead of the previous $600 in the lapsed CARES Act and the plan proposed by Democrats, or the $200 in the GOP plan. Why DT didn’t push more for a compromise in negotiations with Congress is the question.

 

Look at the reality of what DT did. The executive order forces the states, instead of the Federal government, to cover one-quarter of the unemployment payment, while states are already in a dire economic situation and need their own relief package. And since DT does not have the legal authority to enact legislation, he must take money from already approved funds. In this case, he plans to take money set aside to help people and municipalities who suffer from tornadoes, hurricanes, massive fires and such, as if we haven’t been suffering from any natural disasters for the last few years. How will we help those victimized by hurricanes or wildfires if the funds are gone?

 

Another example is the supposed extension of the moratorium on evictions. His executive order does not ban evictions, nor does it provide money to help renters. Instead of this executive order or the lies and half measures which just keep the pandemic alive, the best remedy would be to protect the income and jobs of workers and to enhance unemployment insurance while closing the economy down for 4 – 6 weeks and putting an end to the pandemic, as a top Federal Reserve official recommended. Instead, DT’s order asks Alex Azar, secretary for Health and Human Services, and Robert Redfield, of the CDC, merely to consider if an eviction ban is needed. Meanwhile, 40 million people could face evictions, and create the most intense housing crisis in our history.

 

DT wants to put on a mask as a savior (but not one to protect people from the virus) while he sacrifices Seniors, as he has already said he would sacrifice brown and black workers, children, etc. The payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare, two crucial and popular programs that help millions. DT and his GOP backers have for years been trying to destroy or privatize any government programs that help people live more decent lives, even ones that the beneficiaries actually pay for, unless those programs generate profits for the already over-wealthy. And as he made clear when he signed the Executive Orders on Saturday, if elected he will make the cuts to fund Social Security and Medicare permanent.

 

We need times of respite and calm. They are necessary for our physical, mental and emotional health and also to push ourselves to take clearly considered political action. But there are no sidelines anymore. DT’s response to the Coronavirus, to Black Lives Matter protests, to polls showing how likely it is he will lose the next election, and almost everything else he’s done since elected makes it clear⎼ he is willing to take everything from us, even our lives.  All those seemingly safe places for us to retreat to, our homes if they’re paid for, an apartment if we have enough money saved, won’t help us for long if we don’t find our voices, our hands and feet, and find ways to act now.

 

In my experience, we can make 4 calls in 5 minutes to GOP Senators. Writing letters or making calls to get out the vote, joining street protests in our home towns or cities, in Washington, D. C. or at Congressional offices, takes more time. But combined with the efforts of thousands of other people, in the government and out, is what provides the only safety we have.

 

**For more details on the Executive Orders and what led to them, read this piece by Heather Cox Richardson.

 

This article was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

Improv Dreams: The Silence of Birds and Trucks

Last night I had an interesting dream. I can’t remember the exact setting, only that it was before the pandemic, or maybe timeless, because no one was wearing a mask. There was a stage outdoors. The color of the background was dark and orange-yellow, and there were several people present, most of them women and middle aged. I am a retired secondary school teacher, and some of the people were parents of former students of mine and neighbors. My Dad and, for a second, my Mom, were visiting me. They have both passed.

 

We (not including my parents) were doing an improvisational theatre exercise. People were standing around the stage area and would spontaneously walk across it and do and say something in response to a theme. For example, if the theme had been friendship, we might walk across the stage holding the hand of a missing friend or dance around with our arms outstretched. But the theme was never stated, although everyone seemed to know what it was. The same with the improvised responses⎼ they were heard and seen with the heart more than the ears or eyes.

 

I sometimes felt like I was the teacher or leader, sometimes a participant or a bystander. One of the subjects I used to teach was theatre. But in the dream, I never joined in, although I had that familiar feeling of wanting to do so but fearing to look foolish.

 

Was the dream proclaiming, “all the world is a stage”? Was it reminding me that when we don’t take action, we might regret it? Was the presence of my own parents, as well as the parents of former students, a message of how we’re parents to ourselves? Or was it saying that we create the sense of the stage we act upon? Or maybe it was something else?

 

Because of my direct focus in the dream on the image of myself, I lost sight of the fact that my mind was creating the whole scene, the people on stage as well as the audience and the stage itself. Every aspect of what I saw was me.

 

The next morning, early, I sat outside on a bench, intent on meditating for a short time. Immediately, everything went silent. It surprised me, totally.

 

Silence is not an absence of sound, just an absence of noise or consuming or unwanted chatter. But how full it is….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project

What Do We Do When It All is Getting to Us? The Value of a Good Honest Conversation

What do we do when we feel it is all getting to us? When the outrage and depression over the killing of George Floyd and so many other African-Americans by police, combines with the sadness and anger over the rising numbers of those sick and dying from the coronavirus, combines with the actions by DT to cut off the information from reaching us that we need to protect ourselves? And all this is augmented by anxiety over our economic situation or uncertainty over the future and, of course, fear of getting sick?

 

My mind went through a change over the past weekend. Every time we leave home to go to a public, indoor location⎼ shop for food, get our car fixed, what used to be normal activities⎼ a new waiting period can begin. Since the incubation period for the virus can be two weeks, if we do this more than once during that time, we never stop being on edge, monitoring for symptoms. A chest pain, a cough, a tickle in the throat can cause us to isolate ourselves further in worry.

 

I turned on the tv and there was an ad for a local Public Television program, Behind the Woman, which shared personal stories of women leaders from diverse backgrounds. In this time of different pandemics, those of racism, DT, and the coronavirus, the program reminded me of what a sense of community can be like, with shared concerns and a demand for change.

 

Then I heard news about protests over the police killing of George Floyd, in Portland, Oregon, being met by militarized Federal agents sent there by DT. These camouflage-wearing agents have been stomping on the people’s right to protest and on the legitimate local authorities and the rule of law, creating chaos to serve DT’s own selfish political purposes. And on Sunday, they  were met by a wall of Moms chanting “Moms are here, Feds stay clear.” I felt a silly sort of joy, a shared interest and feeling, with these women, and with these protestors. Until I heard about the teargas and arrests and the joy was replaced with outrage and fear.

 

Hearing about the protests, I somehow felt less alone. When we hear about other people in pain, we want to do something to end that suffering. We want to help. Even babies, when they hear other babies crying, join in. And when we hear about people taking action, we can feel more powerful ourselves and ready to act….

 

To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

What Do We Do When Faced with Someone Who Proclaims the Coronavirus a Hoax?

The Coronavirus, and DT’s mismanagement and exacerbation of it, has put many of us in a state of stress, grief, anxiety and trauma⎼ and that doesn’t count the feelings of those who have been sick or have lost a loved one. So what do you do when faced with someone who believes the coronavirus is a hoax and refuses to wear a mask? How do you talk to such people without losing it in anger or dehumanizing them as they might be dehumanizing you?

 

This is becoming too familiar a situation. Political discussions are notoriously difficult to have, and the coronavirus has become severely politicized. We have the example of DT refusing to wear a mask. In Georgia, where the coronavirus is spiking, where 50 people died yesterday (7/15) and 3,441 new cases were reported, the Governor sued the Mayor of Atlanta for issuing a mask ordinance. The lawsuit comes one day after the Governor issued an executive order suspending such mandates. He did not sue any of the other cities with mask ordinances.

 

There have even been instances where store clerks have politely confronted customers, or one person on the street confronted another, and the response was violent and in a few instances, deadly.

 

But let’s say we know the person, they are not prone to violence, and we are facing them, maskless, on the street or in a store. It might help to be prepared.

 

In all the cases I know of, the maskless person was white, often but not always, male, so just imagine a white male. What might be going on in his mind? It would be helpful to hear his response and not make assumptions.

 

So I imagine asking him, directly, “Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” Of course, his actions put the health of other people at risk. But in his mind, there might be no risk, because the threat is unreal. A lie even.

 

Maybe he is only listening to GOP politicians and right-wing propaganda sources and hasn’t questioned what he heard. To him, Dr. Fauci is the threat. News outlets that check the reliability of their sources, like the NY Times or the Washington Post or NPR, are the threat. Simply presenting facts as we know them won’t work.

 

Maybe deep down he feels powerless and his belief covers that up, replaces it with the potent sense that he is one of the select few with the inside information. To him, I am a dupe, blinded by the “media” or whomever, either lacking information or the thinking capacity to see through the deception. And what a deception it must be. Just think about all the people in the media, politics, police and medical profession that must be conspiring together to create the hoax.

 

And he must not know anyone who has gotten sick or died. He must not know anyone who has cared for or treated or is the friend or loved one of one of the sick and the dying. He might not know that according to a recently released report by the CDC, people of color are 3 times as likely to become infected with the virus as white people. Or maybe he doesn’t care. Maybe racism is involved, and another sort of conversation is needed here….

 

To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.