How Did This Happen? Whose Interests Are Served by the Divisiveness in the U. S. Today?

How did politics in the US get so bad? Why is there such divisiveness? Why are Democrats seemingly so ineffectual and the GOP so ready to support whatever T does, even when he puts Russia before US interests, and dictatorship before Democracy? Why does the GOP walk so much in lockstep, ready to stomp on the humanity, rights, health care and income of so many in the middle and lower classes?

 

Pew Poll shows that we are more divided now than in the early 1990s. Despite living through Joe McCarthy and the struggles of the fifties, the great turmoil, assassinations and political changes of the 1960s, and then Nixon and Reagan, our political situation today feels worse than anything I experienced before, largely because the future of democracy has not been so threatened before by our own President.

 

And the lock stepping of the GOP is not just an example of politicians afraid of their base or afraid of losing their position, as many in the centrist media portray it. The base of the GOP itself is something relatively new in US politics, even though it has been developing for years. Since Reagan, the GOP has become increasingly intransigent and devoted to only one small group of people—the white super-rich. T is also something relatively new, but he a poison in a garden that was already laid waste by politicians unable and unwilling to halt the pressure by specific members of the super-rich to undermine any restraints on their power.

 

One book I’ve been reading to help me gain some clarity is Billionaire Democracy: The Hijacking of the American Political System by economist George Tyler. This is an important book to read. It talks not only about how democracy has been hijacked, but how to take it back. In 1980, according to Tyler, the richest 0.1% contributed less than 10% of all campaign contributions. By 2012, their share increased to 44%. In 2016, it increased to about 66% of contributions to Congressional candidates.

 

Along with this trend in political contributions is a trend many have noted in wealth controlled by the top 1%. In the 1920s, before the depression, the top 1% owned 44.2% of the wealth. During the depression, and even more, during the war, the taxes on the rich were raised to 94% for top earners, and the percentage of wealth owned by the rich by 1945 was down to 29.8%. By 1979, the percentage owned by the 1% was down to only 20%. Thanks to Reagan, the percentage of wealth owned by the super-rich went up. By 2013, the top 1% owned 36.7% of US wealth. The top 20% of the US population in terms of wealth owned 89%, leaving only 11% for the remaining 80% of people. In 2017, the top 1% owned 42.8%. It has been increasing by 6% annually since the mid-2000s. (See my chart on the last page.) And the GOP tax cut is only making income inequality worse.

 

According to more recent data, a study by researchers at the Federal Reserve showed that in 2018 the richest 10% of householders in the U. S. owned 70% of the wealth. These increases were mirrored by decreases for those households in the 50-90thpercentiles of the wealth distribution.

 

America’s wealthiest 20 people own more wealth than the bottom half the population, own more than 152,000,000 people combined. And among the Forbes 444, only 2 are African-American….

 

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

 

**This is an update of an earlier piece that appeared on this website.

Remembering Those Who Taught Us to Love

This past April 17th, on my Dad’s birthday, exactly one and a half years since he had died, I started having dreams as well as daytime images of him and the places he had lived. I’d see the drive south on Atlantic Avenue toward his home on Berkley Square, Atlantic City, or see the view of the ocean out of the window of his condo. I’d see his living room in Virginia or the front of the house where we lived in N. Y. I’d see him walking bent down and forward over his walker or hear his voice clearly as if he was calling me on the phone.

 

Some think that after a loved one dies, we should just get over it as soon as we can. Think of other things. Do whatever we can to make the pain go away so we can return to whatever state it is that we call normal or comfortable. We humans love homeostasis as much as we love those who have helped us achieve that state in the past.

 

And, of course, to some degree we have to do that. There are other people in our lives, and other responsibilities. We have to go to work or school and feed ourselves. A new phase of our life has begun, and we have to let go of the old one.

 

But the people we love are, by that fact, part of us. They are an essential element of who we are. Forgetting them is forgetting ourselves.

 

We have to internalize, take on for ourselves much of what the other person gave us. When a parent dies, the child has to grow up. Sigmund Freud said (approximately) it is only after a parent’s death that a child knows what it means to grow up. I think I agree with him.

 

Although I was 70 years old when my father died, I realized I must now take on whatever I had emotionally and otherwise left for my father to do. When I was a teenager, I did what most teenagers do in this country ⎼ I fought with him almost daily. It was part of the psychological mechanism through which I learned who I was and how to become an independent person. Later on, I was able to reconcile with him.

 

Somehow, even though I only saw him 5 or 6 times a year (and talked weekly), just knowing he was there for me gave me a sense of safety and security. He gave me an ancestral home. When he died, he could no longer provide that. I had to, I still have to, learn how to provide that home for myself. He could no longer advise me about finances or argue with me about politics or encourage me to maintain contact with my relatives. Family was so important to him. I now have to learn to do these things for myself…..

 

To read the whole blog, please go to the Good Men Project, which published the piece.

My Favorite Dance Music

My wife was watching Sleepless in Seattle. Such a classic scene, at the end, when the two destined lovers finally, after so many twists and turns, let go of their own resistance and embraced their lives and each other. Jimmy Durante provided the musical background.

 

Make someone happy

Make just one someone happy

And you will be happy too.

 

And I pulled my wife up from the couch. She laughed, and we danced around the room. Milo, our cat, was sleeping in a chair and I stopped dancing and sang to him and he started purring.

 

And then, a new moment. My wife went to the bathroom to brush her teeth and I went upstairs to the bedroom with a book of poems, Cold Mountain, written by the Chinese hermit, Hanshan.

 

Such moments, ordinary and yet not, make a life full.

 

Cold Mountain says, Seeing the empty sky, things grow even more still. And I realized stillness and dancing arise from the same root.

 

Dancing with my wife

The cat purrs.

 

The moon in the window

So still, so full, so empty.

When the spirit is right,

The cat and the moonlight

Provide the perfect dance music.

 

To read the whole post, please go to this link to the Good Men Project where it was published.

Feeling Stressed and Out of Time: Ending A School Year ⎼ Or Anything

For many years, when I was a teacher and the month of May rolled around, the end of the school year would feel like a surprise. What once seemed like a tremendous length of time was now only a few weeks long. Earlier in the year, I had to plan extensively to fill each class period. Now, there was too much to do and not enough time to do it. The once lengthy year was over too quickly.

 

I remember vacations I did not want to ever end, or conversations, concerts, a sunset over the Caldera in Santorini, Greece.  I felt this moment might never come again and I wanted to hold on tightly. Or I felt I had missed something, or I preferred where I was to where I was going next.

 

Understanding the passage of time and ending anything, whether it be the school or a calendar year, a project, a vacation, or a job can be difficult, painful ⎼or exciting. Just saying the word ‘ending’ can sound dramatic and consequential.

 

We might like what we are doing and not want to let it go.  We might resist what is new because it is threatening or scary or maybe something from the past is still calling us. Or it might be difficult to accept the end because we never fully grasped or embraced the beginning. To begin something new we need to let go of something old.

 

 

Compassion Can Transform the Energy of Stress into Helpful Action 

 

A school year or a work project is never just about the work. Relationships are formed. A community, maybe a family, is created. When the work is completed, the community ceases. This must be recognized, reflected upon, celebrated. The other people must be honored. After all, you came together, learned together, struggled through time and tasks together, and hopefully cared for each other. You pay a price if you forget this basic fact.

 

The fact of this community ending is part of the stress you feel. Some years, I created interactive final demonstrations for certain classes. For example, students had to discuss, in a small group, pre-selected essential questions related to the class subject matter and then answer follow-up questions posed by other teachers and university professors.  We did this at my home or at night at the school, so we did the work and then shared a meal. Years afterwards, former students have told me they remembered the event and had found it meaningful….

 

To read the whole post, please go to MindfulTeachers.org.

When Someone Tries to Shut You Up, Look into What They’re Hiding: When Monitoring Unlawful Behavior is Spying, and Exposing Treason is Called Treason

On May 13, Attorney General William Barr announced he was beginning an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. He appointed John Durham, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut to handle the investigation. Barr, in his testimony to Congress, used the word “spying” to describe a counterintelligence investigation into the contacts between Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to T, and Russians. Are actions to monitor Russian contacts with political operatives of the President now to be called “spying” by this administration? And attempts to stop such invasive actions and protect our electoral process and constitution to be called “treason”? In March, T did just that and accused the FBI and Democrats of treason.

 

This is Newspeak, where monitoring unlawful behavior is spying and exposing treason is treason.

 

Barr’s move was in response to continued pressure from the President, pressure that looks like more obstruction of justice. The counterintelligence operation into Carter Page’s behavior was actually begun during the 2016 election (October 21, 2016) after being approved by a FISA court consisting not of Democrats but of four Republican appointed judges. And the investigation was continued by the Trump appointed DOJ.

 

In 2017, this pressure by T led to GOP Congressman Devin Nunes releasing a redacted version of the highly classified FISA warrant, something rarely, if ever, done. Nunes’ had falsely claimed that the warrant was based on the Steele Dossier. However, the FBI’s interest in Page predated their knowledge of the Dossier. Page was being monitored because he was associated with two actual Russian spies who were trying to recruit him.

 

In other words, the President ordered the DOJ (and a GOP Congressman) to do his bidding and attack those he perceived as his enemies and the Attorney General (and Congressman) complied with his wishes.

 

This wasn’t the only time T tried to get the DOJ to act as his personal attack squad to shut down or shut up anything or anyone who gets in his way. Remember that he tried to pressure former Attorney General Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton, for example, and tried to pressure former FBI Director James Comey to shut down the FBI investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

 

Barr, as many have pointed out, has thus been acting as the attorney for the President, not the Attorney General of the United States. Barr told the American public the President was exonerated from any charge of obstructing justice when, in fact, the Mueller Report clearly stated T was not exonerated. Barr said the President did not conspire with Russia to attack the 2016 election despite the fact the Mueller Report detailed clear attempts by the President, or his campaign and advisers, to meet with Russians to release information to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign, establish back channel avenues of communication, and hide economic ties to Russia. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, gave the Russians essential polling data that might have helped them in their social media attacks.

 

T also asked the DOJ to investigate the investigators who worked for Mueller on the Russia probe. In the past, he also told Nancy Pelosi to “be careful.” I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future he tries to pressure Barr to start an investigation into her or other Democrats.

 

Trump has gone after Congresswoman Ilham Omar on Twitter several times. He posted a video on Twitter that visually linked the Congresswoman to the 9/11 arracks. Since that video, the threats on the Congresswoman have greatly increased.

 

Previously sealed documents included in the Mueller Report were released last week that paint a clear picture of how T acts towards those who thwart him. The documents show that after Trump’s National Security Adviser Mike Flynn decided to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller, T’s lawyers appear to have threatened Flynn and also dangle a pardon.

 

This action attempted to obstruct justice by interfering in the Russia probe. According to page 6 of the document, Flynn “informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation. The defendant even provided a voice recording of one such communication.”

 

As Rachel Maddow pointed out, the actions of T, as recorded in the documents, sound more like a leader of a criminal enterprise threatening people than a US President. Is this history of threatening people one of the reasons the GOP in Congress obey T so consistently?

 

In response to an article on T that someone posted on FB, I urged people not only to share articles and express their fear and anger but to call Congress and take other actions. A man wrote in reply that if he called, it would do nothing. I replied, “Of course not. One call can do nothing.” Two calls, maybe a little. Ten thousand calls? Several each week? How about calls from the 53% of the population of this country who have opposed T since before November 2016? He has never had the support of even half, never a majority of this country. What would a million calls, a hundred million calls do?

 

How about if people, besides making phone calls, also took other actions? Imagine people wearing signs saying, “No more” or “Bring down the would-be dictator.” How about people on street corners, in their cars, or outside the offices of GOP Senators carrying signs saying, “No more attacks on children.” “No more attacks on the press.” “No more gun violence.” “No more destroying our schools.” “No more destroying our environment.” “No more normalizing hate in the White House.” Let’s normalize love. Normalize compassion instead.

 

Whatever actions, big and small, we can do, let’s do them. The object isn’t that one phone call or one protest bring down a would-be dictator and hate machine. It is that our collective voice and actions speak for and model an entirely different language than what we hear spoken in the White House today. It is that we learn how to speak a language of freedom, compassion and democratic action by acting in ways that advance democracy. And then, maybe slowly but exponentially, that language will become the new language of this nation and the speakers of hate will be de-throned.

 

*Update: Things have been getting even worse. Last night, Thursday, the President gave the Attorney General enormous powers, including releasing classified information. He ordered the intelligence community to cooperate with Barr’s investigation into the counterintelligence operation which led to the Mueller Probe. The purpose, this seems, is to keep T safe from Congressional investigations into him.

 

**This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Saving Democracy by Living It: A Democratic Nation Needs A Democratic and Public Education System

How do we save our democracy? Or, how do we create a truly democratic nation? We are learning, now, that too many people in the U. S. either never understood or never cared about democracy. Or they had become complacent and hopefully now realize what they might lose. So, how do we change the state of our government?

 

A democracy is a government of, by, and for the people ⎼all the people. The power rests in the citizens, who exercise that power according to laws and principles set out in a constitution that all know and have access to. Each person must be valued, and each person’s viewpoint heard.

 

To do that, the government needs to foster a sense of community. Caring relationships and a sense of shared humanity must be at the core of the process by which decisions are made. How we live our lives schools us in how to participate, with everyone around us, in the work of running a government together.

 

We need to make political action a normal part of our daily lives.

 

Without this depth of understanding, it is too easy to give up on democracy when it becomes difficult. It is too easy to sacrifice participating in the rewarding but complex process of making decisions with others in exchange for letting someone else do it for us. It is too easy to get so focused on what we think is the only answer that we forget everyone else can also think their answer is the only one. Compromise becomes impossible. Those who differ from us become enemies.

 

It is also important to study history, to understand what happens to the rights and well-being of citizens under other forms of government, like Fascism or Dictatorship, and what happens when a democracy is destroyed.

 

For all these reasons, a democratic nation needs a democratic and public education system. Our schools need to model the quality of relationships we want in society in general. Democracy and forming caring relationships must be at the core of the school curriculum and of how a school functions.

 

A Democratic and Public Education

 

This understanding is at the heart of a book by Dr. Dave Lehman, A Principal’s Notebook: Lessons for Today from a Pioneering Public School. His book describes the educational structure of the Lehman Alternative Community School (LACS) in Ithaca, New York (a school that he founded ⎼ and where I taught for 27 years). It provides a pedagogy of democratic schooling and of relationships—students with peers, students with staff, staff with colleagues, and everyone with the material being taught and the world we live in.

 

Democracy can’t be taught just through research and reasoning, certainly not by testing the memorization of data. It requires experience and practice. It has to be lived.

 

In order to realistically learn how to relate in a caring, cooperative, and educational manner—and make decisions democratically—children need a structure that prioritizes and develops healthy, caring relationships. Especially in today’s world, marred by increasing hatred and divisiveness in our government and anxiety in our children, where young people often spend more time with digital media than they do with breathing beings, this fact has never been clearer.

 

As Dr. Dave describes in his book, at LACS “everyone has a voice, and a vote, from the newest sixth grader to the oldest high schooler, from the most recently hired teaching assistant to the most experienced teacher and the Principal.” Most decisions concerning everyone at the school are made democratically, either by a weekly all-school meeting, or weekly staff meeting. Staff makes most decisions consensually.

 

To help the school function, there are committees that meet twice a week. The committees maintain the school building and recycle. They plan and run meetings, mediate disputes, support LGBTQ and students of color, develop an overview of where the school is in terms of its goals and where it would like to go, to plant and care for trees and flowers, etc.

 

And everyone has their own family group at the school to support them, consisting of one or usually two staff and about 14 students. In this way, a real community is created. Students learn the need to take responsibility for their surroundings and to speak up for what they think is right, while respecting another people’s right to do the same.

 

Courses are sometimes formed at the recommendation of students, or they are structured to meet the interests, needs and questions raised by students. Students choose their courses instead of having all their classes mandated for them. They are assessed not primarily by standardized tests but through projects and demonstrations of skill that they have a part in designing.

 

The school is far from perfect. But it seriously tries to provide a supportive situation so each student, teacher, and administrator can do their best and find themselves in their work.

 

LACS is only one of several democratic public schools in our nation today. In fact, in New York a statewide group, the DemocracyReady NY Coalition, was launched just last February to “secure the right of all New York students to a quality P-12 education that prepares them for civic participation.”

 

A democratic government needs a citizenry that can not only research and think critically about issues and candidates but values caring relationships. It requires not only democracy in schools but of schools, so there is a quality public education open to everyone.

 

We pay an exorbitant price when the central importance of relationships and taking responsibility for one’s learning is lost. Not only the quality of education suffers, but also the community of our nation suffers. The Lehman Alternative Community School and other democratic schools throughout the nation (and world) provide not only a guide and model for developing good schools but for developing a healthy and democratic nation.

 

Of course, democratizing schools is a longer-term strategy. In the short term, we need to vote or impeach T out of office or we the people might lose the chance to democratize anything.

 

**This post has been syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Open Warfare Between T and the Constitution

For the last few weeks, if not the whole of his administration, T has been standing in front of the American people and tearing up the constitution. His lawlessness, public obstruction of justice and efforts to undermine this nation have reached new levels of affront. If we don’t respond with a tidal wave of pressure on Congress to begin an impeachment investigation, then I fear a would-be dictator would become a dictator in fact.

 

Democrats are calling for more investigations. Certainly, public testimony in congress about T’s corruption, obstruction, and back and front-door negotiating with Russians would be helpful to create this tidal wave. But I disagree with the argument that “we should focus only on legislation on bread and butter issues.” Such legislation would be wonderful. But any legislation that truly serves the interests of the majority of American people concerning health care, economic reform, education, environmental protections, voting, women’s, workers and children’s rights, or even protecting our election infrastructure will not pass the Senate and be signed by the President as long as Mr. T is President.

 

I likewise disagree with those who say we should “let the ballot box speak.” We have already seen Russia interfere in the last Presidential election. Can we wait for the next one? And as Watergate reporter Elizabeth Drew said to the New York Times and on MSNBC last Thursday, can we afford not to impeach him? The biggest danger, she said, might be in not impeaching him. What precedent would be created by not holding a president accountable for dangerous misdeeds? What if T thought his misdeeds were in fact condoned? Wouldn’t he feel emboldened to take even more dangerous actions?

 

Mueller neglected to call for charging the President with obstruction of justice, despite overwhelming evidence for the charge, partly because there is a DOJ policy not to indict a sitting PresidentMueller concluded that “as an operative of the Department of Justice (DOJ), he was bound to follow that guideline…” The problem is, as Martin London in an article in Time Magazine and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC show, this policy is certainly questionable. It is not in the constitution and clearly places the President in a position above the law, while he is President. The policy therefore makes Mr. T even more desperate to do anything he can to remain President. Remaining President might be the only way he stays out of jail.

 

T has been acting more vehement and lawless, if that is possible, since just before and certainly after the Mueller Report, or the Barr Report, was made public. The Barr summary, news conference, and decision to redact the report were clear attempts by Barr to obstruct justice and obstruct any further investigations by distorting or lying about what Mueller had to say.

 

Barr told the American public the President was exonerated from any charge of obstructing justice when, in fact, the report clearly stated T was not exonerated. Barr said the President did not conspire with Russia to attack the 2016 election despite the fact the Mueller Report detailed clear attempts by the President, or his campaign and advisers, to meet with Russians to release information to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign, establish back channel avenues of communication, and hide economic ties to Russia. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, gave the Russians essential polling data that might have helped them in their social media attacks. These are not the actions of an innocent man.

 

Since the release of the Mueller Report, T said he would fight “all the subpoenas” issued by the House. For example, he has refused to let a White House official respond to a subpoena regarding security clearances and said he would prevent his former lawyer, Don McGahn, from testifying before the House.

 

The Mueller Report, according to VOX, amounts to a “devastating indictment of Trump’s approach to politics.” Even if T was not, as many claim, an agent of Putin, he clearly has been doing all he can to weaken our nation.

 

For example, he did not act to secure our own electoral integrity after Russia hacked and shared Hillary’s emails and manipulated social media during the 2016 election. USAToday reported that Senate Republicans recently voted to block $250 million to beef up election securityThe New York Times recently reported that Kirstjen Nielsen, before resigning as head of the Department of Homeland Security, became increasingly concerned about Russian activity in the US. But she was told by White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney not to bring this up with Mr. T. As a consequence, she never met with the different cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect our elections, nor did she inform Americans of the latest version of Russian attacks on our nation.

 

Last Friday, FBI director Christopher Wray announced he has shifted resources to counter the Russian threat, largely without any White House support.

 

Instead of going after the Russians who attacked us, the Mueller Report reveals T tried to get the Department of Justice to prosecute political rivals in the U. S., most notably Hillary Clinton ⎼ to avenge or protect himself, not the nation.

 

Mr. T has driven wedges between the US and our NATO allies. He has provided sanctions relief to Russian oligarchs, lowered the standing of the US in international affairs, failed to adequately staff and support the state department and other non-military agencies meant to protect our national security, etc. He has also granted security clearances to people with compromised histories despite being warned of the danger these clearances could pose to national security.

 

T also has been acting to undermine the rule of law in ways not related to the Mueller investigation. For example, T told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan that if he violated the law by blocking asylum seekers from entering the US and was arrested, he, T, would pardon him. T also threatened to release imprisoned immigrants into sanctuary cities in order to get back at Democrats.

 

We could go on and on, with assaults on the truth, on those who oppose him, on the free press, and on our very humanity.

 

Those of us who are lucky can turn off the news and get lost in our homes, jobs, family and in the beauty of the spring. And we all need moments of quiet and reflection. But we can’t deceive ourselves into thinking we can forget what T is doing and expect to keep any semblance of a democracy, or our homes, jobs, and the beauty of the earth.

 

No matter how sick we are of hearing his name or seeing his face, or how upsetting the news, actions must be taken to create a wave of pressure on Congress to investigate and impeach the President (and Vice President). Whether it be in new and creative ways, or making calls, protesting, writing emails or letters to the editor, working for Democratic candidates, or contributing money to organizations fighting T’s policies, it is time to act.

 

**And the time is right. T has never had the support of even half of the nation. His overall approval rating since being elected is lower than any President, certainly any since World War II. And since the release of the redacted Mueller Report, according to the Politico/Morning Consult survey, his support has dropped to 39% of the surveyed public.

 

**This post has been syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

Tomorrow: Getting Ready to Act

On Thursday morning, Attorney General William Barr will release a redacted version or the Barr version of the Mueller Report. We know Barr is a T crony, so none of his statements or justifications for redactions can be taken as truthful or as meant to serve the overall interests of this nation. He is the general attorney for T, not the Attorney General for the American people.

 

This is illustrated by Barr’s first summary of the Mueller Report and his efforts to punish those who have opposed the President or have given evidence to Mueller.* For example, Barr has labeled the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Carter Page’s contacts with Russians as “spying” and he is now investigating the Mueller investigation, particularly the FBI counterintelligence investigation that was at the genesis of the Russia probe.

 

In the meantime, T continues to act to undermine the rule of law. T even told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan that if he violated the law by blocking asylum seekers from entering the US and was arrested, he, T, would pardon him. T recently repeated his old lies about Democrats being responsible for bad immigration laws and Obama being responsible for separating children from their parents at the border. He also threatened to release imprisoned immigrants into sanctuary cities in order to get back at Democrats.

 

He has also continued to act in the interest of Putin, and not the interest of our democracy, so much so that many think of him as a Russian agent. T has acted in Putin’s interests in so many ways, for example by not acting to secure our own electoral integrity after Russia hacked and shared Hillary’s emails and manipulated social media during the 2016 election. He has driven wedges between the US and our NATO allies. He has provided sanctions relief to Russian oligarchs, lowered the standing of the US in international affairs, failed to adequately staff and support the state department and other non-military agencies meant to protect our national security, etc.

 

So whether or not it can be proven in a courtroom that T has knowingly colluded or conspired with Putin to undermine our democracy, the effect is the same. Our democracy is being undermined, daily, by T. The interests of Putin, oligarchs, despots and the ultra-rich are being served, not the interests of the great majority of people. And whether or not T’s obstruction of justice could be proven in a court of law, he obstructs justice, publicly and repeatedly.

 

So what will we do? What will you do? The situation in this country is so frightening that many of us feel our level of anxiety continuing to rise. We feel afraid to hear the news but know we can’t let this new normal lead us to sit on the sidelines while our rights, freedoms and sense of shared humanity are destroyed.

 

Many of us feel we need a break, and we should take breaks, frequently, as this battle will continue until we elect a new President or this one is arrested and escorted out of office. We need to take walks in the woods, read books, exercise, meditate, and hang out with friends and family. But on Thursday, we must be ready to speak out and take action. Maybe the redacted report will provide some relevant information that we need to hear. Maybe. But even though Congress will not be in session, we can let our anger and disapproval of T’s actions be known.

 

*Update:

Just to confirm that Barr is acting in the role of Mr. T’s protector, or as T’s attorney, not the Attorney for the people of the US, it was announced just a few hours ago that:

*Barr will hold a news conference tomorrow at 9;30 am.

*According to The New York Times, the President or his attorneys have seen the report already and discussed it, repeatedly, with Barr, but Congress won’t see it until around 11:00 am or so, after the news conference. Mr. Barr can once again place himself between the report and the people, Congress, and the news media.

*This gives the President, as the person under investigation, the chance to rebut, minimize, distort, or bury the report before any of us can see it. This undermines the rule of law and destroys any confidence in the independence of the justice department.

*And this is happening right before Passover and the Easter weekend.

 

 

The Path to Meaning Runs Through Silence and Sincerity: The Quiet That Runs Deeper Than Any Story

I was getting ready for bed last night and suddenly the whole world became quiet. It was like someone suddenly turned off all the noise. I could still hear, but whatever I heard only reinforced the quiet inside me. I felt there was nothing else I had to do, no place other than here I had to be. This was it.

 

The quiet was so deep, whatever I looked at was endowed with tremendous meaning and feeling. Looking at Milo, the cat sleeping on the bed, and I noticed an inexplicable sense in myself of both vulnerability and joy.

 

We might read myths of beings with supernatural powers or places of archetypal beauty. We might read literature to learn how others live and to feel what life has to give us. But right here and now was a clear lesson for me in what life has to give.

 

Sometimes, I feel a barrier has been placed over my mind or body, like a glove. Or I try to speak to someone or read a book and the words I speak or read echo in my mind. Another me seems to be doing the hearing and I hear only second hand.

 

But other times, there is no barrier. The Buddha, in the Bahiya Sutta, spoke about mindfulness as being: “In the seen there is only the seen, in the heard, there is only the heard…” This is it, I think. What is heard is not separate from the hearer. Only afterwards do words come to mind, words to describe it all, about beauty, pain, joy or sincerity. Words can hint at or point the way, but the truth is the experience, not the words.

 

In college, I took a wonderful class taught by a philosopher named Frithjof Bergmann. He was German and, at one point in his life, an actor, and he often made his lectures dramatic events. One day he asked us what makes life meaningful. For the philosopher Nietzsche, he said, life gains meaning by giving it necessity, achievement or a personal goal. When the events of one’s life are organized like a work of art, to serve a purpose, life feels meaningful….

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

Getting Out of Your Story to Tell Your Story and Live Your Life

It’s Not What You Write or Say That’s Perfect. It’s the Whole Moment That Can Be Perfect

 

How often do you write something, think it is perfect, and then two minutes or two days later, you find all these points you missed or words with meanings you never noticed before? Or you do something and later regret it or realize you could have done it better? And you imagine other people noticing the same deficiencies you noticed, and because of what they notice they think of you as lacking in insight or vision or whatever. It is so difficult to see ourselves or our actions clearly. It is impossible to know all that we might wish we knew.

 

Writing is never done. There is an illusion or maybe a delusion that you can do something, create something, and if you feel it is perfect now then it will be perfect forever. How you perceive or think about it now will be how you will perceive it later. You think of the piece you just completed as having a character totally divorced from your character, as the reader.

 

I was recently listening to the NPR Ted Radio Hour and Daniel Gilbert, author and a professor of psychology at Harvard, talked about the “illusion of stasis.” You can reach a point in your life where you think you have arrived at the “end of history.” Most of the changes you will go through will have already happened. What you think now will largely be what you will think later.

 

But nothing is static or complete by itself, or perfect, except “in the eyes of the beholder.” You might feel that something you create is wonderful, especially if you did the best you could, at that particular moment in that particular place and maybe with those particular people. And it might be wonderful. But what is wonderful or perfect is the whole situation, not any one part of it.

 

When you write, if you focus just on the writing and forget the entire universe that contributed to that piece, you might get lost in what you are thinking about. You might get lost in the story you are telling. And later, when you realize what you had missed or how your view had changed, you might berate yourself for your shortsightedness. Let go of this judgmental thought and be kinder to yourself.

 

But if, for that moment, you have done your best. If, for that moment, you have lived, thought, loved, and been sincere ⎼If you have been real to yourself and not left thoughts unrecognized or important words unsaid, you will arrive, as fully as possible, in a new moment. You will recognize that because you did what you did in the past, you can now see even more, imagine even more, feel even more….

 

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