The Myth of Today: The Call Is Not to Enter the Dark Forest by Ourselves, But, by Ourselves, to Call Others

I’m sitting here, feeling my hands on the keyboard, noticing my breath is a little short and jumpy.  Anxious. Worried. A dark curtain is hanging out behind my right ear. And I notice a desire to do something to part that curtain; to change the situation of our world today, or at least bring some calm to myself, so the anxiety will explode into bits of nothing, or into the past to be studied like ancient history. So, I can feel the joy that deeply wants to be felt.

 

A friend calls on the phone. I take a deep breath and we talk, which lifts me out of the anxiety. A little mindfulness and the voice of friendship can do that. We all need that voice.

 

So much is changing. So much is threatened. And it’s difficult to see how we can influence a change for the better. But just as the voice of a friend helped lift me out of the grip of anxiety, joining with others, and feeling the yearning and the need to act, together, does the same. There might be fear there, that is true. But also light, hope. A sense of the future emerges, that there can be a future. That there can be joy and love in the future.

 

This is one way we dissolve anxiety. We see that it’s there, name it, and then do something to alleviate it. Worrying can deprive us of ourselves. Learning, planning, acting can give us the strength we need, so we feel we have strength and power. It is a kindness that we give ourselves, and kindness is so needed to change the world. Kindness to ourselves and others helps us part that curtain so we can see ourselves more clearly, with more perspective.

 

And getting a larger perspective is a second thing we can do. We can do that partly by taking walks in nature, studying mind-body disciplines like martial arts, yoga, and meditation, reading history, politics, science, literature, humor, etc.

 

I remember reading Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with A Thousand Faces. This is a powerful book to read and share with students and friends. It can open doors to widely divergent works of literature and religion that otherwise might be closed, such as the story of the Buddha to Bilbo Baggins. From Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo to Gilgamesh, the hero of the first story ever written. From Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz to Star Wars and Close Encounters.

 

Campbell’s book explicates the hero cycle, a pattern that heroic characters have possibly followed in their path to enlightenment, redemption, or saving lives. One part of that path is The Call to Adventure. The movie Star Wars begins with Luke Skywalker living with his aunt and uncle. He is enveloped in his normal world, knowing nothing of who he is and feeling distant from the battle taking place in the universe around him. He is asked by Obi Wan Kenobi to join in the quest to rescue Princess Leia. He refuses. At first.

 

Then he goes home to find it, and his aunt and uncle, burned. The struggle has become personal, and he is ready to heed the call. George Lucas used the hero cycle quite very deliberately in creating the movie….

 

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

 

***Photo is the Lion Gate of Mycenae, Greece.

Text A Friend Today to Save Voting Rights

So many of us feel it. We feel fear. We feel doubt. Division. We don’t know what will come next. But what we do know is that a minority of hate is trying to destroy democracy, deprive us of our rights, even our lives. So, it is especially important that we do whatever we can to support the passage of voting rights legislation. Without voting rights, all our other rights and privileges can be taken from us.

 

But to think we alone can do much can be both isolating and oppressive. What we can do is join with others. Text, call, share with friends and family. Talk about our fears, the need to feel we can do something. Discuss what we can say. Arrange a time to do it. And then call, text, email Senators to suspend the filibuster or change Senate rules so the Voting Rights Protection Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act can be passed.

 

The discussion in the Senate will continue today. Especially, call Senators Manchin (202-224-3954) and Sinema (202-224-4521, or—602-598-7327, 520-639-7080). Also, call Republican Lisa Murkowski (202-224-6665). She’s a longshot but she has, in the past, spoken about protecting voting. Just tell the Senators about your fears and how crucial it is to support voting rights legislation. Or something like: “Our nation is on fire with hate and division. Our democracy is threatened by violence from inside this nation, from a minority of hate. Please protect our rights by suspending the filibuster and supporting the 2 voting rights bills in the Senate.” Call twice just for fun.

 

What better use for texting is there than saving our rights, and possibly our future?

A Happy Surprise

Last week, by chance, I noticed my name in a tweet. An article on Medium, titled “A Salute to Veracity,” written by Anthony Eichberger, included a list of the most exceptional pieces they’ve read on the platform. The list includes nine categories⎼ politics, race, gender & sexuality, disability, religion, intersectionality, wokeness, human behavior, and environmentalism. The author said, “these writers are all gifted when placing controversial issues into proper context with nuance and thoughtfulness.”

 

One of my political pieces, first published by The Good Men Project called “Countering the GOP Strategy of Undermining People’s Faith in Democracy,” was chosen as exceptional.

 

It is always wonderful to get positive feedback and to share good news with you, the readers and subscribers to my blog. I deeply appreciate that you take time to read my work. And hopefully, the posts have meaning for you. I write to say what I can, to help others when I can, in my own ways. Writing also helps me stay engaged and in touch with creativity. In this crazy, disturbing time, staying engaged and doing what we can politically and socially has never been more important. So, thank you.

The GOP Attack on Medicare and All Health Care Remains in Place Even Now

Most of us unfortunately remember how, when DJT was in office, he and most of his GOP did all they could to undermine Medicare, and health coverage in general for most Americans. This effort to undermine healthcare continues.

 

One largely unknown aspect of this was proposed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. Medicare is administered either by the traditional government Medicare fee-for-service program or by a private Medicare Advantage plan. Under DJT, a new process for managing fee-for-service program benefits was started, called the Direct Contracting pilot program. Helaine Olen, writing in the Washington Post, said advocates of this program claimed it would lower the price the government paid for Medicare coverage while improving care.

 

But in fact, she showed it does the opposite. It increases what insurers get paid yet results in more limits of coverage for those enrolled. It increases bureaucracy and the financial burden on the Medicare trust fund. It protects the insurance companies over the insured. It increases the leverage that private equity firms have over Medicare. It can lead to more people being shifted from traditional Medicare to Advantage plans, to the privatization of Medicare and an enormous worsening of health care for seniors and eventually, everyone not a millionaire.

 

The Biden administration stopped the most egregious version of this, but only for a year. In certain areas of the country, it would have automatically enrolled seniors in a Direct Contracting fee-for-service program. But why haven’t they ended this for a longer period? The original Build Back Better bill would have improved prescription drug coverage and other aspects of Medicare. Is President Biden waiting to see what happens with this bill?

 

Recently, on 12/15, a New York state judge ordered New York City Mayor DeBlasio to hold up on switching the health insurance plan for retired city workers to an Advantage plan until April, 2022. Why? Aside from confusion about the plan, many retirees argued that the switch to private insurers would lead to inferior care. Also, that retirees should not be automatically switched but given the opportunity to opt out of the plan.

 

Medicare Advantage plans, first introduced in 1997, might sound good, at first. They combine Medicare Part A (hospitalization), Medicare Part B (medical insurance), and often Part D (prescription drug coverage) into one plan, and often add coverage not provided by traditional Medicare, such as vision, hearing, and dental.

 

However, as Investopedia argued, the problem is in the details. Sick people might find their costs skyrocketing due to copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses. The plans limit choice of providers and how they pay hospitals.

 

The local retired teachers plan is Medicare Advantage and is decidedly mixed. Fellow retirees have reported a variety of troubling problems: for example, prominent hospitals were unwilling to accept the insurance, coverage for physical therapy was not fully recognized as a treatment for Parkinson’s, it was difficult for some of us to get a prescribed medication covered, etc. A member of our group of retired teachers shared a government report stating “Medicare Advantage Plans have an incentive to deny preauthorization of services for beneficiaries, payments to providers, in order to increase profits.”

 

A universal healthcare plan or expanded Medicare would be the most comprehensive solution. But the opposition to it by the DJT GOP and others is so entrenched and malignant we can barely hold onto what we have….

 

*To read the whole post, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

January 6th. Light a Candle, Carry a Sign, Call Congress.

January 6th. Another day of infamy. Another day that must never be forgotten or allowed to be repeated. A day that, if we act, today and tomorrow⎼ If we find within ourselves the way to make political and social action a normal part of our day, then we can stop the theft of our rights and destruction of our world. We can end the pandemic. Even small things, signs on our cars, phone calls to Congress, letters, giving aid or support to others, talking honestly with neighbors and friends, wearing masks. Doing something helps us feel we can do something. Join with thousands of others who today will light a candle and carry it in a demonstration or put it in their window.

 

Then call Congress to end the filibuster and pass the Voting Rights Protection Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Then Build Back Better. Help put out the flames of hate and global warming. Today.

Putting Out the Flames: A Frightening Letter to Awaken the Conscience of Senators

 

A reader of my blogs shared with me a frightening letter. He felt something must be done, or that he must do something. He wrote by hand, to two Senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and sent the correspondence to the Senator’s offices. He also sent copies to a few media outlets hoping to motivate thousands of similar letters. Making a phone call, he thought, was ok. But a handwritten one is so old school and personal.

 

Here is the letter:

Dear Senators Sinema and Manchin,

Please vote for the voting rights bills now in Congress. Donald Trump is supported by people who call themselves Nazis. They praise Adolf Hitler and glorify war. If Trump wins again he will declare himself dictator, ending democracy forever. We must assume this because they will kill people we love.  

Senators Manchin and Sinema, when they start killing Democrats and minorities, the Republicans will let you join their party. You and your loved ones will be safe. For the love of my family and millions of families worldwide, please pass the voting rights bills.

Thank you,

 

His letter certainly expresses the fear he is feeling, not only for himself and his family, but for all of us. He sent it to awaken the conscience of these Senators, so they’d finally help put out the flames that are burning this nation and our world ⎼ or so they’d at least stop fueling the fires with their opposition to crucial legislation.

 

There is no doubt our nation and world are on fire. We know this, or many of us do. I think secretly we all know this. It’s hard to miss the fires that burned forests and homes in much of the western part of our nation this year and the recent past. It’s hard to miss sidewalks and roads that melted this past summer, record droughts, record windstorms and tornadoes that struck just a few weeks ago. Unless maybe we think they will only happen to someone else. They happen to all of us, one way or another, one disaster or another.

 

It is hard to miss the hate that too often walks our streets, or even our schools and workplaces. People shot or attacked. For being Black, Brown, Asian, HGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, Native American ⎼ or a woman. They attack women who just want a choice as to what happens with their own body, or who want healthcare and rights equal to men. In Texas, the GOP passed a bill that could lead to mob violence against women and those who support them….

 

*To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

If People Only Knew or Felt It in Their Heart

Imagine this. It’s 9:10 pm. You’ve been getting calls. Disturbing, threatening ones. Calling you “dirty… disgusting.” Accusing you of crimes against your nation, against the leader, or ex-President or whatever. Or of being a paid agent. They call the authorities to arrest you. They threaten you and everyone you love. You are Black. Latinx. Jewish. Muslim. Indigenous or Asian American. An immigrant of color. LGBTQIA. A Democrat or democrat. A Republican who has spoken out against DJT. A woman. A scientist or Doctor who speaks about global warming, the efficacy of masks, the threat of COVID, the need for public safety measures. A teacher.

 

Then they show up at your home. Bang on your doors. Try to break in. Crowds of people. At first you don’t know what to do. You might be unsure⎼ if you called the police, who would they support? You or those attacking you? At 10:00 pm, you are too scared to hesitate any longer. You call the police. Your call is recorded. The police are on the way. They help you this time.

 

And later, you must leave your home. You are forced to hide. Your business is shut down. You can’t tell anyone where you are. Your previous life is shattered. No job. No seeing friends or family. Every morning you wake up not knowing if you will have a future or what it will be. Or if someone with a gun or club, hate in their heart or disinformation in their mind, will come after you.

 

Imagine another woman who lived in a city with her husband and two daughters. Soon after her nation was taken over by a dictator, she began to fear for her family. Those in power kept spreading lies about different groups of people, blaming the innocent few for the suffering of many. Calling them hateful names. Taking away their businesses. Forbidding them from using public transportation, sports facilities, watching entertainment, etc. and their children from attending the regular public schools. Where they could go and what they could do was heavily restricted.

 

Then she heard rumors of people being arrested, never to be seen again. No trial. Just vicious accusations. Her sister got a call to report to what was labeled a labor camp. She and her husband were suspicious and feared for their lives. So they went into hiding, in a space behind the business they had owned. Friends secretly supplied them with food. They could never go out, never go near a window. Never see the light of day except through a curtain.

 

The latter story is about Edith Frank, the mother of Anne Frank, whose well-known diary documented the Holocaust in Holland during World War II. Edith and her daughters died in a Nazis concentration camp.

 

The first story took place just recently in the USA….

 

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

Giving Thanks Has Special Meaning Today; Celebrating Safely

I almost can’t believe it. Almost. I am going to visit friends, share a Thanksgiving, not virtually, not remote, but in person. Face to face. Maskless. We will be able to see each other’s lips move. We might even hug, not elbow bump. Might. Don’t know yet.

 

We are all boostered. All of us will do a home COVID test beforehand. New hoops to jump through to enable the celebration of a holiday, the first such celebration for us in almost two years.

 

And there is so much to be thankful for. We are alive despite the pandemic.

 

We are relatively sane now one year after suffering four years of a malignant, wanna-be dictator. A man who did his best to shock us into letting him destroy democracy right before our eyes. Who tried to destroy the rule of law as well as truth so we wouldn’t believe the obvious and the factual. Not only about what he was doing to our right to vote but the fact of the earth itself suffering and maybe dying.

 

I am so thankful that President Biden is in the White House, and not the white supremacists, who still disturb the halls of Congress and plot the overthrow of decency and democracy. But, at least for the moment, they don’t totally control things.

 

The tension in the nation has certainly lessened compared to two years ago but is still too high. President Biden has not been perfect by any measure, but he has pushed for more legislation to significantly help the mass of people in this country than I thought he would. He has restored relative rationality to international relations, to facing the climate crisis, as well as ending the pandemic.

 

I anticipated that it would be difficult to get anything done in Congress, due to the GOP’s new identity as the Destroy Democracy Party, and the Party of No, where almost every Republican tries to destroy almost anything Democrats try to pass, especially what would be most helpful to us the people. So I will be even more thankful when Biden and the Democrats end the filibuster, so voting rights legislation passes, along with legislation to promote better childcare, extend the Child Tax Credit, develop clean energy and other environmental legislation.

 

Considering the death threats and incitements to violence coming against him and several other Democrats even from GOP members of Congress, I am so thankful for those who agree to serve democracy.

 

I give thanks to the fact that I still have a voice. The smaller voice of my body and the bigger voice I try to join with, of all those who remember what compassion feels like.

 

And I want to give thanks that I have family and friends, wonderful people, who I’ve known for forty or even fifty plus years. Who care for me and yet aren’t afraid to speak their own truths. Who I can just relax with, be “myself.” Create a holiday with. A celebration.

 

That we also remember, on the fourth Thursday in November, the National Day of Mourning, or Native American Heritage Day. This day reminds us that the story that used to be told of the Thanksgiving holiday is a myth hurtful to Native American people ⎼ and to us if we celebrate and ignore such a painful lie.

 

I wish for all of us a wonderful day of thanksgiving. To remind ourselves of whatever we can be thankful for, to remember those we’ve lost, and what we could’ve lost during the regime of DJT. And of what needs to be done now so we can be safe and celebrate other holidays in the future.

 

*This blog was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Yes. It’s Time to Vote: Let’s Make It a Holiday Celebrating Our Rights and Responsibilities

I think we need to do something comforting, pleasurable each election day, to make it a holiday for ourselves. It should be a holiday, a day off from normal work to do the work of running a democracy. This is already part of current proposed voting rights legislation.

 

Sure, it is already sort of a holiday. It is already a day that fills headlines, creates anxiety and hopefully joy. It is already a day on the calendar each year when we’re given the opportunity and thus the responsibility for having a political choice and a political voice. For being allowed to speak publicly. But why not make it official? Not every person has that choice. Not every nation has that choice. And there are too many, who call themselves members of the GOP, or white nationalists or conservatives who would take away that choice from us.

 

Democracy is never about getting all you want or having the perfect candidate to support. If a person seems too perfect, it is likely we’re overlooking something. But the choices can still be very clear. Right now, we have a GOP party whose leader is clearly racist. Who not only terribly mismanaged but malignantly spread disinformation about a pandemic, putting his own political welfare before the lives and health of the people of the nation. Who lied about an election in order to destroy democracy and proclaim himself a dictator. Who lied about the climate and the emergency we are facing and so put the future of the planet and all living beings at risk.

 

We need to vote to proclaim our humanity.

 

Right now in Virginia there is a clear choice. Terry McAuliffe is running against a GOP candidate supported by DJT, who argued against mask mandates and other policies to protect people, even children, from COVID-19, who attacked public schools and teaching any history or even novels that includes the fact of slavery and racism. Who for the first four months of his campaign refused to acknowledge President Biden was the legally elected President and helped spread a lie that undermines elections themselves and the democratic and peaceful transition of power. This election is far too close.

 

And there are so many other consequential races. There are the legislative races in Virginia and other states, the New Jersey gubernatorial race, mayoral races, and ballot proposals. In New York State and elsewhere there are ballot proposals to protect and even advance voting rights, which are being vociferously attacked and distorted in the media by conservatives. Meanwhile, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, this year alone the GOP in 19 states have passed 33 laws to make it more difficult to vote, and most of these laws target black, brown, Indigenous and other people of color. On the other hand, 25 states have expanded voting rights protections.

 

Most of us know this. So, let’s do what we can today and tomorrow to get out the information and encourage everyone we know to vote. Every year, our elections have clear consequences, and this is what we want. We want our vote to have consequences, to have meaning. Maybe not as frightening ones as we have now or may have next year. Oh, if only there was more equity and less anxiety. But to protect our right to vote, we must exercise it.

 

*This blog was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

The Mirror, and the Story We Tell About What We See in It

I didn’t want to write this blog, not at first. Writing would mean facing once again what is painful to face. But due to COVID and other factors, here I am.

 

Last week, I started reading Joanna Macy’s 30th Anniversary update of her book, World As Lover, World As Self that was published earlier this year. I think her book has been living inside me for years, but it is only now that I open it. I deeply appreciate the wisdom and practices shared in this book.

 

The book talks about the stories we tell ourselves about this moment we’re living. It reveals many aspects of our lives we might have ignored until COVID and a would-be dictator made them abundantly clear.

 

She uses the image of a mirror, the mirror wisdom of a Buddha which shows us everything just as it is, nothing added or subtracted. And this mirror teaches us how to, “…not look away. Do not avert your eyes. Do not turn aside.” By looking in this mirror we realize the anxiety and fear we feel is the surface layer of our grief for how much of the world is dying. By naming we heal. By looking away the world itself turns away.

 

By looking in the mirror, we tell and make real the story of how to survive and transform a great turning point in history. We discern the path to creating a life-sustaining society that understands in its marrow “we are all in this together.” By averting our eyes, we surrender; we tell and help create a story of unraveling and collapse.

 

We have been witnessing lately appalling contradictions. For example, nurses and other health care workers have been at the front lines of the fight against the COVID pandemic. They have been overworked, often under-equipped and under-paid, facing great stress and trauma. They also face an information or media environment filled with purposeful, politically motivated lies.

 

Many work in crowded nursing homes, or in hospitals where they see a disproportionate rate of suffering from the pandemic amongst Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. Many are themselves people of color who have faced all their lives a system of racism.

 

So now many health care workers of whatever race do not want to take what could save their lives and protect their patients, because they believe or have been misled to believe they cannot trust it. So, when the state mandated that all health care workers be vaccinated, they declined, even as that led to them losing their jobs, and we losing their support.

 

Joanna Macy makes clear that we as a society have been ignoring or not seeing clearly how other, crowded work environments like meat-packing-plants are dangerous to workers, cruel to animals, and costly to the climate….

 

We have recognized but not faced directly enough the consequences of enormous, and growing, concentrations of wealth, made worse by the pandemic, and leading to the corporate undermining of democracy and the rule of law, undermining of public schooling, and the degradation of our natural world, the extinction of many species, and the warming of the planet

 

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