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.

Countering the GOP Strategy of Trying to Destroy People’s Faith in Democracy: Instead of Losing Faith, Gain Strength by Staying Engaged

Dan Rather said on 9/10: “It’s almost as if some politicians have decided it’s in their political self-interest for the pandemic to continue to rage.” Almost?

 

On 9/9, Greg Sargent wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled: “How the GOP will exploit Covid to win power and what Democrats can do about it.” I was going to write an article such as this but Sargent saved me the trouble. If you can, please read it. He went on to say, “Here’s a midterm message for you: Judging by the GOP’s continuing slide into extremist and destructive behavior in the face of a surging covid-19, electing more Republicans to positions of responsibility right now would likely mean more economic malaise, sickness, misery and death.” And Democrats are possibly, finally ready to call the GOP strategy what it is.

 

The GOP strategy for “winning” the next election must have become clear to many of us months ago. Going back about 18 months, to shortly after we realized the seriousness of COVID-19 and the nation had shut down, it became clear that DT and the GOP were more invested in saving their political power than saving our lives. They  downplayed or outright lied about the virus, lied about cures, sacrificed workers, children, seniors and people of color to get them back to work and back to schools even when the conditions were unsafe.

 

DT’s main strategy while he was unfortunately in office was shock doctrine material⎼ create enough fear, confusion, and violence, make conditions so bad that people will accept what the wannabee dictator wants. The GOP traumatized the nation for their own political purposes.

 

And now, they are adapting the same strategy. GOP governors, like Ron DeSantis in Florida, are still lying about masks, trying to outlaw mask mandates in schools and cities in their state. He has pushed false cures and undermined the national effort to get people vaccinated, despite being vaccinated himself, by understating the reality of COVID cases in Florida.

 

For most of the summer, Florida led the nation in COVID cases, especially in children. In fact, during that time Florida had one fifth of all the COVID cases in the U. S. Basically, it seems DeSantis has been creating obstacles to healthy practices. As Dan Rather asked, is he doing this so people get sick? Seems so to me.  And then he attacks President Biden for not living up to his promise to put an end to the ravages of the pandemic.

 

In fact, the GOP fight against almost any attempts by Democrats to make the situation in this country better, including fighting COVID relief, or legislation most Americans want and that all would benefit from ⎼ or especially when those measures are most popular.

 

Their actions are de-stabilizing the nation and creating chaos and fear. If we hadn’t already gone through four years of DT, no one would believe, I wouldn’t have believed, they were doing this to get people to think that not only Democrats can’t help them, but democracy itself can’t work.

 

And since the January 6th attack on our nation and the lies about it, and years of them doing more to take away voting rights than facilitate voting, to undermine the voice of the people instead of promoting it, to not just suppress the vote but control how the vote is counted (or if), ending democracy seems exactly what the GOP are invested in.

 

So, I recommend we all take care of ourselves, yet also read Greg Sargent’s opinion piece, stay engaged, directly name the GOP strategy for what it is, and do whatever we can, no matter how little, to counter the disinformation and attempts to destroy what’s left of democracy in this nation — and get people fired up to vote when the midterm elections come around.

 

There are many historical periods and events that we should never forget. DT’s ineptitude and the way he and his GOP enablers malignantly sacrificed millions to the coronavirus and threatened the very existence of a democratic government, all in a desperate attempt to seize absolute power, is surely right up there on that list.

 

**The Good Men Project syndicated this blog.

 

The View of Oppression is “Nothing Will Work.” The View of Friendship is “Everything Matters”

There are crucial links between what is needed to stimulate political action to fight tyranny and what is needed to limit or reverse global warming.

 

The first lesson discussed by Timothy Snyder about fighting tyranny in his best-selling book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century is “don’t obey in advance.” Don’t give up, don’t just give would-be tyrants the power they crave. The fourth lesson is “take responsibility for the world.” “In the politics of the everyday, our words and gestures, or their absence, count very much.” Everything counts, even our smallest actions, even what we imagine. But the tyrant tries to make us feel that nothing we can do matters.

 

In the beginning of a tyrant’s power, people can successfully resist without paying a big price. Our right to protest, vote, speak our feelings to friends and neighbors, write blogs, start local organizations are protected.

 

The same is true, now, with the environment. “If you’re doing nothing, you’re actually doing something”⎼ you’re helping the autocrat, or you’re assisting global warming. “Never consent to an authoritarian.” Never consent to simply allow the destruction of our world.

 

It is just over a week since The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its report, saying the situation of our planet is dire, “code red,” but we can still do something to slow, minimize, or change it.

 

It is so easy to feel our actions won’t matter. We can worry that the problem is too big, now, or that we’re not sure what the most effective thing is we can do. We want to see a measurable response to our actions, to see an effect. This can be a sort of egotism. Sometimes, we must just do the right thing without knowing how much effect we’ll have, or without seeing ourselves acknowledged for what we’ve done. Sometimes, we must do little things just to know we can do anything. If we don’t act while we wait to find the most effective action to take, there’s a good chance nothing will get done. If we don’t act, why should anyone else? Fear spreads easily. So can hope.

 

Hopelessness is so easy to feel. It includes not only a sense of powerlessness but isolation. When hopeless, we don’t feel the rest of the 72% of the population that shares with us the understanding of the role we humans are playing in causing climate change. We feel the fate of the world is our fate, and at the same time we feel separate from others, unable to reach them or to convince them to act. Every breath we take is the world breathing.

 

It is like when we’re sick, and it’s difficult to imagine what it is like when we’re well. We suffer from a failure of imagination. Or when we’re depressed, we can’t hear or absorb information that speaks against depression.

 

In 2019, the Zen teacher, Norman Fischer, came out with a book called The World Could Be Otherwise: Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path. A Bodhisattva is someone who focuses on relieving the suffering of all people, not just oneself. And the imagination has a power larger than what we often realize. It shapes what we think is possible. “It leaps from the known to the unknown… It lightens up the heavy circumscribed world we think we live in.” Fischer says the world not only can be, but is more than the tangible, the knowable, the negotiable; more than the data which gives us the illusion we can know all there is to know….

 

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

The Book of Heart: The Spark We Need to Save Ourselves

On Sunday, a friend uncomfortably joked, and a neighbor seriously wondered if the weather augured the Apocalypse. On Monday, the U. N. Panel on Climate Change said unless humanity takes immediate, sustained, large-scale actions including reducing the use of  fossil fuels, global warming will create an earth too hot for agriculture and will threaten human survival.

 

The Western U. S. has had devastating droughts for years, but this year is one of the worst, accompanied by record breaking temperatures and creating conditions for forest fires. Parts of Canada and elsewhere are suffering the same fate. 10 of the worst years for fires have occurred since 2004 and 2021 could be even worse than any previous year. Right now, the Dixie Fire has burned more than 783 square miles and is now the largest in California history.  Clouds from the fires have recently blanketed sections of the western and even northeastern US. Meanwhile, Germany and China have recently experienced historic floods.

 

In my own neighborhood, our summer weather over the last few years jumped from drought to floods and back again. It rained nearly every day for weeks. Even though it happens periodically, earlier this summer we experienced a devastating infestation of gypsy caterpillars that stripped bare many species of trees. Whole sections of forests and hillsides look as they do in winter (or during a severe drought).

 

Last night was the fourth power outage we’ve had in about a month. Everything went from light to dark so quickly⎼ and it was a very dark night, covered with clouds and noisy with rain, thunder and lightning. When the power goes out, it is easy to wonder not only when, but if it will be restored.

 

And all this after 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic⎼ and four plus years of a moral and political pandemic led by DT and the GOP who threaten to strip us bare of rights and constitutional protections and enshrine a perpetual political winter.

 

After so much bad weather and destruction, fear speaks readily in our minds and hearts, in the places where religion often resides. There is nothing like a tornado or a big storm, with lightning, and thunder over our heads, heat that melts sidewalks or a pandemic to make us feel how vulnerable we are. The Delta variant could wreak havoc with our future. A study by the Public Religion Research Institute back in 2012 found that 63% of Americans thought the weather has gotten more extreme and 36% think the reason is the Biblical end times. (I was glad to notice that, according to an Ipsos poll, in 2021 the number of Americans who are aware of the human role in climate change is now 72%.) What changes in attitude will the U. N. report create?

 

According to the Pew Research Center in 2017, 35% of Americans say they read scripture at least once a week, and this is up 3% from 2014. Buddhist teacher and scholar Kurt Spellmeyer, in his book published in 2010, Buddha at the Apocalypse: Awakening from A Culture of Destruction, says “unlike other holy books, the Bible presents itself as a work of history⎼ a history that claims to map the whole of time.”

 

History begins, in the Old Testament, with Genesis, and ends particularly in the New Testament, with Revelations. Many of us look for God in time itself. And for 2,000 years people in the West looked for signs of the End of Time, or for transformation⎼ of souls or society, for heaven or utopia⎼ or for retribution and punishment.  As the millennium of the year 2000 approached, there was great dread amongst many about what would occur.

 

But if anything is biblical about the situation today it is the danger posed by the lies of DT, who called human-caused climate change a hoax, and by other GOP. These lies have caused us to lose time, accelerate the danger, and diminish political commitment to actually facing this existential ecological threat.

 

Spellmeyer argues our culture prides itself on getting things done and being down to earth but is actually escapist. On the surface is our love of all sorts of tech marvels that can both be so helpful, especially during a lockdown, but also isolate us. But also consider how often we have postponed serious consideration of the consequences of our actions, like the long-range effects of nuclear waste, or nuclear weapons, or the effects of fossil fuels on Global Warming.

 

In U. S. history, instead of dealing with our problems, we often looked to “go West” to escape them. Or on a more personal level, we find a readiness to hurry and move on. We often hear something once or practice a skill a few times and think we understand it like an expert.

 

And there is FOMO, the “uneasy and all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out,” “not in the know”. We might fear friends are better than us or in possession of more of something than we have⎼ or that we are inadequate. A study back in 2013, obviously before the pandemics of COVID-19 and DT, found that about three quarters of young adults experienced this.

 

The problem, whether its FOMO, escapism, even hurrying, is a culture of fear now augmented and manipulated by the GOP to serve their political purposes. And instead of using fear to spur considered action, we fear the emotion itself. Fear, of being hurt, of the world changing on us, or whatever, can make us hold onto our viewpoints rigidly and close our minds to rational thought. And it spreads easily.

 

So, understanding and skillfully facing fear not only lessens our own suffering but gives us tools to help others. Fear is normal but we are often led to treat it as abnormal. It is not just a feeling but is composed of different elements including sensations, thoughts, and possible responses. If we don’t understand it, we might think we are incapable of meeting whatever we face and run to escape it.

 

Fear warns us, wakes us up, but usually turns our thoughts to what might be in the future or to a hurt or trauma in the past. We might run to create ideas of a New Jerusalem, or of a devil or a great punishment to come and lose sight of the reality we face. But the thought that provides an escape from fear often keeps it alive. If our identity is based on fighting an enemy, what happens if there is no longer an enemy to fight?

 

So, one way to get clarity is to develop a mindfulness practice; instead of getting lost in a thought of the future or past, we can focus on a sensation or perception now. We can stop what we’re doing, sit upright but not rigid, hands resting in our lap, turn within and test what feels right. Do we feel more at ease with our eyes open, closed, or partly open? Is it more comfortable to focus on the beginning of an inhalation, the middle, the end, or the pause between inhalation and exhalation? Or the exhalation itself? And where do we feel natural putting attention? The tip of the nose? The hands? Belly? Feet? Just notice, acknowledge with kindness, and move on.

 

In this way we change our response to fear. We study it, study ourselves. The quality of our mind and body changes. We learn from our sensations and thoughts without getting caught by them.

 

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now that the fires and floods we are experiencing have more to do with human actions contributing to climate change, to not facing the reality, to the book of our heart instead of the Book of Revelations. Attributing global warming to “natural causes” is dangerous propaganda. But by acting in a considered and informed manner, we know we are capable of action. If we all speak out, maybe this U. N. report can provide the spark we need to save ourselves.

 

Religion can be one of the most important parts of a person’s life, yet there are so many ways people think about God⎼ or whatever we think is ultimate in our lives. One way people have conceptualized the universe is to think all of us and everything is Divine; our eyes, hands, nose, ears, tastes, even our thoughts are God’s. And one way we pray is by acting for the greater good. We don’t wait for God to do it for us because we are a tiny part of the Divine. And by doing what we can, God hears our prayers.

 

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

 

 

A July 4th Question: How Do We Feed and Care for Democracy, So It Feeds and Cares for Us?

It is July 4th and I have these questions for myself: how courageous am I? What must I do, what must we do, to make this democracy work?

 

We celebrate today our independence from monarchy and autocracy. We say we celebrate the birth of democracy, or at least the quest for democracy in this place, in this time; a quest for a home where we might have, as the founders later described it in the Declaration of Independence, the right for all to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Or in the pledge, we say “with liberty and justice for all.” In 1776, these grand statements were not even close to reality. Only white, male landowners could vote. But how courageous would I be in advancing that reality, that quest for democracy for all?

 

Yesterday, I was listening to an NPR podcast, This American Life, about the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The movement was being torn down, suppressed, demonstrators jailed, or worse. But they went ahead anyway. The quest is worldwide and ongoing.

 

In the US in 2020, following the murder by police of George Floyd, in Minneapolis where he was killed, in Louisville, St. Louis, Austin, Seattle, Portland, New York, Washington, D. C.⎼ all through the U. S. and the world, protests were held. The protests I attended were peaceful.

 

2020 was a year when the federal government itself had become the greatest threat to democracy itself, and we had the most protests in our history. Black Lives Matter became the biggest protest movement in our history, mostly peaceful protests, calling for justice for George Floyd and other black people. There were also demonstrations calling for equity in education, for protecting the environment, protecting school children from guns or immigrant children from being separated from their parents, for protecting our humanity, voting rights, civil rights, the rule of law, etc. This is one way to care for democracy.

 

Peaceful protests were met by a President who fueled the flames, sent in armed forces and created even more chaos. DT tried to blame much of the violence we saw in 2020, and the beginning of 2021, on BLM, or on non-existent “anti-Fascist” groups, while he was the person most fueling violence. Yet, the BLM protests went on despite threats against them.

 

This morning, I was reading the summer issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Guide. There was an article by Kaira Jewel Lingo titled “How Equanimity Powers Love.” She quoted a poem by Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and activist Thich Nhat Hanh. During the war in Vietnam, Thich was seen as a traitor by both the North and South Vietnamese armies. Yet, he demonstrated, spoke out anyway against the killing and destruction.

 

He wrote a poem, “Recommendation”⎼

 

“Promise me… Even as they strike you down

With a mountain of hatred and violence…

Remember…

The only thing worthy of you is compassion…”

 

The article also quotes Martin Luther King, Jr’s essay “Loving Your Enemies” ⎼ “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.”

 

And then there were the wars fought, the Civil War, World War I and II.

 

I don’t know if I have the strength for such courage, equanimity, or love. I know I will resist the start of a war. And I know I lack the capacity to ignore what the followers of DT, the GOP, are doing now to deny us voting rights, to deny our humanity, deny the science of global warming as they did COVID-19. To lie about their coup attempt on Jan. 6, or their drive to turn the many colors of this nation to one color. Or to turn back the clock, to turn this nation back to an autocracy, maybe a worse autocracy even than the one against which we fought a revolution.

 

On July 4th, isn’t this the question we should be asking ourselves? What does democracy mean to me, or require from me? It is clearly not something at a distance from us.

 

Maybe in the past, maybe before DT and the pandemic, we let this question fall to the back of our minds and hearts. But now, we all know its central place in our lives. We know democracy is not simply a holiday we celebrate one day in July and one day in November. It is a form of relationship, or something living we are part of, that is constantly changing and constantly in need of care.

 

How do we feed and care for it, so it feeds and cares for us?

 

*This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project. Feel free to take look.

The GOP Are Not Just Trying to Suppress the Vote. They Are Trying to Control the Count.

When DT took office in 2017, the novel 1984 by George Orwell became a popular read. With DT in the White House, the fictional portrait of our future was moving closer to becoming reality. The GOP are, today, trying to keep that movement alive.

 

As journalist George Packer wrote in The Atlantic in 2019: “The week of DT’s inauguration, when the president’s adviser Kellyanne Conway justified his false crowd estimate by using the phrase alternative facts, the novel returned to the best-seller lists. A theatrical adaptation was rushed to Broadway. The vocabulary of Newspeak went viral. An authoritarian president who stood the term fake news on its head, who once said, ‘What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,’ has given 1984 a whole new life.”

 

And it is so blatant. The GOP are not a political party as we have known such for most of our history. They are more like a camp of oligarchic terrorists, employing techniques used by Fascists and other authoritarian regimes, and excoriated in 1984, to attempt a slow-moving coup, whose aim is the destruction of voting rights and constitutional democracy, and the creation of a one-party state.

 

In the novel, the threat of invasion by other nations was used to maintain a state of permanent emergency, create a totalitarian regime, and control all aspects of life, even people’s thoughts. In our nation, for four plus years DT tried to keep us in constant shock, not through lies about invasions by other countries but lies about almost everything, for example, about invasions of immigrants, even children of color. They used doublethink, and newspeak to portray what could reveal truths or save lives, like masks, and turn them into assaults on community and freedom.

 

Many GOP claim to value freedom, but the only freedom they value is to agree with them. They attack, try to frighten, basically try to unperson those who oppose them (Liz Cheney, Jay Raffensperger, Marie Yovanovitch, and Democrats) or who they want to hide, deny and show no empathy for their suffering (thousands who died from COVID-19). And then there’s DT’s Big Brother DOJ illegally seizing emails of Democrats and their staff.

 

Political strategist David Plouffe said on MSNBC last week, “They`re not hiding what they`re doing. …they`re not only trying to make it harder to register to vote, they want to change …who gets to decide who wins elections….” “[T]his is existential. If you think that this Republican won`t go to the …furthest extremes to hold on to power, to steal power, to deny voters their franchise, I don`t know what you`re watching.”

 

The New York Times reports that, for example, the GOP in Georgia are eliminating people of color, especially Democrats of color, from local election boards. In Arizona, not only did they create an audit of the 2020 vote based on a false narrative; they also introduced a bill to strip the Democratic Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, of her authority over election lawsuits, for her term in office only.

 

The aim of the GOP is to control not only the teaching of history but how each moment is remembered. They continue the “Big Lie,” to divide the nation and falsely claim DT was the winner of the 2020 election despite losing by 7 million plus votes, despite having no evidence and losing in any court where they tried to fraudulently claim the election was fraudulent. Doublespeak. They try to steal an election by claiming democrats are trying to steal it.

 

Many GOP are still denying the reality of the Jan. 6 attempt to steal the election, even though millions saw it happen on live tv. GOP Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said federal law enforcement was “harassing peaceful patriots.” And Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., added: “It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.”

 

But we know about the lies. We know the GOP are trying to create their own version of a Ministry of Truth so we the people cannot get accurate information, and not only about January 6.  During the DT administration, they hid information on the coronavirus, which led to possibly thousands of deaths, and on global warming, which threatens all our lives.

 

Historian Kellie Carter Jackson wrote in the Atlantic that, as of last Thursday, Juneteenth is now a national holiday, which honors the “history and memory of emancipation, liberation, and advancement” of Black People in this country. Yet the GOP in control of the legislatures of many states are trying to hide the history of slavery while banning the teaching of critical race theory, despite the fact that no public schools now teach it, and ban curricula focused on the lasting effects of slavery and racism.

 

On June 16, NPR had a wonderful program on the Alamo, revealing not only that Texas was born out of a movement to protect slavery. But even today, the Governor wants to make sure no one knows it.

 

The aim of the GOP is to make daily life so burdensome to most Americans that we go along just to survive. They have shifted the tax burden, for example, so the rich now pay such a small percentage of their earnings in taxes. When the rich and corporations pay less, the cost to the rest of us goes up⎼ the costs for education, health insurance, electricity, bridges, roads, water, protection from pandemics, etc. will all rise.

 

Once we lose the vote, and constitutional protections, the right to speak out, and protest, the right to a fair trial, can be eliminated. The GOP could also more freely sell off or mis-use our natural resources, land, air, water to sate their greed, ignore the effects of such use on the health of citizens, and ignore increasing natural disasters from climate change.

 

Now, with a Democratic administration, we have the opportunity to pressure Congress to protect the vote. Let’s take it. Speak out. Join about 70 groups and hundreds of activists working to get a voting rights bill like the For the People Act made into law. The GOP won’t even allow the bill to be debated in the Senate and will use the filibuster to stop it from being passed. Call Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Urge them to honor their oath to protect the constitution, get rid of the filibuster, and stop the GOP attempt at a coup to end democracy⎼ stop them from making their fiction our reality.

 

*You can also read this post on The Good Men Project, which syndicated it.

 

Treating Each Chance to Vote as Our Only Chance to Vote: When to Remember, When to Forget

We want to forget the painful, the frightening, the disturbing, or usually we do. Sometimes, we hold on to what hurts as if the immediate pain could stave off what lies deeper. Sometimes, we just don’t know what to do.

 

And sometimes, we can’t forget for other reasons. It has seeped too far into who we think we are. Or the pain or discomfort helps us act, so we think we can’t allow ourselves to forget. But how do we learn from pain without hurting ourselves even more, and without making ourselves sick? Sickened, yes. But not sick.

 

Many of us so want to forget DT. It has been an amazing relief to not see his face or hear his ravings on tv. But we can’t forget the crimes he committed or the vulnerabilities he exposed in democracy. He and his GOP supporters are doing all they can to force themselves back into the headlines, to get us to focus on our fear of him returning to power instead of the desperation in his efforts to manipulate media and politics to prevent arrest. The list of possible crimes he has committed and possible criminal and civil litigation is extensive.  It is largely up to us to determine how and what we remember.

 

For example, he is planning to re-start MAGA rallies. His GOP never let the “Big Lie” die and are doing all they can to resuscitate it. We remember how DT tried to steal the election from President Joe Biden by falsely claiming the Democrats had stolen it. Most of us saw this live on tv. To distract us further, he and his GOP minions spouted disinformation from Russians claiming Democrats were in the employ of communists.

 

Now, the GOP are saying the insurrection attempt on January 6th never happened. On May 12, during a House Oversight Committee Hearing, GOP Representative Andrew Clyde said “the House floor was never breached.” “To call it an insurrection is in my opinion a bald-faced lie,” he continued. “If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

 

He, with the support of most of the GOP, are attempting to turn the “Big Lie” into an ugly reality. Remember, the goal of “The Lie” was to crown DT as the Savior-King and deny political power to the majority of Americans⎼ deny the right to protest and the vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in 47 state legislatures, the GOP have introduced 361 bills to restrict and suppress voting, despite no evidence of voting fraud.

 

Of course, they tried this before, just minutes after it happened. They feel they have created an unscalable propaganda wall and their followers will never try to scale that wall and hear, remember, or believe the truth. And they try to eliminate anyone who stands in their way. Remember how they treated conservative Liz Cheney for speaking truthfully about January 6th or how they tried to intimidate Democrats and other government officials.

 

But we remember that if the GOP win, we lose. No justice, no peace….

 

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

Recovering from the Trauma of DT and Creating A More Democratic Nation

When I listen to the news, I still find myself ready to cringe. We’ve grown used to one attack, one shock after another, continuing assaults on our lives or humanity. It’s been such a relief since President Biden was inaugurated. But the trauma of 4 years of DT, culminating with the domestic terrorist attack on January 6th and his escape from being prosecuted in the Senate for his role in inciting that attack will not go away easily.

 

This is partly because the threat is still here. The politics of hate is all still here. We face a domestic terrorist movement built on hate, lies and a grievance mentality that have walled off about one third or more of this nation from the truth. As Bill Moyers put it, “a democracy can die of too many lies.”

 

And we have a mutating virus that has killed over half a million people. Ken Burns said that we face three viruses: COVID-19, white supremacy, and misinformation.

 

An article by Jeremy Adam Smith from the Greater Good Science Center talks about how to recover from the trauma of the Trump years and the pandemic. These last four plus years have been extremely traumatic, especially 2020. What we face now is grief. We grieve not only the lives lost due to the virus and DT’s malignant mismanagement of it, but the loss of hope, sense of security, and the activities and contacts that sustained us. Many of us have lost our livelihood and home.

 

And we can’t simply let go of grief. Smith quotes psychologist Frederick Luskin, who said, “When we lose something, human beings have a natural reintegration process, which we call ‘grief.” We must integrate it, feel it, suffer it, and understand both the fact of the loss and how we feel about it.

 

We can ignore it for only a short time. We have gone through hell. “January 6 happened, and it can never unhappen. COVID-19 happened. At this writing, 466,000 Americans are dead, and they will never come back.“ “The research says that people who go through horrible experiences but keep it to themselves suffer more, not less.” Sharing the load with others can help lighten the load. Caring, compassion for ourselves and others will lighten the load.  Recognizing how the trauma has affected us can change so much for us all. But even more is needed, more ways of speaking.

 

The DT and GOP attack on our rights and freedom has been building since Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem.  Government is the problem.” Fareed Zakaria, in his book Ten Lessons for A Post-Pandemic World says anti-Federal feeling and distrust in centralized government is in the DNA of this nation and Reagan re-invigorated that sentiment. After all, the American Revolution was a revolt against a King.

 

But Reagan also re-invigorated a concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands. So his assault on government actually was a masked assault on democracy. It was an assault on the power of the people in favor of the power of the few, the rich. It was in favor of people who want to be kings⎼ or dictators. Or who want a dictator to rule.

 

This anti-federal feeling also led many people to not participate in government. In 2020, we had the highest rate of citizen participation in recent history, 66.7% of eligible voters voted in the presidential election. This was the best turnout since the early 1960s. That means that even in this most meaningful and contentious election, about one-third of adult Americans didn’t (or weren’t allowed to) vote⎼ or speak. According to the Pew Research Center, the U. S. is 30th out of 35 developed democratic nations in terms of the percentage of people who voted in recent years. Since voting is the primary voice of the people, we were censored by ourselves or our government.

 

Our representatives are supposed to represent the interests of all citizens, but they don’t always do that and we’re in trouble if we think of democracy as letting our representatives do all the governing for us. Nor can we allow the GOP to win by preventing us from voting. For example, the lawyers for the Arizona GOP in a Supreme Court case admitted recently that without suppressing the vote, they lose.

 

Many of us hope and/or expect President Biden will get pandemic relief passed, protect voting rights, re-build infrastructure, re-structure health care, free young (and older) people from overwhelming debt from schooling, end Global Warming⎼ and end the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, end the concentration of privilege and power in the white, rich and male (that has existed ever since, or before, our nation’s founding). Do we intend to hold him responsible if it all doesn’t happen, and quickly? Or hold democracy itself responsible? The GOP would love that.

 

On FB recently there was a meme saying, basically, “Why did we elect Biden if he can’t even get us a guaranteed minimum wage of $15 an hour?”  Why? We know why. Four years of DT is why. Just look at how Biden is managing the pandemic. Despite all the challenges, he is assuming responsibility, one thing DT never did, and doing it with compassion and competence, while recognizing the need to fight inequities in our health care system and government.

 

Biden is a president, not a dictator or wannabee dictator. To pass the New Deal, F. D. R. needed not only Congressional action but the support of the people. And in February the research firm SurverMonkey reported 72% of Americans supported not only pandemic relief but most of Biden’s recovery plan.

 

But as Fareed Zakaria pointed out, our legislative system only works when there’s a willingness amongst our representatives to work cooperatively and to compromise. This isn’t the situation today. The GOP have made cooperation almost impossible. 147 of the GOP in Congress voted to overturn the 2020 election and a few still refuse to recognize that Biden won. Some even assisted in or supported the 1/6/21 assault on our nation, assisted in an attempt at a coup. They are a coup itching to happen.

 

We are still recovering from DT and we need a break. But the forces lined against Biden are powerful and desperate. So, let’s support his efforts while pressuring him to foster policies that sincerely meet our needs. We have a new administration that is more inclined to listen to us and do what serves us, so let’s take advantage of this opportunity. Led by Black Lives Matter protests against the murder of George Floyd, racist policing, and the policies of DT, Americans created the biggest sustained protest movement in modern American history. Millions of voices together can help turn this system around.

 

As we take responsible action to change the state of the nation, to make calls to Congress and find other ways to speak, we consequently act to overcome the trauma of DT and change the state of our hearts and minds.

 

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

 

 

 

Vaccination Frustration: Holding Accountable Those Who Deserve It

Do you want to be vaccinated but can’t even get an appointment?

 

As we hear about friends or neighbors who are the same age as we are and in the same priority group getting vaccinated before us, it can feel like we’re in a competition and losing, or we’re repeatedly doing something wrong.  Because potential relief is so close, we can feel the threats of the virus even more strongly.

 

We had grown almost used to wearing a mask. It had become weirdly “normal” to stay home or stay at a distance from anyone not in our pod, and to think of other humans as potential carriers of an infection that might kill us if we didn’t take precautions, including washing immediately after leaving their presence. For many of us, a compulsion to wash our hands has become a life-saving aptitude.

 

But now there’s a vaccine. Not a cure, but a preventive measure that could protect us from getting sick or dying. Or protect us from some of the strains of the virus. We had grown accustomed to the restraints. Now, the wounds are raw once again.

 

And the new strains add another level to the threat, another unknown. Who knows if the preventive measures we have used in the past will protect us in the future?

 

Last week, I spent hours trying to get a reservation for an appointment. I have spent more time on getting a reservation for a vaccine than I would have, in pre-COVID days, spent on planning a vacation.

 

I was on the website for a local pharmacy for hours and was so excited when I finally found an open appointment. I had just finished filling out the online form and had pressed submit, only to then be informed that the time slot was no longer available.

 

Then my wife and I were able to reserve a time slot at a state-run venue. After doing so, my wife received a recorded message on her phone saying she wasn’t eligible for the vaccine. We are the same age and in the same priority group. We answered all their eligibility questions to their satisfaction⎼ or so it seemed. Now, we will have to call to object or keep on searching for new appointments.

 

How many of us are experiencing the same frustration?

 

It would be easy to try to blame someone. But who do we blame? Biden has been president for less than two weeks. DT and his administration totally mismanaged the pandemic for a year. They put our lives at risk, often refused to take any responsibility for the pandemic. They  undermined this nation in a great variety of ways as well as undermining the incoming administration, so it is DT and his followers who we would blame.

 

To read the whole piece, please click on the link to The Good Men Project who first published it.

From Snow Dancing to Sun Shining: The Day We Saw an Inauguration of Hope

I woke up to snow, huge flakes dancing, not falling, but spinning in the wind. Playful. I haven’t seen the heavens be so playful for years. But here it is, the earth dancing. To see trees and people, snow and wind, different ways of being coming together, dancing together.

And now the sun shines.

A new President was inaugurated today, pledging to speak the truth and act with decency. To recognize the threat of white nationalism instead of hiding it. To advance and protect democracy instead of undermining it. Amanda Gorman spoke. She danced with truth in her words, personal strength and insight. Poetry replacing shouts, incoherence, and lies.

Two moments today when so many of us felt tears break out. May this be a new America. May we win the new Civil War or, as President Biden put it, Uncivil War, even better, may we defeat the impulse to go to war, to go to hate, to go to self-serving greed.

This is our chance. May we take it.

DT, the would-be dictator, the only President in our history who incited an attack on our Congress, our nation, the Congress and nation he swore to protect, the President of hate, lies, and grievance, is now gone from the White House if not from our memory or pain or nation. We must do everything in our power to make sure no one like him is ever given power again. “Never again.” To make sure those guilty of assaulting Congress in an attempt at a coup or to stop Congress from recognizing the will of the people, or who incited and assisted the assault, or worked in Congress itself to destroy democracy- they need to be punished, not out of vengeance but justice.

We need to make sure DT is never allowed to approach a government office again, except for a courtroom. We need to let the whole nation see his crimes.

What a morning and afternoon. We needed this. It’s a lesson and reminder⎼ we must be prepared⎼ to fight, to speak out. To take to the streets not to destroy the power of the people but to secure it. Not to thwart the rule of justice but to make it rule. Not to force a lie on the nation, not to mock truth but proclaim it. Not to kill but heal. That these efforts can and did, for now, succeed. We did succeed.

We need to take a breath. We need to dance. We need to sing.

And then speak out once again, for impeachment in the Senate and for new policies. To quickly have a new cabinet approved. To care for those who are sick and to protect us from becoming sick. To pass new relief legislation. To protect the nation from the violence of internal hate as well as external. To pass new legislation to protect our voting system, right to vote and right to equal justice. To improve our infrastructure. To fully fund an equitable public education system that protects its students and teachers, teaches the history and responsibilities of freedom and democracy, and fosters critical thinking. That makes good health care available to all. And that protects our earth. Our home.

A new day. The inauguration of hope has begun. Let us make it so.

 

 

**Here is a list of those we can call. The first 5 are probable votes for impeachment. The next 6 possibly possible. If you think of anyone else, let us know.

Sasse 202-224-4224

Toomey -202-224-4254

Murkowski 202-224-6665

Romney 202-224-5251

Collins 202-224-2523

 

McConnell 202-224-2541

Grassley 202-224-3744

Lankford 202-224-5754.

Portman 202-224-3353

Capito (202) 224-6472

Thune 202-224-2321

 

This blog post was syndicated by The Good Men Project