I Am Afraid

A refrain, a litany, a small phrase. Rhetoric redolent of a chant has been seeping through my brain for weeks now. And the other day in Pittsburgh it came back to haunt my mind in a far louder voice. To blame journalists for writing down what they see others doing is slightly ridiculous, for it is not the journalists making bombs or yelling at people, they just report what they see around them. They report on Who is doing What, When, Why, Where and How they are doing whatever it is. Who, then, is ultimately responsible for the devisiveness rampant in our country’s rhetoric?  We are. We, the people, the ones who don’t say “STOP” in louder voices. You see, in our world today, money talks in greater volume and we place importance on people who have more of it than we do, and I believe that idea has to change. Why should we give importance to anybody just because they have money? Instead I ask how they got so much of it, and did they cheat, lie and steal to achieve it, or was it built on the backs of slaves, etc. etc. We must stop blaming the people who are simply reporting the crimes and start blaming the ones actively or passively participating in the crimes. If a central figure in your life stands up and starts saying bad things about your neighbor, who has always been kind and generous and supportive of you, how long before you, as a child, are going to believe the central figure in your life instead of your own experience?  I mean really. Let us look at some of those children whose minds have been bent by their “Central Important Figure”.  For example, our dear press secretary. Ms Sanders needs to stop stuttering the same lies the President is telling and start looking at the truth. I watched her on the news the other night, Monday night, and she could barelt sat the words “the President doesn’t bear any responsibility for what is happening”.  Well, yes he does.  For the simple fact he is a central figure in many people’s lives, and they listen to him. He has money, and people listen to money. We all know it, why are we not admitting it? He may say he denounces bigotry and hatred, and then he goes on the campaign trail and what does he say? What spews out of his mouth are lies, bigotry and hatred. “Put her in jail” he says. Put who in jail? Hilary Clinton or all women? Why does his wife look so frightened all the time, and why is she so silent. I’ve never seen a First Lady who hides so often from everything. She reminds me of me, and I will tell you that story at the end of this blog segment. Trump states journalists are to blame for bad stories about him…so one of his greatest followers sends bombs to CNN as well as a few of the elected officials who oppose the way Trump does things. Our President says one thing, does another, and we all know that it is what he does that means the most to people. Actions always speak louder than words. He tacitly verifies that white supremacy is an okay thing, he tacitly verifies that bigotry is acceptable, he tacitly verifies divisiveness every time he opens his mouth and Ms Sanders doesn’t believe he is responsible for what has been happening since he day he was elected? I tend to disagree with her. She needs to get real. She may want to believe that people can make their own choice, but there are many people out there who don’t want to think that hard, so they just go with their emotions, and their emotions right now are hell bent on anger, denial, militarism and an ideology that stems from Hitler’s SS wave of terror during World War II. It is the expulsion and denunciation of such rhetoric that we went to war in the first place and Germany is now the first country to admit it. I admire them as a people who came back from hell and learned something valuable. They are no longer hateful, no longer terrible, but there are a few of them still around everywhere in the United States and other places. There are still people who deny that the concentration camps existed, just as there are still people who believe the world is flat. And despite everything that science has discovered, despite all of our gains in women’s right to own their own bodies, despite all of the leaps and bounds of cultural acceptance in the last twenty years, these people will never believe anything other than what they want. And what they want is nasty rhetoric because it makes them feel bigger, stronger, more in charge, better somehow, than anybody else. The truth is, they aren’t better than anyone else. These people are the same as everyone else. We all have DNA, we all have blood in our veins, we all have a brain to use, whether we use it or not depends on what we are taught as children and what we want to believe as adults. Bigotry and prejudice are signs of brain death to me. It’s always easier to run with the crowd than to stand alone and be counted for something good. Why did the student shoot the other student in the hallway? Probably because he got tired of being bullied by everyone for being different. Football is a great example, it sets everyone up for devisiveness from the beginning. “Our team is better”, “our team are winners”, “Boo to the other side”. Fights break out in bars over football plays. Remember these are supposed to be adult males who can think, but maybe their testosterone gets in the way. God forbid somebody should belittle their team or their unity. Well, it’s a free country, get over it. Ignore a great deal and you will find life gets quieter, more gentle, nicer, and more mannerly. And why not? What’s wrong with having a little gentility and manners in our lives. Why not say please and thank you? Not everything has to be confrontational. It’s exhausting.

It is no use trying to reason with a person who has no sensitivity to the word “prejudice”. Because to reason begs a person to think, and these people clearly can’t or they would have figured out by now that their actions are destroying the peace and tranquility we are all entitled to have in this world. So what are the rest of us going to do about it? I will tell you what I do. Every time Trump says something nasty about a person, I find a person who is like that person in spirit and mind and reason and thank them for being a good person. I smile at everyone, no matter who they are. I accept there are differences and I value those differences, and try to make sure that others know that about me. When Trump talks about the journalists being the cause, I buy another newspaper, read another ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, or BBC news story. I read, alot, of the world’s newspapers. Aljazeera, BBC, Reauters, A&P,  The Times, CNN. I don’t watch or read Fox news, because that’s the stuff of strife. They like to stir things up, they remind me of the trash mags at the checkout counter. Blowing things out of proportion, like the President, is their forte. Some people in my own family swear by Fox news, but I know better, for I am older and wiser and I read more and I think more, and I went to University to learn how to think for myself. Inductive and deductive reasoning, taking an idea and turning it upside down and inside out to see if it’s valid. Researching the research. Where does this idea come from, who had it first and what book or journal article are they quoting and is it a piece meal rhetoric out of context or a whole quote? Whenever I read anything written by someone else I always ask, where did they get this idea? Who had it first and what was it used for. Remember what the journalists use as their criteria for stories: Who, What, When, Where, How and Why? I still hear that little chant “I am afraid”, but when I quote “who, what, when, where, how and why?” that little phrase goes away. I know who is fomenting fear (I suggest you look at the stock market drops recently and ask who is buying up all the lowered stock and what stocks are those?) and I know we can combat it with good sense and a commitment to peace. And a strong aversion to bigotry, lies and egomaniacal rants and tirades against all that is good masquerading as political campaign stops. I think we need some checks and balances in our system NOW. Even a few of the Republicans are worried, the rest just have dollar signs in their eyes.

There are a great many bad things happening right now.  Religious persecution, shootings, bombings, airplane crashes, hurricanes, miles of refugees fleeing for their lives and heading our direction. Well, it is what the Syrians have been doing for years, fleeing death. Why aren’t we helping other countries do more for their people? It is their responsibility, but all Trump can say is “build a wall to keep them out”. He’s not being very helpful. And thanks for trashing all of our trade agreements, now my money, what little I have, buys even less. But also, Thank our Universal Creator that some of the wounded and frightened found refuge in other countries. But, wait a minute, isn’t that what America is supposed to be doing? Opening it’s doors, and being “The Great Refuge of the Opressed, the Persecuted, the Wounded of the World”? And isn’t this where they are supposed to have their second chance? By the way, where did your great-grandparents come from? Unless you are a Native American, I doubt your DNA comes from America. It comes from England, Ireland, Italy, France, Scotland, Africa, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, India, Pakistan, Tibet, China, Viet Nam, Japan, and 180 plus countries whose names I have not metioned. Who are we really? We are Americans first, ethnic groups after, We are not African Americans, we are American Africans, American Asian, American Hispanic, American whatever, but first and foremost we are Americans, and that means we are all in this together and if we don’t start working to really promote change, as in lets all go to the polls AND start being nice to each other, we will lose our country and it will become the stuff of history. A good idea gone bad. So when I hear that voice in my head that says “I am afraid”, I chant “Who, What, When, Where. How and Why” and read another newspaper article and thank God I have the freedom to do so. Because if we are to lose our journalistic freedom, it is the end of America as we knew it. I have been watching things for over sixty years, There is value in my life experiences. My book collections, of which I have read every book, amounted to over twenty thousand volumes over the last sixty years. Now I use the internet because with Social Security I cannot afford to buy books and I have no room to store more than the two thosand I still own. So when I say that history will repeat itself, democracy, like Rome, will fall, unless we stand united, I know what I am talking about. It is that insidious fear, that small phrase “I am afraid” that we need to stamp out, and we need to shout louder than just one small minded elected official, no matter if he pretends to be leader or not. We must ask ourselves where is he leading us to and to what end? I’ve never encountered such ego in all my life, except once, in the mid century post war history books, the old war films, and the news stories from World War II.  Oh, and my first ex husband who tried to kill me because I wanted a divorce. Told you I’d tell you the story.  I wanted a divorce because he beat me, he locked me in the house and refused to let me out. He told me what to wear, what to do, how to think and when to do it. I got raped whenever he felt like it.  It was his “right”. When I finally got away, I paid the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom, he kidnapped my sons and I have not seen them for over forty years. He said it was my punishment for divorcing him. I said it was my gift, my state of grace and one day my children would understand, or not. I am alive to make a difference. If I had stayed I would be dead. Millions of women have stories like this, millions have worse stories, and have endured even worse situations, and I applaud them for their strength and their resilience and their sacrifices, but now it is time to be even stronger and more resilient. We must all begin to ask ourselves where the negative rhetoric crap is really coming from, and why, and then we must answer the rest of those journalistic questions with actions suitable to the resolution of a problem.

The Bullied Life

This is going to be a difficult blog to write, for I am, in some small way, just as guilty as the rest of humanity for allowing people to bully others.  I admit it. My guilt rests with the fact that I didn’t fight back when I was bullied, and I allowed that bullying to color most of my life. To my detriment. I allowed it because it happened at home first, I was sort of used to it, I guess. And so it was just a continuation of what was occurring at home, something to live with, something to do nothing about, people will be people after all, and some were angrier than others. And more vocal. I knew them, knew instinctively they hurt worse than I did, and so chose to hang my head and stay invisable. Children are decidely smarter than adults about some things. I knew those kids deciding to blame their deficits on others was just easier than taking the time to sort through their own foibles. Which, of course, they didn’t know how to do without some really good parenting, which most of us didn’t have at the time. We had parents back from the second world war, grandparents who lived through the first and second world wars, post traumatic stress induced violence at home, alcoholism and drug addiction and an inability to connect emotionally. Told one thing, sent off to do another and discovering that war is truly hell and not what they wanted, and yet unable to stop. When finally defeated, Germany surrendered, men were sent back home to what? Women who had learned to do a man’s job and didn’t want to give up the freedom. The ending of a war began another one, a war in which our children continue to participate in, whether they want to or not.

What I write next is part true history, part narrative, part observation and a warning to not let prejudice color your view of the person standing next to you. We are all in this life together and no matter your beliefs, opinions, wants, desires, it will take all of us working together to make it right again. We all have the same goals, remember that please, as you read the next bits. It’s important because we are all human, we all make mistakes and we all deserve to be given a chance. Let us start with the children we so blithely send to school each day.

For some of these students, life is fraught with dangerous activites, although for most in America the danger is not recognizable as such. Danger is now in the form of social faux pas rather than in the secreting of dangerous documents and the hiding away of refugees and escaped political prisoners; although I’m sure that happens as well in a few places other than the United States. I’m talking about our junior high and high schools, those scenes of petty sexual inferences via Facebook, My Space and other well meaning social media sites, as well as the societal highs and lows sweeping through the school hallways. The places we send our children are dens of inequity these days, as much as we don’t want to recognize it.  Sexting seems to be a great hit, just don’t get caught, is the watch word. There doesn’t seem to be much respect anywhere I can see either. Bullying begins at home and goes straight to school with our children in their minds, hearts, computers, laptops, smart phones and other instruments of torture. Whenever anyone steps out of line there is a range of dedicated misogynists and feminine hijackers to tag the recipient with any number of false labels. and then spread it to all their “contacts”. Never mind their own faux pas, they are so busy dishing out false retribution they can’t see their own forest of blameful activities. I say they just want to yell first to cover up their own mistakes. Sort of like spreading a load so thick no one can see the knife or who is wielding it. Afterwards, a child tries suicide, or cutting themselves, or lying, or stealing or doing any number of rather odd behaviors to keep an adult from seeing the truth, that they hurt because of what someone said about them. What does that say about us as parents? Our children refuse to talk to us, are we not listening to them? Or are we not prepared to believe them when they do tell us? Perhaps we are not gifting our children with enough emotional armor to shield them from people who like to dish it out. And they do dish it, seen and heard it myself, plenty of times at the mall, grocery store, walking down the street or sashaying past the bus stop. I have wondered for years why people say bad things to and about other people they don’t know when it doesn’t make sense and just wastes energy. Some of the dishers I believe are bullied at home, and it’s their way of shedding the negative energy  build up before they explode. Give it to somebody else because the bully at home is bigger and therefore undefeatable. I’m sure you have heard the term “learned behavior”, well, bullying is a learned behavior.  It comes from watching parents, it is a tacit approval method of teaching shameful behavior. The Amish know how to deal with shameful behavior, it’s called “shunning”. The entire group turns its back on the sinner until the sinner changes into someone the group wants to know again, and then they either stop shunning and welcome them back to the fold or the shunned go away and never come back. That is, I know, a simplistic view of a very ancient and very religious ideology, and one that comes in handy for keeping a group together, but is it an act right for our younger students to participate in? For bullying in school is a method of shunning. Someone does something you don’t like either to you or someone you like, or you don’t believe is a right thing to dobecause it goes against your set of moral values and the next thing you have blasted them with a media blitz calling them names, lying about them, doing the dirty, so to speak.  Where are we, the adults, when all this is going on? We are talking about our neighbor, our co worker, our boss, nagging at our spouse, feeling put upon because we have so much to do…so we jabber about anything and everything without regard to what is being learned from this by our children and their friends. Learned behavior. They get it from us. Haven’t you ever said “Oh God, I sound just like my mother?” or father, as it happens. Well, you do. Because you have learned behaviors. Not everything is down to DNA.

We, the adults, no matter how stressed we feel, should know better than to talk smack either to or in front of our children about a person, but we do it anyway. We talk about so and so at work, we call the people we don’t like or don’t understand different names, labels really, pasted on top of people’s faces so we don’t have to take the time to find out who they really are. We yell at our children about how wrong they are and how it’s all there fault. We watch shows like big brother and watch they all destroy each other in the name of money. We all do it to some extent and at some time for our own reasons. Some parents are worse than others, and there are a few who, thankfully, remember not to do it all. But for those who do it’s apparently easier to cope with their own life garbage and, hey, we can get ahead by leaps and bounds by doing the dirty to someone at work we don’t like, or someone in the neighborhood we don’t want around simply because they are different. Shame on us. We give this verbal junk food to our children and they take it to school and dish it out to the unfortunate few who don’t quite understand the game. Or if they do understand it, they can do nothing to change it because they have neither the funds or the social class to keep it from happening. Yes, it’s a stacked deck, still. Always has been. And now it’s deadlier than ever. The children that kill other children are abused, confused, their DNA is screwed, their brains don’t work right anymore and yes, it’s our fault. We spray the air with toxins, we fill the ground with herbicides and pesticides and the air with exhaust fumes, we feed our children junk food per tv recommendation and worst of all, there is no time set for connecting with nature, it’s all television and computer games, telephones and snack food. I remember a time when I was young, always had chores to do, animals to care for, and weeding to do in the veg patch. Always too busy to get into trouble. What do your children do when they have the energy of a raging bull and no way to let off steam? I believe in hard work for young people, twelve and older, let them work like they live in a third world. For in truth, they do, it’s called adolescence and they have more energy to burn than a solar flare. I remember when kids worked hard physically and stayed more stable mentally and emotionally. Now everything is out of balance and their parents want to blame it on everybody but themselves. “My poor little boy/girl”, don’t want them to work as hard as you did? Didn’t hurt you did it? Kept you out of trouble, kept you sane. And perhaps you learned a trade or two, like how to fix a car, how to mow a lawn, paint a room, feed the hungry. I’m not advocating hard labor for kids, I’m just advocating physical work. And something besides football that pits one against another, don’t we have enough of that? On the news, parents hitting parents at a kid’s soccer match, and people calling the police on other people for no reason at all except because they can. Isn’t it time to start gardening together? Maybe going around raking an old lady’s yard? Learning to do things together is a useful trait to learn, and getting rid of pent up energy is a good thing. And perhaps we should also keep in mind that old saying, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  But children now are allowed to say anything about anybody whether it’s true or not. And that’s not good. It leads to moral decay of the worst kind and is being seen more and more often in society today. Fake news anybody?

This kind of political, social, cultural climate is more damaging to our children than guns in school, in fact, it’s my opinion that it’s the reason we have people with guns in school. Those children, outcasts, picked on, the ragged ones,  the lonely children misunderstood, bullied, laughed at, for usually no real reason except to make the others feel better about themselves are not the ones at fault. It starts at home with parents and how they behave towards their children. We should wash out our mouths with soap, and then start on the politicians who keep it going world wide. We are all in the proverbial “sh….r” these days and unless we pull together and stop bad mouthing everyone and everything we don’t or can’t understand, the climate is going to do it for us. It’s all of a piece, this climate change we find ourselves living in today. It started way back several thousand years ago when someone decided it wasn’t okay for somebody to have a different color skin, or different hair, or a different opinion about something, whether it be social, religious, familial or financial, and now we live in a climate of fear that we have allowed those around us to cultivate for their own use. For several thousand years we kept a balance, but somehow in the last 100 years we lost our footing. I believe it was for the sake of money. A few people got really really greedy. Some of our children are beginning to recognize this type of ugly behavior and are opting out of participating in it. Thank heavens for some favors. But some adults are still studiously ignoring the scientists and are hell bent on continuing to foment destruction around the world, forgetting that the climate is destroying us as they scurry to their next money meeting. Hurricanes, snowstorms, volcanoes, tsunamis, changes in humidy levels, the melting of arctic ice, the extinction of major animal species, important species, I might add, because without major predators, we are over run by the prey, rats, mice, insects, and we are losing our most precious animal and insect species, the pollinators. Bees, bats, butterflies, moths, we keep spraying them with insecticides, well we were, now we just put it in the food we eat, we genetically enhanced our plant life to contain the seeds of destruction, and so we are all reduced to living lives of “quiet desperation”, which in turn gives rise to all those children in our schools yelling at each other, just like our government officials, our politicians, are yelling at each other. All I can say is we had better stop yelling and start working with each other or there will be nothing living left to yell.