Ten Years out




I have had several reminders about what I was doing ten years ago. I was not writing this blog back then, I was working on another one in which I was chronicling my wife’s experiences with Pancreatic Cancer. Most of this month I have been looking back at what I wrote during the last days of June 2010. Some days brought a smile, which at times were about the irony. Most days I wipe the tears from my eyes.

Looking back through Facebook, I can see my conflicted feelings. On one day, I wrote about a man in Liberty Park asking “Where is the Taco Bell” as a light-hearted moment, and later posted “I’m tired of having to go to the hospital to see my wife.”

On 5 July 2010 I wrote

My friend, confidant, lover, cooking teacher, music student and wife died this morning at 6 AM. She was sleeping peacefully and holding my hand when she stopped breathing.

She had a very rough night, I was glad that we were in the hospital rather than at home. Her pain medications were being updated on an hourly basis. Her kidneys had failed along with her liver, the pressure from the swelling made her feel the need to urinate but her bladder was empty. At about five she looked at me and said “I can’t fight anymore” and she closed her eyes. I held her hand as she lay sleeping, telling her that the time apart would seem to her like an instant from the perspective of eternity. I quoted Bible verses and reminded her of God’s promise. At about six she stopped breathing. I kissed her and called the nurses, there was no pulse.

I was able to stay with her as I tried to call friends and family, due to the hour and the holiday weekend I mostly spoke to answering machines. I held her hand the entire time, when it came time to wash her rigor mortis had set in, her hand stiff and curled around mine. I washed her, gently caressing the body that had once been so full of life, now just an empty container. I stroked her hair and kissed her face and neck, then helped place her body into the bag and onto the gurney. I watched as she was rolled away and packed her things, including the plant she had recieved just two days earlier.

This afternoon I stopped at the funeral home and realized how little I know about her family, I had no idea of everyone’s name that would go in the obituary, and decided that a generic “well loved by her many friends and family” would be the best route. I picked out an urn, actually only narrowed it down to three, I’ll have to go back with her cousin to make the final choice.

I grabbed a sandwich and now realize that I haven’t slept in a while. I have a lot to do this evening, but I know it will all be there tomorrow.

She is still alive in all of our memories. She is still alive in God’s loving arms. She made me a better person, and I must honor her by being the best person I can be until we are reunited.

Looking through her site at the condolences, I found this. It stood out then, and I have never forgotten giving, and receiving, this advice.

Blake,

Our prayers and thoughts are with you I hope your letter can be of some comfort during this difficult time.

Pat

From: Cash, K

Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2009 2:58 PM (Note: two days before I started Emma’s site)

To: Cash, Patricia

Subject: Grief

Patty,

Grief is a denial of our knowledge that your father is beyond suffering, with our Lord, where he is destined to be.

That does not mean that you should not experience grief, it is an opportunity to reflect on your father’s service to our Lord, in works as far away as Morocco, and as near as your heart. It is an opportunity to allow his children to show their strength, to support each other, to show what your father has given to them.

Prejudice is another opportunity to see our frailty. We justify our prejudices by calling them knowledge, by insisting that we have learned from the past. God has no prejudice, and he knows the future. He loves us no matter who we are, what we have done, or what we will do. Allow your loved ones to prove any prejudices you may have to be wrong. Allow God to guide your loved ones to step up and support you and your mother. Rejoice in the example your father gave us all. Do not falter in your faith due to the failure of another to live up to your expectations. Rejoice in those that do. We think of life as a gift, yet it is eternal life for which we strive.

When I lose Emma, please remind me of these thoughts.

The results from Emma’s biopsy are in, she has stage 3 pancreatic cancer. As much as she expected it to be even worse (stage 4), the news hit her hard, as if it was out of the blue. We see the oncologist tomorrow. I don’t know how she’ll get through this, but it does seem to make her feel better to talk to you.

Peace,

Blake



I stopped by her site quite a bit that year, grooming it into her book. A year later I wrote:


Our wedding rings, now in Emma’s shrine



Tomorrow it will be one year since Emma’s death. I wasn’t sure how I would deal with everything, I’m still not.


I have completed all my “mourning steps”. I’ve recounted the events leading up to her death ad nauseam, I’m certain everyone is tired of hearing about it. So I wrote a book about it. Still, the images won’t go away.


I sit with Lieve today, I’m writing the blurb for the back cover of the book, she’s designing the front cover, using the photograph above.


A few words about guilt. I felt a certain amount of “survivor’s guilt” for living after Emma, I’ve felt some guilt for enjoying life so much with Lieve, I’ve felt guilt for not letting go and putting more of myself into my life with Lieve, I’ve felt guilt for not “doing more” for Emma. This is not me. I’ve never really believed in feeling guilty, “accept and move on” has always been my creed.
I’m sure I’ll be overwhelmed by sadness a few more times this weekend, and there’s no reason to expect it to stop. Grief has no calendar. Emma was a huge part of my life, in time, in emotional attachment, in significant events. We didn’t break up. We loved each other more and more and then it was over, the film ran off the reel, white screen.


This will indeed mark the end of regular posting here. I have a life, and a wife who has been exceptionally understanding of my absent mind. There is no question that I loved Emma, and unlike a divorce, there is no reason to stop loving her. Except that she’s not here, and isn’t coming back. I could never forget Emma, but I can live a normal life, and share the love within me with someone who is here and can appreciate it.


I’ll stop by and post updates on the book’s availability, but there’s nothing left to say about Blake and Emma, she found peace, and now so should I.



What have I done since then?



Well, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know. I married again far too soon, and re-learned something Emma had told me; I am hard to Love. In the last ten years I have had four meaningful relationships, the first three echoed those words. Each woman looked me in the eyes and said those words. I expect Janice will someday as well, she’s in touch with her feelings more than most; she’s also a great deal more honest. I accept my complexities, I wouldn’t want to only see one point of view at a time. I could never be “normal.”

I spent a fair amount of time in Belgium, which led to gaining forty pounds. Later, I visited Mazzo’s, the Lebanese restaurant where Emma was one of the family. Mama kept saying “If Emma could see you! You look so healthy!” I learned a new language (Flemish) and was ever so close to emigrating, then at the very last minute had a change of circumstances.

I’ve moved from South Philly. I still drive by our old place whenever I’m in the area. I still go to Termini Brothers occasionally, and find other reasons to be in South Philly. The first few months, while I was still working, I found myself in and around the hospital far too often. First I went to Princeton, where I found the need for a driver’s license, then eventually to Elkins Park Pennsylvania, where I bought a condominium.

I’ve had my own medical issues, the ankle I twisted before Emma’s surgery persisted in getting twisted for at least two years, and halfway through the decade I broke my brain in a fall. That was spectacular. I wrote about it with the details, if you know me you know the intense detail with which I remember crises. The dispassionate way I write about tragedy did not originate with Emma. She hadn’t liked my fiction, but I hope she enjoyed the book I wrote about her.

Our cat, Autumn, has become an old lady. I believe she is fifteen or sixteen years old now, last year she beat cancer; which was traumatic for me more than her I think. Now she has a playmate, Janice’s cat Flash, who is only three and wants to play. Autumn has maintained her dignity; when she wants she and Flash will chase each other, when she doesn’t want to play she gives Flash a look and he backs down. Very little hissing or fighting.

I had a psychotic break last fall and loved it almost as much as I loved going to jail. Really, it was incredibly instructional. Who would have thought a mental hospital could be so calming. I learned a lot about myself, and how my brain does and doesn’t work. I realized I was still grieving Emma. Nine years on and I had not found balance; I was just pretending.

I no longer work. In the months following Emma’s death I developed the idea that if I couldn’t fix pancreatic cancer I couldn’t fix anything. Confidence is eighty percent of a technician’s skill, so I retired. Ended up needing income a few years later and worked at Amazon, then L’Oreal, then I broke my brain and have been on disability ever since.

I don’t know if I would have been a writer had Emma survived. I did collect a journal of her cancer, but I don’t think I would have been moved to have it published had she survived. I’m pretty sure I would not get much screen time, we always found better things to do. When I started this blog in 2013 I was writing no less than a thousand words a day, seven days a week. Now sometimes I miss an entire month.

I wonder what she would think about the President. I’m sure she would have voted for him, but she voted for Obama and hated him six months later. Emma told a story about running into Donald Trump and Michael Jackson in a hotel in Atlantic City. Michael said “Don’t you want my autograph?” and Emma replied “No, I want his (indicating Trump).”

Emma teased me about my sexuality, sometimes using it to start an argument, sometimes using it to turn herself on. That portion of my life has become far more open than it had been, with unexpected repercussions and benefits.

I did finally figure out which band was playing on her last night, it was The Roots, performing on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I’ve met some of the members of the band who also play with David Uosikkinen of The Hooters, who also played with Buddy Cash, who played at a restaurant called Tom and Jerry’s where Emma used to work. Everything intersects, is it any surprise I wander through multiple universes?

At some point late next year she will have been gone longer than we were together. Probably around Nouveau day, the day we met. I have no expectations of “healing,” the scars will last forever. The memories are softer now, I know she could be harsh but I can’t remember her being harsh. Emma and I are at peace, happy for each other. The vision I remember best is her lips in an “O” when she was excited.

My latest relationship has all the indications of being my last, Janice is a forever person. It is a good time in life to gather the wisdom of all the lives I’ve led over the last sixty one years and create something solid. The mother of Janice’s late husband lives with us, as does his brother. Janice’s daughter sometimes spends the evening, so we’re about at capacity. It feels warm.

I think of her every day. Part of that is because her shrine has traveled every step of my journey at my side. Sometimes I need to look at something, sometimes I need to touch it. Every now and then something will suddenly appear, a card or something she wrote will be in a stack of papers. Those are weird. I still look at Emma’s personal ad, through which we met.

Emma’s personal ad




I’m in a healthy relationship. I’m building a family. I’m surviving. That’s what she asked me to do. But sometimes I feel like the character “Griffin” in the film MIB3. Seeing everything and everywhere at once, knowing possible outcomes but having no control of his path. Then I remember I had a TBI and a psychotic break, so maybe I’m just crazy. Doesn’t bother me a bit.

But 4 July stopped being celebratory ten years ago, so I’m posting this today, it will be ten years tomorrow at 0600 EST, I’ll be awake.

Enough tears to fill the oceans



My country is on fire. The riots which began in Minneapolis Minnesota have spread throughout the world. I was concerned when they reached Philadelphia, I have friends and loved ones within the now barricaded city. I just came back from the pharmacy and it too has closed in preparations for more. Less than a mile from my home.

I have spent the last few days providing intel for friends who want to join the protests, and guidance for the younger ones who think they have to be there. These kids really don’t know what they’re up against.

In Indianapolis, friends on the ground report seeing a MK19 firing teargas. The MK19 is a belt fed 40mm automatic weapon, used by the military. It has a three hundred seventy five rounds per minute cyclic rate, equating to a practical rate of sixty rounds per minute. It’s target range is seventy five to fifteen hundred meters. At fifteen hundred meters, the shooter can’t see his target.

 

The MK19

 

Other friends have seen pallets of bricks being dropped off in some cities. I have wondered since Ferguson where people found bricks to throw on a city street. Now I know.

I have tried to explain to people the motivations of the police, and though some thought I was justifying their response others made use of the information. Kids can be hard headed, I hope that protects them.

The police are there to protect the community. Peaceful demonstrations usually end peacefully, but when fires are started and property damaged they respond with force to dispel the crowd. While tear gas and rubber bullets are less than lethal responses, they do on occasion kill. Fired from fifteen hundred meters they are not aimed at an individual, but still may hit one. My advice to all has been know who is around you. Shun outsiders.

There are no available statistics, so I won’t say “all,” but many of the riots were started by outside agitators as we used to call them; the new name is “accelerators.” They are usually people with goals completely opposite of the demonstrators. They intend to distract attention from the object being protested, so they can claim the protestors were just violent looters, avoiding the issue of another murdered black man. Every person who says “Why are they burning their own neighborhoods?” does not understand that “they” did not start the fires. Once the situation turns into a riot common sense finds an exit, some people steal from the broken stores. Again, this is often outsiders, turning a riot into an opportunity to steal. You can pretty much be sure that none of the people carrying away television sets were part of the non-violent protest. Outside and out of race people have frequently been seen committing acts of vandalism in the name of Black Lives matter.

Thankfully, nearly everyone carries a phone and takes videos. The racist assholes who incite the riots are often assholes in day to day life, the ones that have been identified have usually been pointed out by ex-girlfriends. Such as this man, identified as an officer of the nearby St. Paul Police Department. The following video was filmed in Boston earlier today, I have no idea why the police would destroy their own car, but a number of crimes in Boston have been falsely blamed on “black men” who did not exist.



I don’t think there is a single person who saw (fmr.) Officer Derek Chauvin kneel on the neck of a handcuffed, bleeding, and gasping for air George Floyd for nearly nine minutes (the last two minutes of which he was already dead), doubts the officer’s guilt. Finding that in his nineteen year career he had received nineteen complaints of excessive force came as no surprise, nor the fact that his wife filed for divorce and fled as soon as he was in custody. I don’t think anyone would say there are no bad cops. My thoughts are the other three officers on the scene are guilty of dereliction of duty at the least, up to and including accomplice to murder. I just can’t say there are no good cops.

I used to work with them. None of them had been cloned, they were individuals with the same flaws as any human. It has been heartwarming to see police join the demonstrations. My local chief published a statement against brutality the day Mr. Floyd died. Countless chiefs across the nation have met and joined protestors.



I can’t think of an instance in which the chief joined the protestors, and a riot broke out. Ours did not.

As I am writing this, the news is live at interstate 76 at 20th street in Philadelphia. The edge of the barricade. Several hundred protestors broke off from the peaceful demonstration and blocked the interstate. It took less than five minutes for tear gas to start flying. Police have swarmed the area and are taking people into custody, no resistance. This is our third day of protests, the city is under curfew from six to six, just forty five minutes from now. The reporters are emphasizing that this is a splinter group. The incoming bridges are closed. It would be easy to characterize the city as “under siege.” Philly has a reputation for violent police responses, going back to Mayor Rizzo who was police commissioner in the sixties, and continuing when Mayor Goode dropped a bomb on a house in 1985. Today they’re looking good, everything is orderly and peaceful.

A station chief who had served in the former Soviet Union once advised me “When the shooting starts, the conversation is over.” This applies to everything, including the protests. Once violence begins, no one is thinking about anything other than survival.

Another saying from that time was “Think globally, act locally.” Change can be made at the local level, with time those changes can move to larger theatres. One man changing the world only happens a few times in a lifetime, focusing on local elections, local issues, is the way to make a difference.

For now, we just need to watch the rain and hope for a rainbow.

The Quadrenniel Equation

 

As America’s leadership races to the drain, we are once again faced with that difficult question. Of the 328,200,000 citizens in America, who would we like to be President? In what has been explained as a positive process, we allow nature to take its course and let survival of the fittest choose the candidates.

Unfortunately, being the fittest in popularity contests is not the measure required of a fit President. Of late we have dropped the pretense of who is most popular. Elections have largely become an opportunity to vote against a candidate. Since my return to the East coast, each gubernatorial election in New Jersey has been driven by a campaign to remove the incumbent.

Last time was a moral dilemma, people on both sides of the aisle “held their noses and pulled the lever.” This time there are a different set of senses offended.

The poorly named “MeToo” movement brought some change to public sensibilities. The most wonderful example of it working just the way it was supposed to was the Al Franken case. He said “Believe all women,” he was accused, he stepped down. No fiasco.

This year, we have Donald Trump, who has openly admitted he doesn’t know when he is in a locker room, and suggested that a proper greeting is to grab a woman’s genitalia. Mr Trump has been accused of a variety of sexual misbehaviors, and been involved in many undisclosed settlements. 

He’s also a megalomaniac and starting to act a bit dictatorish.

From the opposing party, we have Joseph Biden, a doddering old fool who was often hidden from public view when he was Vice President. He enjoys touching women. He doesn’t know there is a time and place for enjoyment. Throughout his career he has been known as “creepy Joe” for the way in which he oversteps boundaries, sniffing hair and inappropriately touching women. Recently, a harsher accusation of rape has surfaced.

Now the MeToo folks are sweating. Both candidates are offensive for the same reasons. If only there was someone else running for President. There are about a dozen alternative party candidates, and not one of them has been accused of rape. Nonetheless folks are losing it.

If there was ever any evidence required to justify the label of “Rape Culture,” this is it. The two choices for President have both been accused of Rape. And nobody is talking about it. Biden was in the lead with just being creepy because he said “Believe all women.” Except Tara Reade. Now supporting Biden is supporting an abuser.

I’ve heard a few passionate defenses about how important it is to get Trump out of office, from people who know victims of rape. More of that “Most important election of our lives” stuff. The cognitive dissonance is unparalleled. We all want people to live up to their stereotypes, and just as I could not believe that women voted for Bill Clinton or Donald Trump, I am dismayed at the women supporting Biden.

Trump “may” reverse Roe v Wade, and there is no question he will make an ass of himself, and America, many times. But in supporting Biden, you are supporting an abuser. So this is a question of morals. Is an election more important than a rape? How cleverly are you going to bury that question in November?

One of the issues I have with folks is that there are certain matters which are digital to me. There are no nuances or redeeming qualities, they are black or white. I call these things “values” and can often be rather old fashioned about them. Old fashioned as in “consistent.” Biden doesn’t get a pass because Trump is an asshole. Abuse is abuse.

So, what to do?

Either don’t vote in the presidential election at all, or choose a candidate who hasn’t raped anyone. Is it really that hard?

But then Trump will win!

Maybe, and you will not have to explain to your daughter why you voted for a rapist. Which is more valuable?

Wash your hands of COVID19, not personal responsibility. Anything can happen in Washington, what is more important is what happens within you.

Splendid Isolation

As we isolate due to COVID19, various comments about the level of isolation we experience have been making the rounds. One in particular was a measurement of levels, one being “I haven’t changed anything,” to five being “total lock down.” My personal response was that I am at level four, or level one; I don’t go out much to start with.

The reactions to isolation are largely based on our pre isolation lives. The twenty four hour party people can’t go very long without an audience. Those of us who prefer to be left alone are in a state of bliss.

One irony of quarantine is that I now have to go to the grocery store. I used to have groceries delivered, but when everyone suddenly tried to have their groceries delivered the system was overwhelmed; I could not schedule a delivery. Ordering groceries for pick up is suddenly frustrating, shortages cause items to be out of stock by the time I complete the order. I leave home with several pairs of latex gloves and a container of Clorox wipes. I put on a pair before I leave the car and wipe the surfaces of carts and other devices (such as the self checkout). Then I remove that pair of gloves before entering the car, and drive to another store which might have items the first did not. Re-glove, repeat. Full shower and change of clothes after coming home. The stores are relatively empty, so distancing isn’t a problem.

At home we’re listening to more music, the television is fairly depressing with its reports of COVID19 prevalence, one thousand dead here, two thousand dead there, a party in New York State, nearby states rejecting New Yorkers. Individual responses have run the gamut, and stupid people are just not entertaining. We spent the early days of the quarantine watching films about pandemics.

One wonderful and/or awful thing about America is its spirit of independence and do it yourself attitude. It is wonderful to see people finding solutions , it is awful seeing people spread bad information. Among those spreading bad information is our president, who has contradicted doctors in favor of the economy. We don’t end quarantine on a financial calendar, we end it on a medical calendar. This is going to hurt. It is going to hurt everyone. We do better by exercising compassion for those without choices.

I see this pandemic, and the resulting quarantines, as a measure of our spirits. One does not quarantine oneself in order to avoid catching COVID19, one quarantines to avoid spreading COVID19. Incredibly self centered people violate quarantine to have parties, risking not only the lives in attendance, but the lives of everyone with whom they have contact.  I would like to believe this is evolution in progress, removing self centered people from the population. Those with compassion for others are far more likely to survive.

As with most events in America, suddenly everyone is an epidemiologist. This is a new virus, we cannot count on it behaving like other viruses. It is from the family of viruses that caused SARS and MERS, we already know that treatment for those viruses do not translate into treatments for this virus. The only weapons we have are the actual epidemiologists who are working directly with this virus. Have we not been using social media long enough to recognize false information? Again, perhaps an evolutionary moment, as we are freed of the burden of the gullible idiots among us.

Our “leaders” are showing their true stripes, in many cases to no surprise. Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, displayed his self-centeredness when he took to the air complaining that his state, hit hard at the moment, could not have all the ventilators in existence. I would like to see his supply of toilet paper. The president has reverted to his childhood of bullying, allotting supplies to states with governors who are nice to him. Several voices have claimed that “old people” (the initial high risk group) would be willing to die to save their children. It doesn’t work like that, we are not bargaining with death. I would certainly trade my life to save one of my children from an eminent threat, so please don’t call me heartless when I say I would not roll the dice with a virus. We have learned that all ages are susceptible, yesterday an infant died of COVID19. There is no favored age range which we may sacrifice to save everyone else.

Ethics are being debated, as healthcare systems are stretched beyond capacity. This is why we quarantine, to avoid stressing our healthcare system. Triage is a basic element in healthcare, seeing the effects of triage is more than some people can handle. Every trip to the emergency room already undergoes triage, the guy in the car wreck gets treated before a doctor spends time on your broken toe. End of life triage is not a popular subject, but it has always been here. When resources are limited, so are responses. Italy had to deny ventilators to patients over sixty. We will do something similar here. We have fewer hospital beds per capita than Italy, to deny we will run out of hospital beds is foolish.

Recently in Philadelphia, the city requested the owner of an abandoned hospital (Hahnemann, closed a few months ago) to allow the city to use the space for overflow patients. The owner wanted a ridiculous amount for the privilege of using his worthless property.  The hospital stands empty. Some of us believe the owner will find a room in Hell.

The optimist within begs me to see all of this as a growth spurt, as humanity is reminded the value of being humane. Growth hurts, but in the end we are better developed. In the interim, we get to watch the evil we are trying to rid the world of take the spotlight.

We will come out of this better if we learn to cherish good rather than blame evil. Take this time of isolation to learn something, a new instrument or language, reflect on your values and relationships.

 

 

And most importantly, wash your hands.

 

 

 

 

Catering to illegal activities

 

I am so very pissed off right now. It appears everyone received a Medicinae Doctor in the mail, and mine never arrived.

Sure, I know the basic stuff, but the ability to diagnose without examination has been denied to me. I’m still maintaining my vaccinations and taking prescription medicine while the truly healthy folks are burning candles with the scent of Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina. Medicare doesn’t cover them.

Store shelves are vacant of supplies for washing hands. Good thing I developed the habit as a child, and always have soap and water on hand.

I had my routine checkup the other day and my doctor asked if I had any questions about the corona virus. My doctor, a man who knows everything about me, asked if I had any questions; I was a bit put off. “You know I only drink Belgian beers” I replied.

He had another patient, about my age, who chose never to have a flu shot. The patient was rather proud he never had contracted the flu. During his checkup he had a number of questions about the corona virus. The doctor had asked him “What if I told you there is a virus that came to America which has already killed twenty two thousand people, and I have a vaccine for it?” The patient was surprised, “You have a vaccine for corona virus? I thought that was years away.” The doctor said “No, corona virus has only killed twenty Americans, I have a vaccine for the deadly virus, also known as a flu shot.” The patient was not amused in any way, and refused the vaccination.

My girlfriend belongs to a “menopause discussion group,” in which women discuss their issues with the progression of menopause. People who describe symptoms which fit textbook profiles of a malady, are told to try peppermint oil rather than seeing a physician. One thing I remember from my neurologist when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis is that I should not automatically blame any problem on MS. I can still get cancer or tear a muscle.

When Emma had cancer, the well meaning M.D.s out there gave her a variety of alternative therapies to explore. As apposed to hospitals as she was, she embarked on a path of radiation and chemotherapy, followed by surgery, then more radiation and chemotherapy. To their credit, no one said “you should have consumed more asparagus juice” after she died, but one friend said “so she went through all that for nothing?” No, those therapies gave her an additional eight months, no one lives forever.

Recently Philadelphia has danced around the idea of “safe injection sites” for heroin addicts. It is amazing how much local residents understand about addiction. The first, and most common complaint is that by providing safe injection sites, the city is catering to illegal activities (the hardest criticism came from people who need opioids for their condition and are affected by DEA recommendations to reduce dosages; when I was looking into employment at DEA an M.D. was not required) . The missed point is that by using the word “addict,” we are not talking about recreational use. We are talking about people who fit the American Medical Association (AMA) definition of “diseased.” Heroin addiction is no different than Cancer, it is a disease.

Other arguments were about the center being near a school (find a place in Philly that isn’t). They did not seem to grasp that a safe injection site would result in fewer needles on the sidewalk, they would be used and destroyed at the site. As far as “catering” goes, it would very likely be the only exposure addicts would have to actual health professionals, folks who gained their knowledge through schooling as opposed to the grapevine. These professionals would be guiding the addicts towards treatment to end the addiction, and would notice signs of other diseases common to intravenous drug users. For some reason those against preferred dead junkies in the playground.

A theoretical rise in street crime was presented by these criminologists. In fact, the increased police presence around such a center would make the neighborhood safer. Drug dealers would be likely to stay a bit farther away. The natural surveillance of officers seeing who came and went would provide intel for apprehending criminals, with or without a formal surveillance program.

The center withdrew, to the neighborhood’s relief. There are no plans for another site, building in an area where addiction is rampant poses problems for the safety of staff and supplies. If only the folks in South Philly could recognize how rampant heroin abuse is in their own neighborhood already. The center would have prevented it from becoming more like the Kensington area.

I will be wearing gloves when I attend a rally in Harrisburg next month. I’m pretty sure that will be more effective than eucalyptus oil, but smearing myself with garlic would probably work. It’s natural acidity is a proven antibiotic, and folks stay a bit farther away.

Since even the president knows more than the medical profession, I can’t quite figure out why I pay, from my Social Security check, for Medicare. The incessant chant from the masses is “We know Better than Doctors, they’re trying to kill us.” Why are both my taxes and my bank account funding medical services? I have a hunch there might be something behind this “medicine” stuff, something they’re not telling us. They do go to special schools for this nonsense, it sounds like a conspiracy.

It is a conspiracy. Total strangers meet at a special schools, and take oaths in a foreign language, “Primum non nocere.” If people could just figure out what that means, they could stop suggesting fruit diets to those with cancer.

Binary society

 

I gave some thought to this title. I considered “Digital society,” but that does not really convey the meaning I’m looking for. We have moved to a digital society from an analog society in the sense that nuances are seldom considered, things either pass or fail the judgements that are placed on them; but the pass/fail barrier is reached through a binary process, components can only be a single digital response, one or zero. When I say binary I am not talking about the code, in which 1/2/3 is expressed as 1/10/11, I am speaking of the digital logic of yes or no.

If you are X then you are Y. Not a little X and not much Y, once X turns from zero to one, Y equals one.

If you are a Republican you are racist, greedy, selfish, uncaring (sometimes reduced to hateful), and hypocritical. Not one or a few of those, all of those. If you are a Democrat you are pro-choice, socialist (sometimes reduced to communist), bleeding heart, hedonist.

The point you might have missed in that paragraph is the very basis of the decision is rooted in the assumption there are only two choices. (Hidden shocker, THIS is why we will never have a viable “third party.”)

Humans, and Americans in particular, have difficulty considering alternatives; life becomes one all or nothing decision after another. As one of the most basic insights into the phenomena, consider the average number of limbs on a human.

You thought “four,” with the logic people are people, I’m average, I have four limbs. The actual number is 3.97. As your brain tries to consider the specifics about that 0.97 limb, you are distracted by the equations for the various combinations of limbs possible. That took a little more time than just stating “four,” efficiency is antithesis to creativity. That may sound ironic, as part of my tours for a winery, I would compare efficiency to “lazy,” the easiest way to accomplish one’s goals. When a life goal is taking a selfie, efficiency is lacking in merit.

The origin of my thoughts today was an exchange on social media between a reader and a journalist whose career mirrored newspapers. In the reader’s defenses to her blatant radical sexism, she stated “Women are an enormous majority, I don’t understand how anyone can be anti-woman.” Now let me list the order in which the errors in that statement affected me.

First, I know that percentage is close to fifty (the actual number is 50.8). Second, I realized if there were more than two possibilities, 50.8 percent could be interpreted as “enormous.” Third, I realized mentioning that there are more than two possibilities would derail the conversation, the subject would become sexuality. Fourth, is anyone actually “anti-woman”? This sequence took less than one second.

I’m pretty sure, even with every possible variation, 50.8 percent can not be judged as enormous. Transgender people and various genetic deformations may create dozens of possible demographics. Sure, there are far more “women” than “intersex” people, but the default position is there are two possibilities, a trans woman is a woman, a trans man is a man. This of course blossomed into sexual orientations, and all the infinite ways we restrict a spectrum to a binary issue.

I grew up monogamous. As far as I knew, the alternative was toxic, destructive to participant’s souls. In being a faithful husband, I was betrayed. For revenge I betrayed my next wife. Neither time did I feel clean, I felt degraded, objectified. My third wife was perfect, life was perfect, then she died and I knew perfection existed, and was not restricted; I could love again. Somewhere a group of women gathered under the old moon to take their turns building me up and then cutting me off at the knees. Then I met a woman who was polyamorous.

Two old straight folk on the streets of NYC


Polyamory was a third choice, not binary. It helped me in seeing how many choices there are out there. I had always been bisexual, and I met the most incredible bisexual polyamorous woman in the world. The fact that when we went out, we looked like a straight couple was not lost on us. We were both bisexual and understood things are not always as they appear. So now we live in very cozily in a relationship that appears to be “monogamous” and “straight”. That’s not three choices, that’s like twenty seven.

American society only supports two choices. Give them three and you will be denigrated, give them twenty seven and you can be excommunicated.

Deep inside I believe Homo Sapiens is in the process of evolution. In the same sense I can separate the Old Testament God and the New Testament Jesus, I can separate the Binary human from the Spectral Human. Often the trait is not acknowledged, it may not effect the involved individual in any way they notice. One easy way to see from the outside is to observe their beliefs. How many positions are black and white, and how many are grey? If you are a spectral, you will be able to see where on the spectrum they are, depending of course where on the spectrum you are.

I rejected much of this thinking in my youth, feeling comfort in black and white. I didn’t have to think, leaving my mind clear for other pursuits. The efficiency of the growth process later yielded to a comfort in multiple dimensions, up/down, left/right, forward/backward, color, volume, tone, and infinite measurements.

I am not suggesting that anyone try to change who they are. It does not work, as evidenced by hundreds of “conversion therapy” clinics. You can stretch your mind no further than it is capable, there may only be four lights, you see what you see.

 

There are certainly more than two


The question might be, “What color are they?”

 

That isn’t what I said

“it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”?

 

I make every attempt to be honest on this blog. I allow any comments which do not contain messages of hate, and never edit anyone’s words. The few edits I have made other than spelling in my own words is noted, and typically accredited. Maybe because I know that once it’s on the internet, it’s forever. Kind of like a tattoo.

I was astounded back in the nineties when Clinton denied saying things which had been preserved on tape, and when Obama “walked back” from statements he had made to the press.

But the most unreal thing I have seen in the world of communication is the deletion of tweets (twits). This takes place in other forms of social media, but the twitterverse is just too funny. I checked, I have an account, and I just could not figure out how you can make a Freudian twit; or how you can say something that is instantly seen by millions and think deleting it will be seen as anything other than your shame for being an idiot.

My personal guide has always been “Don’t publish any remark that you would not want engraved on the Washington Monument.” No one has tried to engrave any of my remarks, but you never know. . .

As much as we like to believe no one is listening, someone always is. At least one in four homes actually paid to have a wiretap. How much has changed since I was repairing a printer for The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and was asked if I was tapping their phones. They were such a sweet old paranoid bunch. Today they probably all carry cell phones, their every movement tracked. Janice was on a conversation thread on Facebook and said “Gen Xers don’t use Snapchat.” This morning she had an email from Snapchat.

The desire to change the public record is just as obnoxious as censorship. Changing a statement because it contains an offensive word is not in the same league as finding a typo. I suggest the proper way to change a word should be to strike it and leave it in place, i.e. “Censorship sucks is really nice.” The original intent remains to be considered.

Deletions have been so common that there are websites which publish only deleted tweets. This has been going on so long you would think people would be aware of the futility of self censorship. That of course is the important part of the equation. They don’t think. They do not think when they twit, and then do not think when they delete. Enough instances can make you believe they have never thought at all.

“Drunken Twits,” emotions bared under the influence of alcohol, are curious. The twitter was too intoxicated to know it was the wrong thing to say, yet managed to avoid any spelling or grammatical errors in a complex racist attack.

I never cared for the twitterverse in the first place, when a friend introduced it as the font of all knowledge I knew better. Group decisions are indeed better than those made by an individual in certain applications; but the studies which indicate that trend refer to groups of people experienced in the topic considered, not random keyboard warriors in the twitterverse. When someone makes that argument they are revealing their lack of knowledge; believing the title of a study is equal to the conclusion and that it applies to all applications.

Self censorship has always existed, politics is full of “misspoken” episodes. I would much rather a person acknowledge what they said (or twitted or whatever), clearly state what was wrong with it, and what they “meant,” precisely, when they said it. “You know what I mean” is no excuse for poor communication skills.

We have become so involved in “making words our own” that not everyone knows what we’re saying. I understand misunderstood words, that the statement meant something completely different than it was interpreted. When a word is misinterpreted, so is the meaning. I’m not sure why, but I usually know precisely what someone means. Maybe my insight into languages makes me more aware of non verbal cues and inflection. Emma was so mono-cultured that she could not understand the words on Monty Python. My last wife could not understand Flemish in the dialect of her father, who was from Bree, she grew up in Kessel-lo. (Flemish has eleven distinct dialects; fewer than seven million people speak the “language,” which is actually a dialect of Dutch.)

Misunderstandings should be understandable, yet I frequently see bitter arguments rooted in semantic differences. In these instances, seeing the crossed out word makes it clear it wasn’t an intentional (or in the example; it was) “mistake.” When Mike Bloomberg feigns bewilderment about a sexual harassment suit with “I don’t know, maybe she didn’t like a joke I told” you know he knows precisely what was said and he’s trying to defend his language. I think he would have been more effective had he said “Sure, I said ‘How do you get a one armed blond out of a tree?’ when she broke her arm.” If he then gives the punch line (You wave to her) he didn’t understand the point of the suit.

It is normal to misspeak. To deny that the words were offensive means you don’t understand the offense. To explain that it was not meant as a personal offense means you lack a filter. To deny you said the words means you are an asshole.

It is often said that generations who wouldn’t talk about politics or religion has resulted in a generation that doesn’t understand religion or politics. We all do better when everyone makes an effort to be understood.

Otherwise it is only intentional obfuscation.

Dow Jones is a unicorn

The Dow Jones average, which some people use as a measure of economic health, is a make believe number, It represents the value of a number of stocks if you sold them when the measurement was taken; by the time you read it, it has changed. Stock values are much like the prices of the paintings in my house, they are worth whatever someone will pay.

Is this 3’X4′ painting worth $40,000? The artist offered that just to get it off the market in 1982

In the big crash of 2002, everyone was talking about how much they lost (I actually gained 0.01). Those people retired ten years later and had not lost a thing. It had almost doubled its closing price of 2002, increasing over two thousand points. Over the last three sessions, it has dropped three thousand six hundred ninety two points, almost equal to the entire index in 2012. But the closing price is in the range of twenty five thousand now, large sweeps are actually small when looked at as a percentage.

The first Dow Jones average, of 26 May 1896, was 40.95. By 1929 it had gown to a high of 381 following several years of “bull” markets. With the Great Depression outside the window, someone had the foresight that the values were inflated and took a step back in October. Panic ensued as the market dropped 23% to 299 points. To match that drop today the market would have to fall over five thousand points in one day.

This fall is being blamed on COVID19, the corona virus. In response, the president formed a task force consisting of the Vice President, who thought the cure for AIDS was prayer and that smoking wasn’t dangerous, and the secretary of the treasury. Because the President of the United States knows what is important to the people. A healthy stock market. I would have chosen someone with a medical background to head the task force, but those voices have been muted, requiring clearance from the Vice President before making any statements which contradict the official line. But the Secretary of Commerce says the virus could bring jobs to America. There must be a shortage of undertakers. As the president does not believe the virus is a problem (In contrast to every other medical authority), he failed to provide the most important precaution; wash your hands.

Sorry for the detour, the point was that the stock market, and the Dow Jones Average, is a confidence game. When investors lose confidence, the market drops. A company that is growing can see its stock price fall if the CEO makes an unpopular remark, or because its name is similar to a virus. Corona Beer is down 4% this week.

The stock market remains a good investment, it always rises; except when it doesn’t. Long term investments are safe, unless that term ends during a crash. Short term investments, day trading for example, exists for the enrichment of those who can see those odd remarks and play with the effect they have. For the majority of us who don’t spend our lives reading the Financial Times, those little daily jumps up and down can seem disastrous.

I took a few days off and the average has bounced back. The money “lost” was by people who sold short, those who bought at the low point got some real steals. Those that just sat back and watched neither “won” or “lost,” they just stayed in the game.

In conclusion, the Dow Jones is meaningless, the average of make believe numbers. Don’t let it affect your blood pressure. Just wash your hands.

Standards

 

Dutch political poster. “Believe no poster. Inform Yourself”

 

 

I have been presented with a number of issues relating to the welfare of others. Universally I can see how American citizens are better off than most other populations. We have one right, secured from our government in its first documents. We have the right to complain.

Free speech does not imply educated speech, which in many ways is the point of our first amendment to the constitution. There are no standards, anyone can speak. It is our individual responsibility to discern truth from opinion. It remains our responsibility to determine the value of various opinions. For the most part, humans lean towards the definition of the borderline personality (severe leanings result in the label of “Borderline Personality Disorder”); thinking in a “digital” manner, black or white, good or bad, etc. Another faction of people understand that there is a grey area, yet that often leads them to believe that only three positions exist, black, white, and grey.

In my days as a photographer, I preferred studies of grey. Colors are often disputed, what I call purple you may call pink, yet the color of the object doesn’t change. The cones in your eye may produce a different sensation than mine, but the actual color remains the same regardless of the name we give to it. It does not have to be a matter of perception, we may have learned the names of colors from different teachers. Grey is not quite as easy. Grey is standardized, named by its reflection of light. Eighteen percent grey is referred to as “medium grey,” it is a photographic standard. It may be the shade that comes to mind when you hear the word “grey,” or anything that is neither black nor white.

A grey scale, drawn with pencils by my friend Vince Natale

 

Colors, including grey, give us visual standards. Words are radically different. Combinations of words are far more complex than combining colors, yet the same style of logic, “Black or White,” is applied. Good or Bad, Right or Wrong, Love or Hate, are all things we recognize as opposites, but should also recognize as spectra. Adding to the confusion is the popularity of creating new words, or new definitions of old words, the exact same script can mean different things to different people. The fact that a sense of humor is subjective causes even more confusion.

What is a joke? Is it funny (and again to whom?), is it satire (with what intention?), is it merely camouflage for hatred? Far too many times I have heard what I interpreted as an attack excused as “I was only joking.” I just can not find demeaning other human beings as anything resembling a joke. For my black and white contribution, forgiving hatred as a joke is merely expressing the same hatred yourself.

Our world is not black or white. There is good within bad things and bad within good. Much of the interpretation revolves around who is benefiting, and who is being persecuted. The love of my life was connected to the Mafia. She did not see the Mafia as “good guys,” but she did see them as acceptable. She began to see the level of conflict when one of our dear friends, a Lebanese woman who filled a maternal role in our lives, suggested that Hezbollah was a good organization, “just like the Mafia, helping out poor people.” Emma could see the parallels being drawn, she heard her own excuses for “her people” being used by our friend for her people. Emma was a very black or white thinker, she cut most of her ties to the Mafia. When the issue came up at family gatherings she would not participate.

In my experiences in the LGBTQ world, I am a Bisexual. the word “bisexual” gives the immediate impression of the root “bi,” or “two.” These days, such a definition is seen as restrictive, offensive to those not covered by the historic definitions of sex. These people (Pansexuals) believe that because they do not feel restricted to only two sexes, people who are bisexual are separate, lesser for their restrictions. Before I go any further, let me explain how wrong the belief is. The history of the LGBTQ population did not start in 1979, but that is when it became more acceptable to speak about it. By 1990, the presence of those of us who are not strictly attracted to one sex was recognized. The world is not populated by people who are heterosexual and homosexual, the spectrum includes many variations. Some homosexuals are only attracted to members of their own sex, some are not. The term “bisexual” was adopted by these outsiders and expressed in The Bisexual Manifesto. Within that document, is the conclusion “Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality.” The Pansexuals have made assumptions. Also within that document of thirty years ago is “Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. . . don’t assume that there are only two genders.” Personally, I prefer the label “Queer;” everyone can understand that word means “different.” To me, the issue of bisexuality v pansexuality is an extension of every other prejudice; assuming another group is inferior. There is no difference between these two groups, other than the egos involved.

When we look at immigrants, almost everyone imposes their own prejudices. Mine is fairly simple and straightforward, derived largely from my own sponsorship of an alien. She didn’t like the word “alien,” saying it wasn’t used in other countries. She had learned English in England, where “buitenaards” was translated to her as “Foreigner.” Other dictionaries translate it to the word “alien.” She was a white person from Northern Europe, her naturalization did not take long.  At her swearing in ceremony there were new Americans from all over the globe, one had been in America for thirty years; that does not mean she had waited thirty years to get through immigration. I had a German roommate at one time who had been in America for thirty years and had no desire to become an American.

I see a legal path to citizenship, and people not willing to undergo the process. Failing to follow the legal path is illegal, therefore those people are illegal immigrants. There are many sad stories told about illegal immigrants, some of them are true. Many of the people attempting to immigrate are well educated, the majority is not. Facing the hurdle of the Department of Homeland Security (which now handles Immigration) can be difficult for someone who cannot write in their own language. There are thousands of reasons people choose to illegally immigrate, but it is still a choice, a decision. So I do not have immediate sympathy for people unwilling to follow the legal path. Does that make me “bad,” or “heartless”? I am somewhere on the spectrum, and probably the worst judge of my self.

As we progress through this election cycle, you will hear many judgements. Consider that an exceptionally small percentage of the people making these judgements are qualified in any way to do so. Is the person saying that Biden is senile a doctor? Is the person saying that Sanders is crazy a psychiatrist? The list is endless. As the Dutch political poster above says, believe no poster, inform yourself. Use your standards, not someone else’s description of their standards. Their grey may be your purple.

 

 

 

The value of Intel

Julius Caesar and his advisors

 

While many people lacked surprise at President Trump’s removal of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Mcguire, I was appalled. Shooting the messenger can be a bad move, poking your eyes out is worse.

The DNI coordinates the various agencies in the committee, creating National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) that are as insightful as possible. The position was created in the aftermath of 9/11, when the president was overwhelmed by competitive and sometimes conflicting intel. Don’t be surprised, each agency has its own value to prove, sharing intel between agencies has always been dicey. I’m going to use the names you are familiar with rather than the nicknames they have. The FBI is charged with a counterintelligence mission, thwarting foreign intel. The FBI is only authorized to operate within the United States. The CIA is charged with intelligence gathering, their theatre is strictly outside the United States. The intel of one is crucial to the other, yet they are in competition with each other to produce results.

There are seventeen major agencies that you may be aware of, and over twelve hundred that you are probably not aware of, each chasing their own prescribed threats according to their specialties. There is very little respect among them, each believing they are the best, sometimes thwarting other agencies to remain so. You are no doubt aware of situations in your own experience in which one law enforcement agency refused access to another, it works the same in the intel community.

By removing the DNI, Trump has created an environment of fear within the community. “Don’t tell the boss bad news or he’ll fire you” can be deadly. Prior to the Cuban Missile crises, the Kennedy administration belittled Nikita Kruschev, and publicly stated that he would never bring nuclear missiles to Cuba. At the time, intel was presented to the President by the United States Intelligence Board, which provided an estimate that the Soviets were unlikely to base nuclear missiles in Cuba. The current consensus is that the Board knew that the Kennedy Administration would discount any other conclusion because it had already publicly dismissed it. Intelligence officials and White House advisers knew that bringing forward an estimate contrary to the Administration’s position could damage their careers or weaken their influence in future debates. Sound familiar?

It took the death of U-2 pilot Rudolf Anderson Jr., and the subsequent words of Airman 1st Class Michael Davis; “Major, take a look at this, I think you’d better call the colonel” when he saw cigar shaped tubes in the photographs, to provide the fortitude required to brief President Kennedy with the truth. (Full disclosure, Airman Davis was a member of my wing, the 544th SIW; I’m still rather proud).

Trump has denigrated the intel community before, but removing the DNI because he didn’t like the NIE is reminiscent of Caesar ignoring the call to beware of the Ides of March. We can only hope the results are personal to Trump rather than the downfall of our nation.

The president has created the visage of a ruthless tyrant. That may have served him well in the corporate jungle, but as a world leader he looks more like Kim Jong-un. Fear of reprisal destroys the community, and there is every reason to believe he will be lovingly sabotaged. Without intel there is no insight.

Every president has had intel blunders, even after 9/11 Obama ignored NIEs about Russian cyber threats, setting up Secretary of State Clinton’s cyber naivete. But dismissing the DNI and replacing him with a civilian with zero experience is insane.

Your impression of spooks may be formed by James Bond or Jason Bourne. My experience is radically different. The point is to not stand out in a crowd, just accomplish your mission in silence. In that silence we are often forgotten, which was the purpose from the beginning. In doing so, we have no glory, only medals locked in a box somewhere. The public probably shouldn’t even know who is the DNI, our service is clearly labeled clandestine. Michael Davis wasn’t recognized for over fifty years.

You should seriously question a president who publicly denigrates the community.

 

It’s Sunday, why not try a sermon?

I have never been one to hide my beliefs (well, when traveling abroad I have been known to refer to myself as Canadian). I was raised as a Christian, Southern Baptist, and my pastor when I was very young preached that we should examine something before pledging our lives to it. So I did. I left the church, but I did not leave God.

I read the Bible, cover to cover, and did not see any of the people I saw at church. I understood who Jesus was, and what he was trying to teach, and saw few of his messages reflected in the teachings of “Christian” religions, and when they were, it was merely lip service. I could see them in other religions, and examined those more deeply. In the end, sometime in my twenties, I decided to follow Jesus’s teachings, calling myself a “Zen Baptist.”

Of all religions, I tend to be more critical of “Christians;” they have the instruction book and don’t follow it. This morning, I had to correct a member of my Belgian Beer Enthusiasts group for berating a Buddhist. The other member had posted a picture of his wife, a Buddhist, and the Christian went on about how she was going to have trouble getting into heaven. Determining the fate of someone’s soul is not the duty of a Christian, that job is specifically held by God. Rather than get into a prolonged discussion, I just reminded him that it was a Beer group, he could share his religious views elsewhere.

I have often said “If you can read a Stephen King novel, you can read the New Testament.” There really is no excuse not to read the teachings of a group with whom you aspire to spend eternity. Yet the majority of Christians have only opened the book to read a verse along with the congregation on Sunday. They have no sense of context. Many will repeat the phrase “Judge not” with their own interpretation of what it means. For one thing, it is only the first two words of a sentence. The full verse, recorded in the book of Matthew as the first three verses of the seventh chapter are “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” The message is you will be judged by the standards to which you hold others.

These are the reasons a good friend of mine rejected Christianity. He would say “There are too many contradictions.” What he meant was the practice often contradicts the lessons. I have heard Priests admonishing their parishioners to carry the love of the service outside the doors of the church, questioning how they could commune with each other in church and then curse each other in the parking lot. Christians often do not follow in Christ’s footsteps. Maybe if the Priest championed reading the Bible rather than the snippets included in the mass they would have a better feel for what Jesus had been saying; but of course that might allow them to read the ninth verse of the twenty third chapter of Matthew,”And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

I am also an American, and hold the Constitution as an instruction manual on how to operate the country. The first amendment has taken quite a beating lately. It reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This is where the idea of separation of church and state comes from.

Our current president does not appear to have read the constitution, or just feels as if he is not bound by it. My own thoughts lean towards the latter. The organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is a watchdog group which focuses on the First Amendment, protecting the populace from government intrusion in religious matters; they have been very busy lately. When I suggested this group to my father, who tends to feel Christianity is under attack, he flatly refused. My father is a good man, but he can not quite get the idea that the same rule which prevents government funding of proselytizing the Christian faith also prevents government funding of proselytizing Islam; it is in fact the very core of the First Amendment. Fairness is not appreciated by someone who feels they are under attack, even when they represent over seventy percent of the populace.

I don’t expect anyone to believe as I do. I have little way of knowing, because I make no attempt to drag others into my beliefs. I met one the other day, he happens to be a doorman at my building. He usually carries a bible, and is very quiet. I asked what religion he followed, and in his quiet way he said “I don’t, I follow the teachings of Jesus.” It felt nice knowing I am not alone. I am exceptionally tired of all Christians being portrayed as the one third of us who are evangelical as they most certainly do not believe as I do, nor do they follow Jesus’s words. In Matthew’s tenth chapter, Jesus says in the fourteenth verse “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” Simply put, if someone doesn’t want to hear you, shut up and walk away.

What troubles me most is the vast number of Christians who propagate ideas which have no basis in the words of Jesus. I repeatedly hear I should not judge all Muslims by the actions of Daesh, but most folks judge all Christians by the actions of Evangelicals. It can be difficult, I tend to judge all Atheists by the actions of their leaders, but some of them are nice people.

 

 

 

That time of year

There are certain cycles that make you feel good, the Seasons each have their joy, either by arriving on ending.

I see other cycles, just as certain. The election of the President of the United States presents its own set of internal cycles, this year one has been a bit early. My friends, the people I trust, have left civility behind as they become partisan gargoyles. People whom I have chosen to call friends, the hundred or so that have remained admirable for years, sometimes decades, have left, some never to return. This brings me no joy. Rather than watch, I distance myself from the hatred.

Last time was particularly ugly, and there are no indications this time will be any better. I was ever so close to leaving it behind last time, prepared to the last detail to emigrate, and the opportunity was snatched away at the last second. I don’t have any reason to expect a similar opportunity to present itself, so I’m stuck here for the entire show, like Alex in “A Clockwork Orange.”

 

At least for Alex it was only a movie

 

I know it is only a seasonal madness, or at least I hope it remains so. Each cycle builds on the last, at some point it has to destroy the very union it was designed to support.

A decent, intelligent man thought it was funny to share the identity of the purported “whistle blower” in the Trump impeachment fiasco. A kind and thoughtful woman graphically compared Trump’s acquittal to the rape of justice. I know these people to be good human beings, but these are not the actions of good human beings. Protecting the identity of witnesses protects everyone. When that trust is denied, how many potential witnesses look the other way, perhaps witnesses who would have protected you, or revealed an improper act in which you would (now will) be the victim? When you equate a partisan play with rape, what do you think actual rape victims have suffered? Well, on second thought, actual rape victims watch the system betray them, with trials based on popularity rather than reality, so maybe there are some similarities; I just really did not need to see that image.

This is too much like the annual surprise when frozen precipitation falls from the sky; people believe it has never happened before and are therefore excused from knowing how to deal with it. Four years is a long time for a person to remember anything when they can’t remember how to drive if there is snow on the road. I forget my friends are human, and react to competition in the way of most humans.

And “competition” is precisely what national elections are. Sure, all the candidates talk about their superior moral stands, most of us understand that politicians have no morals. Most folks are interested in “what can you do for me” far more than any empty promises about human rights. The depressing thing about intelligence is recognizing the election has more in common with the Superbowl than “Mr. Smith goes to Washington.”

This year I find myself in the uncomfortable position of understanding the motives of Donald Trump. Not the paranoid fantasies about his personal hatred of the environment, or claims of undiagnosed mental illness, but an observation based judgement of his character. He is a vindictive bully. Remember his first year with the rotating cabinet? Why is anyone surprised that he fired the assistant who testified against him? He views people as either useful or trash. The character of his committed supporters reflect that trait.

So this year, in response to a vindictive bully, the Democrats are waging a war of pettiness. “Impeached” will forever be on his resumé, but he made it clear in 2016 his resumé was unimportant to his goals. His childish behavior has been met as a challenge to find who could be more childish. For an observer such as myself, this is a bounty of material for critique, I would be happy if this was not such a crisis. We are coming apart at the seems, it is no time for a pie fight.

I enjoy social media, and I use it to promote my writing. The problem is it becomes an echo chamber, diverse ideas are not readily accepted. I have had to block a few people who were rabid partisans, on both sides, but mostly I get blocked; again from both sides, predominantly from the left because I have had more friends on that side. Either way, my group of friends narrows itself to only include people who think as I. No one seems to accept the concept of an impartial observer.

So I have distanced myself from social media, passing through now and then to comment. I still post my blog articles, and intend to return in the winter; unless the fury over the results persist. Voting has changed from expressing support for a candidate who shares ones ideas to picking the winner. More so than Republicans, Democrats are incredibly poor losers, yet Trump has done his best to prove me wrong; I just hope his supporters are less like him in this aspect. This is just one more reason I support ending our two party process in favor of multiple parties. Perhaps that would allow more diverse views to remain pockets of small groups, rather than trying to please everyone with two possible choices. The system is beginning to mirror the Soviet Union’s idea of voting, everyone votes but there is only one choice. Americans have yet to discover their two choices are merely two sides of the same coin.

At any rate, there may be a choice which I find appealing within the Democratic party. Currently I favor Pete Buttigieg, but then in 2016 at this time I was supporting Gary Johnson. The last time my choice won was 2004.

 

Choose well this year, vote for a candidate who best reflects you; and on 4 November, try to remember it is not all about you.

Privilege

As with most issues, the concept of privilege tends to be overblown while containing a measure of truth.

Donald Trump is not a member of the NAZI party, but some of his actions mirror their actions. Do not forget that NAZIs tied their shoes, tying your shoes does not make you a NAZI. Some factors apply in using the stereotype, many do not.

An article on Buzzfeed well illustrates that point. One single factor does not signify privilege, it is the cumulative amount of factors. I don’t think Buzzfeed has any more credibility than Psychology Today, but the survey, all by itself, is useful as a learning experience.

How Privileged are You? provides insight into what constitutes privilege. I have always felt offended when accused of “White Privilege,” because it has been based on the fact that I am white. I am more than just white, although hate groups such as Antifa don’t really care about facts. Physical assaults, verbal assaults, and prejudices have been based on supposition.

Not everyone is interested in learning. When my partner posted the survey on Facebook, for the purpose of comparison, most of her friends took the survey and compared their scores. One decided to go on a rant about Buzzfeed, shooting the messenger and in the process also the message. No, the results of a survey are not a diagnosis, but sometimes the act of sharing it can display prejudices you were not looking for. An excellent representation of this effect is “Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.”  That quote comes from the 1978 film “Superman.” Most people do not consider superhero movies the source of deep philosophical observations; those people also fail to learn from “War and Peace.”

The first lesson in the survey comes with the first question, “Are you White?” I was a bit put off with that opening, then I considered that it was one factor out of one hundred. My total “score” was twenty nine, “underprivileged.” There were questions that seemed faulty, “Have you ever been called a Dyke” and “Have you ever been called a Faggot” should have been a single question. One of the many questions that should have been there is “When you see a rack of magazines, are the majority of people on the covers your race?” As I said earlier, anyone expecting a certified diagnosis from an online test is foolish. This survey should only be used as a comparison among peers, just don’t let Antifa see the results, a score of one would be adequate for them to burn your house.

As mentioned, I am white. I was born in the South. I am a Christian. None of these things make me a racist, but I accept that they are three points out of hundreds that would make me so. I learned over fifty years ago the difference between correlation and causality, and try to apply it to every interaction. As I aged and was exposed to dangers which could be life threatening, I found that in some instances correlation is sufficient. I don’t need to know what is in that backpack with wires hanging out, but I don’t need to kill the person carrying it; I can walk away. Responses require circumstances with which to justify them.

There are many factors which constitute an individual. It is often said that Hitler liked dogs, but that alone does not make him a good person. He also facilitated the deaths of over eleven million people, and while that alone may not make him an evil person, the methods he used to accomplish that goal certainly add up to that conclusion.

Our society, drenched in information, continues to celebrate single issue decisions. The quickness of determining the state of that decision is frightening. I can see an indicator and immediately know what it means, most people cannot. A friend recently posted two photographs in comparison. One was a color image of Donald Trump reaching out to shake the hands of supporters, the other, a black and white image of Adolph Hitler doing the same. My reaction to the implied statement they were the same was that I couldn’t think of a single celebrity who has not reached out in a similar fashion. Then, as others noticed inconsistencies, it became clear the photo of Hitler had been altered (there was an American flag in the background, a person dressed as Lincoln, and Hitler had no feet). Simply noting that this was not only a poor comparison, but it was also falsified, made me a Trump supporter so she immediately blocked me. The simple observation that if what one party is doing is despicable, mirroring that behavior is not excusable, brings me back to explaining to children “He did it first” is not a defense for doing the same thing.

I’ve been noticing a snowball effect, that right along with knowledge, maturity is rapidly declining at a geometric rate. Double standards are celebrated as “necessary.” Moral standards are as rigid as cooked spaghetti. I am overwhelmed with the examples provided by an intolerant population and a rogue president. Literally overwhelmed, I can not finish typing a blog entry without several examples of my thesis occurring, and not just because I type slowly. Noting these issues results in hatred rather than self reflection.

In many ways, the survey on privilege was contrary to my core beliefs. Confidence is seen as a privilege, questions such as “I have never lied about my sexuality,” “I have never tried to hide my sexuality,” and “I am always comfortable with P.D.A. (Public Display of Affection) with my partner” imply that comfort with who you are is a privilege. While I agree that living in fear is an indicator of lack of privilege, paranoia is an indicator of lack of psychiatric help. I have had physicians refer to my “Texan stoicism” as a defect.

Give yourself the privilege of being comfortable in your own skin.

The whimpering end of democracy

I was born in America (although I frequently claim Texas as my native country), and from early in my life I was inundated with the message I live in a Democracy. First problem, America is a Democratic Republic, we grow up believing a lie about our government; repeating it as a defense of the majority. As we mature, and learn to appreciate minorities, a certain cognitive dissonance starts to grow. Part of our Western background is absolutes, balance is a foriegn concept.

In my youth, part of my education included classes in “Civics,” or the study of the rights and duties of citizenship. Sometime in the seventies, Civics classes were deemed unimportant, and dropped from most curricula.

For almost fifty years, two complete generations, Americans have not been taught the basics of how government works. This explains how millions of people called for the impeachment of the president on the day he was elected, not comprehending that an actual offense had to take place first; that is, an offense greater than “I didn’t vote for him.”

Then when an impeachable offense took place, millions more did not understand that impeachment is a process, and that it does not end in removal from office. It ends in a trial, a trial in which the jurors decide to either weigh the evidence or vote according to their party.

Had the president been found guilty, he still would not have been removed from office. Like a trial in real life, once guilt has been determined, then sentencing is considered. Think of a murder trial, few of those found guilty are sentenced to death, or even life imprisonment.

As a political strategy, impeachment is equivalent to investigations, they sound scary but there is no reason to expect a particular outcome.

The one spectacular event in the impeachment of president Trump was that Mitt Romney, a fellow Republican, voted against the president. No senator had ever voted against a president of their own party before. The partisan nature of the process was highlighted by the only non-partisan vote.

How many Americans took note of that? My guess? Seven.

The campaign for the 2020 presidential election rolled right through the impeachment hearings, and there were lessons to be learned there as well.

For some reason, Iowa is the first contest, a “caucus” rather than a “primary.” It is still an electoral process, the “one man one vote” part of the Democratic Republic, and although the process sounds rather bizarre, it is captured quite well here by Reuters.

For some reason, the Iowa caucus is held as an important indicator of the November election, even though Iowa is in no way representative of the American population, and is held eleven months before the election. People can change their minds in eleven months. Sometimes it only takes eleven minutes.

In this case, and perhaps indicative of the ways in which Iowa represents the general population, one voter did change her mind after casting her vote, and wanted to withdraw it.

After “deliberating” about the choice and available candidates, and working her way through the tedious caucus process, this voter changed her mind because one of the most reported aspects of the candidate had missed her research until after casting her ballot, and she felt it was important enough to display to the nation her Homophobia. Pete Buttigieg is gay. Married to a man. Publicly, flagrantly, and the one thing that made him stand out when there were over twenty candidates, but she had missed it. This is the thoughtful reflection applied to a candidate for president.

That “one man one vote” bit carries the implication that you only get to vote once. She missed that too. Nonetheless, after a fiasco illustrating the failures of the Democratic National Convention, Pete Buttigieg won.

Speaking of those failures, do not take the impression I am suggesting the Republican party has not been easy to mistake for a Keystone Kops episode, which brings up another whimper.

I no longer claim membership in any party, they are simply two sides of the same coin.

In our Democratic Republic, those votes given to each of us rarely express our desires. Very few folks vote for a candidate, they vote for a party. The same people who decry partisan politics are partisans themselves. Democrats will point out the stupidity of their opponents who just “pull the big R lever,” while at the same time chanting “vote blue no matter who.”

What are the side effects of this whimpering death of a process we have celebrated so widely?

For one, Americans not only can’t handle the truth, they don’t expect it. Anyone can say anything and because it is accepted by what to that person is “a large number of people,” it must be truth. Twitter is considered a “news source” by the same people who laugh at one of its reporters for broadcasting from the toilet in the middle of the night. Nurses, who have been trained to understand the scientific method, become dedicated opponents of vaccinations. People feel comfortable dispensing diagnoses without any medical training. Rather than a search for truth, questions are submitted for a diversity of opinions. It is as if they just don’t want to be correct.

It is dragging me down. I find the uninformed exhausting, because I can either explain every part of their wrong ideas and be considered arrogant, or listen in silence as they display their ignorance, transmitting it like a virus to the uninformed majority. I can’t help them; it is frustrating. As I age, the frustration is having physical effects, I write it off as having developed in another world; I am the foreigner here. Is this the fate of age?

I often think of John Houseman as Mr. Wabash in the film “Three Days of the Condor,” speaking to a rising section chief.

Mr. Wabash : I go even further back than that. Ten years after The Great War, as we used to call it. Before we knew enough to number them.

Higgins : You miss that kind of action, sir?

Mr. Wabash : No, I miss that kind of clarity.

 

Recognizing Big Brother

 

Some things stick in your mind, you can see them forming before others because the horror is too great.

The holocaust is an example of how evil can spread through a society, so the label of NAZI is thrown at anyone who appears to be authoritarian, or antisemitic. Unfortunately it has spread to include “anyone who thinks different than me,” diluting its horror. In our mis-educational system, how many graduates go forward thinking thirteen million people were killed by old men playing golf?

When college kids carrying tiki torches are compared to the Schutzstaffel, the horror just isn’t there.

 

George Orwell’s “1984” disassembled mind control. Most folks think the work was prophetic, but in fact it was a memoir of the fascist states of the early twentieth century, written after their culmination in 1944. Orwell had seen it happen, from seedling to rotting fruit. We have all seen the process, frozen at certain points in its development in various societies, yet we fail to recognize as it takes hold around us.

As a writer, language is of utmost importance to me. Words are my life. The variances, homonyms, synonyms, and multi-entendres are my life blood. Word meanings change over time, but the immediate alteration to fit a political misuse is far too reminiscent of Newspeak. Combined with deliberate misinformation, “reality” is no longer how things exist, but how they are meant to be judged.

I was never much for euphemisms, I prefer to be understood and avoid barriers. It does seem to put people off, I worked at an SPCA shelter where I killed dogs. I got out of the habit of saying “Euthanized” because most of the people I dealt with didn’t know what it meant. They were already upset, why make it worse by using a word they did not understand?

As I have been around a lot more LBGTQ+ people this last year, I’ve been a little shocked about the sensitivity to words. I am Bisexual, a term defined in the Bisexual Manifesto of 1990 (not to imply that Bisexuality was invented then), Sometime around 2000 folks started using the word “Pansexual,” then it became a prejudicial word. People who call themselves Pansexual today state that “Bisexual” is non-inclusive, because it only refers to two sexes or genders. Read the manifesto kids, “Pansexual” is the divisive term, as it claims Bisexuals are Transphobic (By the way, attaching “phobic” to everything is ridiculous, if you are prejudiced against something you are probably not afraid of it).

Often it seems when people are particular about the words used to describe a group, they are not the people described, but people who awarded themselves the mantle of Pronoun Police. As I looked deeper, sometimes it is only the Pronoun Police, and not the people being described; people from the orient tend to prefer “Oriental” to “Asian.”

Common in the news these days are stories about “Religious Freedom.” More often than not these are instances in which followers of one religion wish to force their point of view on followers of another religion. The constitution of the United States speaks clearly that there is to be no state religion, what many refer to as “Separation of Church and State.” As Americans we are free to choose whatever religion, or lack thereof, we wish. We have no right to impose our views on others, yet a fair number of people believe they are empowered to discriminate against people with differing beliefs. While many of our founding documents are developments of Abrahamic principles, it is still quite easy to see the differences in the Abrahamic religions.  A statute favoring a Christian point of view (or one ascribed to Christianity) does not support a Muslim or Jewish point of view. Freedom of Religion is best expressed as “Freedom from Religion;” we shall have no inquisition. An individual has no more right to impose staff led Christian prayer than they would to impose Sharia law.

This morning, we were discussing Death with Dignity. There has been a lot written about this, most obviously not by those who have practiced it. I was told that “suicide” is not the proper word, because suicide is an irrational act, those who rationally choose to end their lives, and fit certain medical criteria, have not committed suicide. So I read some of the things written, and they are all about providing euphemisms other that the actual word because it causes shame. I know these people mean well, they are speaking to and about the survivors, relatives and friends of the deceased. I was told the word “suicide” shames people who have made a difficult decision, implying they were irrational. After a quick look at the dictionary, followed by more intense probes into the word, I was unable to find any reference to the rationality of the person choosing to end their life.

It is difficult to talk about this without giving the wrong impression. I have no intention of committing suicide. However, the possibility exists that my Multiple Sclerosis may take a turn for the worse, or that any other event might make my life unlivable. Should that occur, I will thoughtfully decide whether or not to continue living. The very last thing in the world I would want to happen is to have control of my life taken from me while a panel decides if I am rational. When it is time, it is time. It is a difficult decision, and calling it anything other than what it is insults the sui, the individual who is taking action. I have known others that made the choice; one last stand of self.

The issue of abortion is buried in inaccurate descriptions. Both sides wish to make their points emotional, so we now live in a world where “Women’s health services” mean abortion clinics, and nothing else; a further erasure of the real world differences between men and women. About one of every four women will have an abortion in their lives, it is, much like suicide, a difficult decision. Because women who have had abortions are shamed for their decision, very few of those women talk about it, so those who do appear to be freaks. They can be dismissed because they have spoken about their “unusual” experiences, they are considered meaningless or extreme because “I don’t know anyone who has had an abortion.” You probably do, but your attitude is so judgemental they never told you about it. The pain, which they continue to experience, is amplified by the failure to console them.

Along that line of language, a local real estate agent is trying to alter my borough’s requirement of a Certificate of Occupancy prior to the sale of a home. He has manipulated the subject, using people whose experience was overwhelmingly expensive. In one case a woman was unable to afford the repairs required to make the home habitable, so his latest rant assaults the borough for ignoring women’s rights. He has framed the ordinance as “immoral,” because the expense of making a home habitable may exceed the value of the home; relying on the local school district’s failure to educate to provide him with supporters. The man who owned my last residence insisted that property values only go up, so he was asking for his purchase price plus ten percent. I bought a nicer condominium in the same complex for one third of his asking price; I am surprised a real estate agent does not understand the real estate market.

With that last example, I am suggesting that practice of corrupting language is not a venture only applied to large organizations. I have seen it used by governments as well as individuals. My first exposure to this type of propaganda was in the Air Force, when I tried to explain an issue to my father; he could not see my side of the issue. Then I realized that in English, my complaint sounded ridiculous. I had gotten used to speaking in Air Force language, I knew what the disguised words actually meant. The collapse of language sneaks up on you, you don’t always realize what you are saying sounds very different to someone expecting common meanings.

 

Rebel.

 

Resist Big Brother. Do not conform, do not participate in the denial of your right of free speech.

The false god of science-lite

When I was young, I was enamored with the sciences. It was a great time, advances were being made in every field, many designed with the space program in mind. I studied chemistry (hard to avoid when your father is a chemist), astronomy, physics, and anything that smelled “cool.”

As I got older, my friends were also attracted to the sciences, going on to careers we each envied, as our careers were envied by them. Mutual admiration was common as we advanced in the world.

Then one day in 1972 a friend said his candidate was neither Republican (Nixon) or Democrat (McGovern); he supported the Peace and Freedom party. He didn’t know the name of the candidate, but the name of the party was appealing after a decade in Vietnam. I became aware that half of the population has double digit IQs, not everyone had musical talent of any kind, some people were interested in a thing because they liked the sound of the name.

I don’t know that 1972 was a pivotal year, it’s just the year I noticed. It did happen to be the last year we went to the moon. It is when I noticed that some of the people who claimed an interest in science did not know what a science was. Astrology was called a science, Homeopathy was a science. The language took a subtle change; more people were “interested in science” than “the sciences.” Science had become a God. As with most religions, the congregation had no connections to their God.

Over the years I have heard people claim science is the reason they don’t believe in a God, or that science supports their opinions. I have seen the scientific method tossed aside for opinion and speculation.

I could never see a conflict between science and God, but then I don’t expect the Bible to be a science text. It is a religious text, I don’t seek answers to religious questions in Einstein’s work, although I do appreciate his view of quantum physics, that God does not play dice.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published paper in Lancet claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and Autism. It took over ten years for the Lancet to retract the paper, but it was debunked almost immediately. By 2001 it was uncovered that Wakefield had started a company prior to the publication that would faciltate suits against pharmaceutical companies for a fee. His methodology was riddled with corrupt and false data.  There was no question that not only was he a fraud, he was a con-man; this was to have been his biggest con.

Today, twenty years after having been exposed as a scam, people claiming to be scientists are still hawking the same old wares, repackaged with fresh faulty data, basing complaints on ingredients which have not been used in forty years or are present in dosages that are meaningless. There is more Thiomersal in tuna than vaccines.

The antivaxx movement is stronger than ever, based on a lie that has turned into a moral imperative. Who can argue with a mother who will not expose her child to what she believe to be a poison? Perhaps the mother of an immunodeficient child who could die from the measles? Personally, if this was simply a choice by double digit IQs to leave their children vulnerable to deadly diseases, I would view it as evolutionary positive, removing those genes from the pool. But it is not. Unvaccinated children are the building blocks for epidemics among the immunodeficient community.

How many people are immunodeficient? A small percentage, who use the same medical facilities, placing them in contact with each other. Epidemics can move like wildfire through the community.

If the flu, Measels, Mumps, and Rubella were not threats to public health, why did we go to so much trouble to find a vaccine? The brilliant, privileged Antivaxxer will say that the diseases are rare, and rarely are fatal. Remind the buffoon that they are rare now because of the vaccines,  one hundred years ago fifty million people died from the flu. The deaths overwhelmed society so much that my grandfather had to bury his brother. Only a few die from Measels, which is of little reassurance for the over one million parents of children who died of Measels in 1990 (two parents per child).

Ingrid Newkirk as president of PETA, said “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” demonstrating her lack of medical knowledge, and I might say spiritual knowledge as well. She was opposed to vaccines (indeed all medicines) because they are sometimes made with animal products, and always tested on animals. Apparently her childhood memories of a society plagued with childhood deaths and lifetime disabilities, then resolved by vaccines, lead her to believe that human life is cheap.

I once worked at an S.P.C.A. with a young woman who was under the impression she was a veterinarian. Her method of proof of death was to touch the eye of an animal to see if there was a reaction. One day we were discussing animal rights issues (like poking dying dogs in the eye), and she said “Well, I’ve researched this on my own. . . ” so I asked her which laboratory she had used for the research. She told me she didn’t need a laboratory,  she had “heard of” books on the subject. She had not even read the books, she culled her “knowledge” from the title and blurb, and called it “Research.” That was when I knew that the public understanding of what the sciences are is pitiful.

So today, when someone tells me they have two degrees in science, my initial impression is those sciences could easily be macrame and basket weaving. I know actual scientists, in fact I was raised around them, listening to conversations at cocktail parties my parents threw, and then in daily life. There are words they do and don’t use. So yes, I can determine your scientific background just from talking to you about a school play or a futbol match. This is not some superpower, you just have to pay attention to your sources of information. So I cannot understand why so many fail, then I remember how many people have double digit IQs.

It does not require genius to comprehend the sciences, just a mind open to new discoveries.

 

Sixty one

A few (six) years ago, a couple of friends got together for a birthday party at L’Archiduc in Brussels. Trulee was turning sixty, and her partner Samy rented the club, and some friends provided music. Blaine had just passed the sixty marker a week earlier, and if you notice in this extended intro, he asks “What comes after sixty?” to which you can hear Trulee call out “Sixty One!”

 

In a memorable evening, the simple obvious fact that sixty one comes after sixty remains a strong memory; life goes on. Now, I reach sixty one. I am reminded of the seasons of life as another friend of mine “retires” to Arizona, leaving behind fifty years of performances. I have also reached the time to rest.

The ride has been wonderful. Sure, I’ve visited the lowest places in the universe, I’ve also danced in the clouds. Balance is crucial in life; understanding that the good times will not last forever is healthier than crashing when they inevitably end. I expect them to end and come back, as they have several times. How am I supposed to write about all the different aspects of life if I haven’t experienced them?

The years have given the illusion of wisdom, more years illustrate the transient nature of the illusion. It works to remain calm, allow processes to run their course, listen rather than speak. I speak softly, and slowly; shouting dulls the senses. I give the appearance of being at peace. Usually I am.

I got to see the best bands, and some of the best concerts. I managed to be in the right (or wrong) places for some historical changes in society. I loved deeply and was loved as deeply. I played fair, even (maybe especially) when I was being treated unfairly. So now I get to enjoy myself. I am comfortable being anonymous, I don’t need to be noticed.

As I enter my sixty-first year, the changes that have taken place in my life are muted by the changes of the last year. So very much has taken place, I have not slowed down as I have aged; it has taken its price. There are good reasons to slow down consciously, rather than due to disability caused by not slowing down.

My desire to write is waning, in many ways my desire to communicate is drawing to a close. Too many people who honestly believe they know everything and want to argue without references are out there. I plan to withdraw from social media on my birthday, a present to myself, I can live much better without the vitriol. I am stuck here in the United States for the upcoming election year, and my capacity to overlook hate has been exhausted. I will still write the occasional blog, but I have no intention of becoming involved in the circus Americans refer to as “Politics.” I do rather enjoy checking the statistics on my readers, the other day one person read fifty of my articles.

As I write this, it has started snowing outside. The flakes fly in every direction from my view as various wind currents around the building carry it. The other day I watched every leaf on a tree in the complex fall off in under an hour, the area around its base covered with a green “snow.” There is plenty to see right out my window.

Janice and I will travel a bit, just in North America. We will still attend LGBT events, but as participants, on the street interacting with people. We intend to socialize locally with real people, as we turn our focus away from the internet and towards the real world. It’s a pretty cool place, I’ve spent a lot of time there.

Life is good, hope to see you along the way.

Surprises and disappointments

It has been an interesting month. Let me supply you with some background.

I am sixty years old. Forty two years ago, at age eighteen, I had my first homosexual experience. A classmate, far more experienced than I. It was the seventies, the cusp of AIDS. He would take the train into Manhattan on the weekends to play in the bath houses.

I was intimate with him a couple of times, and “friendly” with some of my other gay friends. It was odd, in this small group of people who had been friends all their lives, a large number experimented with Homosexuality for a few years, some for life. I am still friends with a few of them.

I went on with life, got married, had kids, left for another woman, and man. My first wife was having an affair and trying to get me to leave, so I did. I moved in with a female coworker, platonic at first, then one night she climbed into my bed. Then her gay male friend climbed into our bed a few days later. Then I met some of her other friends. This may have been the first time I used the term “Bisexual.” My father actually came to our door to tell me to return to my wife. Something like “You can’t have Bisexual orgies the rest of your life, you have children.”

Life went on, I eventually tried to make things work with the wife, but things were working fine with her. I remarried a couple of times but all my wives knew I was Bisexual, even when it did not result in any activity on my part. I was ever so slightly effeminate, perhaps androgynous, and would mention some previous encounter when all the Heterosexuals were talking about theirs. I spoke often about how the Red Cross did not want my blood because I had had sex with a man. I was occasionally flamboyant.

A few years ago, at my fortieth High School reunion, a man walked up to me, a former football player and now retiring as a coach. He saw in his team young people coming to grips with their sexuality. He said he admired how I had been, and considered me to be “the brave one.” I really thought everyone knew I was Bisexual.

Then something happened. I met a woman.

Not just any woman, I met a Bisexual woman. I met a Bisexual activist. Janice is not “in your face” with her sexuality, it is simply a part of her life, like your sexuality is a part of yours.

I felt much more open myself around her. Pride month arrives. I decide to make some public statements, and get a bit flamboyant. I dye my beard in Bi-pride colors, get my fingernails and toenails painted bi-pride colors. I wrote about Pride and posted about our activities on Facebook. Not exactly in your face but vocal. I made friends on Facebook with a couple of Janice’s friends, and spoke more in public groups. In a SpecOps group I am in, there was a discussion about a pride flag being flown at a military memorial. What an interesting place to be lectured about sin.

I noticed there were fewer interactions, I know my ex-partner was saying negative things to people but this was noticeable. My blog has had fewer views, my friends for the most part avoid me, my family has been silent when they are at their best, anti-LGBTQ+ memes were rare, and the occasional comment about loving the sinner but hating the sin. People I have known my entire life, and who must have known I was Bisexual, suddenly backing away. I am the same person today I was last year, forty years ago, and most likely sixty years ago. Nothing changed other than my talking about it, during Pride month.

I find it amazing that in a society devoted to understanding each other, there are people who believe I should be exterminated among my friends and family. When I was seeing Janice, Sam said “You have your family.” She was right, Janice’s friends have overwhelmingly welcomed me.

We’ve had genuinely funny posts that were liked by literally hundreds of our friends, but only by two who were exclusively my friends. I have to believe this is about people distancing themselves from me. I sent emails to most of my closer friends, explaining the situation and offering to talk about any concerns. Two responses, one being “Who didn’t know?” Obviously my friends are from different places in every way, but to have so many back off is unexpected.

I find this sad. One month devoted to LGBTQ+ awareness. Eight percent of the year to recognize what is suspected to be eight percent of the population. All year long we live in a world where Heterosexuality is the “norm.” Art, literature, films, and media portray heterosexuality on a daily basis, yet one example of an alternative relationship and the world calls it “in your face.”

On 30 June there will be an event in Manhattan. The culmination of Pride month takes place at the site it began, Stonewall. In addition to the Pride parade, there will be a Queer liberation march and rally. There is a portion of the community that is suspicious of the corporate sponsorships and such. You may have noticed yourself, all the references to pride in the commercials this month, but a gay character? Never. I am finding myself aligning with that group. I thought the level of acceptance was much higher, should the subject come up everyone gives the politically correct responses, but in real life, it doesn’t work that way.

In many ways, I feel a level of resentment. I had been erased all my life. I thought I was being open and everyone knew who I was, but they just pretended it wasn’t there. Until I made some noise. Then I wasn’t there.

On the third anniversary of my brain injury this year, I promised myself to become more involved in life. That involvement has taken some unusual turns, but each has been revealing. Finding truth is always the mission, regardless of the truth discovered.

 

 

Adjustments

When I met Janice, we were both polyamorous. Now we find ways to justify the  title. Our lives are simple and sweet.

Pride Weekend at The Woods. All we are wearing are our Birkenstocks.

 

And kinky.

We have found what we never expected. Someone to Love, and be Loved by. Sure, we have a physical relationship that would wear out teenagers, but the warmth, comfort, and happiness we gain merely by proximity is typically thought to be once in a lifetime, and we already had our turns. I just couldn’t think about someone being as precious to me as Emma, and although I have said “I love you” to several women since she died, it never took me as long to say it. This is special, I was kind of afraid to say the words because they had meaning I had not thought possible. When Sam saw us together for the first time (only the second time I had seen Janice), she could see the energy between us, and proceeded to bail on our relationship. At another time I would have argued for her to stay, but I couldn’t wait for her to leave.

There are simple things, our shared preferences exceed those of any woman I have ever lived with. Yes, we are living together. We rarely spend a night apart, the location just changes. She can’t leave her home and responsibilities, and there is no way in hell I would ever make New Jersey my state of residence again.

Our shared passions are nearly identical, and have always been compatible. We’re even going to a baseball game together. She loves sports and I can identify the shape of the ball in each of them.

The passions that we share include our very being. We both have carried labels that were inaccurate, and are more free than ever to be proud of who and what we are. Sam had made quite the point of allowing me to explore “that” side of myself, what a joy to be with someone who is that side of myself, and understands it is not a side, it is all of me.

An interesting aspect has been the reactions. I was pretty sure everyone knew I was bisexual, or at least suspected. It wasn’t “important,” we never talked about it; I would just occasionally say something about an encounter that had not been with a woman. Janice was an activist with Queer Nation, she was very publicly out, so I held her hand thinking I was publicly out too. Apparently I have been too subtle all these years. A number of people distanced themselves from me, most were polite (at least they thought they were).

So I find myself coming out at age sixty. For those who chose to not remember the boyfriend I had at 19 (forty years ago), or the bi/poly household of 1985, it didn’t just go away. And I find it disturbing that my “open minded” conservative friends have had so much trouble understanding I have always been bisexual. Being in committed heterosexual relationships did not change that. I did not “pick sides” and choose Hetero, I just had no male lovers. When a heterosexual person is single, does that mean they are Asexual? Interest remains.

I am free. No longer constrained by domineering partners, I get to do what I want. I can go to a nudist camp for the weekend with my lover. We can go to a swinger’s party and share ourselves with like minded consenting adults. We can go to a hole in the wall adult bookstore and get a standing ovation for our performances. I am harming no one. I am measurably healthier since meeting Janice, both mentally and physically.

Janice and I are bisexuals. We are polyamorous in the sense that we have other lovers, but only as a couple; We “play” together. Just in case you were interested. I know the orientation and sexuality of almost everyone I know, why didn’t you know mine? And why do you think my mentioning my sexuality is “shoving in your face,” when I can’t breathe without enduring the countless examples of your sexuality being shoved in my face and being called “normal,” implying I am not. My sexuality remains an insult to this day. How would you feel if the same was true of you?

I am not asking you to understand me. I am asking you to accept me as your equal, treat me with the same respect you did last year.

Love is Love

 

Why Pride

Pink, Purple, and Blue. The Bi Pride colors.

June is Pride Month. I know, you’re proud every month, but June has been set aside for pride with a capital P. This began with Gay Pride, and rather than separate every minority within the “Gay Community” it is now just referred to as Pride. More on those minorities later.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Pride movement, which traces its beginnings to a bar in New York City called “Stonewall.”

Stonewall had been a hang out for gay men, and was routinely raided by the police. On 28 June 1969, the Queers fought back. For five days there were riots. Gay activism was born. Pride. Gay Pride, Lesbian Pride, Bi Pride, Trans Pride, for most of us, “Pride” is enough.

Some groups want their identity validated as separate among the separate; within my wing, Bisexuals, there are Pansexuals and Omnisexuals (who are the same dog, different collar according to Bisexual Activist Janice Rael) who wish to be identified. Philadelphia has a unique Pride Flag, including a black and a brown stripe, to signify people of color.

The Philadelphia Pride Flag

 

You may ask, “What is there to be proud about?” The answer is “What is there to be ashamed of?” People who are not heteronormative have been erased throughout history. We are proud to be who we are, without public shaming and discrimination. Not to imply those things do not still take place, but it is not as easy to sweep under the rug.

This year Janice and I will be attending a Pride Weekend event at an LGBTQ nudist camp, and we will be attending events in New York City commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and NYC Pride Day celebrations featuring Grace Jones. As my over the top display, I have dyed my beard in the Bi Pride colors, pink, purple, and blue. Just wondering how that will grow out.

There are still insular components in the LGBTQ+ community; we visited the “Gayborhood” in Philadelphia and even though we were wearing our Rainbow identifiers, it wasn’t until Janice spoke up and said we were with Philly Bi Visibility that people warmed up to us. We don’t look queer. Very few people do. We look like a hetero couple, outsiders; which should not be. The community should be more accepting of outsiders, on the other hand, look at other communities that were previously oppressed. Trust takes time. As we struggle to include each other, we also guard our definitions of uniqueness.

There are of course incongruities within the pride movement; one of the closed groups I belong to created a new secret group, I’m not sure how you combine being “Here and Queer” and keeping it secret. It displays the lack of acceptance in society, folks are afraid to come out, but they want to be defiant about it. Another is a group of Bisexual swingers we hang out with, most of the men list their orientation as “straight,” because they don’t feel safe coming out within the swing community. I’ve seen plenty of online dating profiles which specify “No Bi Men,” personally I prefer to know someone’s prejudices so I can avoid them.

My former partner, while claiming to be supportive, felt it was appropriate to express how alien to her my orientation was, eventually turning it into one of her reasons for leaving. I was fortunate to find someone like Janice, who is Bi herself, with whom I can be truly accepted and nurtured.

At the hair salon

 

We are proud of our ability to publicly express our sexuality and orientation without fear. Just like you.

 

Changes

Surprise. Things change.

I was just getting comfortable in this lifestyle to which Sam had introduced me. I had overcome many of my disabilities. I was, by most measures, healed from my TBI.

I was ready to explore polyamory from the driver’s seat. No more hanging back while Sam enjoyed her other relationships, I was ready to start seeing other people myself. As fate would have it, not only was I seeing a side of polyamory I had not before, Sam was as well.

It appears we were approaching polyamory from different points of view. I was taking it literally, “many loves,” while she was taking it as “many lovers.” I wasn’t allowed to have an emotional attachment because she only has physical connections. You know, the stuff monogamous people think polyamorous people do all the time. I am okay with anonymous encounters, but I really got into this to be involved with multiple minds.

The first two women I dated were okay with Sam, but the latest she thoroughly hates. I think it is because she fell in love with me, and Sam was jealous. As time has passed, I found myself loving Janice as well. We click. We have the same desires and attitudes concerning our sexuality. As much as I hate to say it, Sam pushed us together by pushing me away.

Sam went on a tirade, bad mouthing me to anyone who would listen, and some who wouldn’t. She made derogatory remarks about every aspect of my life in every forum she could. I understand jealous rage, I used to feel it. I was fiercely monogamous when I was younger.

What blew me away was when she attacked my morality for loving someone I was intimate with. Most of her attacks were meaningless, obviously designed to be hurtful or annoying, like when she said I was a lousy writer; but when she turned on the way of life she introduced me to I had no desire to pursue a life with her.

It was heartwarming to have people from our online page (which I gracefully exited) approach me as friends. They could see through the bluster of her attacks and saw the angry closet narcissist inside. Our page was supposed to be a drama free zone, accepting everyone. Her shaming of Janice and me was everything our page was supposed to be a shelter from. Janice and I were shocked, the hypocrisy was obvious.

It really got under her skin when I met a new woman for coffee, and spent three hours talking with her. She had settled down and could be civil, but another woman (while she was leaving) was too much for her. It was just coffee! (well, chai) and I was staying out of her way, but again, I failed to match her expectations. One might wonder why she cared, but that would take us down a rabbit hole in search of her true feelings.

Oddly enough, she managed to meet someone who she is now calling the love of her life. He had dumped her a year before she met me, and broken her heart. But he was still on the Swing Lifestyle site and they connected. I sincerely hope they are happy, or at least happy enough to leave me alone.

Closing this relationship has been easier than any of my divorces, I paid Sam for her half of the condo, and will let her store things here until she finds a larger space. In the immediate future, I will have to be home at least every other night to take care of Autumn, once she no longer needs medication every other day I’ll be able to stay away for longer periods.  And the entire meltdown only took about three weeks.

Don’t misunderstand me, polyamory is a beautiful lifestyle. It is essential, as in all relationships, that all participants be on the same page. Janice and I are polyamorous and have every intention of staying that way, she has desires I can never fulfill, and actually gets excited hearing about my dates. I enjoy seeing her satisfied, and we both enjoy pursuits which I will not talk about here, other than to say we do them together, using safe practices.

A number of people have said they are sorry for what I am going through. I am not. I am going through life, and the result of this incident is we are all happier.

Sam managed to move out quickly, so quickly she trashed the condo. She said she would come back and finish up the next week, then cancelled and said it might be a month. In what must have had tongues wagging, Janice came to visit the day Sam left.

So now I return the condo to a presentable state, and finally get to make local friends who can visit. I am, depending on the definition, single again. Janice and I are extremely close and spend most nights at my place, but there is no way we will move in together anytime soon. I will not move to NJ due to their firearms laws, and she is tied to a mortgage and two disabled roommates. Nonetheless, Sam gloated about us moving in together.

Life is good. It could never be perfect, but I am secure, involved with an incredibly complex woman who adores me. The woman I spent three hours with having coffee sees me about once a week. I am becoming involved with some of Janice’s activism, keeping myself active. Janice’s family actually enjoys my presence and is very welcoming. I cannot find anything that isn’t better since, not because, Samantha left.

 

On being Queer

Years ago, when I was in my early fifties, my teenage step son called me a weirdo. He left the room in disgust when I thanked him.

I have always been “different,” even among the different. Even as an outcast the labels never fit.

I moved around a lot as a child, never feeling any place was “home,” it was just where I was. I was always an outsider. As close to having a home I ever have been was my grandparents house in Kingsland, Texas. I could always identify that place as my home, even though I never lived there. They built that place themselves, maintaining a large property that has now been divided, and the house itself has been razed and rebuilt by my cousin, who incorporated many parts of the original in the new building. I am almost certain that my grandmother’s piano is standing on the precise coordinates it has been for the last sixty years.

I am fairly effeminate. I can also produce an authoritative voice and brutal demeanor. When I was working as a digital technician in Philadelphia, some of my clients took to calling me “Dr. House.” It was a title of respect, I cut off explanations that went off-topic, and was generally short with people who wanted to tell me what was wrong with their printer. When I was finished, the printer worked as well as it ever had, and stayed that way for a while; it was unusual to see the same client twice in a month. I dug that moment when they went from being offended to appreciative. At one point I went through a phase of wearing nail polish, a gun metal grey that toner wouldn’t stick to, the only person who complained was my manager, who thought it was too “gay.” I only saw him once a month or less, so I cleaned my nails before going into the office.

I’ve done some unusual things with my appearance, partially because I still don’t like to be recognized but want to be noticed. When I lived in Wildwood, New Jersey for a summer in my twenties, I started wearing exceptionally revealing clothes, it wasn’t the first time people had called me a “faggot.” When they were available in the states, I would smoke Sobranie Cocktails, with their gold filters and pastel papers. In the seventies I had long hair that drew some remarks. In Kindergarten my creativity was mistaken for mental retardation. Gay guys have found me attractive since High School, and one girlfriend used to enjoy walking with me in New Hope Pennsylvania, a fairly gay community, because of the whistles I would receive. I liked it too.

My pastor as a child was exceptionally educated, breaking down scriptures through translation to original Aramaic, saying “but it could also mean this.” He was a questioner, and had found the answers in Christ. He told us to gather all the information we could and make our own decisions. I did. After practicing several religions, I developed a belief system of my own. I refer to it as “Zen Baptist.” In a more literal world it would be called Christian, as in I follow the teachings of Christ. His words as related by the New Testament of the Bible. The Bible is an easy book, if you can read a Stephen King novel you can read the Bible. I sure wish more “Christians” would. In religious discussions I have been called a Fundamentalist, a Muslim, a Bible thumper, and an Atheist. This helped me understand that labels are only meaningful to the labeler, not the labeled.

I even have different physical illnesses. in 1989 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (thirty years and still going strong!). In my fifties I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis. Just a few years ago I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and the incredibly unusual condition of Superior canal dehiscence. There are people who think the changes in my lifestyle are related to my TBI, which is why I routinely give historical references to demonstrate I have always been this way.

I have had gay relationships, but I am not gay. I have had bisexual relationships (relationships based on a three way exchange of Love and responsibility), but I don’t consider myself bisexual because I don’t seek out men. The best description of me is Queer. I am different. I don’t fit your labels, and your labels might not mean what you think they do.

Alternatives

It should be obvious to anyone reading my blog that I lead an alternative lifestyle. I feel open and free, and will discuss anything about my “adventures” as a heteroflexible polyamorous person. Unfortunately, that “anyone” includes many members of my family, who accept my lifestyle in varying degrees. I don’t wish to cause them alarm or embarrassment, so I will be commenting on the alternative aspects in another forum in the future. I will be posting to the ScorpioFullOn profile on FetLife. Too many intertwined lives are casually mentioned by me to keep posting these articles publicly.

I will continue posting here, just not the subjects that my Southern Baptist relatives may have trouble with. Odd move at sixty, you’re supposed to stop caring what other people think.

I recognized how”normal”my life was last night. Or more precisely, how my alternative seemed normal.

There we were, three couples, sitting around at a sex club, talking about insurance rates. Fully clothed. Would have been even funnier if we were nude, but the stark contrast of an earthy adult theatre with people having sex in the corners and three suburban couples who came for one thing but were instead talking about gardening was intriguing. We actually became one of the more popular “rooms,” largely because the only three females in the place were in our group. We would get up to walk around and see what other people were doing, and this crowd of single men would follow us, waiting for something to happen.

Nothing did happen, Sam got bored and we went home before ten o’clock. The other couples stayed, and from what I hear things did heat up, but it just wasn’t Sam’s scene.

I was fascinated by the entire event, the unspoken rules and protocols. The etiquette, being a couple, we got in free and had priority seating and viewing spots and better parking. The first name basis every one had; these folks were regulars. My girlfriend, one of the other couples with her boyfriend, knew almost everyone. It was amazingly comfortable and homey, particularly with the contrast to stereotypes.

But if I went into the details of the evening this would quickly devolve into pornography, and that does not suit this forum, nor the purpose of describing the events. For the purposes of this article, everyone had a pleasant evening, all safe practices were followed, we all learned about each other and ourselves.

There’s a big world out there. The most harm it will inflict is forcing you to understand yourself. Go ahead, take a look.

The benefits of Brain Injury

I always have found the bright side of any situation. I learned things I would never have had the opportunity to when I spent some time in Prison. I was fascinated by the technology involved with oncology when Emma had cancer. My Traumatic Brain Injury has provided more insight into “Medicine,” Rehabilitation, Mental Health care, and aspects of society of which I was previously unaware.

There have certainly been things which I see as benefits. While I would never suggest that crushing your skull is something everyone should try, a TBI is not universally negative.

Frustration is so normal in TBI patients that the resulting anger is an expected symptom. I was never frustrated; I was depressed, but never felt there was nothing I could do. Instead of anger towards my changing conditions, I felt curiosity. I was exploring the “new” me. It helped a great deal with the transformation. Rather than wasting time in frustration over what I could not do, I was busy finding out what I could do.

One thing I learned from Emma’s Cancer journey was the importance of an advocate. Sam was my advocate in the months following the accident. She coordinated my benefits and assistance.

When my physical therapists told me I would be lucky to get a thirty degree extension of my arm, I did not set that as a limit, I did not aim for thirty degrees. When I reached zero degrees most of the therapists could not do the same. When I reached minus five degrees (hyper-extension according to the books) no one could. It felt good to do what doctors had said I could never do.

When the otolaryngologist told me my hearing was fine, I sought out another, who was able to diagnose the Superior Canal Dehiscence which had occurred when my skull was crushed. I found a surgeon I trusted to cut into my head and now my hearing is fine.

When the ophthalmologists could not understand that my eyes were not on the same plane, I saw a neuro-opthalmologist who prescribed lenses with prisms and tints (which I could not afford). Fortunately, vision therapy corrected my vision.

The mental fog and slowed processing speed has taken the longest to clear. I am probably as recovered as I am going to get, but that is not stopping me from exercising my brain as much as possible. A month ago I was not writing at all, since 1 January I have been writing close to twice a week. I have had no return of my abilities to play most instruments, but I can drum, well. I cooked last week for the first time in years. I’ve started collecting firearms and reloading shells; I’ve been to the range a couple of times and still can’t carve out the bullseye, but it gives me a goal to work towards. And, dating has become interesting again; as I feel better about myself, other people see me differently.

The accident was the result of my fall down some hazardous steps. I had mentioned the state of the steps, and requested a handrail, a couple of times before the accident. Following the accident the owners denied they had ever heard anything about the steps being hazardous, and had no intention, even after my fall, of installing a handrail. That was sufficient for me to file a suit for negligence, which I won quickly. The amount of the settlement was adequate to reverse my losses of the previous years, allowing Sam and I to purchase a condominium and live comfortably.

Due to the damage I sustained, I qualified for SSDI. I will never have to work again, which has reduced my stress level, which in turn assisted my recovery. Getting handicapped parking also made life easier.

I am calmer, much more understanding than I was before. One exception is truly stupid people, of whom I am less tolerant than before. By “truly stupid,” I mean people who choose to not know things. As with the incident at the Lincoln Memorial, it is understandable to be misled by false media reports, but several days after the truth is revealed you are truly stupid if you think the kids were racists and attacked the Native American.

The therapy I received helped me see that an actual “recovery,” in the sense I would be the same person I was before the accident, is impossible. We all change a little every day, I am not the person I was five years ago, nor are you. We just don’t notice when the changes appear over time. I woke up in the hospital and felt I had aged twenty years. I had, because I was able to exist as a thirty something, and now I was my age. Most people face the reality that they are no longer the football hero or cheerleader they were in younger days, I had to face the reality that I am mortal, because I had never “aged” before.

Admittedly, I am doing much better than most TBI patients with my level of injury after three years. I am doing better than most Multiple Sclerosis patients thirty years after diagnosis. All my life has been fortunate, including Sam finding me in the mudroom, where I would have bled to death by myself. This I place as a result of my relationship with God. Little tiny coincidences have made my life fascinating for sixty years, and I don’t believe in coincidences.

Three years after the accident, I appear normal to most folks. Because I am. I am not the whiz kid with all the answers, but “normal” was a pretty low bar to reach. Another couple of years and I might make it to “above normal,” but for now I am content.

The week journalism died

You are probably familiar with the above story. This particular video has the most unbiased point of view I have seen.

Yes, the eighteen minute video, made by some guy in New Jersey in his spare time. Not the multi billion dollar “news” industry, which propagated a false story to enrage the ignorant masses, pausing for a brief apology several days later after minutes of news time was spent vilifying the kids.

Most still images were this:

What I have found, is that even after a day of actual facts bouncing around to counter the original story, this picture tells the entire story. It does not tell the “MAGA kids harass Native American” story which is often the headline. But that Headline along with the picture is all many people needed. The story is “People will believe what they are told to believe.” Some folks didn’t even need to read the headline, the presence of a red hat lets their hatred flow.

A red hat.

I’ve heard stories about this kind of baseless rage before, groups of punks beat a man because he was wearing a red hat (and it was a Phillies cap, not the MAGA hat) in Philadelphia. Mostly I assign that kind of story to the “crazy stupid people” file, but the frequency has grown to where it is now “this week’s craziness.” Today two people, both intelligent enough to know the full story but willingly ignorant of it, seized upon the phrase “This is Trump’s America.” Retractions no longer matter, when the image resonates with the hatred within, intelligence leaves the building.

So yes, this is Trump’s America. A nation in which an aggressive vocal minority makes the rules for civility. Dear God let it be a minority. In a discussion sparked by my last blog post, a request for more civility was countered with “But Trump.” There is no “But” anything! Only abusers blame their victims! When you let the actions of someone else drive you to violence, you are responsible, you let this happen. An adult doesn’t let things happen. they make things happen.

I would like to believe that this wave of Trump Delusional Syndrome will only point out to the rational people how fouled the stream of information is. It is discouraging to realize that neighbors and friends are lemmings, following the herd over the cliff. To put that statement in perspective, it was so discouraging for Americans to believe that one man with an old German rifle and Marine training could kill the president that conspiracy theories have tried to tell a more palatable story for fifty five years. As a people, we can’t handle the truth. But this time it is dangerous, the delusions are leading to violence.

Another media failure this week is the now famous Gillette commercial. Well intentioned by some “beta-male,” the short film was an insult to every male who has never abused women. Apparently the man-bun sporting executive who approved the film was not aware he was offending the overwhelming majority of men. Or maybe not. Maybe the executive was a woman who had broken the glass ceiling and wants to show us how toxic we are. Not only men were offended though, so if Gillette thought it would cover the loss with lady shavers, they may have missed that lifeboat.

In response, several YouTube folks created videos running the gamut from a parody about Toxic Femininity to this one, from a watch company. “Lift me up if you want to see a change in me, don’t tear me down. These are the messages companies need to be showing and celebrating if they really care about change.”

 

Across the internet, women were tripping over themselves. Trying to “Womansplain” how “Toxic Masculinity” didn’t apply to all men, just the bad ones. They never got around to why it wasn’t just “Toxic Behavior” if it didn’t apply to all men. And of course the very possibility that “Toxic Femininity” could even exist was enough to end any pretensions of a civil discussion, despite the fact they thought the “Toxic Males” should be put to death.

Again, the optimist in me wants to see these huge mass communication failures as Toto revealing the man behind the curtain. I keep thinking that “Surely they will realize they have been manipulated.” Then the realist chimes in and reminds me the average person has an IQ of 100, which means fifty percent of the population has an IQ of less than 100. Then the Nihilist in me reminds me nothing has meaning. Having multiple points of view can be so difficult at times.

I feel somewhat content in my sense of self. I have spent the last three years remembering who I was, and figuring out who I am now. I have certain traits which have made this enjoyable; I am strongly egalitarian, which allows me to balance ideas. I do not bestow trust easily, nor do I distrust without reason. Most of all I value differing opinions. Bullying is not an opinion.

 

Looking through a Glass Onion

I have been an outsider since birth, so I don’t think about “looking in from the outside” as much as “how much more I can see since I’m not inside”.

I was born in a town which no longer exists. Trinidad Texas is a small town, population 866 in the 2010 census, and if you look at the map of it on google you will see a tiny strip on the island in the lake contained within Trinidad’s border. That strip was the company housing for Texas Power and Light, for which my father was a chemist. The plant shut down and the island was abandoned, when I visited last summer the bridge was blocked. I have memories of living on that island, which I left in 1963.

From there we moved to Dallas, living in an apartment at first. We usually think of apartments as transient quarters, but little five year old me was still an outsider. My father would travel on business, and brought home a toy airplane, the wings came off to expose a battery compartment in the fuselage. I took the toy down to the playground to show it to the other kids, and they smashed it into pieces. Fifty five years later I still recall this as my first exposure to senseless violence.

A year later I was in Kindergarten, where we made pilgrims out of construction paper cut outs. When I cut the face out, I ended inside the point where I had started, and realized I could keep this pattern going. Instead of a circle I cut a spiral, which I thought was pretty cool; I could create three dimensional shapes with it. The teacher was not thrilled with my creativity, and recommended I be tested for mental retardation. What a curse that was; it turned out my IQ was 148, in the range labeled “Genius.” For the remainder of my life I have been told I was not fulfilling my potential.

In second grade, we moved to Walnut Creek, California. This is when I embraced my outsider status. I had received a pair of cowboy boots for Christmas, and when I wore them to school, the other kids made fun of me on the playground. Cowboy boots have heavier soles and pointed toes, unlike the sneakers the other kids were wearing, so I kicked the kids who were laughing at me. School sent me home and my father offered to buy me another pair of shoes, to which I responded “Why? I already have cowboy boots.” The other kids never laughed at me again.

I was about fourteen, with hair longer than traditional, when a couple of street people singled me out, snarling “insults.” I felt sorry for them, and was not offended by being called a girl. It still happens to this day that people see the long hair and assume my sex, when they pay enough attention to notice my beard they are usually embarrassed.

My father’s growth in his corporation meant I moved every couple of years, maintaining the position of “New kid on the block.” I remember the first day of High School, with everyone talking about how long they had known each other. I hadn’t lived in one place long enough to know anyone for more than three years. I’ve kept that up, changing my appearance every year or so. When I was a technician it was always funny to hear about “the last guy,” because often I had been the last guy; they didn’t recognize me.
As I have gotten older, I have occasionally thought about coming inside, being part of the community. I have cultivated my outsider status so long I am beginning to believe it has become a part of me; what began as a lack of understanding is now my definition.

I moved to Elkins Park Pennsylvania with thoughts of disappearing into the community. I even ran for a position on my condominium homeowners board. I was too much of an outsider to be elected, but I may try again once people get to know me. Although based on some recent experiences I am not sure this is a community I wish to be a part of.

We have a couple of local community pages on Facebook, Elkins Park and bordering Jenkintown. Although both pages feature moderators and mission statements that sound wholesome and non-controversial, they are run by humans who are not accustomed to saying what they mean. Or for that matter, knowing what the words they use mean. Nonetheless, I have met some wonderful people on the community page. Yesterday, Sam and I had some unpleasant run ins with our digital neighbors.

First, I was dismayed at a posting asking for a female owned catering service. I commented that discriminatory wording was prohibited under the EEOC, and I hadn’t seen an ad specifying gender since the 60s. I was attacked by several women, who could not grasp the concept of discrimination when applied to men, because they believe masculinity is toxic. The arguments could be compared to stating NAZIs didn’t discriminate against Jews because the Jews were an inferior race. They went on attacking the post for most of the day, I stopped watching after a while. I was accused of gas lighting and deflection, when all I had done was to point out discrimination is discrimination. A few men commented overnight about the level of hate in a community plastered with “Hate has no home here” signs and that some animals were more equal than others, and the moderator interrupted with a reminder to not make personal attacks, then one of the assailants came back saying she didn’t want all men done away with, “Only the narrow minded and nasty/bullying “boys will be boys” ones. Those I will be thrilled to see under a hill.” totally unaware of her own narrow minded bullying.

While that was going on, Sam had commented on a post about the hardships federal workers were facing due to the shutdown. Sam had stated that the hype wasn’t real, no one was being evicted due to the shutdown because they had only missed last Friday’s paycheck, and were well payed with incredible benefits before that. Sam was treated worse than I had been, the name calling started with the second reply to her comment, and went on all day after she left the conversation. The funniest part was when they started calling her a Trump supporter. Sam is a lifelong Democrat who routinely points out Trump’s flaws. Then, one of the moderators threatened to expel Sam from the group due to her viciousness. Sam had simply made a comment, of factual nature, which didn’t fit the rest of the herd’s mindset. The viciousness was from those that attacked her. We don’t share a last name, so I messaged the moderator to ask what Sam had done that was vicious. She said Sam was worse by far, but refused to provide any examples. I’m not certain how one comment can be worse than twenty two attacking replies, but once most people lock their minds on a narrative, nothing else matters. This morning the entire thread had been deleted. Hate has found a home in Elkins Park Pennsylvania.

Mobs are historically scary things. Their reemergence as political tools only makes them scarier. Finding myself living in the midst of these mobs is terrifying. As we watch due process dissolve in our government, what are the chances it will miraculously appear in the mob justice which is becoming so popular these days?

Being an outsider makes me immune to group think. It also makes me an easy target for group hate. I can think of no reason to join the group, security is not worth my freedom.

Paperwork

 

I was in an automobile accident last September. I received the compensation from the other driver’s insurance yesterday, almost four months later. I don’t know how long it usually takes, I haven’t been struck by another vehicle in over twenty years, but State Farm appeared to be dragging their feet. The young woman who ran into me had not reported the accident to State Farm, so they knew nothing when I went to have the car repaired, but they went ahead and offered me eighty percent of expense. After the car was repaired, I sent them the estimate and photographs. Then nothing.

After a few rounds of sending them the documents, both from home and one of their offices, we determined their security was so thick they really could not do business with the general public. They could not receive my emails because I have a foriegn (Belgian) account and they could not accept the documents at the office because I had them on a flash drive, which they could not attach to their secure system. This was in November, after I wrote about the story on their Facebook page. They had a representative to handle my case contact me, and I was able to send the documents to her private email. Then nothing.

In early January I wrote another post about their lack of response on their Facebook page. I do not recall ever having to call out a company in public in order for them to do their job, apparently it is the way to get things done when dealing with good neighbors. I received a call from another representative, who explained the first representative was on vacation. She was able to locate the claim and authorize payment that day. Not only that, but she said due to the errors they had made, they would pay the full eighty percent rather than deducting for repairs they do not usually pay for.

I’m supposed to be happy at this point, but I realize that had I not written negative posts about State Farm on their social media page, nothing would have happened.

This all brought me back to the aftermath of my TBI, and the hoops I had to jump through while the physical wounds were still healing.

I was fortunate. I had met Sam barely a month before, and due to some unusually difficult relationships leading up to that point, I had taken the approach of total openness. When I was in the hospital she knew everything about me to the point the hospital staff thought she was my wife. They allowed her to stay the nights with me, which was good for everyone. Sam has told me about how I dealt with hospitalization; apparently I thought I had been taken prisoner, and was plotting a spectacular escape involving launching the oxygen tanks through the door. When I was sent home Sam took a month off work to take care of me, and helped guide me through the paperwork required to pay my expenses. I do recall saying “I don’t see how they expect someone with a brain injury to be able to do this stuff” when trying to fill out paperwork.

My first year of TBI was filled with blessings. An old friend set up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses. My landlords allowed me to sublet the extra rooms in my apartment, and I had wonderful tenants who spoke some of the languages in which I was once fluent. Sam helped me enroll in Medicaid and apply for SSDI. I had wonderful doctors.

There were plenty of bad things, it was after all a year I had planned to not be in America, but everything worked out beautifully. Today I am actually better off than I was at the moment of the TBI, my financial situation is restored, I own my home, I have Medicare for insurance, and I get better parking spaces.

I still watch the TBI pages on Facebook, trying to offer encouragement to fellow travelers. I see the frustration and expectations, and I can see again how fortunate I am. Sometimes it is simple, like the other day when a woman could not understand her teenager’s behavior. Her description was of a normal teenager, but she thought it was due to his TBI years earlier. I told her how lucky she was, that this is normal for a teenager and could be taken as a sign he is healing. Most of my recovery may be attributed to my positive outlook, I never presented the typical anger following a TBI, but I could see some of the possible causes of exacerbation. The “normal” world, unable to see physical manifestations, demands normality.

When applying for SSDI, an attorney is recommended. It is not something even a “normal” person is expected to be capable of. When it comes to applying for medicaid or unemployment, no aid is available, yet I suspect most people finding themselves in need may not possess the required competence to complete the process. My social worker was thankful Sam had helped me arrange all my documents, I don’t believe our appointment took more than half an hour.

Bureaucracy is not forgiving of the disabled. I believe that my handling of State Farm indicates that I am healing, if I had been in the daze I was in immediately following the TBI I would never have thought to write about the issue on their page (and I wouldn’t have been driving). It does appear that the anger typically following TBI would have led me in that direction, but I did not experience that anger. And things still worked out.

One other symptom of TBI is tangentalism, which my speech therapist tried to correct. This is when I feel I made a breakthrough. Tangentalism keeps my mind examining all the possible connections, it has always been part of my thought process, so I did not wish to “cure” it. The self evaluation I filled out when I completed physical therapy asked if and how often I say inappropriate things. My response was “no more than before the TBI.” Being inappropriate allows the ability to explore topics others shy away from. As I look over the six years of blog posts, I am comforted by my consistent inappropriateness.

Antisocial media

I used to enjoy social media. It has been a great way to publicize my writing and to connect with old friends. I have made several new friends, the majority of whom are other writers. Just like your job, we do not all think the same, the difference is we are eloquent when we disagree, and we tend to use verifiable facts in our arguments. We also rarely misspell insults. I’m not “spoiled,” this is how it should be.

Over the last few weeks there has been a change. Those of us dedicated to accuracy have been run over by a mob of semi-literate terrorists. In the interest of maintaining my spectacular blood pressure of 110/80, I have abandoned social media. I remain disturbed, I cannot organize my thoughts through all the static.

The storm has been brewing for some time. Civil discourse was a precious commodity, shared almost sacredly among writers, although thoroughly unexpected when interacting with the masses. In public comment columns it is disturbingly normal to see retorts such as  “your stupid,” and “goggle it” (when a person is too lazy to provide references and demands you do it for him, while misspelling the name of the most popular search engine). Insults and attacks are on the rise (US representative Maxine Waters recently called for mob action), and much like when I was a child and heard Archie Bunker use words which I did not understand outside of the fact they got a reaction, the actual words used as insults are meaningless. “Racist” and “NAZI” have both been used so excessively they mean nothing (sad because actual racists and NAZIs actually exist and now can fade into the background), and rather than become more accurately descriptive, the insults have just gotten more vile (vile people use vile words. . .), now “motherfucker” has become the go to response for the inarticulate.

If it were only the language it would not bother me nearly as much as it does, it is the lack of reasoning that chills me. The above example of “goggle (sic) it “, represents an expectation to be believed without question. Skepticism, perversely, is both embraced and rejected, fitting for a schizophrenic society. Doubting news sources became a political pursuit some time ago, giving birth to fact checking websites, which almost immediately were identified as biased themselves. The first news source to be vilified via political leaning was Fox news, or as it’s detractors prefer “faux news.” I’m guessing the poet who created that name pronounces the two words the same way. Fox faced the spurious charge of being the only biased news source, allowing the following corollary; if everything Fox broadcasts is false (because it is a conservative viewpoint), everything else is true. In a world defined by virtue signalling, skepticism about beliefs that are unpopular is good, while skepticism about beliefs that are popular is bad, with “popular” becoming the new definition of “true.” Believing everything is either good or bad results in binary thought processes; a world of black and white contains no grey. Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment could not have been created by a binary mind, in fact, not many works of art or even engineering could exist without the ability to see in between the extremes.

I can understand Fox news being dismissed by a partisan mind, the partisan mind has no interest in accuracy. That goes for anyone, conservatives dismiss liberal news sources, liberals dismiss conservative sources. It has gone beyond that. Recently I saw several people dispute a memo from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In the frenzy of crying children which the main stream media considered “reporting” on the story of families being separated at the border (full disclosure, I have never been separated from my family at the border in scores of crossings, call it “citizen privilege”), DHS released a paper on what was actually taking place. You know, the people actually involved in separating families, arguably the best possible source of information. I watched several keyboard brown shirts dismiss that information as inaccurate, some citing a story in the New York Times (NYT) without a link to the actual story, which they claimed quoted a memo from the Attorney General. One possible story in the NYT which appears to be the one referenced does not actually contain the “proof” it is claimed to contain, which might be why it was not provided as a link.

I understand there are people who trust the New York Times more than the Department of Homeland Security. There is a remarkable number of people who believe the Earth is flat, they just don’t get as much support from the media. The NYT has a Wikipedia page dedicated to their retractions, while DHS has never found the need to issue retractions. The media, after a long process of building trust that includes Murrow, Brinkley, and Cronkite, has squandered their reputation with talking heads whose interests are ratings rather than accuracy. Print media has lowered itself to the point that USA Today, once a joke among journalists, is scolding AP and Time over their standards.

Retractions may appear to indicate integrity, but they do not. The recently “corrected” story in Time about children separated from families cannot be unread, the cover cannot be unseen. That information remains out there, and despite the notice stating it was “corrected” (for people who show no regard for language, they’re awfully careful about the words used to describe their activities), I have seen people produce retracted stories as evidence, twisting their interpretation of the retraction into meaning the story is true.

The internet has produced a breed of “citizen journalists” with no concept of journalistic integrity. Crowd sourcing the news only creates static, as the loudest voices push their point of view. It is the theatre of bullies.

 

 

I most likely will return to social media. I was silenced, but as I considered the words of Elie Wiesel, I realized I must speak. There are plenty of voices out there, the majority of which are misinformed, ill informed, or just flat out lying. I had left my inner warrior behind, but I cannot be silent as my country is torn apart.

Censored with extreme prejudice

From Costa Gavras’s “Missing”

And now a word from our resident conspiracy theorist.

When a tyrannical government finds dissent tiresome, the sources of dissent cease to exist. While I am sure this has been true throughout history, George Orwell took it to another level in “1984” with the Ministry of Truth rewriting history in order to eliminate any memory other than that of the benevolent Big Brother.

Today I am looking at the second remarkable instance of tyrannical Hollywood adjusting its message in the last year. Rosanne Barr.

I was never a fan of Rosanne, she reminded me too much of my first wife. Apparently some people find her funny, so many that the reboot of her sitcom was the highest rated prime time program her network, ABC/Disney, had seen in decades. Sara Gilbert, Yale graduate and producer/writer/director who in addition to playing the role of Rosanne’s daughter Darlene was the driving force behind rebooting the show certainly did not agree with her star’s personal views, but she convinced the rest of the cast and crew to work together. They did. Hundreds of people with points of view all over the map came together and made a ratings (AKA financial) beast.

Today all those people are unemployed. Despite having renewed Rosanne for a second season, ABC/Disney cancelled their most popular program due to tweets sent out by Rosanne Barr about politics. Cue the Ministry of Truth.

The tweets were offensive, almost as offensive as the almost daily crude comments made on ABC/Disney’s “The View;” but the target of Rosanne’s comments were Liberals, rather than Conservatives. The crass, tasteless comments were immediately labeled “racist,” to the extent the comments themselves were rarely reported; any reference to the subject was worded “Rosanne’s racist tweets” (because offensiveness can be defended, racism cannot). The word “offensive” was used once or twice in the opening hours, but by the next morning ABC news simply reported Rosanne’s show was cancelled due to her “racist tweets”. But of course, it wasn’t Rosanne’s show, it was only named for her.

Within hours, Roseanne’s talent agency dropped her. That night’s scheduled show (a rerun) was pre-empted. Streaming services claimed to have removed her shows from their catalogs (It took ABC a day longer than everyone else). Every attempt was being made to erase Rosanne Barr from memory. No attempt was made (in fact, quite the opposite, her comments cannot be found) to make a public example of her offensiveness, she was being disappeared.

Another victim of terminal censorship was Kevin Spacey. On 29 October 2017 (a Sunday), an actor made a accusation of pedophilia against Spacey, which he claimed took place thirty one years earlier when the actor was fourteen and Spacey was twenty seven. Over the next few days a few other men came forward, and a week later Ridley Scott was interviewing Christopher Plummer to take Kevin’s place in the film “All the Money in the World,” which had already been filmed. Spacey used the opportunity to “come out,” and promptly vanished. His cable television series “House of Cards” was cancelled (after previously being renewed for a seventh season) within twelve hours of the accusation.

Kevin has two films in post production due out this year, “Billion are Boys Club,” in which he has a leading role, and “Gore,” in which he plays the title character Gore Vidal. It should be interesting to see how those films are promoted, if at all. Rumor has it that “Gore” was shelved by Netflix three days after the accusation. A completed, historical project, buried because the lead actor was accused (not convicted or even charged with) pedophilia thirty one years before the film was made.

In the meantime, there are countless examples of people who have committed similar offenses, were tried and convicted, and went on not to be ostracized, but celebrated. Roman Polanski and Woody Allen leap to mind, but really, everyone you can remember that has been accused is an example, because you can remember them; they haven’t been erased. Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are still out there.

The federal government has been in the disappearance business for a while. We like to think these things only happen in other countries, but with the over reaches of the PATRIOT act disappearances have become more common. The disturbing thing about Ms. Barr and Mr. Spacey is their disappearances were orchestrated by a private industry. Hollywood has been unabashed in advancing an agenda over the last few decades, that agenda is often confused (as when “action heroes” who are never seen on screen without a firearm speak out against firearms), but it is unforgiving to those who do not tow the line. “You’ll never work in this town again” is the ubiquitous threat associated with Hollywood, but when Julia Phillips wrote about the details no one wanted to talk about it, lest they not work again themselves.

Pay attention to semantics, the words used to alter perceptions. Rosanne’s tweets were discarded so the description “racist” could be used. President Trump speaks of a spy in his campaign, and the DNI calls his spy an informant, so the narrative calls Trump’s claims of a spy “false” and “dis-proven.” We are being misled, largely because the majority has heartily signaled they will believe anything.

Question authority. Question reality. Question everything.

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to know

My last wife had the most annoying habit. We had different political backgrounds, and she would make statements about mine that were false. When I would try to provide her with correct information, she would say “I don’t want to hear it,” and put her fingers in her ears. In a sense, I suspect this was the reason we divorced. She couldn’t handle constant reminders that the world did not revolve around her. I could not fathom a refusal of information, learning was part of why I loved her; she routinely presented ideas I had never considered, a few of them made sense.

Recently I found myself in something resembling her position. A person presented a thoughtful collection of data and studies that I refuse to entertain. The data was too well recorded and interpreted to throw it away out of hand, it may very well be true, or it could be false, I don’t wish to investigate. It is knowledge I refuse to possess.

The young (42) man who presented the information did so in a sincere manner. Having been inundated with claims of institutional racism being the cause of poor test scores among people of color, he sought out and collected data indicating that differences in intelligence are genetic, racial by nature, and not caused by environment. Were I to entertain this train of thought, it would tarnish my relationships with people of color (by the way, when did white stop being a color?). Certainly anecdotal evidence refutes the claim, I have known white people who were barely in possession of survival skills, and people of color who were brilliant, but I know anecdotal evidence is meaningless in the larger sense.

We discussed my refusal at length. I defended my thought process, which perhaps is a bit esoteric. He did not understand my position, and I realized I could not offer an argument he would understand. He rightfully sees himself as a victim, and seeks defense. For him, the facts are important, because they refute the false claim he (and all other people of his color) are racists. I am older, and simply don’t care what names I am called, because I know who I am.

In contrast, someone else said to me “Do you know that scientists have discovered a traumatic marker in mostly all African descendants in the U.S. that started in slavery in our DNA?” As preposterous as that concept is, I was curious. Was it possible that some incredible leap in genetics happened that I had not heard about? I asked for a reference to the data, but folks don’t really understand how to provide references so he sent some screen shots of the headlines of articles making the claim. From those I was able to find the name of the scientist who published the study which had been twisted into the claim. Rachel Yehuda, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, had done a study in 2015 of thirty two holocaust survivors and their offspring, coming to the conclusion that trauma can be passed on genetically. The idea was briefly popular, and then soundly debunked.

I wanted to believe this was possible. I looked farther than the initial claim, even without references. I could see the flaws in her initial study, but continued to look for supporting research. It just isn’t true, like many other ideas that are accepted because they sound like something that could make sense, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Another friend, reflecting on Matthew 26:11 ( For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.), brought up reasons for fighting an unwinnable war. We cannot eliminate poverty, but we can provide comfort for its victims. There are many fights worth fighting, as long as we don’t lose sight of the goal. When the goal becomes impossible, we are fighting the wrong fight and need to reevaluate the goal. By providing comfort to victims of poverty, we are fighting poverty.

I see these unwinnable wars overtaking civil society. For starters, can we de-escalate the rhetoric and stop calling them “wars”? As war like as many people wish to appear, they just don’t make good soldiers. Good soldiers fight to restore peace, most folks today fight for an opportunity to keep fighting. There was the war on drugs, the war on crime and the war on poverty; then suddenly everything was a war. Women, Blacks, Truth, Science, you name it, any difference was framed as a war. The main enemy being “people who don’t think like me.” The civilian, having been assigned the role of warrior, responds in the way he imagines a warrior would respond. The fights never end.

“What about” has become such a popular argument ruse that it has its own new word, whataboutisms. The idea that misdeeds can be mitigated when preceded by misdeeds of someone else. Two wrongs still do not make a right, and it is off putting to have to inform adults of this fact. This image trades on whataboutisms, but instead of continuing an argument it attempts to soften one.

 

I don’t think many people respond well to attacks. They become defensive and any exchange of ideas comes to a halt. We can disagree without insulting each other. No solutions are reached through snarling, one has to respect the person they disagree with in order for anyone to change their mind.

Assault

Some funny things have come out of the #MeToo campaign. Okay, I use the word “funny” to describe things which have no humor about them.

The stated intent was to show victims of sexual assault they are not alone. This result may or may not have been achieved. We are certainly aware a large percentage of people, both women and men, have been comfortable enough to say “Me too.” This is enormous. Although the campaign was originally supposed to be about women, many men have come forward as well, uncovering the secret that any discussion about sex includes all sexes. Unfortunately, even with the barrier lowered from “experienced sexual assault” to “experienced sexual harassment,” the experiences have been exposed as, and this should come as no surprise, personal. One person’s assault is another person’s compliment. This has been difficult to digest for a digital world unaccustomed to nuance.

Society requires sensationalism. It is no longer satisfactory to say Susan doesn’t like Charlotte (who happens to be black), Susan is a racist.  If Andy is uncomfortable with homosexuals he must be a homophobe.  If Henry lets everyone in the room know he’s available he’s a sexual predator. If Cindy voted for a conservative she’s a NAZI.

One of the reasons a large number of victims of sexual assault did not come forward in the past is because they did not feel they would be believed. There are two parts to the reason they felt so. The first is because the primary defense to such accusations was to blame the victim, and in cases of sexual assault the psyche of the victim had already been crushed once. The second is that a fair number of accusations were false, because even the accusation is enough to destroy some lives; one false accusation can be used by countless defenders of the genuinely guilty.

I do not like to denigrate anyone’s pain. We all have different tolerances, and while in many of the experiences described as “sexual assault” no assault took place, the victim was damaged in some way. The important thing to remember is that damage does not refer to the act, only the result. If Charlie walks into the office and says “How is everyone today?” and Norma is having the very worst day of her life, Charlie did nothing wrong. Neither did Norma, until she claims Charlie harassed her by asking. Making claims of abuse when none has taken place is abusive in itself.

Some of the more abusive claims I have heard in the last few weeks have included a woman who claimed her assault took the form of a man referring to her as “honey.” One word, one time, no other context. Another woman claims to have been sexually assaulted by former President George H. W. Bush, four years ago when he was eighty nine and confined to a wheelchair. Mind you, in both these instances the word “assault” rather than “harassed” was used.

My own most frightening instance of sexual assault was only intimidation, there was no physical contact. I was twenty, driving an ice cream truck through the projects in California when I was surrounded by a gang of Chicanos. One reached through the window and removed the keys, a couple other ones started rocking the truck, tipping it enough the wheels would come off the ground, and the leader hung on the window telling me how they were going to “bone” me. As it was, I had another key and was able to escape, but I was terrified as I lived across the street from the projects and parked my truck out front, it was altogether possible they would see me at some point. I quit that job and moved across town about a month later. So I understand that no physical contact is required to create fear, but I maintain the threat of violence (in any form) is a requirement in order to designate assault.

I have been party to other conversations in which I was told that a difference of opinion threatened the person’s very existence. Fear is present, with no threat. Fear is beyond understanding, it is irrational, which is why it holds little legal standing.

This is why words are important. Assault is a crime, claiming you were assaulted implies someone committed a crime. Falsely accusing someone of a crime is a crime by itself. The lesson we should all learn from the #MeToo campaign is communication is crucial, and without words that have common meanings communication is impossible, often at the time it is needed the most.

It is fairly normal to be uncomfortable from time to time (sorry millennials). The level of that discomfort is the measure of trauma involved. I feel safe in saying everyone has at some point in their lives been uncomfortable in a sexual situation. This does not mean everyone has been sexually assaulted, what it means is that we all deal with life differently. Each and every one of us. My first “sexual assault” (different event, heterosexual) might be described as someone else’s fantasy; I was just unprepared that time and it was outside my desires. It was however an assault, I had no interest and the woman forced herself on me. I would never consider the millions of times I have been referred to with “terms of endearment” as sexual assaults, anyone who does is in need of psychological counseling as they are incapable of social interaction.

My hope is that the #MeToo campaign encourages conversations (dialogues rather than monologues), and those conversations create understandings. Some of those understandings are going to result in trust, some of them may result in discovering over sensitivity, most will result in growth. That would be a good thing, and the world needs some good things.