We, the People

0

December 11, 2019-

In the film, “King of the Gypsies”,  the late Sterling Hayden plays the titular role, and remarks, upon encountering a different group of Roma:  “Whose Gypsies are these?”  It struck me as a curious thing for anyone to say-as I never have taken to the idea of one human being owning another-or others.  Indeed, it was a few years ago that I relinquished use of the possessive pronoun “my”, when referencing any person by name, saving its use solely for clarifying a specific relationship.

I guess this is part of a larger movement in my mind- to get past thoughts of “Us and Them”.  Growing up in a small town north of Boston, I was first aware of belonging to two large families, then to the Roman Catholic church, then to a town named Saugus, whose residents, for the most part, were of families whose forebears came from Europe.  My education, as to how to regard people who looked different from us, was simple:  We were to address them as “Sir”, “Ma’am”  or by honorific (Mr._____, Mrs._____).  Other kids were always called by their first names.  The pejorative for African-Americans (My folks called them coloured people, in the 1950’s) was forbidden in our house.  Needless to say, nobody with half a brain would ever have called Mrs. Robinson, who ran the junior high cafeteria,  anything other than ” Miss Matron, Ma’am”.  Mr. and Mrs. Woo, who had a laundry in Cliftondale Square, on the southeast side of town, were likewise accorded full respect, and the Chang family were pillars of the community.

So there was an early perception, in my head, that anyone who used racial or ethnic slurs was just plain ignorant.  To be sure, lots of people moved into Saugus from other places, and brought their less than enlightened ideas about race and ethnicity into the social fabric.  I never bought into any of it, and remember feeling sad when four little girls were blown to bits, in Birmingham, and when Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, were gunned down.  It was as hard for me, as losing the Kennedy brothers.

Nonetheless, there was work for me to do on myself, as so many “harmless” stereotypes and inflections had made their way into my consciousness.  My Black fellow soldiers, being as diverse a group as any similar collection of Whites, disabused me of a lot of preconceived notions that growing up in a mostly white community had imparted.  To be sure, I have never been physically assaulted by anyone of African ancestry.   I can’t  say the same about my fellow Euro-Americans.

Gradually,  I outgrew stereotypes about other  groups of people, all residual from what I had observed in others, over the period of my childhood and adolescence.  My inclusive views finally came full circle, when the humanity of those who spouted unfortunate views of exclusion and bigotry became apparent, without my having to adopt their way of thinking.  Some people just need more patience than others.

So, it is with a fair degree of incredulity, that I hear one group or another say:  “The People won’t stand for this!”   To paraphrase Mr. Hayden’s character, ” To which people do   you refer?”  All humans are people-and while appealing to their humanity is hard, sometimes exasperating, work, I feel I can do no less.

 

The Fire and The Rose

4

December 10, 2019-

The full of night can suffuse one’s mind with a darkness that is equal to, or surpassing of, the dearth of sunlight outside.  The mind, unlike the body, does not cease to move, at a time of physical rest.  For many of us, far more than should be the case, the movement is in a downward location.  Especially, but not exclusively, for those who live alone, the mind is more susceptible to the depredations of inner demons- at least until prayer, meditation and a few drops of therapeutic grade lavender bring on a healing slumber.

I live a fairly comfortable life, with no ailments at present, and a caring, if arm’s-length, circle of family and friends.  I was told, long ago, that a little of me goes a very long way. So be it.  As long as I’m doing right by those around me, that’s hardly the worst of circumstances.  When inner demons, stoked at times by fatigue, hit me in the darkness, my mantra of late has been to self-talk into sleep, sometimes aided by the lavender oil I mentioned above.

I look, though, at those whose demons lead them to continuing depredations of their own. The oppressed who, as I remarked to a reader of my previous  post, learn to become oppressors.  Here, I think, the scene arises from a failure to take self to account, to learn to place all blame for one’s lot externally, and to thus become a violator of others’ rights, property and persons.

We did not learn the right lessons, it seems, from the French Revolution, and thus came the Maoist Cultural Revolution.  The Holocaust of 1915 was, as Hitler predicted, a flickering ember of the mid-Twentieth Century imagination and the Fuehrer’s minions accomplished a genocide that would have made Ataturk blanche.  The Turks felt wronged, hemmed in, and so they lashed out, their targets lashed back and there was a bloodbath.  Post- World War I Germany, and several other Central European nations, were given short shrift by the Treaty of Versailles, clever demagogues found their Others to use as scapegoats, and the horror played out, on the grandest scale since, arguably, the Hundred Years’ War.

Today, there are all manner of others.  Demagogues, having tasted power and wanting it all the more, find target Others, across the world.  Stories of rape and pillaging give rise to hyper-generalization, far beyond the punishment of those actually responsible. One size must fit all.  Thus, we have Twitter storms, back and forth, attacking anyone suspected of taking a pin to one’s balloon. We have the macabre spectacle of a Nobel Peace Laureate, justifying her government’s deadly attacks on people whose primary offense is to adhere to a Faith that is different from her own.  She is, she says, acting on the advice of a “man of peace”, who is after all a Buddhist monk.  Thoughts of Nicholas II and Rasputin come to mind, but  I digress.  We have coteries of sectarian radicals,from India and Iran, to Yemen and Nigeria, stoking their own acts of opprobrium, against those of other Faiths.

T.S. Eliot’s scenario of the fire and the rose becoming one, in his Four Quartets,  is practiced over and over in our world, though not in the way he envisioned.  The Hollow Men, of one of his other great verses, will not endure a world ending with a whimper, but the series of bangs that have been our lot, since at least 1912, could bring it to an alarming precipice.

Bringing oneself to account each day would seem to be advisable, for high and low, alike.

The Wayward Jacuzzi Jet and Other Joys in Life

12

December 9, 2019-

Sometimes, the unexpected can seem to hit at a time that might ordinarily be unnerving.  Sometimes, the expected does not happen, and the choice as to whether it IS unnerving is strictly up to the one doing the expecting.

It was quite unexpected, last night, when I turned on an in-room Jacuzzi, that one of the water jets came flying out of its anchor, and water was sent clear across the room-to the bathroom mirror.  I turned off the motor and cleaned up the water mess.  Needless to say, I’ve had better whirlpool baths.

After many years of knowing people, I expected, at an event I attended prior to greeting Yunhee at the airport, to be more warmly welcomed by the hosts.  It was, however, a social justice event and those who rate highly in the Social Justice hierarchy are given top priority.  Those of us who are lower on that particular totem pole were not introduced to the higher echelon, even when we were sitting right in front of the hosts and their Higher Ups.  This says a lot about the Social Justice movement-and about why it will fail, unless the same old pecking order mentality finds its way to the dust heap.  I can do hierarchies well, (wealthy benefactors are just people, at their core), but I can’t do apartheid thinking.

Family matters most to me, though, so I accomplished my main objective, and this morning and afternoon were spent taking breakfast at an American chain restaurant (IHOP), tending to two personal business matters for Yunhee, visiting Penny’s grave site, taking in a bit of  Cave Creek and Carefree, having lunch at Rock Springs Cafe, and getting DIL settled in at a friend’s house, two blocks from Home Base.  We had a lovely dinner, prepared by said friend, and discussed our “rough plan” for the rest of the week.

It’s  comforting having family around.

No Quarter

7

December 6, 2019-

When one has an adult child serving in the military, there is a particular degree of attention paid to the circumstances surrounding that child’s safety and well-being, day to day.  My son entered the United States Navy in July, 2011.  He will finish his regular active duty, in January, 2020.  Then he will serve in the Naval Reserves, for several more years.  I will keep watch on his environment, throughout.

As his final weeks on active duty ensue, three attacks have been committed, on U.S. military property, within days of each other.  One, at Fort Story, VA, was an act of vehicular homicide.  The second, at Pearl Harbor, only days before the 78th Anniversary of the infamous attacks there, by the forces of Imperial Japan, was committed by someone who apparently snapped, after a disciplinary notice was issued him.  The third, which may also have been committed by someone who snapped, happened today, at Naval Air Station, Pensacola.  ended with four dead.

There is some speculation of terror ties, in the first and third incidents, but not-as yet- in the second.  There can be, simply put, no quarter given to any terrorist, regardless of ideology.  The whole subject of the origins of terrorism can fill several volumes.  It basically boils down to sustained inhumanity of one group against another, leading to ongoing acts of retaliation and revenge.

Yet, revenge just leads to more chaos, and the cycle goes on.  I read this morning of the summary executions of four men suspected of raping a female veterinarian and burning her corpse, near Hyderabad, India.  There is no less sympathetic criminal than a rapist.  I can understand the rage of the men who captured these four.  If anyone ever sexually assaulted, much less killed, any of the many women who are close to my heart, my emotions would boil over, privately.  I would then have to  leave the punishment to the authorities, expecting them to fulfill their duties.  In the event they didn’t, I would, following the law, be a broken record, until justice was served.

Vengeance, though, is not my way.  On the rare occasions when the woman I met 39 years ago today, later married,  and then laid to rest, after nearly 29 years of wedlock, was taunted or sexually harassed, I stood up to those who exhibited their animal instincts but never once did I feel the need to beat someone down.   This was fortunate, as I am perfectly capable of flying into a rage.  It just has become less of a potentially useful method of dealing with such matters.  Our society, many parts of which dabble in false equivalency, might too easily fall for sad origin stories of  rapists or other sexual predators.  In the ensuing judicial chaos, no justice is served.

I maintain that, in each case of assault on peaceful, law-abiding citizens, regardless of the assailant’s motive, there needs to be a doubling-down on adherence to the sanctity of human life and safety.  Those who commit acts of terrorism, including sexual terrorism, must face justice, in its fullness- without mindless vengeance.

 

 

Love’s Many Labours

2

December 5, 2019-

The Shepherd mix, with tan spots on a white coat, sauntered into the room where I was preparing for my biweekly chiropractic appointment.  He’s done this, the past few times I have been there, settling down in front of me, for a few minutes of petting and scratching.  He’s a rescue dog, so I don’t roughhouse with him, the way I did with my Rottweilers, back in the ’90’s.  It’s all very gentle and reassuring.  His labour, as it were, is to let those he trusts know that all is well with the world.

His master, the chiropractor, came in and did a quick, but thorough, adjustment, remarked on the nicety of my newly-purchased pair of Puma Soft Foams and dashed off to his next patient.  His quick and efficient session never gives the impression of being slip-shod.  Chiropractic, from a strong pair of hands, takes little time.

One of the late Bill Tracey’s namesake restaurants had a fund-raising event, this evening.  I went over, and found it was a packed house, despite the persistent rain.  Due to the dearth of  restaurant parking spaces and the vigilance of the landlord, in the adjoining office building (NO restaurant parking, even when the office tenants are not present), I parked across the street, in the lot of an empty building.  A two-seater table, which I often use, when dining there alone, was available.  I was pleasantly greeted by server “#88” (Bill never liked to name his servers, especially the young ladies, on a receipt. The family continues this practice.), and enjoyed the fare of the evening, knowing that a fair portion of the proceeds was going to a good cause.  With no dining companion, I observe how the workers are going about their efforts, as well as the camaraderie of surrounding parties.  Bill’s Grill is a cozy place, and comfortable, despite the enclosed porch structure of the main dining area.  “# 88”, as it happens is a cheerful, endearing young woman, with loving greetings and attention to every one of her guests.  I could see, though, that the heavy workload was starting to wear on her, just a bit.  I had no need of  dessert  and was just as glad when she  brought the bill, without the customary offer.  This woman, and the entire, all-female team, were working with intense, caring efficiency.  I tipped highly.

These are examples of love at work, the result of which keeps the world on an even keel, despite all that we see going on to the contrary.  Outside of the world of remunerated labour, there is what we do for one another, just because it’s right.  In a devotional meeting at a nearby college, after dinner, I consulted the two other participants, regarding a task that has landed on my lap, and which I sometimes find onerous.  They expressed the opinion that careful examination of the actual elements of the task would lend it less burdensome.  So it was, when I found the actual evening’s “workload” was a large amount, but one which could be skimmed, rather than considered line by line, I was able to remark on the most salient points being expressed.

Approaching any task with love makes its completion much easier.

On the Margins

2

December 2, 2019-

When cleaning,

do you look beyond the margins?

When examining the conscience,

do you make sure to

check for clutter

that might have been overlooked?

When calling self,

a champion of the People,

are there some,

whom you leave out?

When saying you only have

unconditional love,

are there some whom you’ve

cut loose,

and are you certain,

as to why?

Are you defined

by what lies

within your margins?

Ghosting

4

November 30, 2019-

The question was posed to me, earlier this evening:  “Why do some people not acknowledge texts for a week and a half, or a month?”  I can’t speak for any of those who do this as, if I can’t respond to someone’s messages in a timely manner, I’ll let them know at least that much- “Will get back to you by (thus and such day or time).”  If the person’s messages become offensive, I will say so, and free myself of her/his company, as I’ve done exactly twice, permanently, and once, temporarily.

I did a bit of thinking, though, about the phenomenon known as ghosting.  People seem to remove themselves from someone’s life, without notifying the individual, because:

  1.  They’ve lost interest in the person.
  2. They are going through difficulties/trauma, which they feel is all-encompassing and that the other person’s tests and difficulties would only add to their distress.  I’ve been there, on both sides of the struggle.  I can only thank God that I was taught the tools, such as deferred attention, which obviate ghosting on my part.
  3. .  They just don’t know what to say to the person anymore; perhaps because s(he) always has a counter answer for their suggestions or just plugs her/his ears to whatever they say. There are also those who  don’t know how to address chronic, seemingly intractable, matters-especially if they involve the person’s family.

Ghosting, as a means to restoring one’s sense of inner harmony,  is a falsehood.  The person, whom one is avoiding, has not disappeared from the Universe, and unless one summons the fortitude to let her/him know that ties are being cut, for whatever reason, then there is no closure-and the same challenge, from which one is running, will present itself, in the form of another troubled person, at some point either shortly thereafter, or a few years down the road.

Their Voices Will Not Be Silenced

2

November 29, 2019-

I read, a few days ago, about a homeless man in the Phoenix area, who had committed a heinous crime, whilst suffering psychiatric illness.  The story stated that this man had been passed through the Arizona mental health system, for over a  decade.  He had enough of an understanding of his own condition to ask for a shower and a follow-up appointment with one of the original counselors who had first met with him, when he was brought into a facility, by the police.  These requests were denied, according to the newspaper account, and he was back on the street, largely against his wishes.

In Maricopa County, there are at least a dozen agencies, which purport to address mental health issues.  I once worked, briefly, for the agency that, also briefly, worked with the man in question.  I was not successful in my endeavours with that agency, partly because of my also serving as Penny’s caretaker and partly because the ego feathers of the agency branch’s leadership were ruffled by my personality and manner of talking with my clients.  The agency, in the case cited above, was one of several which dealt with that man, and somehow they all dropped the ball, not knowing of each others’ presence in his life.  He remains a person whose only security comes when he is incarcerated.

I mention this, because in dealing with the mentally ill, each of us finds self in  a bind, of sorts.  When someone dear to me faced a severe mental illness, many years ago, I chose to address the matter head-on, but not address it alone.  There was a team of professionals, who helped solve many of the problems and it was left to me and others close to this person, to resolve  the rest.  We were, however, not left alone and the person has gone on to lead a masterful life.

I have had a few people present their issues to me, over the years, both in Phoenix and here in Prescott.  Two of these people stayed with my family and me, during the last two years of Penny’s life.  We were able to help one of them orient his life, but the other was a work in progress, when I moved to Prescott.  At that time, my own grief was still raw and I was the one who needed compassion.

Time passed, I was able to help one homeless man get situated and centered, albeit with some difficulty.  Once he trusted in the agencies with whom I put him in contact, things went better.  The second person I tried to help, at the behest of a mutual friend, turned out to be someone who had already tried all the resources I recommended, and was irritated by my personality and foibles, to the point where we are no longer in contact.

The beat goes on, and I am open to those who have difficulties, who don’t know to whom else to turn.  I will maintain, to anyone who is suffering mental or emotional health difficulties, to not rely on social media for resolution, nor to rely on any one person for same.  I am a loving soul, but I am also far from perfect and the last thing I want is for my own lifestyle, activity level or personal mental state (mild Asperger’s/autism) to waylay the progress of a person whose viewpoint, regarding  that progress, is at variance with how I see things.  I had a brief online conversation, this evening, with such a person. Besides, each of us is marvelous complex.

That individual is right about something, though.  Mental illness is anything but a laughing matter.  You will not find me including someone else’s affliction as a punchline, in my repertoire of jokes.  He’s also right about people paying attention to his problems.  That attention, first and foremost, needs to start with family and one, committed team of professionals, of the individual’s choosing, in consultation with family.  Random people, no matter how compassionate they are, can’t direct a suffering soul towards the light, in the way that family can.

The voices of the suffering will not be silenced and they will not “go quietly into that good night.”

This Close….

5

November 27, 2019-

My mother used to say, “You’re THIS CLOSE to…..” Sometimes, when one of us crossed the line, “close” became up  close.  It happened often enough to shape each of us into being responsible adults.

I learned, over the course of my educational career, that there was precious little daylight, in a good many cases, for muddled responses to people who acted out.  “This close” only worked with students who were genuinely respectful, but who were just testing the waters.

I am having to mean exactly what I say with more people on the periphery of my life, who can and do try to push the limits of what I will tolerate.  Obviously, taking an old-style parental disciplinary approach is going to be counteractive.  Like a good parent, however, I do need to stick to my boundaries.  I have told an online correspondent that I am limiting my time, responding to his long thread of sound bites, to no more than thirty minutes a day. His response, for now, is to send even more voice messages.  No problem; they will wait until the next day.  I know he is just pushing my boundaries and I don’t see any need to be yet another person to cut ties with him-unless the spam fest becomes  a series of threats.  Then, it’s game over.

I’ve only had to delete people twice, in twelve years, and one of them recently was let back in-as the problem was initially my fault.  I am a patient man; some say, too patient, but no matter.  My aim is to live my life as I see fit, within the bounds of my personal beliefs.  Those who are really close to me understand that.  The others, including the lonely soul, will just have to learn.

What, Exactly, Is Kindness?

6

November 26, 2019-

Many years ago, I was present in a colleague’s classroom, when a distraught boy kicked and slammed a chair.  This was in the days when corporal punishment was still the norm, so it happened that my co-worker grabbed the boy’s arm and shook him, very hard. She told those of us who witnessed this, that he would remember this moment and be unlikely to repeat such a destructive behaviour.

I had my doubts about that, then, and still am doubtful.  The teacher has since passed on and the boy is now a 50-year-old man.  I have not seen him since I left the community where this took place.  He’s still up there, in that rural community, and I wonder if he remembers that incident.  I wonder how it affected his world view, and more directly, how it affected his raising of his own children.

I chose to physically punish my own child, prior to his adolescence, on a relatively few occasions.  None of those occasions saw me lose my self-control, yet I have often thought since, that there had to be better ways to correct his behaviour, than presenting myself as somehow more powerful, more dominant.

There was a song, in the late 1970’s, entitled “Cruel to Be Kind”.  While the songwriter included the phrase, “in the right measure”, I found myself disagreeing with the sentiment.  Nonetheless, there are occasions when, in order to save one’s own sanity and overall usefulness as a human being, it’s necessary to deny another person’s request.  None of us are perfect, after all, and there are times when a soul is unreasonable, in her/his expectations of others.  I dealt with such a person, four years ago; with another, last year and with yet a third, over the past weekend.  In each case, I was taking on a situation which would have been best handled by a team of people.  In the first instance, I was able to assemble such a group and the man lived his last years among us, in a fairly comfortable environment.  The other two- I was, and am, unable to help very much, as an individual.  Sometime, the issues are just too complex.

That said, there was also a time, six years ago, when I was the problematic one.  The person on whom I was fixated, handled the whole thing masterfully.  We reached a very quiet understanding,  and I made a promise that I have kept and will uphold for all eternity.  That person’s kindness has been a model for me, ever since.

Kindness, then, can assume many forms, though I daresay cruelty, in its true state, is never one of those forms.