Masked Dancers

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November 20,2021- The four ladies were alternately jumping, twirling and swaying, with the energy of twenty-year-olds, though they were closer in age to yours truly. All the while, they kept their COVID masks securely on their faces. This was for the duration of a 40-minute set by local artist Jonathan Best, and his troupe of blues and funk musicians. Half of it was a funk rendition of “Blowin’ In The Wind”, which I think Bob Dylan would thoroughly enjoy. The other 20 minutes was devoted to Sly Stone’s “Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself”.

I was given an egg castanet, which is about what you would expect-a mini-Easter egg shaped rattle, for the purpose of joining in the festivities. Jonathan goes full-on, bringing his audience into the fray. Whilst dutifully shaking the instrument, I felt as if I was watching a band of dervishes, even when three of the women took off their masks. The fourth, in addition to wanting to guard against COVID, also didn’t want men to see her face, and so kept tugging her mask against her nose. To me, it is six or a half dozen, whether I see a person’s visage or not. The show was the thing. It was all just a great way to spend a couple of hours on a mild Saturday night.

The Raven is the sort of place where patrons, and the bartenders, help the lone server clear tables, when she is overloaded with delivering food. This discomfits the standard dining patron, but for me, and several others, it is second nature. We are more like family, than “us and them”. I kind of like it that way.

That is part and parcel of living in a fairly mellow town. There are those who see everything through an ideological lens, but their influence here is diluted by the culture of broad acceptance. A patron who tried to push the envelope with “Let’s Go, Brandon” ,(poor Mr. Brown, he just wants to race his stock car), was brought into the festivities by being given a larger castanet. Jonathan is a progressive, but ideology is left at the cafe door, when he is set to perform. He knows that conservatives and reactionaries love a good, lively performance as much as anyone else-and so we all rock out together.

The days before Thanksgiving are a great time for such in-gathering.

Exhausted

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November 15, 2021- The young woman looked at the police officer who had come to her assistance, and said, flat-out, “I am just…so…tired. There is no end.”

I am not exhausted, though there have been times….. Dan Rather posted a provocative essay, entitled “It’s Okay To Be Exhausted”, in yesterday’s edition of the Blogsite “Steady”. He listed all the things that this modern world has thrown at us, which lead to so many being at the point of zero returns. Part of the issue is the ubiquity of information. No matter where one lives in the world, he or she can be, and often is, bombarded with the plights of those less fortunate-often with urgent pleas for help (preferably financial), on the double. This, on top of politics, social (in)justice, false equivalence, restrictions on travel, restrictions on parental involvement in the schools, ham-handed governance (from both ends of the spectrum, and all points in between), climate change, pro-choice, pro-life, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, vitriol, supply chain issues, inflation, Paul Gosar’s anime, AOC’s pickle jar, Michael Flynn’s Theocracy, income inequality, double taxation of estates. I almost miss the days of “Where’s the Beef?” Wow, I didn’t even mention the pandemic.

What matters to me the most is the well-being of those around me-either physically in the community, by my side when on the road, and children/teens-anywhere I happen to be. What seems to matter the most, to those with whom I talk, is being heard and respected. None of us really need to be told how to raise our children. None of us really need to be told to look out for our sickly loved ones. None of us really need to be told that we’re doomed unless we follow _______________ (fill in the blanks).

What matters most is love-the only source of energy that can restore the exhausted ones who are all around. It is not a product of ideology, of lifestyle choices or of political affiliation. It is not demonstrated by giving all one has, willy-nilly, and making oneself a ward of someone else. It is bestowed on us at birth, and hopefully nurtured by family, community and one’s affiliates-near and far.

“Love gives life to the lifeless”-‘Abdu’l-Baha

Point of the Arrow, Tip of the Spear

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April 13-

My most cherished action figures in the entertainment world have been archers.  Their pursuit of quarry entails perfect accuracy.  The arrow and its manually-propelled cousin, the spear, must land on point, in order to be effective.  So must it be with those seeking justice.

In a matter that has drawn the attention of some who are investigating sex trafficking in  this country and in other parts of the world, an unsettled man has chosen a delicate moment to renew charges of cannibalism in the U.S. food supply, charges which were raised, and swiftly debunked, in 2014.  This is, simply put, a time when many have raw nerves.  Many want to believe the most lurid of charges, perhaps as a salve to their more concrete insecurities.

Baha’u’llah teaches us to investigate truth independently.  This is hard for human beings, especially those who crave approval.  It is hard for others, in a different way.  People who see things through a different lens than most, also need to have at least SOME others take their views seriously.  So, we see those who view life as to be lived independently, without a group determining what goes and what doesn’t, finding high crimes and misdemeanours as being committed exclusively by liberals and progressives.  Those who believe that life needs to be lived collectively, see conservatives and reactionaries as the villains.

What actually seems to be the case is that there are heroes, and villains, on both sides of the aisle.  Rather than ideology tripping up an individual, it is one’s view of self that brings a person down.  There are elitists and miscreants, galore, all along the political spectrum.  No ideology is a guarantor of sainthood.

My own view, such as it has evolved over the years, is that justice needs to not so much be blind, as to be laser-focused.  There are conspiracy tales afloat that have turned out to be true, debunkers who are fraudulent and vice versa.  Much in the mainstream is verifiable; other parts of it are sheep fodder.  Some of what seems insipid balderdash, turns out, upon closer examination, to merit a closer look.

In the past two weeks, I have listened to claims that, six months ago, I’d have dismissed out of hand. The Epstein affair changed a lot of how I view such matters, though there is still a smell test that needs passing.  The most odious behviour in the world is the sexual abuse of children and teenagers.  Close behind is sexual abuse, in general, followed by the practice that engineers both:  Human trafficking.

All three merit the most intense and unrelenting investigation and prosecution.  All three have no one, amongst their perpetrators, who is above the law.  The point of the arrow and the tip of the spear should find their way to any deserving target. ( I mean this figuratively, of course. As tempting as it is to put pedophiles and sex traffickers out of their misery, we must maintain the rule of law.)

Certitude In A Time of Pestilence

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March 16, 2020-

In the Turkish Netflix series, “The Protector”, the complex villain tells the title character how easy he made it for her to both subject the populace of Istanbul to an epidemic of plague and to subsequently present the people with a “cure”, which had consequences he couldn’t foresee.

The current reaction of many people to the menace of Coronavirus 19 is similar to that of the Turkish masses, in the SciFi drama.  Fear has led many to either abandon trust in the ability of government, medical professionals and humanitarian organizations or to cling even more tightly to shopworn ideologies and biases, vis-a-vis ANY intervention by those in authority, while confronting this pandemic.

Magical thinking, and trust in the platitudes of populists and demagogues, both in the TV series and in much of the American scene today, has replaced logic and fortitude.  See someone whose politics they dislike, and the bleats go up-and on.

I have to observe, and evaluate, the efforts being made by ALL responsible parties, and never mind their ideologies.  Any less, and the pandemic will not see its “curve flattened”; rather, it will continue to spike, again and again-like the Plagues of the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. The experience of Europeans, during the first plague, is instructive for us now.  Relying on the words of the ignorant will only reap horror.

Certitude, in this current time of pestilence, can only be found in placing trust in competent physicians and proactive government officials-regardless of one’s own ideology.

They Also Dream

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January 20, 2020-

In marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Prescott-an essentially conservative and largely White community, has permitted and conducted a march for social justice, from Prescott College, on the Near West Side, to and around Yavapai County Courthouse and  thence to Prescott United Methodist Church, about midway between the two sites.

Today was the fifth time I participated in this march, and attended its subsequent non-denominational service, hosted jointly by the Methodists, the Unitarian-Universalist congregation, the Ebony Christian Church and Prescott Peace-builders.  The message is that of building harmony and co-operation, among the people of Prescott and Yavapai County.

There is also grave concern, especially among the young people present, for seeing that justice is served to those who are apprehended, whilst crossing our nation’s southern border.  There is a sense among many of the college-, and high school, age people, as well as the more actively liberal senior citizens, around the county, that there needs to be a greater effort towards humanitarian treatment of the undocumented.

I have a lot of empathy for anyone who is suffering.  Some, I can help; others, I defer to those who are better-suited for doing what is needed.  There is also the need, as I see it, to NOT HATE those whose viewpoints on this, and other subjects, is different.  Some people who were present today did not seem to hear the words  spoken by a reader of Dr. King’s words:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can  do that.  Hatred cannot drive out hatred.  Only love can do that.”

I have spoken with several people who fear the young, the liberals, and above all, those who hail from Mexico and points further south.  Theirs, whether the plaints of long-term residents, who see their way of life eroding, or those of  first-generation immigrants, who came here for the benefits of an orderly society-or to escape authoritarian regimes, is the cry for moving cautiously.  I know of only a few, among them, whose underpinning is that of White Supremacy.

That last is something I vehemently oppose.  There is no such thing as a superior race, or any race at all, for that matter, save the Human Race.  There is a key place in the world, for a sane and intelligent patriotism-which will acknowledge the legitimate rights of people in other nations to love their countries, without pitching for a jingoistic worldview, or for any nation’s hegemony over others.

With all that, I recognize that the vast majority of the world’s people have dreams-of a meaningful life, of being loved and appreciated and of finding a path to peace.  There are serious breakdowns in communication, in the distribution of resources and, for far too many-from the mentally ill to the chronically destitute- in the attainment of self-esteem. These issues will prove to have a variety of solutions, for which the prerequisite is the taking down of the walls of ideology-both on the Right and on the Left.

Those one fears, also have their legitimate dreams.

Sixty Six for Sixty-Six, Part LXV: It Doesn’t Matter

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October 31, 2017, Prescott-

Happy All-Hallows, to those who celebrate it as an evening of festive family and community enjoyment.

It doesn’t matter to me,

if you are Black, White, Brown, Red, Yellow, or some sort of hybrid.

It is superfluous,

if you are conservative, liberal, libertarian, progressive.

It is inconsequential, in my view,

if you claim adherence to the oldest of Faiths, to the Faith founded

two-thousand years ago, to the newest Faith or to no Faith at all.

It is of passing concern,

if you are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual or just plain fed up with it all.

Male, female, “hybrid”;

child, adolescent, young adult, midlife, early senior, advanced senior, centenarian-

I have much to learn from you,

and much to offer, in return.

What matters is your spirit.

Who I am,

in this final month

of being sixty-six,

is largely who I have

ever been.

My labels do not define me.

God sees beyond the superficial,

the fleeting,,

the limited.