The Road to 65, Mile 295: Where I Stand, Part 1

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September 18, 2015, Prescott- One thing about transitions, there are small stretches of time when money is tight, communication gets garbled and difficulties ensue.  I was raised to work through them, and so it is, right now.  I have had a few confrontations with people, both online and in real time, over the past three days.  In each case, rather than start World War 10,000, I have chosen to rely on my intuition, as to what the other person(s) was/were getting at.  One is simply a snarky, and somewhat abrasive, individual who enjoys a good comeback.  A few of those have defused that mess.  Another wants to know whether I have just moved on.  That is really up to that person.  I am still here, and as said earlier, I will not impose myself on anyone who seems to want to be left alone.  Another individual doesn’t want anyone who doesn’t drink, and doesn’t seem to have much money, in his establishment. (It is a restaurant, not a bar, per se, so the clientele ought to be mixed).

I sense the mood in this town is changing.  Hipsters tend not to like anyone who isn’t strutting their cash, and I see more hipsters around, over the past few months.  I haven’t had much money, over the past six years or so, though that is about to change, albeit gradually, and modestly.  I will be EARNING a living wage, starting next month.  Life will be more on an even keel.

I’m not going anywhere, though.  My son is in San Diego, until the end of next year, at least, and I have a growing number of friends in Los Angeles. Prescott is six hours from San Diego, seven from LA, and proximity rules.  I still have a good many friends here, even those with whom I seem to be having misunderstandings.  I am also very much enamoured of a place where I can walk just about everywhere that matters, and drive to the rest of the places, in a half hour or less.

In the next several posts, I will be commenting on points made by Chief Phil Lane, Jr., who heads up a spiritual retreat in Surrey, BC, as to the development of a spiritual community.  His heartfelt and well-considered tenets could be applied in a good many settings.  I stand in a circle, where heart, patience and intuition matter.

The Road to 65,Mile 249: Repression and Resilience

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August 4, 2015, Prescott-   One of the features of life on Earth that most sticks in my craw is the mistreatment of children.  This morning, I spent about ninety minutes, listening to one of the people I most admire in this world:  Philip N. Lane, Jr., an hereditary chief of the White Swan band of the Dakota Nation.  Chief Phil has been working with indigenous people, in various parts of the world, for over thirty-five years.  His focus has been the creation of a culture of dignity and positive self-regard, aspects of life that were long repressed among Native Peoples, by the dominant culture, in the name of “assimilation”.

Indigenous North Americans, Andeans, Amazonians, Siberians, Saami, Hawaiians, Maori,Native Australians, Ainu, Hill Tribesmen of northeast India, Dravidians, Native Saharans, and the nomadic peoples of the Kalahari and Namib deserts have long been told their cultures and ways of life do not jibe with “reality”, as identified by the powers that be, in their lands of residence.

One of the most effective ways that conquerors have found, in creating a culture of self-loathing, and hence submission, is to remove the children of the repressed ones from their home communities, place them in compulsory residential schools, and systematically quash all traces of the native culture within the psyches and personas of the child-residents.  This was done in the United States, Canada and the Soviet Union, throughout much of the Twentieth Century, with an actual view towards “turning savages into human beings.”

I grew up seeing, and sometimes receiving, corporal punishment in a regular public school in Massachusetts, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  I have been grabbed and shaken by an angry teacher, seen a friend in another class thrown violently against a wall and witnessed other unnecessary acts, harmful acts, by teachers, administrators, and, later, by a Catholic priest, who was ultimately found guilty, defrocked and disgraced.

As a new teacher, I found myself initially subscribing to forceful techniques, though thankfully not to the extent that a child suffered lasting damage.  I owned up to it,made amends, and was able to move on to more humane and effective ways of correcting misbehaviour.  It was a long road, but I was then able to focus on helping the abused children to recognize that they were not at fault, that the beatings I witnessed at a private boarding school, in the late 1970’s were the true aberration, and that no one should have to suffer in silence, or alone.

Getting back to the Native American boarding schools, and many of the Federal and state day schools:  The schools which “served” Indian, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian children, like the Black and Hispanic schools, under Jim Crow laws, were hotbeds of cultural repression, language extinction and harrowing punishment, which included acts of sexual violence against children and teenagers.  The most casual and innocent use of a Native tongue was punished, severely, by school staff ( I will not use the term, “teacher”, here. These individuals negated the definition of the word.).  These individuals were both secular and clergy, and had no other goal than the advancement of the national economy.  Money trumped all else, as it often still does.

Chief Phil Lane, Jr. was a recipient of this kind of miseducation and ,to this day, has had to continuously re-educate, and re-train himself, which he is doing admirably.  I have met many people, in the indigenous communities, and in the wider world, who have expressed hatred for who they think I am, based on my light skin, brown hair and blue eyes.  The only remedy for this, given what these people have endured, is patience, and staying the course of building a healing environment.

We still have a long way to go, and I am grateful to Phil Lane, and others who have arisen to outline what needs to be done.  I will introduce his 16 Principles of creating a nurturing culture, in a series of posts, very soon.

The Road to 65, Mile 53: The Same Boat

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January 20, 2015, Prescott- “We may have arrived on different ships, but we are all in the same boat.”  This was one of the messages being carried by the some 400 marchers in Prescott, AZ, yesterday, during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march, from Prescott College around Courthouse Square and to the United Methodist Church, where a rousing rally, with gospel music and a stirring address by Reverend Michael Cannon awaited our assemblage.

My parents raised us to regard each person we met, on an individual basis.  They were prisoners, somewhat, of their generation’s tendency to fear “the other”, but my folks desperately wanted out of that box, and looked to us to show the way towards a more inclusive world. There were classmates of Asian descent, in my high school, who were congenial.  I did not, however, have friends who were African-American or Hispanic until I was in the Army, and it was much later that my circle grew to include Native Americans and people who hailed from the Middle East.

We are in a far more open world now.  My son does well with people, regardless of ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation, as do I.  The Baha’i Faith, to which I adhere, enjoins anyone from acting out of prejudice.  Our task is to root out the bias and replace it with an understanding of the people whose backgrounds differ from ours.  The thing to be opposed, in this great Age, is an unseemly character.

That was the bedrock of Dr.King’s speeches, and actions, in the 1950’s and ’60’s.  It was the overriding theme of Rev. Mr.Cannon’s address, yesterday morning and again last night, at St. Luke’s Ebony Christian Church, where he is Associate Pastor.  It is the foundation of that which every person who seeks uprightness in this life, does every day.  Imperfect souls own their flaws, and still march towards the light, casting the burden of foulness aside as they go.  I know of many people, myself included, who have aspects of their past which, if left unaddressed and uncorrected, would serve as a personal Tar Pit.  On we go, though, grateful for forgiveness and grace.

This is huge boat, and we each have a part to play in its successful voyage.  So, if you are African-American, come to the table.  If you are a lower-income, or lower-middle-class person of European descent, come to the table.  If you are of a family indigenous to these continents we call America, come to the table.  If you are from the world’s most populous continent, anywhere from the eastern Mediterranean to the western Pacific, come to the table.  If you came from Africa, during the past century, or from Australasia, come to the table.

You may be, like me, attracted solely to the opposite gender- and you belong here.  You may be drawn to those of the same gender, or both, or may feel you need gender reassignment, or already have had it- and you belong here.  Regardless of age, ability level, or employment status, you belong here.  Whether you are Liberal, Conservative, Moderate, Tea Party or Occupy Anything With A Corner Office, you have a part to play.

We need to uphold the rule of law, AND the law has to be humane.  We surely need to expect those entering our country to respect and obey our laws, just as those of us Americans who visit other countries must adhere to their laws.  We do best to remember that the task of the individual is to show mercy, and that of the human institution, from the family to the nation-state, is to show justice.

The great boat will not list, will not leak and will not sink, so long as we all remember:  Each has a place.

The Road to 65, Mile 12: The Age of Unreason

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December 10, 2014, Prescott- It seems so much these days is decided by emotion, accompanied by sloppy fact-checking, and the need more and more people seem to have, for external verification.  These processes don’t bring communities and nations together, and never will.

I have lived a fairly solitary life, for the past 3 1/2 years.  My family members all have full cups and don’t need anyone else’s concerns to address, no matter how great or small those are.  It’s for that reason that I have learned to rely on my own resources, and it’s why I am leaning more and more towards taking the bull by the horns, with regard to a full-time disaster prevention and relief position, in mid-February next year.

I have friends at all points on the political spectrum,  while maintaining my own sense of right and wrong.  My Dad was a social and fiscal conservative.  My mother is a social liberal, who nonetheless ran a tight ship, based on us taking responsibility.  So, I was compelled to listen to both points of view, growing up, and have the bounty of seeing many shades of opinion today.

I will not, though, go along with anyone who advocates oppression or harm to an innocent person, or group.  There are those who derive their power and satisfaction, from dividing people and groups.  We see this in everything from the camera hogs and pundits who are first on the scene of an episode of unrest, to the Deep Pockets who fund entities which seek to keep information from the people-at-large.

My parents liked and respected Martin Luther King, Jr, the Kennedy brothers, Cesar Chavez and even Malcolm X, after his return from Hajj.  My latter-day heroes are mostly international figures:   The late Nelson Mandela, Aung-san Suu Kyi,  Malala Yousafzai and the new President of Indonesia:  Joko Widodo.  Those who can see beyond the current atmosphere of “dodge and cast blame” are the figures who will lead us through the darksome night.