Thoughts and Prayers and Magic Spells

Prayer doesn’t change things: Prayer changes YOU.

I mean, knock yourself out praying if that’s what spins your bow tie. But, don’t imagine for a moment that it’s going to change a damn thing about what is going on around you, be it machine-gun massacres, apocalyptic hurricanes, devastating earthquakes or even whether your transmission will make it another week until payday.

Thoughts and Prayers are just two of the ways people internalize the every-day stimulus called Life. There are as many ways people internalize Life as there are people: You can Self-Medicate, Fight, Hide, Isolate, Meditate, Cut, Resist, Despair, on and on into an infinite number of combinations of the way we process and deal with the world around us.

The point is we ALL internalize Life, and for anyone to offer up proudly that they’ve given a thought – they’re THINKING  – about something the rest of us can’t get out of our heads, is *stunningly* self-absorbed.

Thoughts and Prayers is shorthand for, “I am powerless to stop this from happening and I will wish REALLY hard that the Omnipotent Being of my choice will deign to show mercy on this untenable situation.”

Thoughts and Prayers have the same efficacy as Wishes and Magic Spells.

Thoughts and Prayers and Wishes and Magic Spells are what you offer up when there is nothing else you can do.

You earnestly have Thoughts and Prayers and Good Wishes for a friend with an illness because that’s all you can do: It’s out of your hands.

But THIS situation isn’t out of the hands of Congress. They CAN change the law, they simply refuse to because there’s too much money gushing in from the NRA.

So, when ANY Politician offers the mealy-mouthed phrase “Thoughts and Prayers” about Las Vegas or The Edge Nightclub or Sandy Hook or the inevitable NEXT GODDAM SCHOOL SHOOTING what they’re really saying is, “It’s out of my hands, there’s nothing I can do.”

They are offering wishes and magic spells instead of protecting us from madmen who mow down human beings like you take an edger to errant weeds.

“It’s out of my hands, there’s nothing I can do to protect you. But – I’m thinking about you.”

Perhaps if the folks who survived Las Vegas are REALLY lucky they’ll get a golf trophy dedicated to them.

Thoughts and Prayers were not what we offered al-Qaeda after the September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and Flight 93; and Thoughts and Prayers are NOT what we should be offering Domestic Terrorists.

Thoughts and Prayers are political speak for: “It’s out of my hands because I’m going to keep taking NRA money soaked in the life-blood of kindergartners and concert goers – but I will ask God to keep you in His thoughts.”

How DARE they pretend God has ANYTHING to do with blood money from the NRA and gun manufacturers who saw their stock go up 3.5% in the hours after Stephen Paddock forever changed group dynamics and the way we will attend concerts, sporting events, and large outdoor venues?

Thoughts and Prayers indeed.

Politicians Thinking and Praying to end murder-by-guns in this country is an infuriating waste of time, and allows them to pretend THEY don’t control the legislation that would prevent another Las Vegas massacre.

Statesmen might as well swing cats over barrels of rainwater and cast spells under a full moon as offer Thoughts and Prayers – they have the same efficacy.

Praying is a highly personal thing between you and your God and is not a replacement for doing your job – whoever you are – and hiding behind ‘God’ when you refuse to do your job is an affront to truly spiritual people who do not use their religion as a prop.

Beyond that? I have yet to see any evidence that Thoughts OR Prayer actually works any better than the aforementioned Wishes and Magic Spells.

God sat out the Holocaust and Manifest Destiny. Babies die of brain cancer and inexplicable tragedy befalls the purest souls, while people like Pharma-Douche, Martin Shkreli, are richly rewarded for bankrupting people just before killing them by making life-saving medication unaffordable.

I have heard all my life that the worst, most inhumane things in the world are all ‘God’s Plan’. Well, then, if God already has a plan what good is there in praying for things to change?

Remember – Prayer doesn’t change things: Prayer changes YOU

Oh – and while we’re at it? God doesn’t have a $20 riding on game, so don’t thank him for the touchdown. God didn’t send a boat to rescue you because he hates the person who drowned. If God exists, trust me on this, neither She/He/It or Jesus gives a tinker’s damn if you won a fucking music award. Stop abusing your deity with self-serving trivialization revolving around your oversized ego.

Here’s the thing: Many of my dear friends and a goodly number of kind strangers believe their prayers will change the course of my illness. I so, SO appreciate that another person on this cold planet cares enough about me to appeal to their God, and plead my case for lenience and a bit longer stay here. I love that I am so loved, and cannot imagine a greater treasure from my friends and well-wishers.

Were it possible that God(s) might listen, I respectfully and humbly ask people to direct those supernatural powers to something bigger than me. I mean, if the power of Thoughts and Prayers can actually change things, how much of a GIANT asshole would I have to be to ask any God to put me before the truly suffering in the world?

I mean – I appreciate the Thoughts and Prayers… But, I am going to die whether or not I’m cured. I would rather my life be shorter if suffering in the world would be lesser.

Don’t pray for me – ask your God to make Congress enact legislation to end our home-grown Gun Fetish that leads to the massacre of innocents and a staggering suicide rate.

Imagine a jumbo jet being blown up by terrorists every week, until the end of time – that’s our Murder rate. Now – imagine a stadium full of people the same size as the Las Vegas concert – 22,000 – and once a year all those people put a gun to their head and pulled the trigger. Wouldn’t you do ANYTHING to stop that concert? Wouldn’t we be working around the clock to crush the terrorists behind the plane attacks? What is the difference between it happening in a steady trickle or an angry gush? The people are STILL dead.

The God’s Honest truth here is that it’s not Thoughts and Prayers that will end this crisis, it will be us demanding action and forcing change. We’re not willing to put in the work to rid our society of this sickness, and we have some nerve demanding God do what we are perfectly capable of doing ourselves.

Pray all you want – but never confuse praying with actually doing something.

Oh – and Second Amendment Fetishists? I have two words for you Sons of Bitches:

Well Regulated

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me. C.S. Lewis

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Use It Or Lose It

***The following is a restored version of the original piece I wrote on this. The updated version is chronologically next, titled ‘Losing the First Amendment to Putin’s Trolls’*****

When did the First Amendment become a wedge issue and what’s the point of having it if you can’t exercise your rights freely?

The narrative has been successfully changed from NFL athletes taking a knee to protest racism to them hating America, the Flag and First Responders.

I am FLABBERGASTED – fucking flabbergasted – at people buying into the meme of football players making too much money to protest. This is a Fox News ‘politics of envy’ gambit. Where was their outrage at the overcompensated game show host who became president? Beyond that, WHY is it a problem for well compensated people – athletes or otherwise – to speak up for the oppressed?

The fact is: People who have succeeded have a moral responsibility to help those who are oppressed, and not pull the ladder up before they get their turn. It’s the same reason I donate to the food bank: Because I needed it once and I’m in the position to help, and feel morally obliged to put my hand out to lift up those I left behind.

What kind of horrible people would successful athletes be if their attitude was ‘Fuck you – I got mine, you get yours’? That’s EXACTLY why I hate the current iteration of the GOP, with their bootstraps and prosperity gospel.

This issue has Russian bots all over it. It reeks of the bullshit from the election. Did you think Trolltopia in Macedonia – the city of 10,000 hackers, trolls and spammers who do Putin’s bidding – was going to go away when Trump was putsched in?

America is literally fighting over our First Amendment rights! How can this be?

How can it be that so many people have been manipulated into saying folks have no right to have a political opinion because of the amount of money they have? How long until we don’t have ENOUGH money to have an opinion?

The other false narrative I’ve seen pushed is that the flag is more important than the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, itself. I’m sorry – What?

Soldiers don’t swear to defend the flag, FFS.

Oath of Military

This issue isn’t about the Flag – It’s about our inalienable First Amendment rights as Americans and our Constitution. The Flag is nothing more than a physical representation of the rules and instructions on how to operate the Republic, and that which we hold most dear.

In the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision of West Virginia V Barnette, Justice Robert Jackson wrote: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

The only thing we can do is speak up, speak out and protest. We’d all better start using our First Amendment rights before it’s just a ghost of the past that we daren’t even whisper about.

The First Amendment: You’d better use it before you lose it

 

 

Trump Zombies and Violence

Greg Gianforte’s election to Congress in Montana after assaulting a reporter has exposed the violent truth about Trumpers: They have decided they didn’t want to have to think critically and wanted a lawless bully to clear out a safe space for them using force.

45 would be NOTHING if not for his Cult followers. They aren’t misunderstood souls who have been led astray. No – these people have waited their whole lives for a stupider, meaner, more vindictive version of Reagan.

They fucking LOVE him and his scorched earth policy.

These were the people in school who stood behind the bully and egged him (or her) on. They often lacked the intestinal fortitude it took to be an honest-to-god bully, but could be counted on for malicious snickers and ostracizing as well as violence under the cover and protection of a group.. They were conferred power and status through their association with said Bully and flaunted it when the Bully was not around.

They are the tribe in Lord of the Flies that put Jack in charge and followed him into savagery.

They willfully and with malice choose to support a corollary of anarchy – it’s not that there are no rules, it’s that they are ignoring any that don’t suit their purpose of regaining a position of being the shitter and not the shittee. Oh, sure, they’re still getting shat upon in spades, but they’re okay with it if they can do a little shitting of their own.

The people who support him – the Public and Politicians – are all motivated by the same thing: The acquisition of Power

They are willing to allow 45’s destruction of the Constitution and looting of the Treasury if they can get a taste of the action.

Gianforte’s assholery didn’t spring up out of Zeus’s forehead. People *like* the tough talk and promises of cutting the safety net out from under other people – and they’re SURE it will never happen to them. Lest we attribute his victory to early voting, remember Gianforte raised $100K in the 12 hours after this hit the news cycle.

Whenever you’re tempted to reason with a Trumpologist remember that this is not an isolated incident. The Governor of Texas joked about shooting Journalists on Friday and it received a collective yawn. There are Press pens at 45’s events that are nothing more than modern day stockades. My god – POUTS assaulted the Prime Minister of Montenegro when he shoved him in the chest – and Trumpologists are *giddy* that he’s showing people who’s boss.

Assaults on and the arrest of Journalists are becoming all too common and not getting nearly enough coverage – by which I mean none at all on the Fox propaganda mill. 2 reporters in the last 10 days were arrested for asking politicians questions. Press and protesters at the Turkish Embassy were beaten by Erdogan’s goons and that goes by unprocessed in the never ending shit geyser.

Violence against political opponents and the press have become normalized and encouraged. It is only a matter of time before a member of the Press is murdered, and before this implied violence makes its way further than a murderous White Supremacist in Portland.

There is a serious mental illness problem in America. Its face may be Donald Trump, but its heart are Trumpers: The 2 in 5 adults who think violence is an appropriate response to questions or intellectual disagreements. Their brutality is vindicated by a man like Trump, and his “I’ve had ENOUGH of rules!!” behavior gives them permission to ignore facts and embrace their cruelty. The really frightening thing is they’re just getting warmed up.

 

The Barber and the Campfire Girl

camp-fire-girlThe first time I was skeeved on by a man I was 9 – he was the barber up at Laurel Canyon and Strathern, across from the 7-11.

I walked home alone from school once in a while. He would talk to me when I would walk by. One day he offered me a dollar to stay and talk with him for a while. I felt uneasy, but he was an adult, so I went inside and sat down in a chair. I could see into his back room and the walls plastered with hard core porn, there must have been hundreds of magazine pages.

Seeing the pictures made me scared and I got up to leave; as I did so the barber insisted on picking me up to see ‘how much I weighed’. I remember trying to maneuver away and him grabbing and lifting me, his hands across my non-existent breasts.

Just then a customer came in, and I remember the barber getting flustered and telling the confused customer that I was his niece as I made my escape. I was shaking so hard it was difficult to walk home. I said nothing to my mother, instinctively knowing I would get yelled at.

I NEVER – EVER – rode my bike past or walked past his shop again. I avoided that place like the plague. I would turn left at the light and walk down to Cantara (praying he wouldn’t see me at the only light we could use) or ride my bike behind the Corner Store, using their parking lot to avoid riding in front of his shop.

At 9 years old I learned that men could be predatory, and the barber made me feel unsafe in my own neighborhood.

Don’t tell me you’re sorry – speak up yourselves! Give voice to your story, or put a stop to harassment and assault whenever or wherever you see it. #ItsNotOkay #SexualHarassmentIsReal #NotOkay

 

This, That and Renewing Social Contracts

New Years Eve 2015

One thing about writing is that it forces you to look at things more deeply. What I’ve discovered over the last month is that it’s very easy to find negative things that people are willing to share. That limitless ability for the negative is, in fact, very limiting for a writer. Negativity begets negativity and it leaves little room for solutions.

It’s so easy to find unbelievably stupid things on Facebook or Twitter, and I don’t want to have to go looking for them anymore.

To put it another way: I’d rather stub my toe in surprise at the idiocy of some people’s vitriol rather than grab a hammer and smash my toes with it by looking for ugly things on purpose.

So, in the spirit of the New Year and new beginnings I’m tweaking the format and presentation of my blog.

I’m no longer limiting myself to the things I’m too polite to put on your wall. I’ll still do that, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a whole big wide world out there to be dissected, and I mean to get to it.

With a new direction comes a new name: This About That.

I appreciate anyone who’s made it this far, and hope you’ll indulge me as I tinker with the format, and try to get it to where I want this blog to be.

Enough, then, on the house keeping.

Let’s get on with this, shall we?

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New Years is always a time to take stock about things (no this isn’t going to be a listicle). I want to talk about Social Contracts and how important they are to civilized life.

What is a Social Contract? The short version is that it’s the moral and political obligations we, as citizens, have with each other and the state to form the society in which we live. It’s basically what makes us behave and what makes a society liveable. Some are laws, others are rules and manners.

I think the whole rules and manners portion of the Social Contract has been sorely tested in the last decade. Most people have become self-centered and egotistical in a way we couldn’t have imagined at the turn of the century. Those unpleasant traits make for unpleasant fellow citizens.

The problem is they don’t see themselves as fellow citizens because the whole world revolves around them. When you think it’s all about you, you excuse any kind of selfish behavior. Because that’s what bad behavior is – pure selfishness.

There are many different ways you can be selfish and break the Social Contract, and one of the biggest ways is being a bad neighbor. Screwing with the place where people live and are trying to enjoy their days off is inviting trouble.

If you live in a condo or an apartment then a bad neighbor is the one who blares their music or TV. They’re the ones who argue and slam doors. It sounds like they’re practicing Riverdance in clogs upstairs. They’re selfish and bludgeon you with the sounds of their life, and think nothing of it.

The suburbs have their issues, too. Take my neighbor, for instance. She did not mow her back yard all summer, and let the front yard go to weeds thigh high. We put up with it until August, when we finally called the city. She ignored the first notice completely. She got around to hitting some stuff in the front with a weed whacker after the second notice, but never raked it up. She never did another bit of yard work this year. It will come as no surprise that she has not shoveled her walk once this winter, leaving the sidewalk covered in ice that people have to walk over to get to the mailboxes.

What motivates her to be such a bad neighbor? She doesn’t work outside the home, so it’s not an issue of never being there to do it. So what’s the problem with just doing the bare minimum to keep it legal? She knows better, and bought a house in a nice middle class neighborhood and then came in and shitted up the place. She liked the way the neighborhood looked, but was just too selfish to keep her house up like the rest of us, and it affects our property values. She is not keeping up the Social Contract morally or legally.

I’ll tell you who else breaks the Social Contract in my neighborhood: The neighbor 2 blocks away who leaves their dog out all day long to bark and bark and bark. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live next door to that poor, tortured beast. Who does that to an animal they love? Who does that to their neighbors? A selfish person who doesn’t give 2 craps about the Social Contract, that’s who.

One of my pet peeves for Social Contracts is driving while texting or talking on your phone without a hands free device. How could you be so selfish? Even where it’s legal you should not be doing it because it’s dangerous. It is morally wrong to put the life of everyone around you at risk while you stare at a 4 inch screen or hold the phone to your ear unable to respond properly to an emergency situation. Yet, I know at least one person who reads this will do this very thing. Why? No respect for their fellow citizens or the Social Contract. The notion that you’re above it all.

You see it everywhere you look: People bring their dogs into the supermarket or pharmacy. I once saw a woman at Walgreens put her dog on the counter and it immediately sat down. She had no idea why I might be disgusted. She was not only clueless, she was absolutely offended at me and told me to mind my own business. As if it wasn’t my business that her dog’s ass was sitting where I was supposed to put my items to be rung up. Staggering selfishness.

If you’ve traveled by airplane anytime since 2001 you will have noticed how aggressively rude and the-world-revolves-around-me-selfish travelers have gotten. There’s a marvelous Instagram account devoted to pictures of passengers who simply can’t observe a modicum of decorum. It’s called Passenger Shaming. Check it out. It’s wonderfully awful, and shows people at their selfish worst.

Another way people behave selfishly is by angrily wearing their politics on their sleeve, and expecting yes-men agreement from all who read it. It seems the more bitterly divided we’ve become as a society the more the Social Contract becomes strained when it comes to partisanship and being polite. Personally, I’m sick of the unvarnished hatred that’s become the norm in this country. People think nothing of putting hurtful, hateful posts about opposing political views on their Facebook wall, knowing full well that many people who read it will be offended. They’re not doing it to change minds and hearts, they’re doing it to be hurtful. They’re violating the manners clause of the Social Contract, by selfishly expecting people to read their offensive rantings and put up with it silently.

The point is too many people are self-absorbed and have adopted the notion that the rules don’t apply to them. The question I have is this: Are you one of them? Are there small ways that you fudge the contract? Do you ignore inconvenient rules? If you do, take a minute reflect on what it means to society when you put yourself first at the expense of others. It encourages bad behavior in everyone.

If you do uphold the Social Contract I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So, at this time of the year – the time of resolutions and fresh beginnings – lets take the opportunity to renew our commitment to being a better member of society. Be the good example others need and know that you’re doing the right thing. Do it for yourself and because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because it makes the world a better place.

Have a great 2015.