Attempting to see the forest…

Attempting to see the forest…

Last weekend I attended a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Dinner. It’s an annual event held by congregations across the country, as a chance to get to know people from the congregation and to share entertainment, conversation and good food.

During the conversation at dinner, the subject of race came up. The conversation drifted to discussing how we can get past the foundations of race without sounding racist which put me in mind of the documentary Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. The DVD is available through PBS, but some enterprising YouTuber put the show up in a series of episodes with Spanish subtitles.

If you haven’t watched this documentary, stop reading right now and go watch it. Seriously. I’ll wait.

Done? Good.

Welcome back.

For me, the theories and research became a game-changer for my views not just on race but on cultural differences. So I surprised myself by saying that while we can say there’s no differences genetically between us white folks, and our African, Asian, Arab and European brethren, there’s a danger in carrying the conversation too far, because it’s easy to conflate racial stereotyping and cultural choice and with the myth of gender choice.

We don’t choose the color of our skin, the shape of our eyes, who we find attractive or how our bodies function. Moreover, our brains are designed to sort everything we encounter into select boxes. Our cultural training gives us the context for deciding what to do with those boxes once we’ve done the sorting.

But there’s a trap, and until I read these articles today, I didn’t have a way to articulate what that trap was because I am so fundamentally American in my belief structure that I can’t see the forest for the trees, or the rest of the world for my own borders. I suspect I’m not alone.

We Aren’t the World: Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics—and hoping to change the way social scientists think about human behavior and culture.

I have had more than a passing interest in anthropology over the course of my life.  In fact, before I became a theatre major, I was going to be an anthropology major. I’m drawn to the research and understanding of human behavior and how it affects societies.

Coming from an areligious background, I find it more than a little strange to be committed to attending services weekly, and more than a little strange when I visit services in other religions, because I have no tools to work with, no existing framework on which to hang my belief system. It is nearly impossible for me to attend any service, UU or otherwise, without observing the ritual from the outside. UU congregations are by far the most welcoming because there is an overriding desire to incorporate the principles by which we live, which transcend virtually all other religions.

From the Unitarian Universalist Association’s web page (http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml), this is a summary of the UU Principles:

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

There is a social aspect to UU faith that attracts me, coupled with a completely different way of worshiping that includes and encourages laughter, discussion, meditation, two-way communication and sharing in ways I haven’t found with other religious groups except, perhaps, the Quakers.

But that’s not all.

Shortly after encountering the first article, I saw this one.

False beliefs persist, even after instant online corrections

When I read these two admittedly scholarly research papers, it was easy for me to find them connected, because they both address our perceptions of reality based on empirical evidence we seldom collect outside our own safe spheres of reference.

In other words, they both tell us we can’t see the forest for the trees.

I have made a career of putting information out and correcting inaccurate information when I’ve found evidence that suggests the contrary, but in the end, we can never truly know reality if we don’t have the truth as it exists, not as we perceive it. It is impossible for us to view information without the filters we have built by being part of our society. Changing those filters takes work. There are too many times when people view that work as unnecessary, even bothersome.

Witness, for example, Richard Nixon’s fall.

Yeah, okay. I’m dating myself. If you’re not of a certain age, you won’t have the tools you need to understand where I’m headed with this, but bear with me for a moment.

Until David Frost caught Nixon on tape saying he, as President, was above the law, there was still a question about whether he had done anything illegal. Gerald Ford’s pardon was insufficient to take away the stain of the acts which forced Nixon to resign. To this day we will never truly know what happened and how it came to be because a good deal of the motive behind Nixon’s activities were buried with him.

Nixon’s legacy, that we can never truly trust the elected officials in charge of our country, persists to this day in the form of Birthers who would rather discuss President Obama’s birth certificate and legitimate claim to the Presidency than look at the country as a whole and try to find a way to fix the problems we have now, thanks to more lies from corporate entities that are more concerned with the bottom line and CEO salaries than with the lives of the people they serve.

We got here because we believe our way is the right way to live. We support those who have their own best interests in mind because they have told us to believe they are doing the things they do for us.

But what if we’re wrong? What if they’ve lied?

The French Revolution came about because the people got sick of starving to death and took it on themselves to reduce the long-standing ruling class to severed heads. The present-day American aristocracy has done its level best to deflect violence away from the true source of trouble, incarcerating anyone who seems interested in taking them down. Our government is no longer of, by and for the People, unless those people are the rich ruling class. The rest of us are here to make sure the American Aristocracy maintains their hold on the upper class.

We are almost 50 years away from landing our people, Americans, on the moon. We are fighting to keep North Korea and Iran from gaining the bomb because we have no control over their activities. We know our borders are insecure and we have done our best to lock them down, only to reduce our country to panic-stricken sheep who believe everything our politicians say, because they must be right.

Our children are starving automatons designed to follow the herd, not to innovate or be creative. And if they don’t tow the religious line, they are also incarcerated, if they don’t fall prey to random shooting violence, drugs or worse.

We spend our time watching fairy tales on TV, or modern-day gladiators in an electronic Colosseum. In the end, whatever we do will be too little too late.

And all because we think we know what’s best for the rest of the world. Because we are Americans.

When the revolution comes, it won’t be televised. I just wonder when it’s going to start.

The end of the beginning…

The end of the beginning…

This week I did something I haven’t done since 1987. I attended classes in college.

There’s a long, relatively ugly story about why it took so long for me to go back, stemming from experiences with failure to meet expectations, ill-defined goals, and misunderstanding bureaucracy that might see the light of day here someday, but not now.

Trying to tie up loose ends so that I could be sure to have enough brain-space to focus on the two classes, I’ve devoted a bunch of time to filing (or round filing) an enormous amount of clutter around the house. There’s other clutter in my head that will take more than just opening a box, sifting its contents and pitching out the stuff I don’t need. Too much, really, to sum up here, and mostly trivial at that.

The highlights taking up brain space now include:

1. The ongoing gun ownership/regulation/insurance debate.

2. My petition to the White House: Repeal the USA Patriot Act in its entirety, which garnered enough signatures to go public but is now languishing in sophomore territory as the days tick down. 25,000 signatures before Feb. 7 seems unobtainable at this point. [The petition’s gone now; so sorry.]

3.  A long-term video sharing project; and,

4. Class reading – Western Civilization to Modern Times and 2-D Basic Design (Art 101).

That, plus my 20-hour job and the day-to-day chores (cooking, laundry, bill-paying and sleep, in pretty much that order), make up the majority of this week’s activities.

Obviously, something had to give, and this blog was something. I intend to keep at it, though, because the things I post are important to me, and ought to be important to you, whether or not you like what I have to say about them. I don’t plan to abandon this ongoing project now that I’ve started it.

Taking Western Civ this semester seems counterproductive if my goal for school is to formalize my web design and multimedia experience, so I can make a full-time job materialize. You’d be right, except that I am finding out all sorts of things I missed when I took history classes in the past. I’m seeking connections and reflecting on them here. What better way to understand those connections than to study them, especially as they relate to 1 and 2 above.

The reading is dense, to be sure. It’s giving me the opportunity to exercise my brain, which I think needs to happen. And I’m getting out of the house and out of the office. Change should, in theory, be good for me. Going to school means I can also get sharp about negotiating for my benefits.

So if you miss me, let me know.

And now a couple of words about 1., because I can’t resist the opportunity. Going to be brief, because I need to get ready for class, but also needs to be said.

WTF, NRA?

Seriously?!?

We all need to get a grip, and not on objects in our holsters. The Wild West was mostly myth, and a brief one at that. We don’t live in Tombstone, AZ, and even if we did, it’s mostly a tourist trap today. The sooner we stop romanticizing war, spies, gunslingers and violence in general, the better we will be at seeing people at either end of the gun.

The NRA represents the economic interests of gun manufacturers. They don’t give a flying you-know-what about you, your home or your family. They just want you to keep their clients in business and they will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens. Corporate Greed, meet the 98%.

Just say NO!

Stuck at 82…

Stuck at 82…

In the beginning of this month, I decided it was time to create my own White House petition, to get rid of the Patriot Act. I’m tired of listening to all the howling generated by people who think drone attacks are bad, that the President has too much power and that our privacy has been invaded too often.

You’d think it would be a piece of cake. Post the petition, get thousands of signatures, and finally the White House has to respond.

You’d be wrong.

There is a 150-signature minimum requirement for getting the petition turned on for the public. Before that minimum, you have to know where to look. Here’s the URL: http://wh.gov/P9VH [The link is dead because Trump’s administration doesn’t believe in petitions.]

So I get people who sign the petition but don’t share the link, or I get people who share the link but don’t sign the petition.

Before Facebook broke their newsfeed, it was possible for folks to see things posted. Now, unless you can finesse the system by using lists, your posts are naturally restricted to a very small percentage of the actual number of people on your friends list.

This restriction isn’t just for friends, either. It’s for pages and groups, too.

And I have to be careful – the folks most likely to sign are the ones I know through non-profits, but I can’t use the pages to post about the petition because it’s letterbombing (and I won’t participate in that), and potentially risky for the non-profit.

I also can’t tag friends because I will never know whether the tag will be welcome or not. Been trying, got spanked once, won’t do it again.

So, how the heck am I supposed to get the remaining 68 signatures so people can see it live on the site and vote?

It scares me to death to think of the petitions for all sorts of racist/recessionist crap that got to be live. They met their minimums easily. But this, rescinding a flawed law, gets nothing.

Sad.

If you haven’t already signed, please do. If you have, thanks. Please pass the link on. If you won’t sign, at least pass the link on.

This is a public post. No restrictions here. Share freely.

Thanks.

Formal statements mean a lot more with names attached…

Formal statements mean a lot more with names attached…

In discussing several topics over the last couple of weeks, having to do with gun control, NDAA and privacy, it occurred to me today that I’ve finally got something worth doing on the White House petition site.

I’ve said repeatedly over the years since President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law that it was badly done, giving rise to all sorts of invasive policies and activities in the name of National Security. So today I put my money where my mouth is.

Repeal the USA Patriot Act [a dead Petition thanks to Trump] in its entirety.

Why?

DownsizeDC.org explains: 4 Reasons to Repeal the Patriot Act

For extra bonus points, reread the Bill of Rights, so you have a clear understanding of why I included the Amendments I did. These aren’t just a good idea. They’re the law. There are any number of ways in which the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional. Do your part and spread the word. You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on…

We need 150 signatures before the Petition will appear to the public, and that’s not as easy as it once was, with Facebook’s broken user interface.

And please share. The more people you tell about the petition, the faster the rest of the public will see it.

 

Meanwhile, I’m heading back to school at the end of this month, taking two classes: Two-Dimensional Design and Western Civilization to Modern Times. Seems to be the perfect time to make my research skills pay off.

Expect more from me on these subject as time goes on.

10 years ago Osama Bin Laden ruined my life…

10 years ago Osama Bin Laden ruined my life…

Am I glad he got what was coming to him? You bet. That doesn’t make this announcement or event any less bittersweet.

I’m only a degree away from people who lost loved ones at the Pentagon and a couple away from those who were lost in NY. My heart goes out to the untold numbers of people who have been caught in between our gun sights and the leadership of this vile, self-serving organization.

There are no winners here, and the war isn’t over, but perhaps we can take a step back from the abyss, and perhaps the current situation can cool down just a bit, knowing that with persistence we will still get the job done.

I am sorry it took so long. And sad.

Nine Years Ago…

Nine Years Ago…

Nine years ago I was reading email when the reports started coming in. “Did you hear?

Nine years ago I got a phone call from my husband, saying “I’m all right.

Nine years ago I was playing with my baby in the bedroom, watching the news and talking with my aunt to check and see whether my cousin and uncle were okay, when I watched the second tower fall.

Nine years ago I sat, glued to CNN, holding my baby in my lap, in shock as the news replayed the images of people jumping out of the buildings before they fell. Watching as the news replayed the brief clip of a passenger jet hitting the second tower. Replayed the fall of the second tower. All day.

Nine years ago I watched men unfurl the flag over the Pentagon as we stopped to assess the damage.

Nine years ago I heard about the plane that went down in Pennsylvania.

Nine years ago I created an image and put it up on my personal web site.

Nine years ago, in just a few short hours, my life changed forever.

I was one of the lucky ones. I knew people who knew people. One degree away, many times.

My children will never know a time before the towers fell.

My children will never know the parents they could have known.

My children will never understand the changes that swept our country that day.

We lost more than people, more than buildings, more than money or livelihoods or offices.

The changes were more than just the ceasing of flights for a week.

We are becoming.

We could not have imagined the atrocities we have committed against other human beings but we have justified these acts in the names of those who died that day.

We could not have imagined a war on terror, but we have justified this war in the names of those who died that day.

We could not have imagined the public burning of a holy book, even though some of those people lived by that book, but we have justified the burning in the names of those who died that day.

We could not have imagined the security cameras or the patting down or the microchips or the full body scans or the daily invasions of privacy, but we have justified it all in the names of those who died that day.

We are racing toward our own destruction as the rich refuse to understand our peril and hunker down with their wealth.

We are hurtling toward our own destruction as the fundamentalist Christian faiths forget our collective roots, our history.

We are floating toward our own destruction on the wings of hate and discord.

We are flying toward an inevitable conclusion that one hundred years from now we will not be what we were before.

Unless…

We recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
We treat every person with justice, equity and compassion.
We accept one another for what we are, without caveats or excuses.
We allow a free and responsible search for truth and meaning for everyone.
We recognize and preserve the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process everywhere.
We find a way to live in a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
We respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Without these truths we can never establish justice,
Insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare
Or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Our people are waiting.

What will we do to remember?

[Edited because while I can write up a storm, I can’t add.]

Here’s a new thing I can definitely get behind…

Here’s a new thing I can definitely get behind…

Last night as I went to bed, I watched friends respond with horror to the Supreme Court ruling, giving corporations (non-human entities) the right to free speech. While I could go on at length about the ludicrous concept that a corporation can have an opinion about ANYTHING (because it’s not the corporation but the people who run it who have the right to free speech), I think the following is DEAD on.

I would support such an amendment to the constitution.

And, while we’re at it, I can foresee how this court will rule when the question of marriage between same sex individuals comes before them. If they can decide a non-living entity is the same as a person, they can decide a living person is a non-entity. I fear for my human friends.

It’s time to start waking up and smelling the coffee. This is part of G.W. Bush’s legacy.

Remember what I said about Avatar? The mess they created was at the hands of a CORPORATION, in search of the almighty dollar. Sure, it’s easy to make fun of the movie, but the message was loud and clear to me. This is just plain wrong.

On this day….**

On this day….**

CNN: Solemn tributes mark 9/11’s fifth anniversary*

The Washington Post: NINE LIVES, 10 YEARS LATER* (Original article updated)

Snopes – Rumors of War: https://www.snopes.com/?s=war

The American Civil Liberties Union: http://www.aclu.org/

and finally

The League of Women Voters: Patriot Act

Today is a somber reminder that people can and do feel free to abuse the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of others.

If you’re concerned about your own personal life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, don’t forget that tomorrow is the Maryland State Primary, and that on November 7 we all, as Americans over the age of 18, have not just the right but the responsibility to vote and direct our leaders.

If you haven’t registered to vote, please do. You still have time to vote in the main election. If you have, many thanks!

The only way we are going to change our leadership is if we tip the balance in the senate and house.

Car, rear view (circa 2006)
Car, rear view (circa 2006)

* Edited because I realized the main page is going to change, but the point is September 11th stories.

** I REFUSE to use the words “Patriots’ Day” – patriots know what they’re fighting for, and make a conscious decision to lose their lives. Characterizing victims like this implies choice.

Another petition to sign…

Another petition to sign…

Doing what I can to pass on the word…

“Urgent – from the ACLU about the Patriot Act”

American Civil Liberties Union

Congress to vote on the Patriot Act next week
*********************************

Dear Friend,

Last week, nearly 50,000 people signed our petition calling on Congress to reform the Patriot Act.

We have just learned that, in a coordinated plan to quickly reauthorize the Patriot Act, Congress will vote next week on a bill to make the expiring parts of the act permanent, including those that give the government too much unchecked access to our medical, library, financial and other personal records.

If we don’t show our strength now, Congress will pass the Patriot Act reauthorization without the reforms we need to keep us safe and free.

Please sign our petition today, telling Congress it’s time to reform the Patriot Act.

The Bush Administration and some leaders in Congress are determined to make these powers permanent, and are even pressing for further expansions to this assault on our fundamental freedoms.

How do you feel about the government having easy access to your personal records? Information about the books you buy and borrow.  Access to your private medical and tax records. “Sneak and peek” warrants that allow searches without telling you until well after the fact.  Are you okay with this?

These are law enforcement powers granted in the flawed provisions of the Patriot Act, and Congress is preparing to vote to extend and broaden these dangerous powers and undermine our Constitution by making them permanent.

If you don’t think this is acceptable, join with thousands of others and let Congress know today.  Sign the petition.

Remind our leaders that last week’s horrifying bombings in London should not short-circuit a real debate over whether the Patriot Act’s powers actually and materially enhance our security, and whether the civil liberties of ordinary Americans are adequately protected, the test suggested by the bipartisan 9-11 Commission.

Please add your name to the petition, and we will deliver it to Congress as this crucial debate over our freedoms unfolds.

We already have nearly 50,000 signatures.  You can help us reach 100,000 by Friday so that we can ensure that Congress protects our most fundamental liberties.  After you’ve signed the petition, ask your friends to sign it, too.

Thank you for helping to keep America safe and free.

Sincerely,

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director, ACLU

[Petition links are all dead, but the ACLU is alive and well, right here: https://action.aclu.org/]

Rant warning!!! And for the record, while I’m thinking about it…

Rant warning!!! And for the record, while I’m thinking about it…

You’ll rarely find a more patriotic individual that me. I excelled in civic studies throughout high school, spent time in the Model UN* and worked for Jimmy Carter before I could vote. But that doesn’t mean I have to swallow every last thing our current political administrators want me to swallow in the name of their interpretations of what’s right.

Unless or until it’s proven to me that changes to our existing laws are being enacted for the actual good of everyone, and not just for the conservative right wing thugs who have a grip on this country right now, I will NOT agree to allow those changes to occur. And they have a long way to go before I’ll be convinced otherwise.

I’m ranting about this right stuff now because we aren’t all that far away from the start of the next Presidential campaign. Our lame duck here would like nothing better than to use recent events to catapult his brother to the White House, ensuring another possible eight years of divisiveness, theocracy and conservatism. King George, Emperor George, Saint George W. – yeah, I do think that way.

I am still galled by the methods his father used to get us into the conflict with Iraq the first time (and no, I haven’t forgotten). I am deeply concerned his brother will attempt to win the presidency in two and a half short years, thus continuing this appalling, dynastic legacy. [Edit: I realized this afternoon that I failed to clarify that my issue is with the Iran/Contra scandal and Senior’s deep involvement with it. I’ve commented elsewhere to include links on the topic. Sorry for the confusion…]

I am trying to do what I can to help make people hear the truth.

If you don’t like what I have to say, there are other places you can go to read, but this here is MY turf, and I’ll say whatever I like, because I still have the right and privilege to do so (at least, until our right-wing, wrong-dealing administration finds a way to shut that down too, in the name of Patriotism). [Edit: and yes, I do mean the USA Patriot Act.]

I am defending our Constitutional rights, and the democracy for which so many people lost their lives almost 230 years ago.

And you are…?

*And did I mention…Iraq was the last country I represented for the Model United Nations, back in 1981, when we were still friends with them. I’ve also represented Ireland, Jamaica, and at least one other.

Theme: Elation by Kaira.