Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Enlightened Self Interest

Someone recently posted in regard to our need to realize that we need each other. Okay, lots of people have posted in that vein recently. It's needed. One such voice that came to my attention is Hildy Gottlieb at (not surprisingly) http://hildygottlieb.com. In one of her posts, she asked the questions: "SO… is a precondition to our living well together that it be more profitable to bring us together than divide us? And if so, what might it look like if that were the case? What do you think?" Ah, someone not only encouraging others to think, but assuming that they already have. I like that.

There were some great replies, among them, mine: "It is imperative that we realize how much more the whole is than its separate parts. Of course, it’s more profitable to all of us to bring us together: If you are sick with a vile disease and can’t get treatment, it is that much more likely that I can catch your disease. My own self interest demands compassion to heal you."

This is pretty much my big, fat disconnect with the greed I see rampant today. Glen Beck is not immune from cholera by virtue of his paycheck and his health insurance policy. Insurance and money don't prevent bad things from happening to you. They only help you pay for the consequences of something bad happening to you - mitigating, perhaps (and I heavily emphasize the perhaps), the dire consequences of catastrophe. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes don't seem to give a fat rat's ass how much money you have - well, maybe not tornadoes - they really do seem to hit the trailer parks and small churches with inordinate abandon. Hurricanes, too.

The hard, plain fact remains that it is in my own self interest to want the prosperity of everyone. If you can't take care of you, then I will have to take care of you, one way or another. If your children aren't educated and can't work, then I have no hope of surviving my old age on social security because no one will be paying into it. If no one is building nice houses, how can I ever have a nice home? If you can be thrown in prison for no good reason, then I can be thrown in prison for no good reason. If you aren't free, how can I hope to stay free? If there are people allowed to beat you, how can I be sure they won't turn on me? If you are allowed to be financially devastated, how can I hope to avoid the same?

In spite of the loud sirens of many a mega church today, God does not reward the good with cash. God's favorites, historically, have not been the rich or powerful. It's a hard sell, I know, but there really is more to life than money. There's more to life than power. The next time you hear someone say, it's not personal, it's only business - take a chance. Correct that the person. It's not good business to harm others. It's really personal.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Majority Rule

Just because there are more stupid people than smart people doesn't make the stupid people right. This is where majority rule becomes difficult for me. Not that I'm offering an alternative. Democracy so far beats out all other forms of government I've seen. I'm all for it. But, I think we did it better once upon a time.

For instance, I'm not the smartest person in the world. This might come as a surprise to most of you. Not the fact, so much as the fact that I know it and admit it. There it is. I know it. I'm up there. As smart goes, I'm above average. I also know how to think. I know principles of logic and reason. I have a lot of experience with what has and has not worked in my life.

We are at a place in space and time where there are people who do not know that they are not really smart. I'm not sure why this is so. It may have something to do with building self esteem in children by not allowing them to know and understand their own personal limitations. For example, George Bush never realized that being a C student disqualified him from being a really successful president of a free nation. Apparently, being a C student also prevents him from understanding that he wasn't a really successful president of a free nation. Pity that.

I wasn't an A student. I was a sometimes B, sometimes C and sometimes D student. I suppose it did average out to a C. So, I never tried to be the president of a free nation, or any other nation for that matter. I'm pretty committed to that. Others will be better at it that I will be. I accept that.

We are leading up to another election. This is a time in our lives and history that I really dislike. People get mean and idiots spout garbage out the whazoo. It makes my head spin and my ears hurt. The hard part is when really otherwise objectively smart people prey on the inadequacies of the really not so smart or ill informed people.

Then there's Newt Gingreach. By all accounts, Newt was better than a C student. As my elementary school English teacher used to say "Rules were made to be broken." As my law school professor used to say "This is the exception that proves the rule, a distinction without difference, that subjugates the inevitability of the unknown dispositive ubiquities." Which only goes to show, you can be a law school professor, or a history professor, and still be a fucking idiot.

Newt Gingrich is one such idiot. Here's my favorite Newt quote: "If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they
get infections and they don't have upper body strength. I mean, some do, but they're relatively rare. On the other hand, men are basically little piglets, you drop them in the ditch,
they roll around in it, doesn't matter, you know. These things are very real. On the other hand, if combat means being on an Aegis-class cruiser managing the computer controls for twelve
ships and their rockets, a female may be again dramatically better than a male who gets very, very frustrated sitting in a chair all the time because males are biologically driven to
go out and hunt giraffes." My second favorite New quote is about his first wife: "She isn't young enough or pretty enough to be the President's wife."

He pretends to be a nice guy, but would a nice guy have his not young enough, not pretty enough wife served with divorce papers (the first she ever heard about it) while she was being wheeled out of surgery from a mastectomy (for breast cancer) into the recovery room? No. That's not a nice guy. That's not even low life dirt bag neanderthal.

He's threatening to run for President. Remember this in the future if you, dear reader, is even remotely a chance you might for a guy name Newt - which means he's either named after a salamander or is someone who has been separated from his family jewels. Either way, he still stands for the abiding rule: Just because there are more stupid people than there are smart people, doesn't mean the the stupid people are right.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


It was our Senior Class Project to make this day a national holiday. That was in 1972. I really don't know if our class did that much in that regard, and doubt we did, since we haven't yet even agreed on one single solitary reunion (none has been held ever). One person did. Yoland King was in my class - Henry Grady High School class of 1972. We called her Yoki.

I have a blog from last year you might want to read for background. Please do so before you get impressed that I knew Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King, Jr. Because I didn't know those people. I knew Yoki's momma and Yoki's daddy. They are two entirely different people.

Coretta Scott King would never give another human being a look that could fry ice in half a millisecond. Yoki's momma could, would and did. I'm not the only one to be the recipient of that look. You know who you are. You are a better person for it. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't sit on the floor and play games with the little kids. Or tell stories on the porch to the older kids to teach them some small enormous lesson in living. Yoki's daddy did. And you know who you are, too.

There are people who make a difference in our lives and in our world, who touch one person, and who touch millions. Sometimes they're the same person. Sometimes not. There's a Jewish proverb that if you save one person's life, you save all the generations of lives that person touches. It's a good proverb. If you touch one life, if you reach out and help one person, you reach out and help all people. You don't have to be Coretta. You don't have to be Martin. You just have to be somebody who tries.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pot Party

We've got the Tea Party. And the Tea Party Princess (aka Warrior Princess, aka Jesus Bitch aka Sarah Palin). I want to be a princess. So, since the coffee party and the cocktail party have already been taken by other cutesy wannabe poli voices of the future, I'm snagging the Pot Party while it's still available (and if it isn't, then too bad, I'm committed now). Well, actually, Willie Nelson and Mother Jones have advocated for a Pot Party. I'm just answering the call (a little late, a little slow, but hey, dude, it's the Pot Party).

We advocate (phrases like 'stand for' should be avoided as we are usually more likely sitting on the couch) the legalization of marijuana and the adoption of all behaviors relative thereto. This will require members to adopt certain lifestyle choices:

1. Dude. This leads to gender equality. Everybody is called Dude. It's not gender specific anymore either. Girls call other girls Dude now. I learned this hanging out with my nephew and his friends one weekend. His friend's girl friend kept calling me Dude (as in Dude, you're old). I wasn't sure who she talking to at first, but it became blatantly apparent when everybody else left to get beer and I was the only other person there.

2. Sharing. Potheads share. They pass the joint (marijuana cigarette) around so everybody can have some. This is especially important now that Obama has called for civility. Republicans totally bogart (horde, not share) everything. There's less agreement about whether or not Potheads also share potato chips and Peanut M&Ms, but I think they do if you remind them (hey, Dude, don't bogart the food).

3. It's the Economy, Dude. You don't have to call anybody stupid anymore - hence, the civility thing mentioned earlier. With Pot legal, there will be all that tax money coming in to pay for education and health care and new cars for all the official designated drivers. Employment will go way up, just in support industries (taxi cabs, caterers, growers, pickers, health care workers).

4. Less government spending. 858,000 people were arrested for pot in 2009. That's a lot of money we're spending to keep track of all those stoners in prisons and probation. Legalize it and those law enforcement officers can do things like enforce real laws for a change.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mental Health

My sister was 16 the first time I remember her going really over the edge. She didn't get out of bed for days and when she spoke, she demanded I make the person with the bells stop walking outside our (2nd floor) bedroom window. It was the 60s. I figured she was on something. We tried to hide it from our parents. She just really never came down.

She would go years without obvious bouts with whatever the diagnosis code was. Then, it just got worse. Alcohol didn't help and she could drink her weight, day in and day out, straight up, no chaser. She finally showed up on my doorstep (naked) with no where to go. I took her in. She's my sister. My other sister and mother were pretty pissed off and sick and tired of her shit, so I guessed it was my turn. I could do it. I'd find her help. yeah, right.

She didn't want therapy. She didn't like medication. She didn't like being schizophrenic. She wanted to be bipolar with psychotic episodes. Fine. Can we just call it whatever she likes and medicate however we can? The third time she totally pissed of a psychiatrist who started screaming angrily at me that my sister was 'JUST FUCKING CRAZY' I pretty much lost it. As if that fact absolved him of responsibility to help, to medicate, to be compassionate, to not blame her or me for her genetic brain chemistry. How did fault help? Even if we could point a finger and say "Yes, this did it", it still doesn't make "it" disappear.

She gave up. I didn't. If she didn't want therapy, if she wasn't crazy, then surely to God I was. I got therapy. I learned a lot. I was crazy. I grew up. I carried her when I could and when she became combative, I put her in the local mental health care unit for 3-14 days or however long I could convince them to keep her so I could get some sleep and peace and quiet. Then she would be let out, she would find a bottle, she would crawl into it and the cycle continued. Until I left.

She ain't heavy, she's my sister and I can carry her so long as she isn't fighting and kicking and biting and screaming every fucking inch of the way. Then I can't. I tried. Maybe she tried too. Maybe she gave up too. I did. It just reached the point where she was going to drag me down with her and I just wasn't going to go there. She did find some other help. She did straighten it out a little and for a while, but one medication would work for a few months and then it wouldn't and she was in no way able to figure that out. Eventually, a quart of alcohol a day took its toll and she is gone now.

Our mental health resources have improved dramatically in the twenty years that this went on. I would have a lot more resources now than I had then. She would no doubt have social security and back up and a safe place to live where she could have freedom and supervision. I know now what I would do differently. But absent patient, kind, compassionate people willing to take her mean blasts of shit repeatedly, she would get nowhere. I'm not so sure we have enough people who understand that about mental ill health. Mean is often just sick.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Palin Killed Them All (or was it AC/DC?)

By all accounts, Madge Oberholtzer committed suicide. She used her own hand to end her own life. D.C. Stephenson was the head of the KKK in Indiana in the twenties. Madge was an advocate for literacy. D.C. kidnapped her, forced her full of liquor, raped her and tortured her - she was so covered in bite marks that one witness said she appeared to have been chewed by a cannibal. Later, after she was freed, she never did recover emotionally from her injuries and ended her own life. Nonetheless, there is a very famous case supporting the conviction of D. C. Stephenson for murdering her - just as surely as if he had put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. He didn't, but he killed her all the same.

I realize that case is way more extreme than the recent events in Arizona. Palin didn't literally bite anybody. Beck hasn't been kidnapping or raping anyone. Nonetheless, they have been really, really, really mean and snarky. Blood libel? Really? Come on, Sarah, that is really reaching. I know you didn't kidnap anybody and you didn't personally incite that kid to start shooting, but, you did incite shooting. Rush absolutely incited shooting. Rush's outright contempt for anyone who disagrees with him is chilling. To call his condemnation of his enemies cruel is a compliment and an understatement. Hell, Dick Cheney shot his friends in the face and accepted apologies from the friend for being in the way.

All of this discussion only highlights that there is a mood in this country and it isn't good. Those I hear on the right have one line and only one line and it is regurgitated perpetually over and over until I literally want to bash in their heads just to prove there are no brains in there. I get angry. It's not just that the statements are stupid and irrational. It's also that I fail to see all these people thinking for themselves. Any rational mind must conclude that all this snarky mean references to shooting and death lead troubled irrational people to do irrational things. It's frustrating. And I'm sure they feel exactly the same way about me.

The only difference between me and those with whom I disagree is that I walk away. I'm always the one to walk away. I'm not the only one to get angry, either. The vehemence is mutual. I unfriend you when I get so pissed off at your stupidity that I can't see my own reason anymore. Before I do that, I really do try to see some commonality, so basis of humanity and compassion. I just see anger and irrationality. So, I walk.

But I don't use guns. I don't use gun analogies. I don't advocate using guns. I don't hunt. I don't kill. I don't even spank my dog. I try, try, try to surround myself with beauty, compassion and kindness. I try to pass on laughter. But I look around at what's on TV and what's on radio and what's going around is a lot of immature, selfish, self-centered stupidity where the right BLAMES the left and the left BLAMES the right and the stupid BLAMES the smart and the smart shake their heads, crack a joke and go on trying to earn a decent living and live a decent life against all odds. And they really are odd.

The sad part is that I really do know the answer to this problem: Be nice. Hold hands when you cross the street. Share. Look out for one another. Get a good education. Work at something you love. Power and control are illusions. Love is real.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


People were shot today. A 9 year old boy and a federal judge went to heaven together, much to their own chagrin, I'm sure. I'm glad someone older and wiser was there with the boy, but that is only daunted my deep sorrow that either and both are now gone. Nothing will ever really explain why it happened. I'm sure the shooter had his reasons - a life of marginalization, recent economic dispair and disparity, misplaced righteousness, no friend to say "whoa, dude, don't". The facts will all come out and are still being sifted, but last I heard, six were dead. Many more were wounded.

Fifteen headless bodies were discovered in Mexico. Hundreds of red wing black birds fell dead from the sky in Arkansas and some number of other birds in Italy. The North Pole strayed so far that an airport runway had to be re-calibrated. After 50 years of war and revolution, southern Sudanese may vote for independence. But can they really?

Can we really be independent? If so, is that a good thing. In the case of the southern Sudanese it may well be the preferred 'state' of affairs, but as people, we need each other. That 9 year old in Arizona may have been destined to grow up and solve all manner of human problems. The judge might have achieved wisdom on par with Solomon. Red wing black birds brink joy and song - one may have eaten the mosquito that will now bite another human who will become ill.

Many people are angry - the ones on the right are angry at the left who are angry back at the right. I've been that angry. I've joked inappropriately that I had someone in my sights, as she did about Gabriel Giffords. But, she is not responsible for this, however glib and blithe she is at dismissing her opponents as unworthy heathen in God's judgment and hers. Feel free to dislike her, but hate is too strong - she doesn't need your love bent backwards on itself. She needs a good education and awareness that she is not alone, that she is no different than Gabriel Giffords. There but for the grace of God goes she. And we.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Screw Gratitude

I tried - died in the wooly snarkette that I am. I did. And don't think I'm not grateful because I really am. On the other hand (and there's always the other hand), I have 'struggled' as an artist for decades to write that book. I have started. I have finished. I have not yet completed my tome. I've painted masterpieces, written poetry and music, tap danced (badly), but I have not completed a novel. I've done law school, litigated civil and criminal trials, performed stunning closing arguments (really, stunning, breath taking, tear jerking), and have left it all behind to be a hippie in the mountains. I have not written a book.

Snookie has. Snookie wrote a fucking book. Snookie. Did she even GO to high school? Okay, I didn't either, so that's not really fair, but I did go to college and law school which makes me infinitely better educated and talented and all kinds of things superior to a short fat jersey girl. She's a yankee for crying out loud. I am fair, delicate (steel) flower of the glorious south! I have done it all - all things except written a book and all things but having a written a book published by Simon & Schuster. Oh, and a tv show. Probably a movie deal coming up.

You can rebut my self flagellation with the fact (?) that the book probably sucks big green donkey dongs. Reviews tend to agree with that assessments. But reviews have been, historically, cruel to even great literature. Will it sell? Do I care? I am hell bent in the throws of a new year snookie will NOT be better than me this year kind of resolution. I don't know what I have to do to be better than Snookie this year (breath? think? anything?) but I'm determined that even if I have no class, no talent, no brains, no anything, I will at least at the end of this year have a novel finished, completed, written, done, edited and ready for any good publisher to send out the rushes. No short fat yankee bitch is gonna outdo me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year

I resolved to be openly grateful this year. I've also resolved to give back. Or forward. Either way. While I've been given much by many, it's still been a long time since I felt anything that remotely resembled abundance. I don't own a home, have a reliable income, or a 401K or much of a savings account. I also don't have debt, credit cards, unexpected home repairs (plumbing, heating, AC, etc., etc. ad nauseum). I have a car, tires, insurance, AAA, but God help me if anything breaks. God always does.

The amazing thing to me is that friends come up with the idea that they need some manner of work done that I can exactly do at just the very moment I need the work. Last month, when work kept popping up, even though money was regularly coming in, the work kept postponing until later. I was worried that January would be slow, but those old December jobs are rearing their pretty little heads again.

It's this all too reliable synchronicity of need and opportunity that belies atheism for me. There are many other reasons for my belief in something more, other, greater, bigger, wiser, but this is a constant. I read the bible once, in full, beginning with the Torah and progressing forward into Christian and Muslim sacred texts. The red words spoke deeply to me - those words in red that Jesus said, ignore the rest, for those are best - and I used to wonder what life would be like if I really did just give away absolutely everything I owned and walk away without a single idea what to do with my life.

Until I did. Well, I drove away, and I kept some clothes and momentoes, but I literally did give away quite a lot of stuff. Then, there was the offer of a place to live a while, then another, and some work, and a job, and not and this and that. Early on, a friend brought a box she'd found left behind among the stuff given away, that she saved for me, a box of oil paints, brushes, pastels, palette knives. It had been so long since I painted, I had forgotten I had them.

I supported myself with that box of paints for many years. In some ways, I still do, although it's been a rough two years. Things are picking up. I've sold some. I have two commissions. I still have three tubes of that old paint, not yet used up, still ready for some linseed oil to breath new life into it. So I start new works, painting first on one, then rest and dry and work the other. While doing so, I live in the basement of a house. Upstairs is the very best friend a person could ever hope to have. The home is on a quiet lake, no motor boats or screaming skiers, a sturdy dock, miles of decks, trees galore in the mountains. I do work that's needed to pay the rent. I have friends who have my back. No bills. I can't imagine why I would ever think life was anything but perfect.