indifference

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

….as near as the destination may be, it’s still the journey that matters….

Speaking to a friend today, she shared her recent experience when her son and grandchildren came to visit.  Their conversation turned to the Holocaust.  Her 15 year-old grandson drew a blank stare of unknowing.  Looking to her son, my friend asked,  “He does know about the Holocaust, doesn’t he?”

“No,” replied the son, “they don’t teach it in school.”

They don’t teach it in school!  Over 6 million people were systematically murdered in one of humanity’s most wretched schemes of genocide less than a century ago….and they don’t teach it in schools.  Survivors have related their tales of horror at the hands of Nazi Germany, SCHINDLER’S LIST was an epic fact-based movie portraying the horror at the hands of Nazi Germany,  Elie Wiesel, several years after his release from Buchenwald, wrote in detail the horror at the hands of Nazi Germany…and they don’t teach it in schools.

Today I think about what I would do if the same thing happened in America.  Would I have the courage to stand up and defend a persecuted, demonized, scapegoated man with an odd last name, a Muslim woman wearing a niqab, a black man in dread locks, or a Hasidic Jew?  Of course, I would.

Oh, by the way, what if my country has embraced white nationalism and has become a bustling hub of neo-Nazism?  What’s the answer now?  “Well, that certainly will not happen,” I reassure myself.

Really?  Do we think that in Germany, in the early 1930s, the gentle, God-fearing, Lutheran citizens anticipated Hitler and a Nazi Germany with goose-stepping soldiers wearing swastikas on their arms would parade the streets, that Jews would be rounded up and put into death camps only a decade later?  Can we afford to be that naive?

And the question again is whether I would risk my life and liberty to defend someone less white than me, less privileged than me, someone who is Jewish, Muslim, or any of the others on the target list of white nationalists and white supremacists?   Or will I stand by the railroads and watch cattle cars loaded with humans pass by on the way to the ‘final solution’ and turn the other way?

  1. We must remember and teach to our children the sad episodes of human depravity including American slavery, the relocation of Native Americans, the unwillingness to aid the Jews in WWII, the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and the horrors of the Holocaust.
  2.  We must confront the cowardice of white supremacy and the neo-Nazi movement in America.
  3.  We must remember the words of Elie Wiesel:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

The late Congressman John Lewis reflected in his remarks upon receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama:

“never get lost in a sea of despair…have this abiding faith that there are things that are so right, so good, so necessary that you are willing to die for…”

What mountain am I willing to defend?  What things so good, so right and so necessary am I willing to die for?

alone calm faith light
Photo by Garon Piceli on Pexels.com

kumbaya

So all you white folks think another round of ‘kumbaya’ sitting by the campfires is going to fix this problem?  Really?

Black Americans, Latino Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, gay Americans, Muslim Americans, immigrant Americans, poor Americans, Native Americans, disenfranchised throw-away Americans, almost all those who have not been living in ‘privileged’ white America would probably disagree.

Racism, bigotry, intolerance, hatred will not disappear with legislative work, more laws and Constitutional Amendments, additional streets named after black people, Pride parades on our streets, and conciliatory memes on social media.  Protesters of differing skin tone marching with linked arms carrying meaningful signs are a start, but when America finally reckons with the malignancy which has been festering in its heart, only then can healing begin.  It begins when each of us looks deep into the heart which directs our lives, takes an inventory, does a housecleaning, and strives to treat others the way he wants to be treated.  Very simple Bible School stuff – the Golden Rule.

That healing will see communities fostering tolerance and inclusiveness, churches welcoming all neighbors, job and educational opportunities available to all, local governments working for every citizen, each man caring about the welfare of his fellow man.

There are those, mostly unaffected by racism or hatred, who want to maintain things as they have been for many generations.  There are those who pray every day for equality and opportunity for all.  There are those who don’t really care.  And, of course, there are those sitting around the campfire singing kumbaya thinking, “what do we have to do to placate the groups who have been abused?  What do we have to give them?”

It can’t continue this way.  America has to fix its heart problem.

American preachers, if they claim Christianity, must begin to preach what the Gospels teach – love and brotherhood, the community of mankind, the ministry of Jesus.  If the preacher-man’s message is not one of inclusiveness, love and service to all of Creation, if he is spreading the gospel of merited affluence, the gospel of exclusive white rights to eternity, then that preacher is spewing lies from his pulpit.

American governments – national, state, and local – must abide by the Constitutions and laws which they have sworn to uphold. Those laws promise equal justice and equal rights to every American.  No man is more equal or more privileged than another.  No man is less protected or less entitled.  Sadly, the truth of our American justice system begs to differ.  We must change that.

American social-media (ah yes, the media screens) must be held accountable, without encouraging censorship, for the ideas, thoughts, and words that are allowed for public consumption.  Is it too difficult to believe that the colonial framers had never imagined the vicious vitriol and lies that would someday claim protection under the 1st Amendment?  We must become responsible for self-policing what we allow into our heads and what we accept as truth.

American teachers, dedicated to a difficult and thankless job, must be the most open-minded of all of us – they are expanding our children’s minds to the world of new ideas and concepts.  Our willingness to fund excellence in education says much about who we want to be as a society.

American parents, you are wonderful, but from whom did I learn the n-word?  When did I begin to believe that 12 year-old me was somehow superior to the migrant laborers who worked the fields in the summer?  Who taught me the words to ridicule the lone Jewish boy in my school? Parents, your children are all ears and eyes.  They are listening and watching and then replicating.  What do you truly want them to learn from you?  Are your prejudices and fears being passed on to the next generation?

HEART WORK.  We all have a lot of heart work to do.  Are you willing?  Am I?  Our country is depending on all of us getting this right.  No more mushy kumbaya moments.

LOVE

 

 

 

PRIDE

There is POWER in solidarity –

“An important element of this new power is that it is not power for the sake of personal gain, but power for the sake of all the oppressed, ignored, forgotten, and exploited members of society. The powerless are recouping power . . . the power of the gospel, which works for the betterment and liberation of all, especially those in greatest need.” cac.org

June is PRIDE 🌈 month.  Part of the celebration is recognizing that equality is not freely given without bloodshed, heartache and tears even in a democratic society.  Each of the oppressed, ignored, forgotten, and exploited members of society has paid the dues to rise above inherent societal intolerance, ignorance, and hatred.  We agree to love ourselves as created and then expect the same love from others.  Black or white, any shade in between, short or gangly, genius or challenged, flighty or pragmatic, artistic or color-blind, wealthy or poor all belong in the grand scheme as devised by the all-knowing Creator.

The LGBTQ+ community understands this, has realized enormous gains in recent years.  However, that progress is not guaranteed and not free.  Transparency in who we are as people, as lovers, as neighbors, as workers, and as activists ensures that our rights will not go away at the whim of a repressive political system or religion.

This is why PRIDE month is important.  The parades and celebrations, fun and colorful, are merely the tip of the iceberg.  The legacy we leave for future generations is dependent on the actions we take today to inform the world,

“Here I am, love me or hate me; it’s OK because I am a child of this Universe, the same Oneness that has created all of us in the image of goodness and mercy.”

pride

 

BLACKOUT

There is POWER in solidarity –

“An important element of this new power is that it is not power for the sake of personal gain, but power for the sake of all the oppressed, ignored, forgotten, and exploited members of society. The powerless are recouping power . . . the power of the gospel, which works for the betterment and liberation of all, especially those in greatest need.” cac.org

MLK, JR – an impossible dream?

Martin Luther King, Jr. – an impossible and unrealistic dream or a legacy squandered by hatred and division?  Or might you be one who believes great strides have been made in equal justice and opportunity for not only our black and brown brothers and sisters, but also for those of different creeds, lifestyle and nationality – the Puerto Rican, the Muslim, the gay and lesbian?

Yes, laws have been passed and legislation protects, but has the heart of white, privileged America miraculously filled with compassion since the era of MLK, Jr.?  What leads you to believe so?  Equal job opportunities?  Fair housing practices?  Safe city neighborhoods?  Justice in the court systems?  Protected voting rights?  Or maybe state and federal governments represented proportionately by members of all minority groups?  Really?  You truly believe this is so?  Can you unequivocally state that a gay man, a black man, a Muslim woman, a white woman walks as securely through life as a white man?

Well golly gee, I would love to share some of that whacky weed you are smoking followed by a swig of the Kool-Aid you’re drinking.  America, wake up!  We are at a crossroads in our country’s destiny.  We have been rent asunder by today’s world and national political powers who want to see us even further divided because it will be then that their vile plans can be instituted – race against race, black against white, straight against gay, Christian against Muslim, Democrat against Republican.  Dr. King spoke often of the brotherhood of mankind as the only way to keep this ship (the earth) from sinking and the necessity of non-violence in solving our problems.  So, is his dream dead or merely shifting gears?  It’s up to us, isn’t it?

one nation, indivisible, with liberty & justice for all

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“the time is always ripe to do right”

“morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated”

Click to access mlk-gp-speech.pdf

I will not!

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.  But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY

broken hearted

The very good and the very gentle and the very brave – let’s focus on those words.  The world system seems to despise those who have a moral compass, those who are peacemakers, those who have the courage to march to a different drummer.  Governments, religions, and financial systems do not honor a man/woman who answers their demands with “no, I will not live that way.”

We are labeled ‘unpatriotic’ if we do not toe the current disgrace posing as a legitimate government.  When we kneel in obeisance to compassion and tolerance rather than stand pledging  allegiance to the cloth symbol of a nation, we are castigated as revolutionary and disrespectful.  Well, maybe we are.  All great accomplishments in governing have been manifested by protest.  No, I cannot be silent when brothers and sisters of a different color or creed do not equally enjoy the fruits of the nation they have served in battle and embraced as home.

I will not profess the creeds of religions which deny even the most basic human understanding that all creatures are made in the image of the One whom they profess as God and Savior while simultaneously endorsing locked cages of children on our border and a war in the Gulf which threatens the citizens of Yemen with epic, catastrophic starvation.  No, I will not.

I will not participate in the corporate destruction of our sacred ecosystem for the sake of increased profits of corporations which have abdicated ecological responsibility in lieu of financial extravagance.  While much of the world’s population  lives without the basic comforts of adequate food and clean water, placating the luxuriant appetites of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized poor cannot possibly advance the survival of our species materially or spiritually.

Enough is enough.  Enough corruption, enough hatred, enough greed, enough racism, enough killing.  Where will we choose to stand as our country approaches the threshold of despotic, authoritarian leadership?  As the earth’s ecosystem is screaming “enough” where will our allegiance be placed?  The answer for each of us is within.  When that quiet voice of protest within becomes a scream reverberating throughout the universe, then, perhaps, we can be assured that we have done enough.

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EGO – it’s a killer

Have we ever considered what it is about others than disturbs us the most?  Is it their conceit, their crass behavior, their selfishness?  Or is it their love of possessions, their old codgerdisregard for society’s moral conduct, their dishonesty?  Of course, the next question would require us to look into our own selves wondering what it is about them that trips our  trigger.

In my early recovery years, as I was complaining to my sponsor about  a group member who embodied everything which I despised, he responded this way,

All that you hate in others are elements of your own personality that you are afraid to look at.”

“Hell no, that’s not true,”  I replied defensively.  “I am not like that.”

And I truly believed that.  But, the seed had been planted and would not allow me to rest until I took it to my  quiet space within and considered my sponsor’s words.  Jerry could be shallow and selfish – yeah, me too, we are, after all, alcoholics.  Jerry could seem arrogant – yeah, me too, but that was due to my insecurity with others.  Jerry seemed disinterested in his group members – yeah, me too, but again I was shy and felt awkward with people.  Jerry didn’t seem to grasp the humility in recovery, his concept of a Higher Power was weird – really?  What did I profess as a Higher Power?  A vengeful, old, gray bearded, eyes on fire, lightning-spitting man sitting somewhere in the universe on his throne of judgement?  How weird is that?

In due time I learned a lot about myself from Jerry.  He mirrored my own ego which at that time totally controlled who I was.  Eckhart Tolle in his book, A NEW EARTH -AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE, writes:

“The particular egoic pattern that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself.  In that sense, you have much to learn from your enemies.  What is it in them that you find most upsetting, most disturbing?  Their selfishness?  Their greed?  Their need for power and control?  Their insincerity, dishonesty, propensity to violence, or whatever it may be?  Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”

The initial response is probably, “no way, not true.” But, as with any planted seed, this will not disappear until it is either choked with weeds and dies or nourished and brought to fulfillment.  The question becomes whether we will wither in our denial or respond and grow.  That, essentially, is what recovery is about.  It is much more than living without alcohol and drugs or whatever our addictions entertain.  It is a continual recognition of the external forces and internal thoughts that attempt to control our true identity, that state of Being which the Buddha called anata – no self.   Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the 8th chapter of Mark, verse 34, “whoever wants to be my disciple (follow my Truth) must deny self…..” which, in other words, is  to deny ego control of our response to the world in which we live.  Peace or drama?  How will we choose to live?

Our world has become one of us versus them.  Nationalism, tribalism, religious intolerance – they all try to convince us that we are superior to them.  The them are always wrong while us are always right.  Eons ago this mindset meant only that the caveman with the best clubs and biggest stones would win and the others would need to move on to find another cave in which to live.

We are not cave dwellers.  We have missiles and nuclear weapons instead of clubs and stones.  Our separateness cannot be resolved by conflict and violence.  There will be, in a World War 3, no winners.  Our species and probably earth as we know it will be eradicated.

The next time I watch on media screens a national leader or world power whom I despise, the next time I see a religious leader lead his flock astray, the next time I look at my neighbor with disgust, I must remember the lessons which Jerry taught me in early sobriety.  Despite the outward appearances of polarizing differences, we are the same.  What we do, how we think will determine whether this species of ours sees a 22nd or 23rd century.  It’s our responsibility to grow our planted seed into selfless maturity.

GARDEN OF EDEN

 

I hate you

How often have you and I thought or voiced these emotionally-charged words?  Maybe it was yesterday when the neighbor was critical of our yard maintenance.  Or it could have angry emojibeen the boss unfairly expecting us to give up weekend plans in order to come in to work.  Or maybe it was a national leader speaking words which are contrary to our personal moral compass.  Or maybe it was directed inwardly because of our own faults and misdeeds.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love…”

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (1181 – 1226) is attributed with these words, an excerpt from a  familiar prayer commonly called THE PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS.

Hatred is one of the most difficult words to comprehend because it carries an immensely negative emotion.  Within that negativity we create enemies, despicable visions of others, and ultimately, discontent within our own souls.  Let’s, for the sake of rational dialog, nail hatred to the underlying emotion of fear which is a very real motivator in all of mankind.

Fear prevents unconditional love.  Fear promotes violence.  Fear murders, maims, persecutes.  Fear promotes separateness among men and warfare among nations.  Fear is the darkness in mankind’s soul which enables genocide and ethnic cleansing.

White nationalism embraces fear, our leaders project fear, some men of religion preach fear.  Hatred is taught, but fear is that innate human condition which in today’s society is being used as a weapon against practicing social justice, tolerance and equality.

That is why we recite the words of St. Francis – Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.  We cannot fight hatred with hatred.  We cannot fight violence with violence.  We cannot vie to be top dog in the world at the expense of the huddled masses desiring nothing more than the crumbs under the table.  We cannot destroy our planet by exploiting resources to fill corporate coffers or because we fear that there is not enough for everybody.  Peace is not just a state of inner being – it is a call to action.  It is a determined effort to illumine the darkness.

We in Western culture have been conditioned to think of love as a warm, fuzzy feeling reserved for spouses, family, friends, others who step in line to our own personal march.  We celebrate love with cute greeting cards and expensive gifts.  We write romantic songs and poems about love.  We fall in love with the idea of love.

The ancient wisdom teachers would disagree.  In their writings love is the opposite of fear.  Love unifies the Christian and the Muslim, the white man and the black man, the Republican and the Democrat, the straight and the gay.  There are no enemies in the world of love, there are merely differences to be embraced.  Love is not the opposite of hatred;  it is the cure for fear which is the root of hatred.  It is the understanding that we as co-equal inhabitants of this planet are responsible for living in peaceful co-existence.

“The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself.” CAC.ORG

Mohandas Gandhi said nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation. —John Dear CAC.ORG – FR. RICHARD ROHR