3% and Dropping

Edward Snowden brought to the world’s attention that America is watching. Big surprise right, George Orwell warned the world, through his book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, that big brother was watching. Imagine if you will a fiction writer in 1949, writing about how the government would watch over its citizens and control their every move. Of course Orwell wrote about a fictional state, in a fictional country. Or did he?

Think about some of the concepts that Orwell spoke about such as; Big Brother (Snowden crashed the illusion that US citizens are immune to government surveillance) doublethink (political ads filled with non-truths yet quoted as truth) thoughtcrime (the Bush administration’s insistence that “If you’re not with us in the war against terrorism than you are anti-American”; although the weapons of mass destruction were never found, the ideology of questioning the sound decision of the war in the Middle East became a turning point in the us against them political arena ) newspeak (Fox News) just to name a few.

We are experiencing a division in the United States; political arguments are no longer discussed between politicians, but between corporations who have a huge stake in the future oppression of the American citizen. You may accuse me of being too left in my thinking, but let me ask this question; when 3% of society holds the majority of the wealth, who exactly does the 97% answer to?

Let’s explore the 3% reality using the Cosby Show as a jumping off point; in one episode of the Cosby Show, the Huxtable children said something on the order of, “but dad we are rich” and in answer to that statement, Cliff (played by Cosby) said to them, “Your mother and I are rich, you kids have nothing.” In other words, we are all children of the 3%. Most jobs are funded by the 3%; most of higher education is funded by the 3% (I recently attended a marketing meeting for a local private University, and found that the latest numbers on fundraising show that 95% of funding comes from less than 3% of contributors); I contend, therefore, that logic dictates that 97% work to collect wages from and return money to the 3%.

Okay Ken, get back on topic; how does this relate to Edward Snowden and George Orwell? The answer is simple. James Comey, the current head of the FBI, recently said, “Are we no longer a country that is passionate both about the rule of law and about there being no zones in this county beyond the reach of that rule of law? Have we become so mistrustful of government and law enforcement in particular that we are willing to let bad buys walk away, willing to leave victims in search of justice?” And to that I answer, “UM YES”, and the reason that I believe that we should be mistrustful of government is because of the 3%. We work for, spend our money with, and are governed by the 3%. Our existence is not protected by law enforcement nor by the government; our existence is protected by living within the comfort zones allowed by the 3%. On my drive to work this morning the thought hit me, “Ken, just go do your job and be happy that they allow you enough income to be comfortable and to forget that others are starving.” Thank God that shutting up has never been my strong point.

Peace All

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Same Sex Marriage

Personal Perspective

On October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court refused to hear arguments against lower court rulings in favor of same sex marriage. Or to be more precise, many lower courts had determined that laws against same sex marriages were unconstitutional, and by refusing to hear the cases brought against those rulings the Supreme Court has upheld those lower court decisions thereby agreeing that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against the rights of individuals (at least in the case of marriage law). One only needs to listen to the news to hear the backlash from those who are opposed to same sex marriage, and to these people I ask; what is different in your lives this morning?

My newly given right to marry the love of my life, with whom I have shared my hopes, my dreams, my wins, and my losses, for the past 19 years affects us more than you can know ; it affects us more than I could have imagined. In August of 2013 when Bill and I were finally able to celebrate our Civil Union, I was taken aback by my emotions; I had no idea that the ability, at long last, to legally recognize our commitment to each other would be so powerful. The announcement on October 6, 2014 was even more powerful for me, and today, October 7, 2014, I awoke with the knowledge that Bill and I would very soon take one more step in our commitment to each other, and that by doing so we, and many other same sex couples in Colorado and all of the other states who have been changed by the courts decision, may now celebrate one more part of an exercise in humanity which has until now been denied to us. How does that decision affect those who have not been outcast and those who have not been denied the same freedoms as the majority of Americans?

I don’t think that heterosexuals awoke today changed in a negative way by the Supreme Court’s decision; the separation of Church and State in this county has taken a major stride forward, but that separation does not detract from the teachings of or the beliefs of any religious entity, nor does this decision change the value of a heterosexual marriage. The court’s decision removes some legal support of religious objections; however, it is the intent of our constitution to uphold the rights of all of the citizens of this great nation, and not the religious ideology of any of those citizens. On October 6, 2014 we were reminded that our constitution is a living document, and that it will grow as people grow, and it will provide more freedoms as more of society lets go of the need to govern through religious ideology. Let me remind you, we fight against religious extremism in the rest of the world, and we may need to continue to sweep our own sidewalks prior to throwing stones.

Peace all.

In This I am Sisyphus

In an interview on NPR this morning; Edward Hirsch was discussing his grief at the loss of his son and his processing of this overwhelming grief through poetry.  As Hirsch was reading an excerpt from Gabriel, A Poem,

The mountaintop is not in sight
Because there is no mountaintop
Poor Sisyphus grief

I became aware that in my love and grief for my Great Dane, Addie, I have become Sisyphus.  Sisyphus is a mythological figure who had cheated death and he was punished by the gods for doing so.  They condemned him to an eternity of rolling a rock up a hill, and just as he reached the peak of the hill he would lose control of the rock, the rock would roll back to the base of the hill and Sisyphus would be forced to begin again.

Each time I walk through the door and Addie greets me with her beautiful brown eyes I become the Sisyphus who is watching the rock roll down the hill. In those moments I am forced to acknowledge that the rock is returning to its resting place, only to call to me to push it up the hill once again.  Addie controls when the journey begins again, and it is in this gray area that I am most uncomfortable, it is in this gray area that I am Sisyphus.

Hirsch pointed out that he does not believe that grief ends, but that we become stronger in dealing with our grief; poor Sisyphus grief.  We do not become stronger in the process but in the understanding that we have become accustomed to the repetitive motion of rolling that damn rock up the hill.  I don’t think, based on my grief for my father, that relief comes when I reach the summit but instead relief hits when the rock slips out of my hand and is rolling down the hill; in those moments, just before beginning the journey to fetch the rock, I can tell myself that the grief has left me.  Addie’s journey forces me to enjoy the brief reprieve because just like Sisyphus, I cannot ignore my penance, the rock is lying at the base of the hill and it is mine to roll, and yet it is not mine to time.

Peace

Ken

Were You There?

There is an old Christian spiritual entitled “Were You There”.  The verses of the song lead the Christian believer along the path of the Crucifixion of Jesus the Christ.  The purpose of the song is to remind the believer of their responsibility in the  brokenness in the world; questions such as, “were you there when they nailed him to a tree and were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” are reminders that this brokenness is the cause of suffering and death.  

I have been reminded of this old spiritual for the past couple of days, while hearing the stories coming from Ferguson, MO, and discussions from around the world about the death of Mike Brown, and I have been rather vocal about my feelings on the subject, partially because my daughter-in-law has been posting so much information on Facebook, and mostly because I think that we need to be vocal about atrocities when they take place.  Reflecting on Ferguson should cause each of us to reflect in the same way that “Were You There” calls the faithful to reflect.  Ferguson is not a tragedy because of Mike Brown, Ferguson is a tragedy because we can still avoid the recognition of ourselves in the streets of Ferguson. 

I have been told many times, “I can’t comment, I wasn’t there.”  I disagree.  We were there on the day that Mike Brown was killed.  We were there because we placed ourselves there each time that we ignored or participated in prejudice in action.  When we as a people can believe that the poor are poor only because of bad decisions, and not because of our own elitist ideologies, we create the need for riots in the streets of Ferguson. 

I have been involved in a couple of discussions about the rioting, and my answer is always the same “rioting is a poor choice; but what do you suggest a society with no voice do to be heard?”  I do not condone the rioting, but neither do I condone the ideology that keeps oppressing the poor, whether the poor be Black, White, Hispanic, or any other human being. When Mike Brown was killed and the community cried out did we answer? Most of us did not.  Most of us did what we are conditioned to do, we waited for the news story to change so that we could move back into a world where we can deny that we were there, and those who did not walk away are making us very uncomfortable.  In the Christian Easter Tradition, the song “Were You There” is highlighted during Holy Week because within Holy Week the faithful are to be reminded that they are a community, and that their actions can be part of the problem; Ferguson is simply re-introducing us to the truth that we were there all along and not paying attention, just like the song reminds the faithful that they are present at the Crucifixion each time that they harm their neighbor in one way or the other.

I suggest that we talk abut Ferguson, not with language of understanding what happened between Mike Brown and the police officer (a tragedy such as this cannot be understood) but in the language of helping each other to see our part in those streets.  I have been blessed to be clean and sober for a bit over 27 years.  In my early years of sobriety I found solace in the rooms of AA and what that experience taught me, and still teaches me, is that we are all exactly alike.  Each and every human being has the same hopes and dreams.  We may have different mask, but rooms like AA help us to remove those mask and traditions such as Christianity should help remove those mask as well.  Songs such as “Were You There” exist so that the faithful will ask themselves what part they are playing in the brokenness of the world, and Ferguson continues to be active because we are refusing to acknowledge that we are part of the problem.

Ferguson is not about who is right and who is wrong (I am pretty sure there is right and wrong on both sides), although it is difficult to avoid placing blame when something this tragic takes place; Ferguson is about the possibility of becoming a better society.  “Were You There” when Mike Brown was killed?  I was; I know very few who were not, but Ferguson can open our hearts and Ferguson can make us look at each other fully, maybe for the first time.  I hope to see the person in every single man or woman who walks beside me or who passes me; all I have to do is strive to see how alike we are and stop looking for how we might be different.

Peace

Ken

Grief and Healing

As I process the upcoming loss of my beautiful Great Dane, Addie,I am led back to the memories of my father’s death. Some would reject that comparison, but my emotions are not dictated by those differences, instead my soul acknowledges that yet another great love in my life is coming to an end.

I am finding that I want to be pragmatic about saying goodbye to Addie; I tell myself things like “She is a ten year old Dane, of course you are at this stage of her life, you knew this was part of the package”, and yet, I am thrilled to find that I have not become such a robot as too believe my own rhetoric.

We train ourselves to cut our losses and to go immediately to “the next thing”; grief, however, does not allow us to do so. There is a saying, and I do not know from where it came, “religion is for those afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for those who have already been there”. I have always loved that saying, but, in that saying is one of the greatest lessons in letting go that I have experienced. Letting go of principles that do not work in my life. While my father was dying I was surrounded by people who were praying for the outcome to change, my 79 year old father was in respiratory failure, and yet I kept hearing people around me say, “God can heal him if he wants”. And as you can probably tell, I did not find solace in that with Dad, and I do not find solace in that with Addie’s upcoming death. When the inevitable comes, as death always will, I don’t want to be left with, “Why didn’t God love me enough to answer my plea”, when I know that death as much as it stinks (thank you Nate Hopping for acknowledging this truth for us) is part of life, and the death of a loved one, a pet, or a dream, is merely part of the cycle, and not a judgement from God.

Letting go is a life long journey, the five stages of death and dying; anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, are the same no matter the loss. Each time that I practice the dance of letting go, the better I become at letting go, and yet the tears are the same, the pain is as intense, and the emotional exhaustion will come.

I have heard many people express “I tend to let go with a clenched fist”; this is usually said with an air of disappointment, but I am proud that I let go so reluctantly, for it is in my reluctance to let go that I reside in my love of life, and all of the gifts that life offers. If this should cause me a longer dance with my emotions then so be it. This is after all my journey, and it is my loss, and although I won’t chase the pain you can bet that I will not run from it.