Namaste

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To keep my mind right as I write – and minimize my hating – I think from time to time, Namaste (nah-mahs-tay), which in Nepal means,

The part of me that is God acknowledges

and salutes the part of you that is God

And this includes everyone. There is a divine part in each of us, a quiet peaceful spiritual part, and when we act from this part, we’re nice and kind and that’s great. (For the moment, take the word of St. Thomas Aquinas that God is the First Cause of Being – that there must be some kind of cause greater than us up there or back there).

Aside from the part of us that is God, another part of us is an angry fool. I’ve bunked with this fool forever. I’m now an expert on angry fools. Some ancient wisdom about angry fools is in Proverbs 22:24 – Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go.

Or Proverbs 29:22 – An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.

This all applies, of course, to women as well. Women can get angry and stupidly condemning just like men. When women or men insult me, yell at me, call me names, etc., I still react too much. I need to remember more quickly that these attacks are not about me – unless I make them about me by reacting – even a tiny bit. I must remember to remember, as quickly as I can, that anger is always projected guilt. It is the self-loathing of the attacker.

There is a claim made by some that if you’re not angry, you don’t understand the problem. But anger is a form of violence. If you are holding onto anger, validating it, then you’re part of the problem. Instead of validating or being guided by anger, we must ask our wise inner teacher – many times every day – Is what I’m feeling, saying, thinking or doing helping me to be wise or hindering my progress?  Enlightenment is not about changing the world – it’s about changing our mind about the world.

Of course, we can’t just stop having emotional reactions. They’re part of being human. And it’s not healthy to deny feelings however false they are. But we can and must deny their validity, their truth value, and take responsibility for them. We must see our emotional feelings as the ego-reinforcing phantoms they truly are. Unfortunately, we tend to validate and justify our emotional feelings. We indulge them way too much and see them as, sort of, well, SACRED – uh oh. 
  

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drugs

The drug war began in 1918 – as Prohibition – a bipartisan effort to force people to give up alcohol. It brought vast new government control into personal lives and an explosion in crime. Communism took control in Russia that year, bringing slave labor camps and a prohibition forcing people to give up all private property. Chaos and murder followed. Forcing people to morally conform is the error Prohibition shared with Communism.

1918 was a Hellish time. WWI ended; millions slaughtered. Murder ramped up in Russia. An historic outbreak of Spanish flu killed millions. Nietszche had said God was dead, that brains had replaced faith – he warned it would be terrible. Marx had called religion a drug. Brilliant Irish Playwright, Eugene O’Neill, said Communism and Catholicism were the same obsession with a fairy tail search for a magic door – only communism relied on force. Morality, reason, and meaning swooned as traditional religion faltered.

Religiously anti-religious leftists worshipped a new un-God, government. Misled by the anti-spirit of the time, even evangelicals abandoned freedom of conscience to support Prohibition and FORCE people to morally conform. President Wilson himself, his veto over-ridden, said Prohibition was government gone too far.

In 1931, only 13 years after Prohibition began, alcohol became legal again. Depression had come; government chose to tax alcohol again for revenue. The drug war continued, only against less popular (un-taxed) drugs.

In 1988, Russian communism collapsed – private property became legal again. (A dark joke on Moscow streets: What’s communism? A 70 year road to nowhere.) Tragically, Marxists kept preaching envy, only transferring their flag to American universities.

We’ve arrested 65 million people for alcohol and other drugs with nothing to show for it. The drug war is now a 50 billion dollar a year bureaucracy; drug abuse is much worse than ever. Everyone agrees the horrors of drug abuse demand action. But what action?

Our drug war is failing: huge INCREASES in drug abuse, cost, wealth to drug merchants, in disrespect for law and for police who must enforce criminal drug laws against fellow citizens. (Ironically, while all drugs are dangerous, the legal ones kill most. Annual drug overdose deaths: 40,000 to 70,000. Alcohol-linked deaths: 80,000 to 90,000. Tobacco-linked: 400,000 to 500,000. Pot, of course, kills no one).

It would be wise to rescue people from drugs, not degrade them further. Drug abuse is treatable, by exercise, nutrition, cognitive behavioral therapy, skills training, life help and some form of spiritual practice, with or without religion. Such treatment might even save some of the 20 vets who commit suicide every day!

Legalizing all drugs – as in Switzerland and Portugal – would reduce drug traffic, and unacceptable drug-related behavior would become more manageable. It would be unwise let drugs brutalize us for another 100 years as cartels grow wealthier and stronger.

Friendly persuasion – not force – can move people, even addicts, to choose spiritual recovery and sobriety.

Americans the Slavers?

I was at a pie social the other day. A guy asked me for change for a twenty. As I gave him some bills, he looked at them and said, “Did you know Washington and Jefferson were slave owners?” This guy was a public school teacher. I can’t know what he was thinking or wanted to accomplish with his odd remark. I may be over-sensitive, but it seemed like a gratuitous personal slap at our founders. I didn’t make it personal, but I did say to this man, “Washington and Jefferson, like many Americans, were deeply conflicted about slavery. America was an attempt to escape tyranny. If anyone could be enslaved here, then anyone might be enslaved here. Washington and Jefferson helped America become one of the two societies in history that rose up and banned slavery.”
The other was England, a sister society also committed to individual freedom. It’s been a supremely difficult, bloody, flawed evolutionary road, but America is truly a society all American children can be proud of and grateful for. Degrading this honorable heritage is destructive and reprehensible. Anyone doing it should be corrected – as gently as possible. After all, we’re all pressed by our fallen human nature to try to look good by making others look bad. But it’s better to love everyone by not making disputes personal.
It’s tricky; but we should do our best to stand up for the truth, while personally accepting all people as they are – including ourselves.

fixing the world

I sure wish I knew what to do to fix the world. I grew up in Chicago in the 1950’s, a time of strong “in-group preferences.” I was Catholic when it was still inappropriate for non-Catholics to walk into a Catholic church. I learned to not like Blacks, Jews, Protestants or anyone but Catholics. And we south side Catholics didn’t much care for those north side Catholics. Very tribal, we were. I was once caught by some unknown white boys from the next neighborhood – they threw me in a hole at a building site and peed on me. Boy, was I mad.

I’ve learned it’s similar with all groups. Certainly, Protestants routinely demean members of other denominations. Blacks and Jews routinely demean and abuse each other, etc. I eventually learned to rise above such ways. I even got to where I could tell whites that I wouldn’t tolerate their using the N-word around me because it made me feel disloyal to my Black friends. I traveled the world and found kind people everywhere willing to share in peace, and also found people everywhere looking for an excuse to be mean and fight.

I studied spiritual disciplines and psychology and came to see that fear and hatred and the urge to dominate others by hook or crook is a tragic part of human nature – a part we can overcome. So, I try to catch myself the moment I feel anger, even the slightest negative emotional charge. I try to remind myself that I can choose to let go of anger and choose peace instead. I sometimes ask Jesus to help me do this, to see clearly without anger. It seems to work. If we all did this a bit more, I think it might help fix the world.

DRUGS

Everyone agrees the horrors of drug abuse demand action. But what action?

Our drug war is clearly failing: huge INCREASES in drug abuse, cost, wealth to drug merchants, disrespect for law and for police who must enforce criminal drug laws against ordinary citizens. We’ve arrested 65 million people for drugs with nothing to show for it.

The drug war began 100 years ago, in 1918. It was called Prohibition. It forced everyone to give up alcohol. That year, Communism began in Russia with slave labor camps and its own prohibition that forced everyone to give up private property. WWI also ended that year, after slaughtering millions for no reason, putting a terrible poison into the world.

After 13 years, Prohibition ended and alcohol became legal again. Depression had come. Government had to tax alcohol again for revenue. The drug war continued, only against less popular un-taxed drugs. The drug war is now a 50 billion dollar a year bureaucracy – drug abuse is much worse than ever.

After 70 years, the USSR and its prohibition ended, making private property legal again. A joke on Moscow streets: What’s Communism? A 70 year road to nowhere.

Prohibition brought vast new government control into people’s lives and an explosion in crime; re-named war on drugs, it continues that trauma. (Ironically, while all drugs are dangerous, legal drugs kill more. Annual overdose deaths: 40,000 to 70,000. Alcohol-linked deaths: 80,000 to 90,000. Tobacco-linked: 400,000 to 500,000).

Drug abuse is treatable, by exercise, nutrition, cognitive behavioral therapy, job training, and some form of spiritual practice, with or without religion. Such treatment might also save some of the 20 vets who commit suicide every day!

We should crush drug traffickers immediately, by whatever means, even legalizing drugs, if it works. We can’t let drugs brutalize our people for another 100 years. We must do our best to rescue everyone stuck on drugs. Friendly persuasion, not government force, can move people, including drug abusers, toward spiritual recovery and sobriety.

We need friends and foes alike

My grandma was a Daughter of the American Revolution. Her family didn’t own slaves, they freed slaves. She taught in a one room WI schoolhouse, survived WWI, Depression and WWII. She abhorred complaining. She said, If you can’t find something good to say, don’t say anything at all. Sage advice. It means, ask for spiritual guidance frequently.

To those unfortunate enough to still be desperately attacking the President because they’re still upset over Hillary’s well-deserved loss, I offer the following:

1.) We’re never upset for the reason we think; so, we should reflect upon our anger.

2.) Many millions voted for Trump to save the Supreme Court. That’s done. The rest was a gamble. Trump may be a hero on a mission to redeem himself and help us all. We’ll see.

3.) The smart and stable folks will make the best of the rest; i.e., think positively. As the WWII morale-building song goes: You’ve got to Accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative; Hang on to the affirmative, and Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.

My grandma also said, Everything we do matters. So, I urge everyone to accept the election with grace and move on. It’s the right and healthy thing to do. Trump is a big city counter-puncher who gives what he gets; he’s no Gandhi. But he’s no monster, either. We must remember that incivility (from any source) diminishes us all. We need to dial it down. We’ll need all hands on deck, friend and foe alike, to survive the coming storm.

We can all get along

Some blame Trump for the polarization we’re experiencing. But Trump didn’t cause the polarization. He’s a response to it. He’s our great orange hope.

When I was growing up in Chicago in the 50’s, some boys might call us N-word-lovers if we liked blacks. We learned to like blacks anyway. Some of those boys, as men, vent that same ooze now warning us to not be Trump-lovers. Nothing to say. They pursue sameness even to excommunicating friends and family who don’t conform. I hope they find peace.

PS: I didn’t care for Trump at first. I found him too shiny and his hair too orange. And growing up in Queens gave him that challenging NY style. His opponents quickly organized against him with unproven racism charges and over-the-top (criminal?) bullying of all who dared to support him. I came to see him as a hero – flawed, of course, as all heroes are. But I think he wants the best for all. Any who refuse to see this even as a possibility, but push hate, harm themselves and society.

Sure, the election loss discombobulated many, but c’mon; if Hillary had a better message, she’d be president. But she didn’t; so she’s not. Pushing people to hate Trump is just wrong. Pushing anyone to hate anyone is wrong.

Finally, I have a summa cum laude degree in philosophy from UW-Madison. It may be worthless; I may be worthless – or I may be mistaken about; well, almost anything. But I stand for the countless degree-free deplorables who sweat, get dirty, callused, and make stuff work, like my dad did. Trump-haters publicly demand personal humiliation and social rejection for all workers who even barely tolerate Trump. Why so desperate and mean?

It’s over-reaction to an unexpected loss, sure; but it also suggests that the left is stuck in a nightmare, seeing an existential threat to its exalted status and global mission. Leftists are legends in their own minds. They’ve lorded over the people and done damage. They may fear Trump will hold them accountable.

Anyway, hate is the problem. It begins with the first wisp of irritation. It grows, poisons the hater, makes him or her stupid, and incites fear and violence. Hate makes us liars, and this dishonesty infects and imperils everything.

Still, we can all get along, if we stop hating and get rational, dispassionate, and respectful. Contrary to all the anti-American propaganda, and despite our huge problems, America is still the kindest, most generous, and diverse large group of humans ever assembled. It’s worth saving.

drug addiction

Recent gatherings of recovery and law enforcement people in Washburn and Sawyer counties (WI) discussed addiction. Good people doing their best in a battle we’re losing.

In Viet Nam, we lost 58,000 friends and neighbors to war. Now, we lose 30,000 to 60,000 friends and neighbors each year to many kinds of drugs. A mind-boggling number.

Big Progressive government began criminalizing drug use 100 years ago with Prohibition. Drug use was never a crime anywhere before that. Now, after 60 million arrests, drug abuse is much worse than ever.

Drug use is inherently a medical / mental health issue, not a criminal one. Large-scale illicit drug commerce is criminal, of course, as is selling drugs to kids. But friends and neighbors who use drugs should be treated like friends and neighbors, not criminals. Nor are they cattle. They are our brothers and sisters.

Such a humane shift in perspective is hard. We’re used to soulless bureaucratic control. Love is out of the question. Asking Jesus for guidance is virtually illegal.

Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. Progressive idealists set out to transform us for the better by freeing us from religion. Somehow along the way, this encouraged the use of real opiates. Our transformers failed to see that freeing us from religion freed us from our religion’s spiritual values. Now, we’re boiling away in an amoral soup, like sad dumb frogs.

Most of those attracted to drugs use them. Few are deterred by risk or laws. It’s about pain. Despair and hope for relief seduces people who have ineffective spiritual practice. Seeking relief in drugs makes people mistaken, but does not, itself, make them criminals. They’re trying to fill a hole in their heart, in their soul, a hole once filled by a possible God. It can’t be filled by worldly things like drugs, sex, money, power.

When we had a God and we were bad, we knew we were bad, and knew we could do better. Now, we’re secular smart; we know there’s no God. We know we’re lost in a void forever. We have no Jesus telling us we’re forgiven. We’re not fooled by silly religion anymore.

We’d better wise up and try love again – and stop hating. We need each other in ways we may not yet see. Loving drug abusers – sometimes very tough love – and helping them to survive will help us all survive.

We Need a Tidal Wave of Love

If one wants to, they can explain away anything, even my piece here encouraging peace. Still, I feel obliged to say publicly that for the health of our nation, we must heal the break between Trump supporters and Trump haters. We can’t go forward in hate. It’s too bad that some intend that we do.

Trump haters say Trump is evil, racist, sexist, etc., so they can’t, in good conscience, even tolerate him. That’s their business. But a deep wound occurs when Trump haters call all Trump supporters Nazis. Meryl Streep used the fighting words Brown Shirts. This wound deepens when Trump haters elevate their private moral outrage to a conspiracy to destroy President Trump. It makes it public business. It’s also public business that our kids are now being harmed by all the hate in the air. We’re teaching our kids to hate.

Facts, reason and good will can heal this wound. Fact: those who support Trump are not choosing to share or tolerate evil. They may be wrong, but they believe Trump is a good man and right for the job. They believe those who call Trump evil are wrong, but that a few Trump haters intentionally mis-characterize him as evil, to mislead voters and damage Trump – an evil in itself. Most likely, there are some who support Trump because they resonate to the ugly mis-characterizations of him. It takes all kinds.

If Trump supporters want peace, they can talk less trash, but they do not physically attack or threaten Trump haters much; they mostly fear or disrespect them. But Trump-haters do widely threaten and bully Trump supporters – that’s a brute fact. If Trump haters want peace, they must call off their dogs, and stop saying Trump supporters are evil and/or tolerating evil; neither is true.

We’ve all had experience thinking someone is bad and learning later we were mistaken. We accepted our error and moved on. People can hate Trump. It’s their private business. They can even work against him – lawfully. But hating and threatening half of society, and sabotaging the lawful managers of our security, is criminal, not peaceful.

As I said, people can choose to think what they like. I’ve learned that if humans really want to know the truth, they must say aloud, “I want to know the truth just because it is the truth.” If we don’t do this, we will tend to buy all sorts of self-serving half truths and misconstructions that justify our being a bully. Ultimately, we must give every human being (yes; even Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi) the genuine compassion we owe them – only this will let our true intelligence shine and secure our well-being.

election recovery

Many see Trump’s win as glorious. Supreme Court spared. Liberal tyranny broken. Non-college-educated white men rose up, again, to save America, flanked by women, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, evangelicals, Asians, gays, even college-educated men and women, those fortunate survivors of higher propaganda! Some say the church of Political Correctness has abused us, and that we’re free now to again speak and think as we like, even sing Christmas Carols in public without fear of rebuke!

At the same time, we must admit that Trump and/or Hillary might be the monsters some say they are. We can never know with absolute certainty which set of facts is true. We’re always vulnerable to receiving new information that changes our thinking. But certainly, a lot of hate has bubbled out. We deny our own hate; only see it in others. We blame our hateful feelings on this or that injustice, as though seeing injustice forces us to be hateful. But it’s always a choice. We can argue which side was the greater hater; but winning the argument only bestows the dubious distinction of being the lesser hater. Look, Ma, I’m the lesser hater!

Now, some of us are still heartbroken, election hopes dashed, and stuck in the five stages of loss: denial, anger, grief, bargaining, acceptance. The stages don’t come in order; they occur and recur randomly. It takes time to get over loss. Let’s hope we’re all well soon.

My wife learned this Christian thing: No matter how sad or angry people get, it means they’re in emotional trouble. To be ethical, spiritually correct, and for best results, we should treat troubled people as nice as we can, as nice as pie. My wife makes me do this, too. Okay; she doesn’t make me. I also learned it as a kid. I forgot it growing up. But I re-learned it, that being nice as pie is the healthy adult way. Clinging to anger or damning others personally only hurts us. Karma. To truly care, we’ll say little about another’s loss or bad behavior, and focus instead on positives. We don’t want to grow the mess or the fear, especially now. We need all hands on deck. Huge threats are upon us.

Just one example: radical Islamic terror, what some call Political Islam. All Muslims are our brothers and sisters, of course, but Islam’s holy book, Quran 9:5, says: “And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the idolaters wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, then leave their way free.”

History tracks 1500 years of Muslim civil war, and infiltration and invasion by Muslims in Europe, India, etc. Most Muslims aren’t violent jihadis, but this is cold comfort and no protection. Distinguishing peaceful Muslims from murderous jihadis is hard. Making it personal or hateful makes it harder. Sincerely asking for genuine spiritual guidance helps. It makes us kinder and smarter.

hate poisons us

After we tell people how unforgivably vile and stupid they are; that is, that we hate them, we can’t expect them to thank us for our insight. That great physician and educator, Maria Montessori, said we must evolve as a species to where everyone understands that hate is toxic waste. It drive’s an extremely contagious mental disease, fear. In medieval times, we spread physical disease by throwing human waste into the public streets. Now, we know better. Now, it’s time to learn better about the devastating harm that hate does. It makes us crazy afraid, mean, reckless, and it brings war.

To manage the universal inborn human compulsion to hate, I must pray – a lot – for spiritual guidance. To pray effectively, I avoid the modern in-your-face style of Saul Alinsky. I affirm the kind teachings of Jesus. It’s different for some. My older brother is very kind and wise, but he says asking Jesus for guidance is nuts, that there is no God, and that religion is a source of hate. I get it. But it’s a very cynical view that fails to address humanity’s absolute need for some kind of positive spiritual discipline. I think my brother learned kindness from our parents who, in turn, got it from their patents or religion.

Anyway, not by government force or social coercion, but by sound education and free choice, we must evolve and stop dumping toxic psychological waste (hate) into the public mind. It doesn’t just poison bad guys; it poisons us all. It’s like tossing grenades into the bad guy’s end of our lifeboat. So, if you find yourself blasting the next guy as subhuman filth, stop as soon as you can, or this hate will end up back on your plate, and buried in your mind. It will hurt you. Don’t call yourself names for hating; just remember gently that it’s a mistake.

Now, each candidate is saying the world will end if they’re not elected. We all have our own idea which candidate will more likely bring peace and prosperity. Vote that. Don’t be intimidated by those who insist that if you don’t agree with them, something’s wrong with you. That’s baloney. No one can know the future. We can’t know how the world’s struggles will actually play out. Sometimes things that seem worst turn out the best, and vice versa. So, we simply can’t choose a certain future. But we can choose a certain present. Being kind and personally respectful to all, despite deep disagreements, is a healthy present. So, lighten up, and do your best, the Creator loves us all.