This Little Group

The Free Thinkers and Peace Builders group I started with a friend has grown quickly. We have 85 members and have only been around 3 months! I thought having this many members would mean good turnouts for the meets I create, with lots of good exchange of ideas.

Alas, I have been disappointed. I know, people join online groups all the time and never attend a single meet. I’ve done that. You get busy and can’t make yoga. Or didn’t write anything to present to the writers group on Monday. I had thought this group was made up of slightly more determined individuals. If we want to make change, talking to each other is key! If we are not determined, why are we bothering?

If you are not committed to making change, how can change ever come? Do people expect things to change simply because they want them to? I know we have leaders out there. Those determined to expose Trump for the racist bumpkin he is. People trying to change the US justice system. They don’t seem to get the media coverage they deserve. Those in power do not really want anything to change. They own the media. All of it, and no one seems to care. Except me.

CNN and the thousands of “independent” news outlets are too busy spending two weeks discussing a hurricane. For 24 hours a day, every day.  For two weeks! And if there is no storm or crisis they still only show you the same 5 stories all day long. It would appear that today’s media does not realize there are more than one story a day.  CNN doesn’t seem to realize what a parody of news it has become. In the US we have CNN or Fox. That explains a lot doesn’t it?

Today’s Newsroom Meeting:

“Ok boys, go out and get those stories.” The “reporters” all look at each other. “What’s the boss mean, “go out”? I pick up all my stories off of Facebook and other social media. I don’t have to “go out” anywhere and talk to people live and in person. I’ve got important shit to do.” So the “reporters” set their interns the task of bringing stories to them off the internet. There are only five reporters, and five interns, therefore, we get only five stories. Not a one with verifiable sources. Are we just lazy? Is it just because my family loves to watch CNN day and night and I get incensed that the story, and clips and interviews that I saw at 9AM are the exact same I see at 9PM.

Today I feel disappointed. I know what I’m trying to do isn’t easy and not everyone can devote the same amount of time and effort. But I can’t do this alone! Have those who have joined my group done so for no apparent reason? Do they care about what I am trying here? My friend who started this group with me has since abandoned the cause. I feel ready to do the same. My WP site costs me money. My Meetup page costs me money. Not much but it’s money that I would otherwise spend on useful things like food. I’d like to think what little I pay out would pay off in a good solid group of people.

Today I am disappointed in my fellows. I sent a notice for a meeting. The topic doesn’t really matter as long as we discuss the important stuff. But only ONE person showed up for the last meet and only ONE has signed on to attend this one. I don’t know if I should bother. You can’t hitch your star to someone else’s wagon.

Same question I ponder daily: Should I give up or keep going?

Tired of the Hate-filled Rhetoric

I have grown weary of the current rhetoric: me good, them bad.  I’m disgusted with the media as a whole, and after reading this article in Politico, I’m doubly upset.  I think most of us know that the media does not necessarily represent the Average American.  To the contrary, media outlets cater to a particular audience, and that audience thinks like the media.  So, for example, the New Yorker, obviously, has an East Coast philosophy that does not translate well to the West Coast sensibilities.  The Times are each biased by location, and those locations are all large cities (Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Miami, etc.). The rest of the country, apparently, does not really matter.

Some may think that that is just fine. “I live on the West/East Coast, so I’m content,” seems to be the feeling.  The media bubble mentioned in the above article makes complete sense when taken in context with the demise of actual paper news, loss of newspapers. It’s a money game (always follow the money).  Paper publishing costs a lot; paper, ink, printing, journalists, distribution.  The advent of the internet certainly changed all that. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, and with that, coverage of more localized news has nearly vanished.

What does that mean? It means the media is biased to their location and staff, not the people they purport to represent.  We end up with the nonsense of rhetoric, and by virtue of 24 hour news channels, we get sucked up into believing it.  And what is rhetoric? By definition it is: “language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.”   Lack of meaningful content.

We need to start thinking for ourselves, and not let the media play to our fears and biases. Bias/prejudice mean a strong inclination of the mind or a preconceived opinion about something or someone. A bias may be in favor of or against an idea or person or people. Prejudice implies preformed judgment even more unreasonable than bias, and usually implies an unfavorable opinion: prejudice against people of another religion or race. 

Everyone has bias in some form or degree.  It’s only human to base one’s beliefs and morals on one’s own personal experience. However, this leads to prejudice against ideas outside of our personal experience, reality and world. Prejudice that is not easy to shake. Only way to remedy this is to open one’s mind to the infinite possible points of view. The media helped us do that once upon a time. Now it is up to each individual to learn how to open their minds to ideas they might normally be opposed to.  Wouldn’t you like it if the Republicans and Democrats cared more for the country than party?  Personally, I see no reason to have political parties.  I’m a registered Independent for the last 25 years or so, but I still have preconceived ideas and a deep dislike to changing my mind. I also have a deep desire (now) to open my mind more, and possibly even change it.

This is where Free Thinking and/or Critical Thinking comes in.  It helps to take the emotion out of the equation, which where we all go wrong. It’s our emotions that get in the way of critical thinking. Think like a scientist; take a theory and set about to disprove it.

I don’t think using critical thinking will make me change my mind about the fact that Trump doesn’t belong in the White House, but it may help me understand how he came into power, and why the media did not accurately report on what All Americans wanted, just what the Average American wanted.  Not the same thing at all. The average American makes $65,000. I make half that with my and my husband’s income combined. Nothing average here.

So. No more rhetoric for me or from me (I may slip now and then, but I am trying).  Ted Nugent promised that he would no longer engage in such talk. If he can, certainly I can. It hasn’t been a month yet, and since his announcement came only after a Republican senator was shot and nearly killed, I’m having trouble buying it. I checked his FB page and website and don’t see anything hurtful or hateful. But neither do I see his denunciation of hateful rhetoric.  I’d never gone to those sites before so it may be he never posted the rhetoric there. For now I’ll give him benefit of the doubt. I want you to believe the same of me.

I know advice is worth it’s price, but my advice? Stop talking only with the people who already agree with you. Stop using only media sources that favor your preconceived ideas. Expand your media horizons and you may find out some very surprising things. What I’m trying to say is, try to keep an open mind and think for yourself–don’t let the media do it for you.

I Blew It

It is so easy to have an Us/Them mentality.  Us good.  Them Bad.  Us smart, Them dumb. Us openminded, Them not.  Us arrogant!  I’m past 50 now and have obtained a tiny amount of wisdom.  Unfortunately, that newfound wisdom doesn’t undo all the stupid, insensitive, arrogant and closed minded things I have done.  It doesn’t mean I won’t still do these things, but being aware has made this far less likely.

I attended the “Coffee and Conversation” with my Long Beach rep the other morning. The room was a small, but full, and there were plenty of people standing.  We even had the added treat of having a few Trumpsters attend as well.  One woman stood up,her hands and voice shaking, to protest the fact we are giving minors poison that will give them cancer.  Turns out she’s talking about the Pill and wants to defund Planned Parenthood. I must say we were not very kind, and simply told to her please shut up and/or leave.

I blew it.  This woman was waiting outside and stopped people as they passed.  I blew it. I should’ve taken that chance to speak with her.  I lost the opportunity to listen to her.  She was moved to show up at this event, we should respect her resolve, and her opinion, no matter how misguided.  She feels this is an important issue and we are wrong to dismiss it this way.  This would’ve been an opportunity to understand her side, find the common ground of caring for the next generation, while calmly explaining to her the realities of withholding birth control of any kind to anyone.  I’m ashamed of my knee jerk reaction and anger.  Now that I am aware of the opportunity, will I take it in the future?  I plan to.

We must all learn to control our angry reactions to Trump and his supporters.  Avoid dehumanizing the Trumpsters.  Once a group becomes ‘less than human’, the chance of violence increases.  Trumpsters are not the enemy.  Not directly.  Sure they may have voted for the egomaniacal wizard in the orange wig, but many are uneducated, mostly unaware, and were misled and lied to.  If we shut them down when they show up at rallys and meetings, we will never make any progress.  We must include these people in the discussion.  We need to help them understand they’ve been lied to.

The American Revolution didn’t start overnight.  It came after years of anger and not until the majority of the population felt pinched did the war begin.  Armed revolution will come to the US and it won’t take 10 years.  If TrumpCare passes the Senate as is (which is unlikely), people will begin to really feel the impact of Trump personally. The GOP will continue to cut these benefits and deny them outright to more and more people.  When people are barely surviving or dying because of lack of services like Welfare, Food Stamps, Disability, Medicare, they will stand up.  The tighter one is squeezed, the less one has to lose.  It’s as simple as that.

We have the chance to ensure that we avoid violence by choosing conversation rather than confrontation.  Let’s take it next time.  I will.

That’s About all I can Take

I’ve been limiting my time on FB, WP, and various news sites to about 2 hours a day.  Even that’s too long.  I am so frustrated and fried.  There’s just so much wrong with our new administration (I will not call him “President.”  Ever.) it’s nearly impossible to keep up.  It feels like we’re pissing on a grass fire.  We’re the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke.  We’re scattered and self-absorbed.

And we know the risks of being complacent.  That’s what got the US here in the first place.  Too much of the same old same old.  Too great a distance between the haves and the Have Nones.

I know we need to work on the GOP, not the Democrats on Dump.  The Dems are already appalled and frightened, and scrambling to do something, anything, to stop the flood of stupidity and immorality being spewed from the mouth of our (EC-) elected POS.  So, I keep asking myself, how do we do this?  How do you convert a Christian to Islam?  Can you rehabilitate a KKK member?  I know these things have been done.  Maybe not often, but it is not unheard of.  But what I can’t figure out is the “how” of it.

I’ve joined the Indivisible movement.  I’m also involved with the Resist movement.  Just two of probably thousands of little pockets of resistance.   We all have the same goal: impeachment.  Easy fix: take Dump out.  Sniper style.  But I don’t want anyone going to prison.  And really, it’s not a complete answer, because of, well, you know.  Pence.  And Bannon, Priebus, Ryan and McConnell, to name the most egregious members of our political heads.

I ponder these problems every night and wake up wondering what new horror Dump and his crew have devised.  I sign the petitions going around.  I’m writing to my reps.  I can see the Resistance is growing, but how long can we sustain it?  We all know about burn out.  I’ve only been moderately active and I need a script for Xanax, just to keep me from biting the heads off the people near me.

Am I just impatient?  Just hoping for a quick fix?  I know that quick is not how things change.  Just like dieting.  You want to lose 30 pounds so you join Jenny Craig or some such.  Spend your money and buy their food.  After you lose the 30 pounds and feel great, you go back to eating just the way you did before.  Soon you need to lose 40 pounds.

You have to change your way of thinking to become successful in controlling your weight. We must change people’s thinking, and that, my friends, will take a very long time.  Do we have the stamina?  The anti-Trump faction seems much larger than the pro side.  It would seem, then, that we have the numbers to sustain a movement.  Our leadership is increasing: a few Senators and Congressmen are growing balls.  Robert Reich is a leader, and Elizabeth Warren as well.  Bernie Sanders is still relevant.

I’m committed for the long-haul, provided I don’t burn out.  Join me?

Here are some links for additional information on the movements and how they will accomplish their goals.

Can we sustain the anti-Trump movement?

Emily’s List

Change will require more than protests

 

Addiction Is Not A Choice

I’ve been gone for a while…life had been going so well.  It’s taken a significant downturn lately, and recent events have brought on this rant.

Son’s addictions have taken him to the bottom and he’s finally asked for help.  Great.  Now try to find a program in the US that will take an unemployed, under-insured man.  Blue Cross, Aetna, sure we’ve got space.  Medicare? um, yeah, but…  No. Not Medicare.  Medi-Cal.  Same sort of service, but at a state level.  It was all the coverage he could get through the Affordable Care Act.  Medi-Cal, I have been informed by a well-known and respected hospital that there is a waiting list for a bed in Detox/Recovery.  Six month-long waiting list?  Meanwhile he continues to use and falls deeper into addiction.  His only recourse is the ER.  Not the place for an addict, since they eventually note that he is a ‘drug seeker’.   Rather than treat them as they would treat someone in a wheelchair, suffering from stroke, or blind.

I want people to understand Addiction Is Not A Choice.  No one gets up one morning and thinks, “I’ve never tried heroin, I think I’ll go score some.  I hear it’s really addictive.”  No, they think, “yeah, it’s addictive, but I’m not addicted to anything else, maybe I won’t be this time either.”  Or any similar thought.  Usually the addict is young, lonely, and in pain either emotional or physical, and they are unable to get legitimate doctors to listen to them.  “Of course I’m seeking Oxycontin, I’m in pain you idiot!”  Just because they see nothing in the X-ray, doesn’t mean he has no pain.  Instead, a note is made in the file and they are labeled and addict and therefore lumped in with other undesirables.  The addicts are today’s Unclean.

Search for Rehab Facilities.  Count how many are touted as “luxurious”, “spa like”, and have a 360 degree view.  Hundreds of them up and down the coast.  And my son, because he lacks the resources is relegated to the bottom of a long list, left to his own devices for six months.  A lot of damage could happen in 6 months.  In that time, he could get arrested and sent to jail for three years on some drug possession charge.  Left in a cell to go through withdrawals sick, alone and scared…I don’t care how tough you are, withdrawals make you feel like you’re dying and most people are afraid of that.  No sympathy from the guards, they figure you’ve got what’s coming to you, what with you being some scumbag dope addict.  Like it was a choice!  It happens.  To a lot of people.  A poor decision, some bad luck or serious falling out with friends/family.  That drug filled the deep black hole of depression, made me imagine I had a heart again.  It made me feel better, why is that wrong?

The US justice system is how we deal with our societal pariahs.  I believe we do need a prison system.  But it needs reform.  NOW.  We must work to change the laws, states should have standardized sentences.  Like all states should put your standard rapists away for a minimum 10 years, and wear a bracelet for another ten (for example).  That way people like Brock Turner are held for an appropriate time, regardless of how well liked he is by the judge.  Consider arsonists.  Some are very smart and do their research.  Arsonists live in states with lots of far away places to burn: California, Texas, AZ, etc.  If Arizona’s state law says arson with no injuries to persons or property receives a sentence of 18 years.  But in Texas they’d only get 3, wouldn’t you think that would attract  the wrong sort of people to Texas?

What really needs to be standardized and seriously changed are the drug laws.  Many of these laws were written in the 50s and 60s.  We have gotten smarter and understand more about addiction and mental health than ever before, and yet we continue to lock up sad, but mostly harmless, addicts for $25 rock of crack.  The police and lawyers have been trained for years to treat addicts like criminals.  Just as people were once imprisoned for loving the “wrong” sex, we will see the errors in incarcerating our addicts.

I want to see doctors and those in the justice system treat addiction as a mental illness.  Our justice system is broken, poorly run, and employs far too many people who don’t really care.  Probably because of overwork and inadequate compensation.  We need more mental health service providers, more doctors, hospitals.  We need more classes graduating more nurses each year.  We need Government money to fund these programs, not the nickel and dime donations volunteer groups raise.

The end result of this rant is my desire to do advocacy work in this area.  I am overwhelmed by the dearth of specifics provided on various mental health sites.  Most sites have a button saying “Get Involved” and basically ask for a donation.  How do I get my view to policy-makers?  Should I just write my president and representatives so I can get a nice reply letter saying thank you, but this is a complex process and blah, blah, blah.

How do you change the world?

 

Emotional Well-Being

I need a prescription for Xanax or Valium or some sort of anti-anxiety drug.  Not that my docs agree, of course.  My emotional stability is of no concern to them.  Only my physical being.  That pretty much includes my shrink.  It is so hard to find a psychiatrist.  It is a very personal decision, picking a doctor.  When your insurance doesn’t provide you with options, however, you are basically screwed.

DI buttonsSo my shrink is merely a drug pusher, merely refilling the ones I have and making sure I check in every three months.  I have seen at least three crappy psychiatrists, and one great one.  I’ve had four therapists.  Two were pretty good, one was downright a waste of my time, my last one was absolutely the best.  Guess that’s why I’m so picky.  I know what a good therapist can do, and I know that a poor therapist at a minimum will not help you, and a bad therapist can seriously hurt you.  Again, my insurance only provides one therapist to choose from.  I met with him once, and am pretty unsure about him.  Don’t know that I really need one.  Still after my breakdown last week, I’m not sure.mental health

So I am stumbling through this emotional minefield on my own, my poor family unable to help me.  Except husband has a script for Xanax and he demands I take them from time to time, like today.  I’ve been sort of snappish.  Actually, I’ve been snappish for the past couple months.  Moody, depressed, angry, anxious, and a bit pissy with my reactions.

Of course, the reason for my moodiness is one of so many things, it’s hard to know where the root problem is.  I suppose it’s menopause, but I’m not convinced it isn’t due to the change in one prescription, and the addition of two new ones.  I haven’t had time to check all of my meds for emotional side effects, but I’m working on it.

Meanwhile, just to keep the rest of the family from hiding from me, or vice versa, I’ll continue to self-medicate with Husband’s Xanax.  At least until something changes.  Which it might, since it is enrollment time with my insurance and medicare, so who knows what kinds of changes will be coming my way.  Trying very hard to be Buddhist about it.  Trying to just let things go.  I work on believing that everything happens as it should and nothing is permanent, not even the US.  om

I struggle trying to balance my love of Bernie Sanders and hope for his election, and even plan to go watch the upcoming Democratic debate.  Part of me feels this is so important.  So integral to what is wrong with the US government, and putting my hope in Bernie Sanders. Though the cynic in me believes no such thing.

tai2When my Buddhist side kicks in and I  wonder; will anything I do really make any difference in the greater scheme of things?  Even if by some miracle Bernie gets elected, do I really think he can face the Regressives in Congress and make any real changes?

I can feel a political rant coming on, but to what end?

Congress has been thwarting every Democratic move for each Democratic president we have had for the last 15 years. Will our next Democratic president, regardless of who they are, actually be strong enough to kick the Kochs and the rest of the corporations out of politics?  Will he/she ever be able make churches pay taxes?  And what about the voting laws changing in the South East US, basically stopping people from being able to vote because they have no proper ID, and then close all the government offices that handle IDs in the area. The people in the south have been so manipulated and kept so uneducated, they have little chance of making any change on their own. Sort of leaves you wondering?  Just as in the Sixties we had to stage protests and strikes and sit-ins.  Peaceful resistance.  Am I using my Buddhist mindset just to stay uninvolved?  I suppose a lot of people would see that as a cop-out.

Today Was A Good Day

Feeling better!  Son and Husband talked.  Son and I talked.  I think Son understands a little more about how I am unable to handle the anger of other people.  Especially the explosive anger he shows.  I realized the reason is likely from my dad, who had a very bad temper when I was young.  I won’t give a lot of details, but he made all us kids watch as he beat my brother with a belt.  I was no more than six and I remember being really terrified.

DSC02716We were going to go whale watching, but didn’t make a reservation, and they were full up for the next four days!  So instead we drove down to the Wedge (http://www.visitnewportbeach.com/beaches-and-parks/the-wedge/).  I’ve only seen it once before, but from the highway.  This time we walked on the beach and watched the surf and the surfers for about 2 hours.  Quite impressive and the waves were not very big, though a couple looked pretty close to 10ft.DSC02699

I shot nearly 300 pictures.  I saved 30 of the best ones.  Of those, maybe 10 are actually pretty good.  PURE CHANCE!  My camera skills are still pretty poor, and I cannot see anything in either the viewfinder, or the little screen on the back of the camera. Not in high sun, glare off the ocean and the white sand.  Impossible to see.  So I figure actually getting about 10 decent shots–without knowing what was in the frame–as pretty decent day of photography, but there was certainly no skill involved in these.

The coolest thing was finding lots of shells with holes in them!  Naturally made holes and all the same type of shell.  I have enough to make about 12 pair of earrings, and maybe a pendant or two.  I’ll be working on these tomorrow and hope to post my results.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.                                                                 –Irish Blessing