Heartache

To be honest, I should be editing right now. I should be flying through Jericho, doing everything I can to polish the story before sending it off for a final line edit…

Instead, I’m crying rivers.

My cat died. Since she no longer lived with me, but rather my parents because I’d moved overseas for a while (and they refused to give her back once I came home) I’m not entirely certain her death was necessary. I know the former vet misdiagnosed a tooth abscess, which progressed to the point that my cat was emaciated and too weak to move. We got a new vet, but it was too late and I’m left pondering all the things I could have done to change the situation.

I wish I had a better picture, where she was facing the camera with her beautiful golden eyes, but she was camera-shy for a cat, and there aren’t many good pictures of her (unlike my boy, who likes to pose).

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, the day the cat died, the day we buried her, I turn on the television (rare for me, anyway) and saw the kids in Florida showing just how dynamic their generation can prove to be.

And I’m still crying rivers, because those kids are breaking my heart and inspiring me anew with every passing second.

I do believe generations think differently from each other. Each one is their own mini-culture with various advancements in science, technology, thought and humanity creating a social pressure different in both subtle and enormous ways from those who went before as well as those who will come after. It’s a shift in ideas and ways of life, ways of thinking.

And it’s about damned time.

Generation X never had the numbers for real change. Millennials, for all their strength in numbers, haven’t been able to out-yell the Boomers on many issues. There is a stranglehold, the old guard refuses to back down, refuses to listen, and the new guard refuses to fight all-out for the changes they believe in so much.

Millennials prefer grassroots—and maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s how the next generation will be able to implement real change. Millennials are providing the foundation for what will come—EVOLUTION—and this next one, Generation Z? They’ll go the distance.

I’m so proud of them. So many of us have seen the problems, we’ve begged for change, only to fall short of achieving our full potential, as individuals, as communities and as a nation. But these kids are standing up, and other kids all over the country are standing up with them and putting our politicians on notice.

They demand action. We demand action. Your time is up.

There are many solutions, and we can use a lot all at once to reach the best compromise possible.

  • Age limits to buy guns: 18 for a rifle (hunting) 21 for a handgun (defense)
  • Replace the assault weapons ban, no more AR-15s!
  • Biometric trigger locks
  • School security teams (arming teachers is stupid and dangerous)
  • Restructuring education and school meals so kids don’t bring any bags with them at all
  • Reopen mental health facilities
  • Increase funding to mental health awareness and detection programs
  • Mandatory monthly meetings with school guidance counselors
  • A better system for reporting suspicious persons or a central database for those flagged
  • Stronger background checks and longer mandatory waiting periods

 

I can promise, if at least some of these things aren’t implemented, the idea that the left is coming for the guns and the eradication of the 2nd Amendment will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Our future is in the generation that is tired of the Boomer bullshit. They are tired of being scared, tired of being sitting ducks, tired of the grown-ups around them acting more like children than these kids have ever known how to be. We will return to compassion and commonsense, we have already turned away from the greed that characterized our past, the greed that is currently taking its last agonizing breaths, struggling to hold on in the face of fierce opposition.

Quite frankly, every old guard had their chance to shape the world to their liking, to their comfort. Whatever is status quo is at least the devil you know, right? Change is hard and it’s hard to embrace a new path when you don’t know what it might entail for you, your safety or your comfort. But time marches on.

Revolution is for the youth. The old don’t like it, by nature.

So they come up with disgusting conspiracy theories. This time, it’s all a lie, fake, the kids are actors. The right-wing conspiracy theorists did the same with Sandy Hook. In reality, these are heartbroken kids, parents and teachers that have gone through something they should have been protected from. The adults failed them, the politicians failed them, the law failed them, and if you’re still in support of everything that allowed this to happen, everything from NRA-sponsored politicians to legal ownership of military grade weaponry, and you’re buying into the false belief that these kids and their pain are not real, then you’re a monster and you’re just trying to make yourself feel better by claiming these kids are actors.

This is pain on a grand scale. Sorry you can’t handle it, because you reap what you sow.

I am heartbroken, both on a personal level, and on a human level. There is too much heartbreak in the world, too much pain, sadness and anger. But there is always hope and we will find a solution. Time’s are a’changing… Ready or not.

I, for one, am more than ready.

Baltimore

Baltimore.

Back in the 90s, when I was a teenager, it was called The City that Bleeds. A rip on the ‘City that Reads’ slogan we used to boast, and an indicator of the level of violence back in those days.

Today, Yahoo had a story on Baltimore, and though I knew better than to read the comments, I did read a few. And I got angry, of course. Too many people that can’t even find my city on a map have opinions on the liberal government, calling the people here entitled, blaming black leadership when this problem began under white leadership and has carried over from centuries of economic inequality.

I’ll tell you now, the problem isn’t specifically racial. Most people in Baltimore will tell you the same thing, and I even saw several try to tell the national news media when they were here for our ‘riots’ only to be shut down because it didn’t fit the narrative people were trying to tell. Or sell, as the case may be.

I hate when you start talking about my city without knowing a thing about it. I hate when you develop a misinformed opinion based on what you think you know. Just because you watched The Wire doesn’t mean you know anything about this city. You’ve got to live here to understand.

I’ll give a run-down, though. Just to help a little.

  1. We’re way more diverse than the media would have you believe. We’re also way more integrated in most neighborhoods…except the very poorest where the majority of residents are people of color and brown immigrants. That’s a problem that’s echoed in every city in this nation. So…if you live in a city, you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb thanks to the lack of opportunities for the poorest people.
  2. We haven’t had youth programs in this city since the early 90s, when the Police Athletic League was done away with. BTW, that was not done under black leadership, either. When you deprive the youth of safe entertainment and socialization outlets, they will create their own or fall into alternative opportunities that may result in high crimes and/or death. Spend some money on youth programs and I guarantee the crime rates will fall. Idle hands, and whatnot—you know that saying?
  3. There is no future, no community investment, no opportunities for growth and mobility. That leaves limited options. If you’re trying to support your family, where will you go for money? Gangs, when there are no legitimate means. And that goes back to youth programs because gangs recruit early and they foster a sense of loyalty and family the government and your grandma can’t compete with. Oh, and we’re currently working on the second or third generation of this, so kids learned what their parents learned…
  4. Food deserts exist in cities. We have Arabers who carry food into the communities, but we need more. We need more smaller groceries and farmer’s markets, more local produce options and community gardens. Neighborhoods don’t always have good access to markets and grocery stores because space is limited. You won’t find a Walmart close by and lots of people have to buy only what they can carry on the bus, so no savings on bulk like the suburbanites and their wholesale clubs. It’s a problem for nutrition and health, energy and output and has educational ramifications, as well. Kids don’t have enough food to concentrate on daily studies, so we need to be feeding them better in school. Don’t tell me how your kid hated the healthy food Michelle Obama chose for the education system. Don’t tell me how they threw it away and don’t be smug about it when there are legitimate cases of severe malnourishment in poor neighborhoods.
  5. The education is for shit here. They restructured thanks to George W. Bush’s (not liberal, BTW) No Child Left Behind policy, which may have had good intentions, but resulted in children being pushed through the system no matter if they could read or not. America’s literacy rate has fallen, and continues to fall, drastically, dramatically and alarmingly. Wake up, people. Start wondering what your own kids are being taught, and start questioning what the school system may have hidden from you. In my city and the surrounding counties, we are now learning some terrible truths and if you start digging, I’ll bet you’ll find some too.
  6. Entrepreneurship was turned into a dirty word, or just made impossible. Unless you want to open a liquor store, of course. How about spending some money on grants for small businesses? How about broadly advertising SBA programs and workshops to help budding businessmen and women learn about their options and what’s needed to open a business. Get more small boutiques, stores and services into every community to help lift everyone, to create a stable micro-economy that feeds into the larger city revenues. Focus on small and work up, because trickle down really, really doesn’t work.
  7. Which brings me to the politicians. It’s human nature to be greedy and grasping—and don’t try to sputter a defense of yourself, we all have those moments. Unfortunately, too many in power are allowed to have those moments too frequently, and it doesn’t matter if they’re liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, black or white. They are people, so things universal to human nature hold true regardless of whatever box you’d like to shove them into. Yes they get reelected—what do you expect of a population that has a lowering literacy rate? What do you expect of a population that is told repeatedly that they are worthless and their voice doesn’t matter?

 

And, BTW, why are any elected officials allowed to vote themselves a raise? (Revenue from the speed cameras, I suppose?) A public servant’s pay increase should be a matter of public referendum. How dare you believe you deserve more money for a job well done when we can bury the dead in all the potholes and your own detectives are being killed on the job? How dare you think you should get more money when our kids are graduating with zero proficiency in their school subjects? You think you’re doing well? Let’s take a vote. If we agree, you get your raise, if not, you don’t. It’s called accountability…or theft, the way you do it.

 

Jesus preserve us, for the second time in as many weeks I find myself repeating the words of an evil madman who doesn’t deserve the fame the world afforded him. People are reflections of the society around them. They are what we made them.

You don’t want violence in your cities? Invest in the people. Don’t give them things, teach them things. Provide opportunities and you won’t have to give them hand-outs. They’re not entitled, they’re appeased in the most negligent way the white patriarchy could come up with. And yes, I blame white patriarchy in particular even though many white people are caught in the same system with the same limitations because—from the outset—our system was set up to  accommodate the rich.

Most poor people are white, but most black people are poor.

Think about that.

Honestly, at the end of the day, this is all classist, not specifically racist, but we are appeased by racist thinking because then we of the lower 50% turn on each other rather than put our considerably energy and talents toward rectifying the true problem. The hoarding of resources.

So, the next time you want to form an opinion on a place you’ve never been based on something you saw in the media, but you’ve never heard a single truth from someone who lives there…just bite your tongue and, instead, start thinking about all the ways we could improve the lives of the clearly downtrodden.

Better schools, business loan programs, good nutrition and a focus on the youth to teach them how to be productive citizens. That kind of knowledge doesn’t result on its own, you know. Someone taught you how to tie your shoes, right? Hands-on approach rather than through observation.

Also, you with your opinions, what are doing to make your own community better?

 

That’s my bone to pick…

Is it human nature to isolate?

Is it human nature to isolate? To put yourself into a box, to put all others into a box, to create many boxes and make someone fit somewhere?

Us versus them.

I understand the importance of this concept evolutionarily speaking. Your tribe might have been in direct competition with another tribe for various resources… And we all know we’ve got to take care of our own first, right?

But human society has evolved faster than human brains have. Humans are still hardwired toward selfishness because that greed could have meant the difference between survival and a horrendous death. Those with resources hoarded them in case they ever faced a time when those resources were scarce.

Fuck everybody else.

But we’ve come so far. As a society, as a technologically advancing series of societies, as a global tribe with a greater understanding of each other every day…we’ve come so far. Do you really want to be great? Then you have to lift everyone to greatness.

A rising tide floats all boats.

I don’t believe communism is the answer. I think it’s a terrible system, in fact, because humans are hardwired to be selfish hoarders. Why would I do the work when I’ll get what I need anyway? And if you’re not doing the work and you’re still getting what I’m getting, why would I continue to do the work? Society breaks down.

We definitely need a merit system. But we need a system where we are all accountable to each other, invested in each other and our communities. We need our governments to be accountable too, because that is the purpose of being a tribe. A tribe has to have accountable leaders who care about their people, or at least cares about a people’s revolution enough to work in the community’s interests rather than their own.

This holiday season, let’s try to look at things from a different perspective. Let’s find some compassion, some understanding. Stop the isolationism, work together and break out of those boxes…and maybe then we truly can be great.

Characteristics of a Cult

I’ll just leave this here…

  • Zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader or its ‘Truth’
  • The leader is above the law
  • Leaders dictate how members should think, act and feel
  • Doubt and dissent have harsh consequences
  • The ends justify the means
  • Submission/subservience is demanded
  • Guilt and shame or fear and intimidation are used to influence

 

  • The group is somehow better than all others and only those who are special enough may join
  • Us versus Them mentality
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group
  • True believers feel there is no life outside the group
  • Gender roles are strictly defined and adhered to by the group
  • Group-think (due to harsh consequences of dissent)

There is a great list and breakdown of various characteristics on Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (Matt Slick)

And here’s an interesting (partial list) created in 2009 The Guardian (Rick Ross) I only used the points directly concerned with the leader, rather than points concerning the group and/or its members

Warning signs of a potential cult leader:

  • Absolute power with no accountability
  • No tolerance for questions or criticism
  • No meaningful financial disclosure
  • Feeling/Instilling feelings of persecution from the outside world

 

There have been many organizations considered to be cults that later evolved into society-recognized religions/movements/what-have-you. So, where is the fine line that separates a ‘real’ religion/movement/etc. from a drinking-the-juice-aid/only-the-crazies-do-it cult? What do you think?

 

 

To have and to hold…

Today I’m interested in the Fourth Amendment.

Search and Seizure. Essentially, this amendment guarantees every citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their lives, property, businesses, etc. This is why the police and government agencies need warrants to look deeper when they suspect you’ve committed some crime or infraction. This is why it’s illegal to pull someone over for no good reason and search the trunk of their car, or their pockets. It’s why police can’t just barge into your house, why they can’t stop and frisk young black men for simply walking down the street. It’s why the government can’t fly drones over your corn field looking for your hidden marijuana plants or tap your phone or read your emails. Social media is not included…

This Amendment doesn’t get as much press as the First or Second, and do you even know what the Third is? (Quartering soldiers. Britain used to make people house the military at their own expense. Way to save on the military budget, right?) Anyway, the Fourth is very important, so while 1 and 2 have their rabid battles, the Fourth is quietly doing the heavy lifting of protecting the citizens of this country.

While everyone was distracted, it came under fire.

Most notably, the Fourth has been undermined by Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio. According to the Washingtom Post (just to name a source, but it’s validated by other news organizations) a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people who were not suspected of actual criminal activity.

Essentially, Arpaio disregarded court orders and targeted people he thought specifically fit a stereotype in his region of what an ‘illegal immigrant’ was. Cough, cough…’Mexicans’…

For the record, being in this country, even without documentation, isn’t illegal—which I know will be a shocker for so many to learn. Undocumented residence in this country is a civil violation. It’s on the same level as not paying child support—which may, depending upon state rules, result in a stay in jail, but isn’t something that would go on your record or even cause deportation (shock!). Jaywalking is a crime, living somewhere isn’t.

Side note to create empathy: let’s say you’re a white man. Let’s pretend that being in the KKK, while not a crime, will get you fined for some civil violation. Maybe…I don’t know…it’s against your town’s decency standards, or something. So, Sheriff Someone goes looking for KKK members, but he starts stopping every white man he comes across because, let’s face it, nobody else is joining the group, right? But you got stopped, just because you were white… You’re not part of the group, would never be part of the group, but you still got stopped, frisked for any potential burning crosses, strip searched and checked out for swastika tattoos and then your home was also ransacked—and God help you if your sheets are white, yeah?

Is that fair? No. No, it’s not fair because you were just walking across the Walmart parking lot, minding your own business with no discernible tattoos or political/religious affiliations. Still, you fit the stereotype and so you were stopped. Wow, that must be infuriating…and illegal.

But Sheriff Someone was given a free pass, not only setting a precedent that other sheriffs in other towns may follow, but creating a boisterous, though small, group of supporters for Sheriff Someone’s policies regarding this terrible, indecent nuisance. Yes? So what happens when the town council decides it’s indecent for men to wear socks with sandals, which is your favorite thing to do? Or for residents to eat anything other than locally-grown fair trade organic produce but you’re allergic to spinach and only eat meat? With me so far? Maybe….?

Well, here’s another example, then. According to the NY Post, among others, Trump’s lawyers have asked Facebook for private information concerning private individuals who have ‘liked’ anti-Trump pages. Like the rest of America, I take news these days with a grain of salt and look for multiple sources to validate whatever claims are made. This is not making waves, so do your research, butI believe this case to be true, especially given this Administration’s history with these things.

What history? Demanding voter information, for one example. Some of what they wanted was public knowledge, or for sale through the State, but other requested data was inessential to what they were looking for. So what will they really use it for? What does this particular, and unpopular/authoritarian-leaning, administration want with the information that previous administrations didn’t feel the need to waste money on? We blame Trump’s narcissism, he needs to prove those other 3 million votes were illegally cast, but there could be a darker purpose.

Like, oh, I don’t know, rounding up critics and those opposed to the sweeping and oft-times detrimental policy changes being enacted upon us. Puts that Facebook thing into a different light, looking at it from that perspective, right? How…Orwellian. I suggest you read some, in fact.

They’ve got the ‘average’ American hoodwinked, too. They (a particular set of media/politicians/ideologues) challenge your natural reaction to giving up your privacy. You shy away, you have a funny resistance to it… But they say, what do you have to hide? You’re a good American, a patriot, don’t you want to help…

But you’re helping the downfall of your own Constitution. Every time you say, sure you can look at my corn field on camera, sure that phone could be tapped, of course they should give up their emails…what do they have to hide? You are undermining the very hard-working Fourth Amendment, and you might not care so much about it right now, but just wait till it’s gone. This one, above all, is the very concept that truly stands between freedom and totalitarianism.

Laws can be changed, and in this political climate there is no guarantee that you’ll know beforehand. You could let the police into your house thinking to be helpful, and, in certain towns, if they spy your dildo, you can be charged. If they use the bathroom, without search and seizure restrictions they can open your medicine cabinet and poke around…What do you have in there? Did you dispose of any leftover medications legally and properly?

The wholesale removal of rights would cause an uproar among us all, but a little bit here and there…and what does it matter of you’ve done ‘nothing’ wrong…

There are a myriad of small infractions a lot of us commit every day, and the Fourth keeps our little, mostly innocuous secrets safe. So be a good citizen, pay attention, and protect your privacy however you can.

That’s my bone to pick…

You won’t always agree, and that’s okay. I’d still love to hear your comments, so long as you can manage to keep yourself respectful, because we all deserve a little dignity. Be human, you know? I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative. I believe the best path lies in the middle and the truth takes participation from both sides. I also believe we’re on a dangerous, slippery slope because a lot of sides of a lot of issues aren’t listening to anyone else.

Nobody is always entirely right…

 

 

Monday Morning I want my Quarterbacks

So, for a while now, I’ve been threatening to get my rant on. For the most part, I’ve wanted to keep my politics separate from my business because we all know how how fast a business goes up in flames when you voice an opinion that somebody is bound to disagree with…

Which is, ultimately, why I decided to start up this section, entitled My Bone to Pick. My opinion, my perspective, and we all know that, in this day and age, perspective IS reality, no matter if that perspective is right or wrong, true or false, yes?

I’m not a coward. My business doesn’t mean more to me than speaking out for the right things. And why should everybody else get to have their say and not me?

So, the topic du jour this Monday, September 25th, 2017: Who took a knee at the football game?

Oh, let me rephrase that: Who cares who took a knee at the football game while North Korea declares (potentially nuclear) war on the United States of America?

Y’all are so worried about your favorite player having an opinion different than yours that you’ve ignored the real threat to your freedoms and safety. Squabbling amongst ourselves is going to get much more difficult to do when we’re all choking on toxic radiation. And you were so concerned about Zika…and Ebola…wait till you get a load of what’s coming.

Hold on, though. I promised an opinion, right?

My opinion is, #takeaknee. Quite frankly, I think Kap was lazy, didn’t feel like standing up, got called out on it and came up with a brilliant protest on the fly. (So, good job, there, man.) Now that there’s something to kneel for though, I’m down with it. Since when is kneeling disrespectful? Don’t you kneel before God (because, let’s just call a stereotypical spade a stereotypical spade and posit the theory that Good Christians are the ones with the strongest Anti-Knee opinion, mmm-kay?).

They shouldn’t do it on their team owner’s time? Maybe the owner doesn’t mind. Maybe, in fact, the owner agrees with the protest. After all, he sees the value in the men of color on his team, right? He doesn’t just appreciate the white players. The owner sees their achievements, their skills and, in many cases, their humanitarian efforts. And yet, so many people in the communities these men have come from, who may even share similar value, efforts and achievements, don’t have the same opportunities…and they don’t have the same freedoms. Maybe rectifying that is a fight the owners believe in and support.

Sure, you have the right to not watch, tear up your ticket, write the Commissioner (because I’m sure he’s personally reading your letter, uh-huh, I’m positive). Or, you could just sing the anthem louder. (You do know the words right? ‘Cause, if not, that’s disrespectful, you know?) They only kneel for the length of the first verse, so, maybe you could just handle yourself until the game starts?

Maybe, while you put your hand over your heart and honor those who fought and died for your country and your Constitution, you could also spare a minute’s contemplation for the men and women who have served to protect freedoms they didn’t, and still don’t, have.

And if you’re feeling moved by any amount of Christian sentiment, any molecule of empathy for your fellow Americans, those who put their lives on the line so you could argue about non-harmful, peaceful events that took place in the last five minutes of a pre-game ritual, perhaps you, too, will be driven to your knees so you can pray that all people of your homeland, all members of what essentially amounts to being your tribe, may one day share the same equality and justice that you have.

That’s my bone to pick…

You won’t always agree, and that’s okay. I’d still love to hear your comments, so long as you can manage to keep yourself respectful, because we all deserve a little dignity. Be human, you know? I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative. I believe the best path lies in the middle and the truth takes participation from both sides. I also believe we’re on a dangerous, slippery slope because a lot of sides of a lot of issues aren’t listening to anyone else.

Nobody is always entirely right…