independence

Can’t help but be thoughtful today about freedom and government. Today marks US Independence Day, commemorating the moment when the colonies shook off King George III and declared their independence. 

“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” the declaration tells us, are “unalienable Rights,” and that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

And here we are, 245 years later, now with firsthand experience of a noun that shouldn’t really be in a democratic lexicon, “lockdown.” Now, in a time when we have somehow adjusted to government/corporate censorship of individual voices and information, and, especially of late, the labelling of dissenting views as “extremist.” Now, when our personal information, communication, medical choices, and whereabouts are tracked on an epic scale. Now, when the sudden bombing of a distant nation, also holding people with unalienable rights, barely registers, and when information is suppressed, withheld, or manipulated by what was once known as a free press. Now, when taxes are siphoned from the masses and put to pockets and purposes perhaps not quite in keeping with the notion that “all men are created equal,” as the declaration noted.

But such things happen dependent on the consent of the governed and on the tax dollars of said governed. It is with the forbearance of the people that malfeasance blossoms. 

Just like other animals, each one affirming Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, we need to be present, alert, and protective of those unalienable rights. It is on us to actively pursue and empower leadership that supports and implements our rights and the vision we hold for our free country and world. And, in that respect, each one of us must be a leader, awake to and informed by our innately compassionate hearts.

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action and inaction

The “end of slavery” is certainly worthy of commemoration, celebration, and introspective examination.

In the designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, it’s possible that we’ll become a little better educated on this moment of United States history and contemplate its significance then and now as well.

Nevertheless, it boggles the mind that our legislators can be this transparently hypocritical. They managed to pull themselves together to actually accomplish something for once, and that something turns out to be nothing more than official lip service. This activity on the part of our legislators is simply virtue signaling writ large, the status quo. From some perspectives, it is even a pitiful co-opting of a long-standing African-American observance.

No, our illustrious “representatives” in Washington did not manage to accomplish anything else that might actually affect, say, matters of social or economic justice, equality, or freedom. You know, things that might actually impact peoples’ lives for the better. They did, however, give themselves a day off in the process.

Hopefully, though, the new federal holiday will fuel more discussion, and who knows, maybe even action around those urgent issues. Anything’s possible, right?

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compassionate new year :)!

Perhaps 2021 can be the year we begin to build in earnest our own compassionate culture. After 2020’s time of introspection, its heavy dosing of fear, its many questions, lessons, and losses, maybe we can feel empowered to build something new.

We see, after all, the technocapitalist drill does not serve humanity, the other beings, the planet, quite so well. It’s really good at some things, but compassion — a key element for life — is missing entirely.

Let’s make this year the one where we bring deep, fundamental compassion to the system.  Let the system shiver and learn to adjust, or crumble.

Love. Health. Abundance. Creativity. Freedom.

go ahead, change the world

As we all watch our leaders in Washington struggle, yet again, to bring themselves to serve the people instead of, say, defense contractors, who can help but wonder what we can do. 

As we watch even the progressive “squad” demur from forcing Medicare for All to a floor vote during a pandemic, we wonder just what it will take to effect real change. 

Each day, as we see the President-elect prepare to nominate yet another empty-suited crony to a top position in the new administration, we struggle to know how real change, positive change will come. 

We feel powerless, helpless to change this massive system that rolls along and over so many.

And yet, it is we who really do hold the power in our hands. Short of organizing, beyond organizing, there is one simple thing each of us can do that would immediately trigger change towards the world we want to see. 

If we all really want peace on earth and good will to all beings, we will walk away from using and eating animals. It’s that simple. And it’s something any of us – yes, even you – can do.

The uncomplicated act of refusing to participate in our society’s oppression, abuse, and killing of animals on a scale beyond imagination is the beginning and the key to massive, positive societal change. 

If our society really embraces a whole food plant-based diet, we will witness profound changes in everything from much-improved health to a reversal of climate destruction (and just in the nick of time). We will break the grip of the cabal of corporations on government and in our lives.

We will change the world in amazing ways, turning toward a compassion-based way of life instead of the cruel competition that we were taught to believe is inevitable and normal. 

Cruelty, killing, impoverishment, suffering, control is not normal. Nor is it inevitable. We have the power to change it for the animals, and, in so doing, we will change it for ourselves and our culture. We will change it for our children, and theirs.

So simple. It’s something you can do. It’s enjoyable. There’s tons of support and information. Be delighted by what you discover.

YOU have the power. Step up. Go ahead, change the world.

independence day

Tigers deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, too!

Strange times. Here we are celebrating Independence Day during a period of ever-deepening loss of freedom. 

The celebration commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. A key selection from the revered document simply asserts:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It goes on to say, basically, that the whole point of government is to ensure those unalienable rights.

Wave the flag all you want, but we are not really holding to the sentiment expressed so clearly in the Declaration. Nor have we been for a long time, if ever.

When we consider folks like women, black people, Native Americans, immigrants, and others, it is easy to see that interpretation and application of the Declaration has not been straight-forward.

It’s time to double down on the original expressed intent — equality and Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness — because our freedom is at more risk than ever.

The whole Covid-19 adventure has been an exercise in surrendering freedoms. And that’s post Patriot Act.

Lockdowns (and more) have quickly given us a primer in loss of freedoms, and how swiftly it can happen. Those freedoms have been cut in the context of heavy propaganda, making it next to impossible for the average citizen to judge the situation or the truth in an informed, rational way.

Adjusted to it, yet? Because it has launched us down a path that guarantees to strip us of more freedoms in the long term, unless we are vigilant and proactive.

Sadly, Americans seem to be taking entrenched stands on things. What we really need to do, however, is come together. We need to learn to accommodate opposing points of view as we educate ourselves and find a path that allows us our equal and unalienable rights. 

We will ensure neither health nor freedom by stripping rights, or by alienation, mockery, and ostracizing.

I hope we all recognize, too, that we really can’t trust our freedom to government at any level without our alert and insistent participation. Even though we’ve seen a lot of protests lately, there is so much more work to do.

This Independence Day, we have to stand up and demand, with respect and compassion, those equal and unalienable rights outlined so many years ago.

Just like the deer in the forest, the fish in the sea, and the birds in the air, each of us exists on this amazing planet with the mission of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Deeply grateful for the freedom we do experience, let us take these words to heart and act like we mean it. Let’s do it together. 

a better candidate

We learned yesterday that Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden does not support police defunding. That didn’t take long.

Considering that Biden was responsible for the 1994 tough-on-crime bill that exacerbated problems rather than solve them, his rush to rule out defunding should come as no surprise.

It’s interesting that a lot of folks seem uncomfortable with defunding. I would guess that comes from a lack of understanding, and, of course, resistance to change. 

Defunding doesn’t mean we drop everything overnight and suddenly find ourselves in some kind of ‘wild, wild West’, every person for him/her self. No, it means reallocating funds to support people in the ways they really need help, so that crime and distress are not such prevalent realities for so many people in the first place. It also means developing a new vision for the kind of policing we really need and want in our communities, and then making that happen, too. It also means rejecting a form of policing that does not serve our population well.

It’s a radical step toward making actual systemic changes. And it showcases other areas that need radical overhaul. Our mental health, education, and health systems are not so great, nor are they equitable. All of them need reform. Plus, defunding forces us to look at the fundamentals of meaningful work for a meaningful wage, secure housing, and availability of nutritious food. 

We’re talking about basic respect for each human being.

But back to Biden. He’s got a lock on the nomination. He’s doing well, by doing nothing, in recent polling against Trump. It’s pretty sad commentary that this is what we’re down to.

Biden may be a familiar, perhaps friendly-looking face, but take a serious look at his record in terms of peace, justice, and equality. This is a candidate that has authored legislation that has hurt people of color, among others. He is another candidate who has allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him. His cognitive abilities are seriously under question. His engineered rise to the forefront has alienated many progressive voters, perhaps for the long haul. And he has made no effort throughout the campaign thus far to instill confidence or enthusiasm, hat tip to corporate donors.

Folks, we can do better than this.

We should not be surprised that there is actually a movement afoot. Believe it or not, a March Against Biden is set for June 27. These are not Trump supporters. Nope, these are voters who fear a loss to Trump because Biden is such a demonstrably lousy candidate. They are all about finding a better candidate. Check out @BidenMarch on Twitter.

Dems, are you listening? It’s not too late. We really could have a decent candidate if we put our minds to it.

We are witnessing firsthand the power of the people in the ongoing protests. Things are changing in our society entirely due to the people’s fearless and persistent demands right now. Another thing we can absolutely demand is a better candidate, not just a perhaps-lesser evil. One actually worth voting for.

speak against censorship

Each morning, after some time of my own quiet reflection, I eventually face up to the news.

Now, more than ever, there is a lot of sorting out to do. Trying to find the truth of things is a job. And it doesn’t help things one little bit when someone somewhere decides for me what information or opinion I can or cannot access.

Censorship is damaging and disempowering – which is the intent. And I am alarmed at how rampant it is becoming.

There is so much we don’t know. Scientists don’t know everything. Doctors don’t know everything. One political party or another does not know everything. The CIA does not know everything. Fact checkers don’t know everything. 

And all of them have biases.

Investigation of both facts and ideas is a healthy thing. Discourse is a healthy thing. Awareness and education are fundamental. Critical thinking is – ahem – critical.

Even without outright censorship, the information made available to us already suffers from a lot of control and manipulation. There are the stories that rise to the front page, and the stories that don’t. 

There’s been plenty of censorship relative to the Coronavirus. This is a situation that should allow more information and viewpoints, not less. Still, viewpoints from certain perspectives, expert or otherwise, are routinely disappeared, suppressed, or disparaged.

As the protesting going on around the country progresses, one has to consider how censorship has played a role in both producing the situation and covering it. We often see in the news the police account of a given incident, with little to no input from individuals involved and with a complete lack of context. At the very least, this can easily create a bias towards certain people, or classes of people. And, as we have seen in far too many instances, it may not even be the truth at all. During the current crisis, we are repeatedly seeing journalists roughed up and arrested. Now, what would be the point of that?

On an entirely different matter, Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore’s documentary, Planet of the Humans, was taken down for an alleged copyright violation. It was available free for viewing until the movie’s criticism culminated in this allegation which apparently concerns 4 seconds of footage that Moore alleges was “fair use.” Rather than pursue the matter through appropriate legal channels, the aggrieved party appealed to YouTube which settled the matter by taking the movie down. So much for legal process. 

I did watch the movie before it went away. It is a disturbing and thought-provoking work which leaves the viewer with questions. That is the point. To ask questions. To wonder about the truth. To evaluate the path we’ve been on and see where we might be headed. I have been very disappointed to see people in the environmental movement just pile on against this film rather than to seize the opportunity for dialogue.

With such a constant barrage of information coming at us 24 hours a day, it is more important than ever to allow free thought and discourse. When we acquiesce to allowing “someone” to control what we are allowed to view or read, this is dangerous and dark. It is counter to a healthy and free society. 

The masks we now routinely see covering people’s mouths are emblematic. It is hard to see them and not think what censorship and control of information is doing to our society. 

Today marks the sad anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. In the context of the ongoing protests we are seeing now, coupled with the aggressive stance the president has articulated, it is more important than ever to speak up – to be able to speak up.

Say NO to censorship.

Update 6-6-20: Planet of the Humans is now back up on YouTube, free viewing.

let us resound

Last night marked a fearful and determining moment for this country. When the sitting president deploys police/military forces to rout peaceful protestors, we have turned a terrible corner. 

He demonstrated his capability by using those forces for the purpose of shoving his way to an astonishingly hypocritical photo op. That photo should live in infamy not only in its disgusting display of hubris but its grim disdain for the people, freedom, and, yes, religion.

It is terrifying to see police/military personnel participate in this destructive farce, turn against the people, and walk all over the oath they vowed to uphold as well as the Constitution. That they are capable should be deeply troubling in light of the president’s clear, expressed intent.

This cannot stand. We, the people, must be strong and united in the peaceful defense of freedom, peace, justice, and equality. Where voices have called out all week in the name of justice, let us resound with it.

This moment cannot be allowed to pass without redress. It is time for all of us to take a stand against this debased breach of trust and revilement of the premises upon which we agree and presume our government and country should abide. Our legislature continues to fail us, no matter which party, but we must demand they step up in defiance to this egregious development. We must demand they respond to our calls for a moral justice.

It is also time for a true leader, one that boldly stands up for the people, to come to the fore. I don’t think that person is the one hiding out in a Delaware basement, but I know they’re out there somewhere. There’s still time, and, in fact, that time is now.

Step up.
Stand up. 
Stand for freedom.
Stand for love.

action not platitudes

So, what I’m wondering is…. where’s the response?

People across the nation are protesting. There is clearly a problem, and many people are speaking out their anger and frustration. Although George Floyd’s inexcusable murder was a triggering event in the midst of a bizarre and stressful time, the emotions didn’t evolve overnight. 

One would think that leaders in our country would be proposing actual solutions.

Instead, while everyone is protesting the police, in response, all we get is more policing. Videos abound of police in their damn riot gear intimidating peaceful protestors, bullying them, yelling at residents and protestors, and using violence that ranges from pushing people down, whether they are walking with a cane or not, to ramming them with their vehicles.

And sure, I applaud people like Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson in Flint who set his baton down and marched with the people, but we have to look beyond moments of solidarity and ask, okay, how are we really going to fix this?

Where, I ask, where is the leadership? There is an absolute void, whether Republican or Democrat, of a leader anywhere who is stepping in to actually address the grievances being raised across this nation right now. Shooting for looting is not a problem solver. Nor is empty rhetoric like calls for “healing this country“ from Mr. You Ain’t Black.

Hellooooo!!! We are looking for a real leader who actually has some vision and the ability to articulate it, formulate it, and execute a meaningful response. We’re talking about substantive, structural, practical changes on behalf of the people. We want positive, compassionate action, not just words.

So far, crickets.

How about defunding police departments?  As in, let’s have less policing, not more. I know I’d feel safer. Invest those funds in the creation of positive, healthy communities that stand on peace, justice, and equality.

How about demilitarizing the police? Yeah, we really don’t like seeing those bully lines of black-garbed soldiers ranged against we the people. We don’t want to see tanks on our streets. We’re sick and tired of SWAT raids, tasers, and bullets.

How about developing a compassionate approach to policing, implementing new commonsense training right from the get-go, and recruiting a suitable type of person for such work?

How about a livable minimum wage? As in, why, yes, we actually do care about all of our workers and their families, essential and beyond.

How about depopulating and closing prisons? We all know there’s just no reason for us to be the worldwide leader for imprisonment, unless, of course, you want to make a profit.

How about healthcare and housing solutions? How about equity in the workplace? How about equity in schooling? How about meaningful work? I don’t know, I could go on.

And just as there is a dearth of healthy leadership in government, we also yearn for leadership for those oppressed. Both the literal and figurative knee on the neck serve well to suppress much needed organized dissent and vision on behalf of the suffering classes. Maybe now is the time those visionary voices can rise and lead again to make for a better nation for all.