Archive for July 2017

RESIST, PERSIST, EXIST

by Matt Thuney

We human beings are a cooperative species by nature. We have to be in order to survive. We come together for protection. We come together for growth. We come together to make our lives better. If we don’t come together, we fall apart. When human beings fall apart, civilization fails.

There is a myth that has gained increasing popularity here in America: it’s the myth of the “rugged individualist.” According to this myth, rugged individualists built this country. Lone entrepreneurs moved it forward. Only strong, independent leaders can keep us on the path to…to what? Going it alone as a nation? Ignoring or subduing the rest of the world?

It’s all a lie. “Rugged individualists” did not build this country; refugees and dreamers did that. They did it together, by working together to build towns, villages, cities, states, and finally an entire nation created from a vast patchwork quilt of heritages, beliefs, and visions for the future.

Yes, individuals can imagine and create amazing things. But it takes more than a single person to translate those amazing things into reality. And imaginative individuals do not arise mysteriously out of the ether and develop their capabilities single-handedly. They come from families, grow up in neighborhoods, learn from those around them. Whether they battle their environment or are nourished by it, they are the product of human interaction. And these individuals always receive help somewhere along the way. A piece of advice, a life lesson, someone’s garage to work in. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Man, woman, or child, we are all in this together. Together we achieve; apart we abate.

But it’s a jungle out there, right? An every-man-for-himself, dog-eat-dog world?

Another lie. Exactly how long do you think a rugged individualist would survive alone in the jungle? What kind of life would that be? No man, woman, or child can stand alone for long. And what do you get with a dog-eat-dog world? A bunch of half-eaten dogs. Animals run in packs for a reason. Humans do, too. For one thing, it makes life easier. For another, if you have a big enough pack working together toward a common goal, you can make life better, both for you and your pups.

Individuality is indeed one of the great beauties of being human. Here in America, we especially prize it, and rightly so. By celebrating individuality, we celebrate diversity; and diversity is the key to our survival. Monocultures don’t tend to last long. Being so uniform, they lack adaptability and do not hold up well against changes and challenges. When it comes to survival, conformity is not a good thing.

That is the conundrum our nation has always faced: Celebrating the individual while working together. That’s what truly makes America great: Our ability to hold that paradox in our hearts and minds and to move forward toward a better tomorrow for ourselves and our children and all the generations to come.

But there are boogeymen out there! People who don’t look like me, people who don’t think like me, people who want to control me…The Government!

A big lie, and one that now threatens to tear our country apart. Oh yes, Americans are most definitely diverse in appearance and thought. That is our strength. That is what propels us forward and brings out our unique creativity as a culture. And The Government? We are The Government! It’s not some monolithic, menacing monster that’s out to get us. We elect our representatives. If they fail to do their job, that’s our responsibility.

Responsibility. There’s a word that’s lost its way. Yes, we the people are the government. We can provide for the common good if we truly want it. If our elected representatives are acting irresponsibly, then that’s on us. We can change that. We can make it so that governmental officials respond to our wants and needs, not those of their wealthy donors. Right now, it sure seems like many of our representatives are bought and paid for by individuals who want only what’s best for them. We can change that, too. The Government is not the boogeyman. We, through inattention and falling for those lies, have become our own monsters.

We must resist the lies that lead us to believe we can only trust ourselves, that our self-interests are paramount, that we know what’s best and the rest of the community be damned. Paradoxically, this often-heard complaint is the most self-destructive command in the English language: “Just leave me alone.” You are not alone. You may try to be a “loner,” but you are never alone. Alone is a place where souls go to die.

Resist the lie that someone’s out to get us. Let’s not blame our neighbors, the terrorists, the government. Fear is the enemy. Division is the enemy. Exclusion is the enemy.

We came from all over the world (yes, even the “indigenous” peoples), willingly or not, to create this nation together and to live our diverse lives in harmony and with dignity and imagination.

We must not let this dream that is America die.

Resist the lies. Persist in the truth. Exist together.

Author’s bio: 

For the past 30 years Matthew has been scribbling humor and human-interest pieces and crafting political blogs for consumption in the Pacific Northwest.
Matthew has always been a student and seeker. Early on, it looked as though his path would lead to the Episcopal ministry. Luckily for the Episcopal Church, that path turned into a 40-year detour.

But everything started falling into place when Matthew and his wife moved to the hinterlands of northwest Washington. Lo and behold, he rediscovered his journalistic muse, reporting on his bumbling attempts to adapt to country living; He rediscovered his radio voice when a small band of crazed volunteers fired up a community radio station; and he rediscovered his spiritual roots as new friends and neighbors approached Matthew to give eulogies and even preside over the marriages of loved ones.
Who’da thunk it?

Certainly not his long-suffering spouse Donna, who thankfully remains at his side. Nor their puzzled families, who long ago gave up trying to figure Matthew out. Nor their two-and-a-half cats, who are always giving him quizzical looks.

 

Writer, Announcer, Instructor, Officiant, Community Coordinator

Bucolia: Hijinx in the Hinterlands is now available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bucolia-Hijinx-Hinterlands-Matthew-Thuney/dp/1519400225/

And on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018HMANRW

Writer: https://www.facebook.com/Bucolia/

Community Coordinator: https://www.facebook.com/southforkvalley/

Announcer/Station Manager: https://www.facebook.com/KAVZradio/

Wedding Officiant: https://www.facebook.com/weddingswithspiritandwit/

How Do You Spell “No”?

by Cile Stanbrough

I am an American and I’m not thrilled about protest marching. I’ve done it a few times in my life and I’m not keen on it. Each time I marched, I did it in response to feeling impotent and thinking of myself as not doing enough to resist oppression. So, like so many armchair activists motivated by this politically challenging administration, I stood up to march for science when the opportunity presented itself.

In an attempt to light a fire with damp kindling regarding participating, I decided I would make a sign to carry. I threw myself into this project… colored pens…rolls of tape…a big ass dowel to strap the thing to. I had recently, in support of a cause in New York, purchased a tee shirt that stated simply, “I AM NOT AFRAID” in bold black letters on white. It made reference to a Joan of Arc production David Byrne was producing in NY. I was all about lighting up my inner Joan of Arc – with the shirt, it was personal – and I was going to MARCH! FOR! SCIENCE! So I designed my signs to coordinate with my shirt. I thought myself quite clever as I plotted out this creative endeavor.

A friend agreed to go with me to the march and we met downtown. We listened to some rather impressive speeches and I was struck by all the laughter around me thinking that some people really do enjoy these gatherings. There was the obligatory dissenting protestor for the other side – someone representing the persecuted, ill-informed, suppressed, climate change denying, white majority. One could spot a sort of jousting of signs between the warring factions above the crowd during the inspirational talks. No one made eye contact with me, or made mention of my sign but I didn’t think anything of it. I’m not a usual suspect on this kind of beat. Still, I felt relief when we finally got moving. ‘The Scene’ was wearing on me. The right wing science resister marched as well (this still being a free country). I received a lot of side eye en route. Shy, I thought. It wasn’t until the next day when I was sitting with my feet up drinking my coffee in the morning and idly looking at my sign when I spotted a spelling error. I sat bolt upright as the color flushed my face. Fuck. Me. Running…I had spelled afraid as “AFFRAID” on my sign!  The blood surrendered to gravity. I paled as I realized that I had spent HOURS parading in a crowd of people in the town where I live boldly proclaiming my ignorance! Horrified and too old to be embarrassed, I was shuttled directly to shame without paying any toll.

There is a standard prejudice among liberals that the conservative right are ignorant and illiterate. I can only imagine what was going through people’s predominantly liberal minds as they read my sign. Suddenly I reflected on all the laughter I had heard around and me and wondered how much was about my sign? Perhaps they thought I was an infiltrator from the right covertly trying to subvert their support for space exploration and environmental protection? Perhaps I was perceived as someone so far to the right she could no longer spell her name! Typical hysteria ensued as my personal fraud police – those keystone cops of cruelty – where in full whistle-blowing overdrive in my mind gleefully wedging blasting caps in my self esteem.

There is nothing that quite compares to the feeling that you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing no matter how righteous the intent. Nothing spells this out quite as clearly as personal sabotage and the subsequent stench of ego death. So how should this frustrated American resist? This first generation born American should be defining who she is and honing her imported super powers in this restless and ever changing country; she should be defying orders if needed and acting in accordance to honoring her democratic principles. Clearly this American should resist imitating the resistance of others and not be afraid to listen and march to her own drum.

Author’s Bio: Cile Stanbrough began writing as a coping mechanism. She had been coping for so long that when blogging technology appeared she wrote out her demons by over-sharing there and began to thrive. Cile found solace in end of life care and started a private business, Your Amicus Mortis, where she proposes to help people and families better understand mortality in the modern world.  She designed a website for her business which is primarily a place holder for her blog entries on and about death related subjects. There is also an Amicus Mortis Facebook page that has small essays regarding end of life. Cile can be found writing with her coffee and her thriving mechanism fully engaged everyday at 4am.

www.youramicusmortis.com    www.cilesfineline.blogspot.com

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by Judith Shantz

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. That was the childhood response to playground bullies, but it was never true. Words do hurt, far more than sticks or stones. Mindless cruelties. Retard and queer. We never outgrew it, the words just changed – redneck, welfare queen – nasty labels of otherness. Where did we learn these words?

Surely deplorables and bad hombres have always been with us.  Somewhere in our evolution we crossed a line, from the simple needs of the clan, “Og kills antelope” to the despicable rejection of otherness, “Og hates fags”.

The Ogs have become more sophisticated over the millennia but their type is universal. In America they now have perfectly ordinary, European names. They wear business suits. Some even have titles – doctor, congressman, pastor, president. Their message is often more nuanced but it is still the same brand of hate.

I belonged to a generation of believers. We were the granolas and the tree-huggers, the marchers and the protesters. It was a heady time with great music as its backdrop – music that gave us our anthems and promised “Times, they are a-changing”. We were, perhaps, naïve but our tents were big – Civil Rights, Human Rights, Women’s Rights – and our hearts were expansive.

But it wasn’t quite enough. We grew up and had babies and needed jobs. We cut our hair and put on work clothes and took out mortgages. The fierce momentum lagged and those big tents shriveled, became more exclusive, leaving the most vulnerable behind. Now, in some quarters, ‘colorism’ embraces only lighter-skinned African Americans and Feminism has been reduced to a fight for reproductive rights – certainly a critical issue but not the only one.

In greater and greater numbers, the disenfranchised have turned to the politics of identity, rising up to claim their own labels and narratives. This wasn’t caused by any single event – it cannot be laid at the feet of September 11 or Trayvon Martin or even FOX News – those were simply catalysts. “I will no longer permit you to define me; I will name my own identity.”

This has been empowering for some.  We can see that in the happy proliferation of rainbow flags. But it has also left so many others in little bubbles of aloneness, struggling to reimagine their own unique identities, standing rigid and apart, each with his or her own label. “This adjective, this pronoun, this acronym, this is my unique identity. You are Other.  You cannot know my pain.” We tiptoe through these minefields, afraid that our words will, in the parlance of the day, ‘disrespect’ those Others. And now, in these politically charged times, ‘PC’ itself has become a pejorative.

Am I an innocent in all this?  Alas, no. I am a world class ranter and have been known to broad-brush, at least privately, entire populations as anti-intellectual and bigoted. I have also indulged in creating my own identity, my label. I have let the few really nasty, anti-immigrant tirades hurled at me get under my skin and stick there, like a tick bite, festering. I have sometimes worn my alien status as a badge of honor.

Yet my particular identity is mostly invisible. I am only really affronted by the attacks on the millions of other immigrants who stand out because their skin color or language marks them as alien. I can really only imagine what the reality is for poor people standing in long lines outside the food banks, the disabled children, the men of color or the women in hijab; people who wear their ‘otherness’, their ‘lesserness’ in public every day.  We cannot fail to see and understand this pain. All those individual identities, celebrating their otherness because they have so little else – no hope of prosperity in a fabulously wealthy land, no hope for respect or admiration, no anticipation of acceptance or justice in the only home they know.

While immigrant may be part of my life experience, it doesn’t define me any more than gay or black or atheist defines anyone else. I don’t want to think of people as adjectives or acronyms. Those words do not portray any of us in our wholeness.

Ultimately, my resistance is to labels of all kinds, whether the undeserved ones or the self-selected ones.  I do not want to sanctify otherness.  Some of us are saintly, others not so admirable. But our simple humanity still makes us all eminently knowable. While it is impossible not to notice basic physical differences, I want to look you full in the face and see simply another human being. I want to listen to your story and see in you the whole person that you are.

I would return to my 1967 self and feel the upwelling energy of the fight for justice, and all those other fights, against poverty and homelessness, against corruption and greed – but never, ever against one another.

One by one, I am trying to lay down all the stick and stones.

Author’s Bio:  Judy Shantz grew up on the freezing/scorching Canadian prairie but always longed for a more gentle clime; preferably one with the scent of roses and salt sea in the air. Her first full-length novel, The Case of the Flickering Flashlight, was written at the age of nine and accepted by her loving parents with amazement and scarcely-disguised laughter. Her adult writings fill notebooks, spill out of files, cover cocktail napkins and the backs of grocery lists and her association with Red Wheelbarrow Writers is providing the inspiration to add flesh and feathers and fancy pants to all those characters waiting to be heard.