Mid-Month Marvels: Life After Hate

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’m calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

It seems that now, more than ever, a lot of people are walking around full of the type of hate and anger that leads to violence. This often stems from fear for their futures, alienation, uncertainty, trauma, shame and/or abuse. But violence has never solved anything. If anything, it perpetuates more hate, anger, and violence.

“Research shows that many violent extremists become disillusioned with the so-called ‘movement’”, according to the organization called Life After Hate, which was founded by former extremists in an effort to turn the tide. Their website states that “Life After Hate is committed to helping people leave the violent far-right to connect with humanity and lead compassionate lives. Our vision is a world that allows people to change and contribute to society without violence. Our primary goal is to interrupt violence committed in the name of ideological or religious beliefs. We do this through education, interventions, academic research, and outreach.”

Here’s an organization that does not pass judgment. They just offer a path forward. They offer insight and advice. They help you let go and break free.

Constant hate or anger has got to be exhausting after a while. If you want to find another way, if you want to move on with your life but don’t know how, or you have a family member who is heading down a violent path and you don’t know what to do, this organization is for you.

For more information, check out this PSA, and also this story of one family transformed. After that, reach out to them at info@lifeafterhate.org, or call 612-888-EXIT (3948).

Please join me in supporting Life After Hate. No judgment. Just help. We could all use a little of that from time to time.

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Cycle Perspective

“I used to love my bike more than life when I was a kid,” I said.

“Then why don’t you have one now?” she asked.

Good question. I thought of that feeling I used to get as a child, zooming down the street on my blue banana seat bicycle with the extended handlebars. No doubt I was on a mission.

I’d be going as fast as I could, feeling the wind in my hair. I’d let out a triumphant whoop. It was freedom. It was speed. It was distance from my stepfather and my family dysfunction. It was the closest thing I had to control over my life. I was calling all the shots. It was pure joy.

I would do figure eights in the street. I’d ride around the speed bumps as fast as I could. I’d wave at people as I passed, but I wouldn’t stop.

One time I was riding barefoot (stupid) and I somehow got my pinky toe caught in the bike chain. I nearly ripped it off. I came home bleeding and crying, and my stepfather decided to take the bike away. (Wouldn’t “wear shoes” have been sufficient?)

My solution was to steal my own bike and hide it and still use it. It’s not like anyone knew or cared where I went or what I did anyway. And that’s what I did for a good month until everybody forgot I wasn’t supposed to have a bike in the first place. I lived in a world without consequences. I’m amazed I didn’t misbehave even more than I did.

One time my bike actually was stolen by a kid from down the street. (That family would steal bikes, repaint them, and then sell them at flea markets, so it was hard to keep a bike in my neighborhood.) But as quiet as the experienced little thief tried to be, I still happened to see him. I ran screaming after him as he tried to cut across a field with my beloved bike. I wouldn’t give up. I just kept running and screaming for my freedom, and shouting, “I know who you ARE!” He finally dumped the bike and ran away.

It’s never a good idea to underestimate me. Especially when I know I’m in the right. And to think that I rode the school bus with that little sh** every day.

My childhood was strictly about survival, and in that, my bike was my best friend. It gave me superpowers. It allowed me to be alone and yet active. My bike was everything.

When I got older and got a used car, I dropped my bike like a hot rock. I don’t even recall what became of it. Maybe I gave it away. Maybe I just let it rot. Children rarely pay the proper homage to the people or things that were once important to them.

I didn’t have another bike until I was in my 40’s and living in Vero Beach, Florida. It was a nice way to cruise my neighborhood in the evenings. I brought that bike with me to Seattle, but I was shocked to find out that the place had hills. The bike went quickly to the Goodwill.

Bicycles no longer represent freedom to me. If I want to get away, I just drive now. Besides, my house is on a highway, so it’s not suited to doing figure eights. And I’d look a little silly doing those at my age. That, and I don’t really enjoy sweating anymore. All my exercise these days is in the swimming pool of the YWCA.

But every once in a while, I close my eyes and picture myself zooming down the street, the wind in my hair, triumphantly whooping. And it’s good.

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The Freedom to Be a Selfish Fool

There’s nothing quite like a complete nut job with a dedicated following to make you wonder how anyone can question our relationship to other primates. (Spoiler alert: I’m feeling rather inflammatory today.) Case in point: a complete psychopath named Lenka Koloma.

Her Facebook page makes the following claims:

“After making herself a millionaire, healing herself of cancer, and a near death experience, Lenka learned to create healing miracles for herself and others. Let her help you transform your health, wealth & relationship issues into a life of unlimited abundance and happiness.”

She also claims to be an International Best Selling Author of a book called “Unleash the Supernatural”. As of this writing, it has an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of 1,609,092, so this author is looking at “best selling” through an extremely broad lens. But then, making false claims seems to be a recurring theme with Ms. Koloma.

Her Facebook page is all sizzle and no steak. She makes promises but doesn’t keep them. She claims to be a motivational speaker, but I got about 2 minutes into the 13 minute video she posted of herself and realized she was never going to get to the point. So I felt motivated to stop watching.

Incidentally, she made that video while driving. In Southern California. Which tells you all you need to know about how much she cares about the lives of her fellow human beings.

But if that isn’t enough to convince you of her irresponsibility, then hop on over to her website for her Freedom to Breathe Agency. (That is, if it’s still there. Several versions of this site have been taken down. I’m sure this one won’t last long either.)

The main takeaway from this site is that you should exercise your personal liberty, your freedom of speech, your freedom to choose, and your freedom to pursue happiness by refusing to wear a face mask.

The website, which is full of misspellings and awkward grammar, states:

OXYGEN IS No.1 NUTRIENT for every living organism including humans.

Wearing a face mask is an unhealthy obstruction of oxygen flow that can lead to hypoxemia (low oxygen level in the blood) and hypoxia (low oxygen level in the tissue). Both of these conditions are health threatening and can permanently damage the brain, lungs, heart and about any other organ.

​Wearing a face mask has also very important effect on our psychology. It is a psychological anchor for suppression, enslavement and cognitive obedience. When you wear a mask you are complicit in declaring all humans as dangerous, infectious and threats. How long do you think it will be before your social engineers tell you that talking spreads the virus farther ….and they forbid talking?

​How long before your human farmers trick you into believing that it is better you stop breathing altogether….as to stop the spread of a virus?

​All sold as being for your health and safety. You are being conned and your compliance makes the con a reality.

REJECT THE MIND CONTROL AND UNSLAVE

It also provides you with a PDF file that allows you to print out a fraudulent card that claims to exempt you from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public, claiming that this is an Americans with Disabilities Act violation. It also fraudulently uses the seal of the Department of Justice, and the ADA logo. Apparently this card has been quite popular of late.

But if you go to the ADA website, one of the first things you see is a disclaimer from the Department of Justice. It states:

The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.

And, incidentally, “human farming” as mentioned above by Ms. Koloma is the most lunatic fringe theory that I’ve heard in many a year. The ultimate in paranoia is to imply that we’re all such slaves that we have been reduced to the level of livestock. Yes, the rich and powerful are taking advantage of us, but to imply that we are operating under a system of slavery as we order our pizzas and binge watch our Netflix is a tad extreme. And forbidding talking? Forbidding breathing? Yeah, that’ll happen.

So who are you going to believe? Some crackpot woman who is telling you what you’d love to believe, or the truth, from legitimate sources?

Well, here’s the bugaboo. We take our freedoms very seriously in this country. So seriously, in fact, that some people extend them to the freedom to be a complete jerk. Evidence the world over demonstrates that wearing a mask saves lives. Your freedom to not wear a mask should not impinge on my freedom to not freakin’ die.

If your lack of a mask only impacted you, I’d say have at it. We need fewer selfish people in the world. But you are part of a society, and your irresponsibility puts others in danger. It endangers your loved ones most of all. You have no right, none whatsoever, to endanger others.

Wearing a mask has nothing to do with politics. It’s just basic common sense. And it’s one of the responsibilities we have right now, in exchange for all the benefits we experience from living in a civilized, albeit overcrowded, society.

I suppose sticking your head up your butt is another way to protect the rest of us from you, but I think the mask option is a better one.

Exempt

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Your Own Little Inner Fascist

Here lately I’ve been binge watching a series called The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. It’s 4 seasons long, and it’s about what America would be like if the Axis powers had won World War II. In essence, Japan has the Western states, the Nazis have the Eastern ones, and the Rocky Mountains are the neutral zone.

This show makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. I’ve written about fascism before. I fear we are flirting with it now, as we don’t seem to learn from history. In fact, we seem to be irrationally idealizing a past that never existed.

As uncomfortable as The Man in the High Castle makes me, the writing is phenomenal. It causes me to look at things with fresh eyes. One character said, “You’ve got your own little inner fascist telling you what you can and cannot do.”

That really resonates with me. According to Wikipedia, “Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy.”

If that doesn’t describe my inner voice, nothing does. My inner voice is all about explaining to me how I can’t or shouldn’t do things. It’s all about walls and roadblocks and keeping me from doing anything outside the box. My inner voice wants me to be a good little soldier and follow orders.

“You’ll fail.” “You’ll be laughed at.” “People will think you’re crazy.”

Fortunately, I often chafe at this type of control, and can therefore resist it. But every once in a while, when I’m feeling tired or insecure, that little voice has caused me to avoid taking chances, or has prevented me from speaking up. And now that I consider it a fascist voice, I abhor it even more.

I think it’s high time that we all overthrow the little dictators in our heads. Cast off the oppression. End the torture. Free our minds so that we can be our best selves. We can do it.

And incidentally, if you are someone who uses the terms fascism and communism interchangeably, here’s a little primer by way of clarification.

fascism

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Freedom of Movement

There is an excellent yardstick for measuring liberty and quality of life. Simply consider how much freedom of movement you have. From that basic indicator, you can determine if you live in a police state and/or a cult, you will know how much information and education you have access to, and you will have a good sense of the level of prejudice you are being exposed to.

Your ability to travel goes hand in hand with your freedom. If you live in a country where the women cannot travel without the permission of their husbands or fathers, you live in a misogynistic police state. If you are in a religion that does not allow you to interact with outsiders or learn about opposing points of view, or worse yet, cuts you off from family, then you are in a cult. If you can’t go anywhere without having your papers constantly checked by authority figures, then you are a slave.

Inhibiting your ability to go where you wish is an effective way of controlling the information that you have access to. If you can’t even move about the internet, then someone else is controlling your narrative, and they have an agenda that is not in your best interest. If someone wants to leave and you don’t let them, then you have just reduced them to a mere object.

Also, preventing women or minorities from having access to education is a self-defeating power play. One should be able to travel in mind as well as body. If your opportunity to learn is hindered, you should wonder what the powers that be don’t want you to discover.

People who put up walls to restrict movement are the worst kind of racists. They are either attempting to keep a group out or keep a group in. Either way, they are restricting the flow of information, and preventing the masses from becoming unified. Divide and conquer.

The only things that should prevent you from being able to travel are your own priorities and your own budgetary constraints. And even that is a can of worms, because income inequality is another great way to keep us all ignorant and close to home.

The more you travel, the more you learn. The more you travel, the less you hate. The more you travel in mind, body, and spirit, the more you know what it is to be free.

Freedom

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Censorship?

I am on the horns of a moral dilemma. I believe very strongly in free speech and freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Nothing angers me more than a book burning, or a school board that requires teachers to avoid teaching things that are science-based. I am usually the first to read a book if it gets banned.

Because of all the above, it kind of makes me squirm that, ever since I started my Little Free Library, I have been actively participating in censorship. It’s true. I have. And I will probably continue to do so.

Ugh! I’m going to hell in a handbasket.

The way a Little Free Library works is that people can take books and keep them as long as they want. They can return them, too, or they can bring other books. Most things are welcome. But some things I have to remove.

I look at myself as the curator of my library. Just as museums have curators who determine what exhibits they will display and what image their museums shall project to the world, I, too, am in control of the types of messages I put out there in my library. Being a steward is a service that I’ve voluntarily provided, and it is, after all, located on my private property.

But this censorship thing is kind of a slippery slope, and one that I never thought I’d be sliding down. It all started with the pizza flyers that someone stuffed in my library. I’m not here to advertise for local businesses. Those flyers went into the recycle bin, and I didn’t feel bad about it at all.

I also know I wouldn’t feel bad about pitching any pornography, were it to appear. My little library is often used by children. Can you imagine if little Johnny came home with a Penthouse magazine and Mom found out he got it from my box? No. Not appropriate at all.

I also get rid of books that are in poor condition. If the spines are torn off, for example, they get sent to Goodwill. I don’t want to be the dumping ground for everyone’s garbage books. That, and no one will want to take a disintegrating book to read, so it’s just taking up much-needed space. I also get rid of moldy books and ones that reek of cigarette smoke. I don’t want to trigger someone’s asthma. Again, these are situations that don’t feel morally ambiguous to me.

But here’s where it gets a little sticky. I’ve also donated religious books to Goodwill. I’m all for seeking your own spiritual path, but there are other sources for this information. I don’t want to proselytize, either purposely or by accident. It’s just not in my nature. I also know that the people in my neighborhood participate in a wide variety of religions. I don’t want anyone to feel alienated. Maybe I’d include a book on comparative religion, if it wasn’t promoting one philosophy over another. I don’t know.

I’ve also been avoiding putting blatantly political books out there. Mostly the books I’ve come across have been in alignment with my point of view, but if I put those out there, then I’ll have to put out ones I actively disagree with, and that would make me cringe. So, further down the censorship slope I slide.

Since I started my Little Free Library, I’ve met a lot of LFL stewards online. They’ve shared a multitude of moral dilemmas that have made me realize what a complicated task I’ve taken on.

For example, one steward received a children’s book which said, “For Boys Only” on the cover. I don’t think I would include this book in my library. I don’t want to participate in making girls feel as though there are things they cannot do or read.

Another steward discovered a bunch of anti-vax literature in her library. No. No. A thousand times no. I will not actively participate in spreading false information that could potentially lead to death. I refuse. This information has been debunked by the scientific community, so I’m not spreading it. I could not share literature that denies climate change for the very same reason.

Another steward received a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In a world that is experiencing a shocking escalation in hate crimes, would I want to put that lunatic’s poorly written, hateful ramblings out there? Hell to the no. While I think this is an important book, for researchers and historians and people wanting to learn about hate without being sucked into it themselves, it requires context. I am unable to provide that context, and so it wouldn’t be included in my library.

I’ve had my library for less than two months, and I’ve already come a long way from simply tossing out pizza advertisements. Rest assured, there are plenty of amazing books in there. I get excited every time I look. Reading enlivens me. It’s an adventure.

But here’s what is making me lose sleep: Where do I draw the line? Who am I to sit in judgment? Do I have the right?

What do you think?

Censorship

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Free Sheikha Latifa

There are some sick, twisted people in this world, but ones who hold their daughters captive, just because they can, are right down there in the deepest part of the scummiest of ponds, as far as I’m concerned. You’d think I was talking about something in the distant, ignorant past; some dark age custom that we can look back upon and shake our heads. But no, this is going on right now.

According to a recent article in the New York Times entitled, A Princess Vanishes. A Video Offers Alarming Clues, Sheikha Latifa, a princess from the United Arab Emirates, has not been allowed to leave her emirate in 18 years. During that time, at various times, she has been beaten, she has been held in solitary confinement for years on end, she has been deprived of medical care, she has been drugged, and even deprived of a tooth brush. She is escorted everywhere, cannot go to private residences, and is prevented from furthering her education.

Recently she escaped, but days later she was abducted again and returned home, kicking and screaming and begging to be killed. Such is her life. She’d rather die than be with her family. It’s horrifying. It’s heartbreaking. It’s criminal.

This is not the first time, nor the first country, where such atrocities have been exposed. Back in 2014, it came to light that 4 Saudi princesses had been locked up on the brink of starvation, and as recently as 2017 the situation has not changed for those poor women, despite the fact that their father has since died. But you hardly hear anyone talking about them anymore, because it’s so hard to get new information, and even harder to keep our attention, despite a movement for them, created by their mother, called Free the Four.

And make no mistake, this doesn’t just happen to royals. For example, according to this article, if you don’t have a benevolent male relative in Saudi Arabia, your life can be a living hell. You cannot travel without that relative’s permission. Your passport is confiscated. You can be forced to marry. Your salary can be confiscated. You can be abused, starved, and imprisoned. In fact, you cannot be released from prison without the permission of a male relative. And honor killings do, in fact, exist, and are a constant threat.

This situation devastates me. Here I have a guest room, sitting empty, that many of these women would kill for, and there’s nothing, nothing I can do to share this good fortune with them by obtaining their freedom. Except blog.

Sheikha Latifa

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I Don’t Have to Respond

It’s really weird when it suddenly occurs to you that you’ve been operating under a self-imposed rule. Because, just like that, you realize that if you were the one making the rule in the first place, then, hey, you don’t have to follow it anymore, do you? Ah, the freedom!

For example, if you live alone, you don’t have to make the bed if you don’t want to! Woo hoo! If you’re the only one who ever sees the back yard, you only have to mow it when you feel like it. Sweet!

I had one of those epiphanies just the other day. Here it is: I don’t have to respond to everything. That’s huge.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in common courtesy. I make it a point to say thank you and excuse me. That’s the type of lubrication that’s required to keep a civilized society running smoothly.

But I don’t have to respond to unsolicited advice. I don’t have to correct rude behavior (unless I’m looking for closure). I don’t have to explain myself or justify anything. (But I still believe in doing the right thing.)

Just because someone asks an idiotic question, that doesn’t mean I’m obliged to answer. Not every comment requires my input. Not every insult needs to be avenged.

There’s also really no point in carrying your side of an argument if, when all is said and done, it’s not going to change a thing. Your energy is limited. Save it for the positive stuff.

Sometimes it’s okay to let the other person have the last, stupid, selfish word. Whoa. What a concept.

Boy, oh boy, am I about to save myself a heck of a lot of time!

rules

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F*** the Freedom Foundation

Wow. That didn’t take long at all. Ever since Janus v. AFSCME was decided by the supreme court to defund and defang unions to the detriment of the working man, the cockroaches have begun to scurry out of the woodwork.

One such cockroach-like group is the highly funded Freedom Foundation. They just submitted a public records request for the contact information of all the employees in my union and many others across the nation. They plan to send mailers to our homes to try to talk us into opting out of our unions. They are also showing up at workplaces, and they actually plan to go door to door to our homes, to get us to opt out.

If you visit this shady organizations website, you’ll see steaming piles of b.s. such as “We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived.”

Yeah, because bureaucracies are KNOWN for their responsible self-governance. Good grief. If the free market systems of the world didn’t instinctively screw workers over, then unions wouldn’t exist in the first place. The only reason we HAVE any freedom whatsoever is because of unions.

Stay strong, folks. Don’t drink the kool aid. And if the Freedom Foundation comes knocking on your door, remember that you’re well within your rights to tell them to get the hell off your property. That’s what I plan to do.

Union Beg

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It’s All Stuff and Nonsense

I just finished reading a Rolling Stone article about the financial woes of Johnny Depp. Hundreds of millions of dollars gone. Poof. Just like that. Millions taken by hangers on, apparently without Depp even noticing until it was too late. Much signing of signature pages without reading the actual content of the document. 6 million in fees for paying his taxes late for 13 years in a row.

Then there’s the drugs and the alcohol and the stuff. The stuff! An 8,000 square foot estate above Sunset Boulevard. The rock club. The 1940 Harley Davidson. The horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky. 14 other fully furnished residences. A yacht. 70 Guitars, 200 pieces of art. 45 cars. An island in the Bahamas.

It is alleged that his lifestyle costs him 2 million dollars a month, including $200,000 a month on air travel and $30,000 a month on wine. He once spent $108,000 on suits in a single trip to Singapore. A 1 million dollar wedding, and an even more pricey divorce. He himself claims he spent 5 million to shoot the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson into the sky with a cannon.

For God’s sake, it really isn’t all that difficult. Look around you. All that stuff you see? It used to be money. Now it’s stuff. And that stuff isn’t going to make you happy or keep you warm at night. It won’t stop your loneliness or boredom. It won’t make people love you more. It’s just crap, and it weighs you down. Every object is an anchor.

Before you buy something, ask yourself if you really need it. If you’re honest, most of the time the answer to that will be no. I mean, cavemen had very little, and they survived.

Okay, so we’re not cavemen. All we really need is a SMALL place to live, a SINGLE mode of transportation, a knife, a spork, a bowl, a shirt, a pair of pants, a pair of shoes, and about 3 pairs of underwear. Everything else is frosting on the cake.

And believe me, I know how comforting it can be to hide behind frosting. You don’t have to be all emotionally naked and vulnerable when you’re surrounded by distracting luxuries. You are not exposed. But you’re also not free.

Johnny Depp is known for taking on controversial roles. I would challenge him, and all of us, to do that with our lives as well. Strip down to only the bare essentials. Divest ourselves of the junk. Take a good, hard look at ourselves.

And then, go live.

Durbar Square Hindu Ascetic

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