“Love Will Prevail”

Because of splashes of hate, this message of love went further than expected.

Gig Harbor is on the Puget Sound here in Washington State. The town itself is charming, with its historic waterfront, and its many boutiques and restaurants. It has a population of around 12,000 people, but if you want a big city experience, it’s only about a 12 mile drive to the much larger Tacoma. Like Tacoma, Gig Harbor is somewhat liberal. But you have a very good chance of finding like-minded people there, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

According to Neighborhood Scout, you are much less likely to be a victim of a violent crime in Gig Harbor (1.5 violent crimes per thousand people) than you are to have that experience in the Seattle area (6.6 violent crimes per thousand people). For reference, the national median is 4 violent crimes per thousand people. So Gig Harbor sounds like a wonderful place to be.

Yet oddly enough, both Gig Harbor and Seattle exceed the national median for property crimes, which is 19 per thousand people. Gig Harbor is the victim of 38.07 property crimes per thousand people, and Seattle weighs in at a hefty 52.5 per thousand. Don’t get me started on my theories about Seattle, but I suspect the increased numbers in Gig Harbor are related to the fact that it is part of an urban cluster but has a lot of rural areas as well. So there’s enough of a population and tourist base to commit these crimes, paired with enough isolation so that there is an increased potential for fewer witnesses.

That unfortunate mix came to the forefront recently in an extremely disappointing way.

A local artist, Hillarie Isackson, decided to paint a beautiful mural on the side of a Gig Harbor business with the city’s approval. Isackson bought all the paint herself, and worked all day long, often in the rain, and into the night on the mural, which was of a Ukrainian flag, with an outline of the country over that, and a giant sunflower, the flower of Ukraine, over it all. She came in the next day before dawn to apply the finishing touches. Its message was “Stand with Ukraine.” Many people who worked in the building have ties to Ukraine, so they were thrilled by this artwork.

Unfortunately, not everyone was as thrilled with this mural as those working in the building. Late that night, two scumbags wearing black hoodies spent 4 short minutes destroying the artist’s hard work by splashing the white, blue and red of the Russian flag all over the wall. They were caught on the security cameras of several businesses, and several residents took videos, but at the time of this writing, they have yet to be identified. The fools even left their own footprints in the paint, so I have high hopes that they’ll eventually be apprehended.

If justice is ever served, it is estimated that they did about a thousand dollars’ worth of damage, so they would definitely be charged with vandalism, but there’s a very good chance that they’ll also be charged with a hate crime, which would not bode well for them at all. IMHO, it would certainly serve them right.

But the best part of this story came after their heinous acts. When word got out about the damage, people immediately stopped by with donations of paint and cash for other supplies. They also provided spotlights so the artist could once again work through the night. In addition, there are now more security cameras trained on the revitalized mural.

And what Isackson did to transform the splashes of hate has made the mural even more poignant than before. She took that hate and turned it into love. She restored the Ukrainian flag, the country’s outline, the sunflower, and the message, but she also used the haters’ handiwork to add an American flag, and was inspired to include the national flowers of all the many countries who support Ukraine. (The national flower of the USA is the rose. I didn’t know that.)

But the part of the mural that makes me get tears in my eyes is the message Isackson added below. “LOVE WILL PREVAIL

Isackson’s determination to make something beautiful out of her vandalized mural is a sort of microcosm of the current Ukrainian situation. Like Ukraine, this was an undeserved attack that left discouragement, destruction, and profound sadness in its wake, but she didn’t give up, just as the Ukrainians haven’t given up when faced with the Putin-inspired hellscape of death they are now forced to occupy. In Gig Harbor, people came together to make it possible for this artist to renew her efforts, to show support to fellow human beings who are suffering, just as many of us, all around the world, are doing what we can to stand with Ukraine.

Love will prevail, indeed. And that right there is why I still have hope for mankind in general and the Ukrainian fight for freedom specifically. I genuinely believe that those who are fighting because of love for one another have a much better chance of triumph than those who are fighting from a place of hate.

There is now a mural in Gig Harbor that allows me to say, with renewed vigor, слава Україні  — Glory to Ukraine, and любов переможе — Love will prevail.

Let it be so.

Sources and further reading:

‘Love will prevail:’ Ukraine mural vandalized in Gig Harbor takes on new message

A mural supporting Ukraine was destroyed in Gig Harbor. Here’s how the artist responded

Vandals deface Gig Harbor artist’s mural of support for Ukraine

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American Cruelty

You have to eat or be eaten.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world. At the rate this pandemic is going, I might never be able to travel internationally again, so I’m losing perspective. But I certainly have ample opportunity to observe my fellow Americans from my exclusive perch in the tower of my drawbridge, and I also read enough of the news to believe this to be true: Americans, in general, are getting increasingly cranky to the point of being really terrifying.

I get it. This pandemic has us worn out. The state of politics, especially since Trump came along, has our nerves shredded. And the way that we have all been forced to answer certain moral questions of late is revealing that a lot fewer of us are decent human beings than I previously imagined.

Even though this post is not strictly about masks and vaccines, I do have to say that it seems like a no-brainer to me: If I’m asked to do something that I’m not thrilled with, but that thing will potentially help to prevent someone from dying, I’m going to do that thing. I got vaccinated. I wear a mask. But there are people out there who genuinely believe that they should not be personally inconvenienced just so someone else might live. It astounds me. Public health isn’t about just you. If the golden rule means anything at all, it means, hey, maybe I shouldn’t have a hand in bringing about someone else’s demise.

The whole mask and vaccine thing is just the tippy top of a huge iceberg of cruelty that is becoming increasingly evident. I’m seeing more people shouting at each other from the bike lanes and out of car windows. More horns are blaring. The schizophrenics among our homeless people, who I view as the human equivalent of canaries in coal mines, are starting to rage even more as tensions increase. It’s like we are now in a constant state of full moon. All bets are off. It’s impossible to predict who will lose it next. All that you can do is hope that you’re not anywhere near ground zero when it happens.

My friends who work in the medical field are being screamed at more often, and sometimes even assaulted. Here on my drawbridge, more pedestrians are refusing to cooperate every day. To hell with the 3000 gross ton gravel barge that’s bearing down on us. They have places to go and people to see. Screw the flashing lights and warning gongs.

More people are cutting in line in general. More people are blowing through red lights. The other day I saw two guys engaged in a fistfight on a street corner in broad daylight.

I can’t emphasize this enough: There is NO EXCUSE for yelling at and/or assaulting someone for doing their job. You may not like the policy they’re having to enforce, but they’re just trying to make a living. You want to shout, shout at the rich person who probably owns the company. Rich people should be shouted at a lot more often, if you ask me. They certainly deserve it more than cashiers or wait staff do.

It’s getting so I’m afraid to ask anyone a question, even one as innocent as, “How late are you open?” because responses to any type of question seem to be hostile these days. I spend a lot of time wondering what I’ve done to people. But it doesn’t just happen to me. Not that that’s any comfort.

I just read a fascinating opinion piece by Umair Haque, entitled, “Why America is the World’s Most Uniquely Cruel Society.” It really made me think about how America is set up to operate. It also made me think about how this country came to be the way it is.

In that article, the author posits the theory that we have a very unusual origin story, even for a colonial country that has been trained to utterly ignore the native people who were here first. Throughout colonial history, America has been colonized by people who were leaving home because on one level or another they were not wanted.

Everyone’s immigration story is different, of course, but we didn’t tend to attract the rich upper classes. Royalty wasn’t trying to move here. Some common reasons for coming to America included getting away from religious or political persecution, or avoiding violence at home, or desperate poverty and no opportunities in their homelands, or they were criminals. Let’s face it. There’s no need to pursue the American Dream unless you’re living a nightmare.

One thing that all desperate people have in common is the desire to no longer be at the bottom of society. They want to experience dignity, respect, and a sense of belonging. Who doesn’t? But in order for you to rise up in the hierarchy to the place where those things are obtainable, someone has to be below you, and that person doesn’t want to be there either, so it becomes a fight. And as more and more waves of immigrants washed up on these shores, more people had to get stepped on, and, the author suggests, this cruelty has since become a habit that has been passed down through the generations.

The English settlers hated the Native Americans. Then they had to hate all the people that came after them and threatened their place in the societal pyramid. So the English hated the French, the French hated the Germans, the Germans hated the Irish, who hated the Italians, and on and on. And of course, slaves got to be the scapegoats for everyone even though they never asked to be here in the first place. Then came the Asians who did the great service of also not looking like us, so they, too, were easy to spot and be cruel to. When we took the West from the Spanish-speaking people who had taken it from the Native Americans, we hated them too.

And through all of this, which is still ongoing, we have learned, consciously or unconsciously, that you have to be cruel to survive. You have to be violent to get ahead. You have to eat or be eaten.

Over the centuries, the cruelty has become institutionalized. Homeless? What a shame. Glad I’m not you. Less than desirable as a neighbor? Lock ‘em up and throw away the key. You don’t deserve universal health care. Higher education is only for those who can pay for it. Can’t get a job? Well, then, join the military and become cannon fodder or the good of the country.

We have one of the lowest life expectancies of any rich nation, and while that’s embarrassing, nothing need be done about it unless it starts impacting ME. We have the highest rate of mass shootings in the world, but hey, that helps decrease the surplus population. The only country that has a higher death rate per capita due to drug use is the Ukraine, and yet we put very little money into our substance abuse infrastructure. Let ‘em eat cake.

Based on this hierarchy of ours, the conservatives should encourage immigration, not attempt to squash it. Because if they are successful in their policies of exclusion, one day they may look around and realize that they no longer have anyone to step on, and it’s awfully lonely at the bottom.

We need to find a way to break this cycle of cruelty and hate. We need to lift each other up if we want this country to succeed. We need to realize that our current behavior is not serving us well.

But most of all, I think we all need to take a deep breath, pause, and grow the f**k up.

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The Complicated History of the Swastika

Choose to be kind.

I’m going to say, right out of the gate, that when I see a swastika, I see hate, intolerance, antisemitism, death, aggression, intimidation, and terror. You will never see me put a swastika on anything, and if I see one, I’ll do my utmost to have it removed, because it triggers and disrespects people. Full stop.

But according to Wikipedia, until this symbol was coopted by the Nazis in 1930’s, it was meant to convey well-being, auspiciousness, prosperity and good luck in many cultures all around the world. You often see it on Hindu wedding invitations to this day. It’s also used in Buddhist and Jain ceremonies. Even the Navajo used it as a symbol of good luck, but they stopped doing so after World War II.

So, to add to their many unspeakable atrocities, the Nazis took a positive symbol and twisted it into something despicable and evil for so many of us. It’s not right and it’s not fair. But the fact remains.

Read that sentence again. The fact remains.

You might have the best of intentions when you use a swastika. You might be the most mild-mannered, hate-free, albeit clueless person on earth. But it doesn’t matter and it can’t matter, because the symbol has been corrupted, with a few extremely limited cultural exceptions, and it therefore should not be used by anyone, aside from of those exceptions, who cares about the people who may see it. It’s called common decency and consideration.

The reason this is on my mind at the moment is that I just read an article entitled, “Swastikas in the raiments create an uproar among Society for Creative Anachronism fans.”

It seems that the new king and queen of the west coast kingdom wore swastikas during their coronation. This society does living history and cosplay from medieval times, and claims to welcome everyone who wants to participate, regardless of race or creed. Their royal highnesses say they meant no harm, and that they were restoring the symbol to its former historically benevolent meaning.

But in real life, the guy is a police officer in Nevada. He knows all about hate symbols and the harm they can cause. So I’m not buying it, frankly.

And even if I’m wrong, even if these people are as innocent as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, what they did was inappropriate. They could have used any other design in the world for their stoles, but they picked this one above all others. I’m glad they apologized and abdicated their thrones. That’s the very least they could have done.

It seems like a no-brainer to me. If there’s any doubt that your behavior might harm anyone, even if it’s “just” emotionally, then don’t do that thing. Just don’t. Choose to be kind.

So now I’m left with figuring out what image to pair up with this post. The post is about swastikas, so you might assume I’d choose a swastika. But see the paragraph above. I’m not out to hurt anyone. So no. Instead I’m going to find something that symbolizes the very opposite of what hate groups have done to the swastika. Because I want to be a force for good.

Stick that on your stole.

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The Waste of a Perfectly Good Little Old Lady

Be a force for good.

If I make it to the age of 72, if I’m in relatively good health and if I have the good fortune to be able to retire, I hope I’m doing something with that amazing extra time. I hope I’m using myself as a force for good. I hope I’m volunteering for a few hours a week, and/or keeping up with my little free library and/or mentoring someone and/or cultivating a healthy organic garden. Something positive, no matter how small.

I believe that everyone makes some type of impact on this world. Only you can decide what kind of an impact you will make. There’s a wide spectrum that can range somewhere between dedicating every waking hour to some form of service, or, at the opposite extreme, being a completely toxic waste of space that everyone secretly wishes would hurry up and die already. (Harsh, but true.) I’d like to fall on the more positive end of that spectrum, but I doubt I’ll be too radical. I’m not Mother Teresa. Even in my 50’s I do cherish my spare time and my naps. But I hope that if I’m capable of acting at all, I’m able to be an asset, not act like a despicable liability.

Here’s what I will not do, under any circumstances. I will not cause my neighbors to fear for their lives, as Jan Myers, 72, of Shoreline, Washington has done. According to this article, she has been charged with one count of malicious harassment, but in essence she has made the life of one of her Vietnamese-American neighbors a living hell.

Apparently this toxic woman has been hurling racial slurs at her neighbor for years, but recently it escalated into actual threats. She started driving her car up and down the road, yelling for her neighbor to come out, calling her names, and saying that she (the neighbor) wasn’t going to live very long. Myers, of course, is denying everything, but that contradicts the multiple cell phone videos that her neighbor showed the police.

I feel so sorry for her neighbor. No one should be made to feel unsafe in one’s own home. It should be a sanctuary. It should be the one place where you can count on feeling secure, unjudged, and completely yourself.

I wish I knew who that neighbor was so that I could go over and befriend her, take her flowers or cookies or something, and let her know that not everyone feels the way Myers does. I’d exchange contact information with her, and tell her that if that evil old bat threatens her again, just call me and I’ll come over and stand by her side, and that my home would always be a safe place to come to as well. I hope that if her other neighbors see what is going on, they have done so. We all need to take care of one another.

If you haven’t learned how to be a decent human being by age 72, you are wasting your gift of longevity. If all you can do is hate, and make the people around you be afraid and miserable, you are doing nothing but taking up space in this world and making it a much worse place. Is that really the hill you want to die on? I wouldn’t want that to be my legacy at any time in life, but especially not in my later years. I want to make those years golden, not sh** brown.

Just sayin’.

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COVIDiocy

Your mother would be so proud.

It’s amazing to me how much this pandemic is bringing out the very best and the very worst in people. Today I’m going to talk about the very worst. Warning: this is not going to be a tactful, unifying post.

As this stressful pot gets stirred, it seems that more and more of the idiots in this world are rising up to the surface to make their stupidity known. There has been a marked spike in aggression and violence towards Asian Americans. It’s appalling to witness.

There is nothing that will reveal your ignorance more than seeking out some random person and blaming a virus on them. There’s no better indicator of your overall douchebaggery than spitting or coughing on some old man just because you’re scared and you can’t figure out where else to direct your rage. And statistics are showing that Asian American females are being targeted three times as much as the males. What’s the matter? Afraid to pick on someone your own size? Cowards.

If you think that it’s acceptable to shove or shout at a person, if you think that will solve this problem or improve the situation in any way, then you are an imbecile. Do you think that by spewing your hate at people who are in the exact same contagious boat that you are, you’re living your best life? What would Jesus do? Such class. Your mother would be so proud.

And while we’re on the subject of twits, dimwits, morons, and fools, can you please explain what possible good it does for the leader of the free world (may heaven help us) to call COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus”? What goal could he have other than to spread hate, chaos, and division? How is that helpful? Is that what a leader should be doing at a time when we all need to come together? Where are the comforting and reassuring words? Where’s the compassion? I guess there’s no need for that, since everything is going to be back to normal by Easter.

I’m just so frustrated right now. This should not be who we are. End of rant.

Happy freakin’ Easter, by the way.

20161219-platt-usa-nyc-immigrant-protest-3000

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Inclusion Vs. Exclusion

You’re welcome. Such a simple, elegant phrase.

You’re welcome.

Such a simple, elegant phrase. Such a kind and decent concept. I don’t know why so many people struggle with it.

There are so many out there who make it a point to say just the opposite. You’re not welcome. You shouldn’t be able to come here. You can’t buy my cake. You should sit at the back of the bus. You shouldn’t be allowed to marry the person that you love. You are not welcome to be a part of our club. You shouldn’t have the right to vote. You can’t rent my apartment. You don’t belong here. America used to be great when we didn’t have to treat you with respect. How dare you speak up? We get to control what you do with your body. You must be walled off. You must be silenced.

We see it everywhere. In the red MAGA hats, in the “lock her up!” chants, in the attacks on innocent people on the streets. We see it in the hatred that oozes from the mouth of the very man who is supposed to lead this country. You’re not welcome. You are an enemy of the people.

Hate makes you look ugly. It reveals the disease in your very soul. It makes us all so much less than what we could be.

When you hate, when you marginalize people, when you try to prevent people from having the same rights that you do, you cause suffering in this world. Why would anyone want to do that? I will never understand it as long as I live.

When you find yourself in a place of inclusion, where people are welcoming and accepting and embracing of your unique qualities, it’s such a freeing experience. I’d rather be wrapped in a rainbow than beaten by a tiki torch any day of the week. That should be obvious. Why isn’t it obvious?

I’m feeling very ineloquent about this whole subject compared to the conversation Ellen Page had with Stephen Colbert recently. Check out the video here. It’s really worth watching.

Thanks, Lee (and Ellen Page) for inspiring this post!

Not Welcome

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Raising Bullies and Bigots

There are basic lessons that schools no longer seem to be teaching.

By now, everyone knows about the actions of the ignorant little punks from Covington Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky. That these privileged little private school boys had the nerve to wear their Make America Great Again hats and get into the face of a Native American elder who was simply trying to diffuse a situation, and who had proudly served this country before their repugnant butts were even born is beyond outrageous.

One of the boys in question is saying that he didn’t do anything but stand his ground and the gentleman approached him first. No, you stood your ground with a MAGA hat on, which is a symbol for hate, and you had a smug smile on your face, and an unblinking stare, a sign of aggression, while your friends continued to taunt and ridicule. There’s a distinction. It wasn’t as though you were putting your arm around the guy and asking for a selfie.

In fairness, the high school does not condone the actions of these kids, and has an apology prominently placed on its website. That’s further proof that the actions were inappropriate. But one wonders what kind of tolerance they teach at a school with this as the mascot:

covington catholic's mascot

Here are some lessons neither they nor these kids’ parents seem to be teaching:

  • Respect your elders. All of them. Even if you don’t agree with them.

  • Walk through the world with dignity, and don’t deprive others of theirs.

  • Be polite. Especially when you are a visitor.

  • Aggression is intolerable.

  • Hate is the most blatant form of ignorance.

  • You have no right to invade someone else’s space.

  • Kindness and decency is the only true currency you have.

  • NO ONE has the right to be a bully.

If I could speak to those boys I would say, “This video will follow you for the rest of your life. Hopefully you’re capable of shame and remorse and this will build your character. If not, you are psychopaths, and you are in serious need of intervention. Seriously. You should be worried. Get help.”

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Support vs. Supremacy

Everyone has felt like an outcast at some point. But take the high road.

Do you feel like an outcast? Do you feel abnormal? Do you have social anxiety? Are you lonely? Misunderstood? Having trouble fitting in? Do you have a health issue, or a fetish or an addiction? Can’t get a job? In a toxic relationship? Do you want help?

Odds are quite good that there’s a support group out there for you. Thank God for support groups. I highly recommend them. Having the camaraderie of like-minded people, who are working together toward self-improvement, is priceless.

A good support group will discuss the issue at hand. It will help individuals talk about their struggles with said issue, and also allow them to brainstorm possible solutions. It will celebrate triumphs and parse failures to redirect people toward a more positive path. The ultimate goal is to get you into a better headspace, and help you build a better life for yourself.

Self-improvement isn’t easy. It takes work. It requires commitment. There are no shortcuts.

Unfortunately, in this era of social media, it’s easy to think that there are shortcuts. For every support group out there, there’s an online forum for people who want to stay right in their toxic place. Want to remain an anorexic? There are plenty of people just like you who will be more than willing to encourage your march toward death. Don’t want to face your fear? You can simply hide in your house and interact with a wide network of people who are doing the exact same thing. Do you prefer to blame others rather than make changes yourself? You will always be able to find people who will join you in casting blame, spewing hatred, and inciting violence.

But how’s that working for you? Being allowed to vent your bile with people who agree with you might feel good at first, but has it solved your issue? Are you happier, healthier, more functional now than you were before? Or are you simply more angry?

Let’s take, for example, your basic Incel group. There are many reasons why one might be involuntarily celibate. If your self-esteem is poor, if you feel ugly or awkward or socially-inept, if you’re isolated or depressed, you could benefit from a group of others who are going through the same thing. You could learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. You could learn that you’re maybe a lot more normal than you first realized, and that would do wonders for your self-image. A group like that, with the goal of helping you find ways to form a healthy romantic relationship, would be ideal. Unfortunately that’s not what on-line Incel groups do.

Incel groups place the blame on others. It’s the fault of women that you’re not getting laid. Yeah. You’re just fine the way you are. Its them. They are shallow and only go for muscular, gorgeous men. Because of that, you are not getting the sex you’re entitled to. That attitude rapidly devolves into misogyny, and then you get people encouraging violence. They celebrate mass killers. They encourage rape and spousal abuse. They say they’d feel soooo much better if someone threw acid into women’s faces.

But the thing is, how does that solve your problem? Do you think that attitude or behavior is going to bring you love? Because I’m here to tell you that you could be the most gorgeous man on the planet, but I’m not going to find you attractive if you want to throw acid in my face. And I’m fairly certain I’m in the majority, there.

Incel groups are also based on a lot of false premises. Most women aren’t looking specifically for muscular men. In fact, a lot of us find extreme muscles kinda gross. We all have different tastes. The fact that many men, who are fat or not well endowed or deformed or have scars, still manage to find love, will tell you that most women aren’t as shallow as these Incel groups would like you to believe. We are looking for love, too. (In fact, the way these groups insult the physical attributes of women, and only prize the “gorgeous”,  “unattainable” ones, show that the members are the shallow ones, not the women.)

And, uh, by the way, no one is “entitled” to sex. Healthy sex is a mutually given gift that is shared between people who respect, admire, and love one another. Love. Not hate. Equality. Not superiority or entitlement.

Incel groups are not about support. They’re about male supremacy. That gets you nowhere. Believing others are inferior isn’t going to render you more popular with them.

If you really want to improve your life, look at the people you associate with. Are they trying to help you improve? Are they a positive force, or are they toxic? Are they encouraging anger or violence? That isn’t going to do you any good.

To be clear: groups that marinate in negativity become extremists, gangs, and/or terrorists. You can do better than that. Everyone has felt like an outcast at some point. I guarantee it. But I know there’s awesomeness within you. You just have to nurture it to make it grow.

Hate is the wrong path. Take the high road. It may take some effort to get up there, but in the end, you’ll be all the better for it. Onward and upward!

https _2.bp.blogspot.com_-hDlp3Ou1Iuw_UQz1dYGU57I_AAAAAAAALwQ_ulE8WKTtjgE_s1600_Divorced+Praying+Mantis+Support+Group
The right group for you is out there. I promise.

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What I Thought America Meant

When I was little, I was taught that I lived in the greatest country in the entire world. I thought we set the best example, and that based on that example, other countries would aspire to be better, and someday the whole world would be just as wonderful as we were.

Everyone would be free. There would be no war. Every individual would have equal opportunities. The world would be one big safe, happy, teddy bear of a place. I was so proud. I felt so lucky to be an American.

To me, America meant generosity, compassion, justice, safety, equality, freedom, dedication, love, and integrity.

If you had told me back then that I’d become increasingly ashamed over time, I’d have been pretty darned disappointed. Disgusted is the word, actually. And even horrified every once in a while. (Simply because I can’t work up the energy to maintain horror for long periods.)

How must the rest of the planet view us when we say things like domestic and gang violence are no longer valid reasons for asylum? What happened to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”?

And when did we become okay with children being yanked away from their parents? Do we think those traumatized children will grow up admiring us for that? Do we think those children deserve punishment? Guilt by association?

We were supposed to be the poster child for human rights. Are we? When our president shakes hands with Kim Jong-Un, the worst human rights abuser currently alive, and says he’ll “probably have a very good relationship” with him, it doesn’t do much for that image.

I also thought we’d be the saviors of the world. But we are one of its worst polluters, biggest consumers, and we live in a culture of selfishness and waste. We can’t even hold on to our national parks, which is an embarrassment, because we were the first country to even conceive of them. The planet cries out for us to take climate change seriously, even as some of them are sinking into the sea, and instead of setting an example, we back out of the Paris Accord.

Apparently we value the profits of gun manufacturers more than the lives of our children. We allow the very worst of our law enforcement officers to become murderers without any real consequences. We step over our homeless veterans in the streets. And we don’t seem to think anyone has a right to health care.

We elected a man who brags about grabbing pussies, thinks that white supremacy is acceptable, and uses Twitter to lie without remorse. We take great strides to make it difficult to vote, but that’s probably a waste of energy when no one can seem to be bothered to do so anyway. We spend more time keeping up with the Kardashians than we do with the real current events that actually impact our day to day lives.

We have become fat and bloated by our laziness and greed. We flaunt our hate. We exaggerate our fear. We demonize education and journalism. We are not who we said we would be.

I once told a cousin that America is an experiment. You’d think I had peed in his Post Toasties. How dare I say that?

Well, Cuz, do you still think we are solid as a rock, unchanging, and will last forever? Do you really think that this thing we have become has staying power, above all other regimes that have come and gone throughout history? Are we a shining example of the best of humanity? Have we reached some bright pinnacle? Should everyone want to be just like us?

I wish I could be that little girl again, with the star spangled banner eyes. I wish I was full of optimism and hope for this country’s future. I wish I still thought I was one of the good guys.

But I have to ask: Are we becoming our best selves? Because if we can’t do better than this, if we don’t want to do better than this, then there’s really no hope. And that scares me.

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“It’s How I Was Raised.”

I was remembering a conversation I once had with a coworker when I worked for the Florida Department of Transportation. We were doing highway inspections out in the middle of nowhere. I mean, there was nothing or no one around for miles except fields of potatoes, and for some reason he chose that moment to say something really racist.

I had to call bullsh**, as I am wont to do in these situations. I don’t know why I bother. It never ends well. But I can’t just sit back and let ignorance like that pass.

“Dude, I can’t believe you just said that. I can’t believe you believe it, let alone say it out loud.”

“I can’t help it. It’s how I was raised. I was taught—”

“Excuse me? You’re a freakin’ ADULT!!!  You don’t have to march in lock step with your parents. You’re not a potato. You don’t have to stay where you’re planted.  You’re not a stupid man. You get to decide what your morals and values are. I’d find it refreshing if you took ownership of your hate, and stopped blaming your parents for it. It would be even more refreshing if you got a clue.”

It was a long, quiet ride back to the office. Did it do any good? Probably not. But some things just have to be said.

potato field

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