Thoughts on Freedom

If freedom requires kneeling on the necks of others, we aren’t free.

I wrote this post prior to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. When that happened, I contemplated scrapping this post and starting from scratch. But even in the midst of this hell in which we now find ourselves, the things in this post need to be said, too. So, for my full rant on Roe v. Wade, check out my post entitled, “Ladies, Welcome to Involuntary Servitude.

The 4th of July always has me musing about freedom and independence. Naturally, we all value these things. Independence implies that one is not being subjected to outside control, and freedom is the ability to do as one pleases. We all deserve to have both, but when you are living in a civilized society and you blend those two concepts together, you have to add in a third one in order for society to function properly. That third concept is civic responsibility. Without that third ingredient, the recipe becomes a toxic stew, because not everyone is willing to play nice. If you only have freedom and independence, what you get are people doing as they please without any basic outside control, and, unfortunately, that often boils down to chaos and an attitude of “to hell with everyone else.”

As responsible human beings, we must make sure that the things we want to do are not causing others to feel controlled. In other words, my freedom and independence should not roll right over your freedom and independence. It’s okay to be selfish if what you’re doing only impacts yourself. But for the big picture things, we must be more generous.

I never thought that the golden rule thing would be a difficult balancing act for most people. Surely I am not the only person in the world who was taught about civic responsibility. When did we become so selfish that we’re willing to do whatever we want, regardless of how much it hurts others? Have we always been this way? Maybe I just wasn’t allowing myself to see this truth prior to 2016.

It’s all about weighing the pros and cons of every scenario and choosing the less destructive path. For example, you might want free and easy access to semi-automatic weapons, but if that means that innocent children are forced to do active shooter drills and are possibly going to die themselves or witness the death of their schoolmates, is that freedom of yours actually worth it? Statistics bear this out: countries with more gun restrictions have fewer mass shootings. It’s that simple.

Recently I went to see the comedian Hannah Gadsby. The show started extremely late, because the metal detectors that we all had to pass through had caused such a bottleneck that people were still finding their seats a full hour after showtime. Ms. Gadsby was kind enough to come out on stage and keep us entertained with some ad-lib during that time, which was extremely generous of her. But one of the things she pointed out was that she never has this problem when she tours in Australia. Congratulations, America. This is the society we’ve created for ourselves through our egocentricity. But enough about gun control. Let’s move on.

Another controversial topic: Women’s Rights. You might want the freedom to impose your religious beliefs on everyone around you, whether they agree with you or not, but is that freedom worth the deaths of women who are having such a complicated pregnancy that the birth of the child will kill them? Is that freedom worth reducing human beings into unwilling incubators for rapists? How can you feel free while plunging women and children into poverty, violence and dysfunction, only so everyone will march in lockstep with your beliefs?

You might want independence from big government, but is that independence worth it if it means that huge sections of the population won’t have access to healthcare, and the most poverty-stricken people among us will have a life expectancy that is 14 years lower than it is for the rest of us? Do you have the right to steal 14 years of life from a full grown adult who has parents, children, and siblings who will be impacted as well? And if America is so great, why do we have a lower life expectancy than 39 other countries? That’s pathetic. But as per usual, I digress.

You might want the freedom to bust unions, but is that freedom worth it when the average worker in a “Right to Work” state makes 6,109 dollars less a year than a worker in a free bargaining state? Do you care that “Right to Work” states have a 15 percent higher poverty rate, and a 49 percent higher chance of dying on the job?

You might disapprove of all things LGBTQ, and wish to stigmatize these fellow citizens, and block them at every turn from pursuing the very happiness that you hold so dear, but is that cruel desire worth it if it means that LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers?

You may not like the way an election turned out, but does that give you the right to attempt an overthrow of our very democracy? When did that become okay in your mind? Is it because we never call white men terrorists, so they can do anything that their hearts desire, including wanton destruction and threats of murder, and that’s okay? Where is the freedom in that, and for whom? This is not freedom, and it definitely isn’t patriotism. Being a fully functioning adult means you don’t get to throw a violent tantrum when you don’t get your way.

On this of all days, please make an effort to read the famous, albeit densely packed, speech by Frederick Douglass entitled “What To The Slave Is The Fourth of July?

That speech is the most damning oration against slavery that you will ever hear. And slavery, of course, is the complete deprivation of freedom. The fact that this country condoned slavery for centuries is unconscionable. But read this speech, too, with an eye toward the present erosion of our rights and freedoms. It’s chilling how much of what he says applies to today. For example:

“YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

Well said, Mr. Douglass. Well said. How pathetic that we still have to beg for the same type of compassion that we lacked even then. Have we not matured at all as a nation?

At what point did we decide that a complete lack of civic responsibility and a breathtaking wont of consideration for our fellow man was the best path to take to secure our freedom? How can we, as individuals, feel free while kneeling on the necks of others? When did bold faced lies become the most common currency that we use to get what we want? When did we start admitting out loud the belief that as long as we have what we want, everyone else can go straight to hell?

Think about that while enjoying your fireworks (which, by the way, are traumatizing our veterans and our dogs, but at least you’re enjoying yourself, so happy freakin’ 4th.) Think about that while many of us wonder if this country even deserves a party this year, or if we can really be considered citizens when our bodies are no longer our own.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library!


Things That Make Me Lose My Composure

Someone told me the other day that I’m very composed. It took me by surprise, but I suppose it’s true. I don’t enjoy drama. I haven’t thrown a tantrum in, oh, at least a week or two. (Joke.)

I think the reason I’ve never thought of myself as the poster child for composure is that I know what’s going on on the inside of me. That is a bit more chaotic than the outside stuff. If all that turmoil were on the surface, I think people would assume I was crazed.

For instance, I’ve been perpetually freaked out ever since Donald Trump took office. I’m surprised I haven’t developed ulcers from the sheer frustration I’m experiencing as I watch him systematically destroy everything he touches.

I also tend to lose my cool at this time of year at work on my drawbridge. The sailboats are out in force, and for whatever reason, most owners don’t seem to take the time to know what the hell they’re doing with those very expensive toys.

And don’t even get me started about pedestrians. I haven’t crushed anyone yet, mind you, but they sure make it a distinct possibility. And I’d kind of like to keep my job.

The one thing that brings me closest to violence is witnessing the abuse of children or animals. If you can’t pick on somebody your own size, I’m sorely tempted to give you someone your size to pick on. But you wouldn’t like it.

I also can’t abide selfishness or greed. Be as self-destructive as you want. It’s your life. But when your actions negatively impact others, I take issue with that. And for Pete’s sake, take responsibility for your actions. Grow the %@$& up.

I find liars despicable, and people who are hellbent on believing those lies to their own benefit are even worse. If you can’t reach your destination without taking one of those two crooked paths, then you might want to reexamine your destination. It most likely will not turn out to be the paradise you envisioned.

So, am I composed? The jury is still out on that one. But I find that chocolate helps.

balance and composure

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

A Message to the World

Hello. I’m an American. Never in my life did I imagine that I would say this, but I am ashamed of the state of my country. I am embarrassed at the face we are currently showing to the world. This is not who we are.

Never again will I look at another country and assume that all its people agree with its government. Because I don’t. Never again will I think of the resident of another country as possessing a stereotypical characteristic based on that person’s place of birth. Because clearly, I no longer fit in here.

In recent months I’ve been seeing a great deal of ugliness. I’ve seen Americans spewing hate. I’ve seen selfishness and greed and intolerance. I’ve seen ignorance deified and intelligence vilified. I’ve seen science discounted and fantasy encouraged. I’ve seen violence. I’ve seen misogyny. I’ve seen fraud. I see more and more lies every day.

I am so sorry that things have gotten this way. I didn’t vote for Trump. I wouldn’t have approved any of his cabinet members or his choices for the Supreme Court. There is not a single thing that this man has done that I agree with. Not one.

I’m particularly mortified that his immigration policies are making so many people live in fear. This is not acceptable to me. I am a second generation American, and the vast majority of the people who live here are descended from immigrants. We have absolutely no right to do what we are currently doing.

We also have no right to treat the Native Americans the way that we do. If anyone should have moral currency with regard to how we treat the land here, it should be them. They should not be beaten down for wanting water that is safe to drink. Shame on us.

We, of all people, should not have the right to negatively impact women’s health at home or abroad. We should also appreciate the good work that other members of the United Nations do every single day. We should be good stewards of our environment, because what we do affects the entire planet.

I just want you to know that many Americans still believe in human rights, freedom, justice, the environment, freedom of speech, science, peace, and respect for all people who do good in this world. I want you to know that those of us who feel this way will not remain silent. We will speak out for the values that we all strive to maintain. Our voices might get drowned out by those in power, but please don’t stop listening for us. We are here.

Because what you’re seeing now is not who we are.


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Another Rant About Alcoholism

One of my most popular blog entries is Why I Hate Alcohol, and I genuinely thought I’d gotten all my anger about the subject off my chest when I wrote it. It turns out that that is not the case. Far from it.

The other day, someone who calls himself “Dad” commented on another one of my blog entries, Do You Know This Child? Help Solve a Mystery. In that one, I mentioned that my father told some outlandish stories about the war, and that because he was an alcoholic, I never knew him. “Dad”, without knowing me at all, implied in the comment section that my disbelief of my father’s stories is probably “what drove him over the edge.”

Okay. Hoooo. Wow. That still pisses me off to an unbelievable degree. And when I have such a strong reaction to something, my first instinct is to take a closer look and ask myself what about the situation is pushing my buttons.

First of all, I hate being misunderstood, but in this case that was probably my fault for not clarifying my relationship. When I said I did not know my father because of his alcoholism, I didn’t mean he was present in my life but always “in his cups.” I meant that because he was such a mean drunk and a worthless fraction of a man, he left my family when I was three months old. I never met him, never got child support from him, never received so much as a phone call or a Christmas card my entire life. So yeah, I suppose I didn’t make myself quite clear in that entry. I literally didn’t know my father.

But what really makes my head explode is the implication that, had I known him, I could have in some way “driven him over the edge.” The man came home a drunk from a war that had ended 20 years before I was born. I’m sure he had PTSD, and that was a contributing factor, and that’s tragic, but making the assumption that the blame for one’s alcohol abuse lies somewhere outside oneself is the worst of all alcoholic excuses.

No one forces someone to start drinking. Not once did anyone hold a gun to the man’s head and pour the gin down his throat. Millions of people have experienced horrors and not tried to pour alcohol over those memories.

I’m sorry. I know this probably won’t be a popular sentiment, but dammit, the bedrock of being an alcoholic is selfishness and irresponsibility. Without those two things, you don’t destroy your life and the lives of every person within your sphere of influence. Full stop.

Alcoholics are very adept at blaming the rest of the world for their problems. The whole “poor me” thing may as well be tattooed on their foreheads. But I refuse to feel sorry for an alcoholic. I don’t care how often people try to call it a disease. It’s an addiction, which is a mental health issue, and yes, more often than not one will need help to conquer it. But unless and until you admit to yourself that you have made the bed that you so frequently pass out in, no healing can take place for you or anyone who has the misfortune to love you. You can’t clean up your mess until you first take ownership of it. Grow up!

“Pushed him over the edge,” my ass. Sheesh.


[Image by Somadjinn on]

How to Drive Yourself Crazy

From a recent conversation with a friend:

Friend: Do you think I’m a selfish person?

Me: Not at all. In fact, I find you to be compassionate, supportive, generous, and a good listener. Why?

Friend: Well…It occurred to me the other day that if I were selfish, I’d never know, would I? Because I’d be focused on myself, and therefore wouldn’t be able to see that I wasn’t focused on anyone else.

Me: But it wouldn’t even cross your mind to worry about being selfish if you were selfish, so the very fact that it concerns you is a good indicator that you’re not.

Friend: But if I’m worried about it, couldn’t that mean that I suspect that I am selfish, deep down? Or that I wish I could be? Or that maybe I truly am, and all that you see is really a big façade?

Me: Okay, let’s try this. Let’s assume that you are really one selfish S.O.B.

Friend: Do you really think that?

Me: No! Don’t be silly. But for the purposes of this conversation, let’s say that you are. What would that mean?

Friend: Well, I’d be a contemptible human being. I would hurt people. I couldn’t be trusted. Anyone with any common sense wouldn’t like me.

Me: Well, there you go. You are trusted. You are liked. In fact, you are loved. Do me a favor. Go get yourself a pint of ice cream and a really good book. Lie in your hammock and forgive yourself for not being Mother Teresa or Gandhi, but remember your frequent acts of kindness.

After sending my friend off to do her homework, so to speak, I thought about the conversation. “Anyone with any common sense wouldn’t like me.”

Do I have common sense? If I didn’t have common sense, how would I know?

Oh, my head hurts…


Drawbridge Mentality

While searching the internet for things to put on my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook page (Join us!) I came across the term drawbridge mentality. Imagine my disgust as a bridgetender when I learned that it was an insult. Basically, someone with a drawbridge mentality moves to a community, and then does his level best to prevent anyone else from moving there, or from developing the area in any way. The implication is extreme selfishness and a feeling of, “I deserve this, but you don’t.”


If that isn’t the immigration issue in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. As a second generation American, I have always felt rather uncomfortable with the idea that our borders should be closed. If that attitude had prevailed prior to WWII, I wouldn’t exist. And if I lived in a third world country, I’d move heaven and earth to try to give myself a chance at a better life, legally or illegally, so who am I to judge?

Without Immigration, we wouldn’t have:

  • John Lennon
  • Paul McCartney
  • Albert Einstein
  • Irving Berlin
  • Mother Jones
  • Sanjay Gupta
  • Levi Strauss
  • Igor Stravinsky
  • Bob Hope
  • Amy Tan
  • George Takei
  • Deepak Chopra
  • Rita Moreno
  • Cesar Chavez
  • Tito Puente
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • John J. Audubon
  • Liz Claiborne
  • Omar Sharif
  • Mario Andretti
  • Yo-Yo Ma
  • Ansel Adams
  • Sidney Poitier
  • Michelle Kwan
  • Michael J. Fox

All of these people either came to this country or were born of parents who did, and we are much a much better country for having them.

If you repair to your castle and raise the drawbridge, put alligators in your moat and lay in a steady supply of boiling oil, what you do is deprive yourself of invention, culture, wisdom, art, innovation, health and new ideas. The minute that drawbridge goes up, you begin to stagnate, to rot from the inside. That does not sound like an attractive option to me.

My Crunchy Granola Epiphany

Last night at about 4 a.m., alone at work and struggling to stay awake, I had an epiphany, and now I’m looking at the world in an entirely different way. Before I present you with my concept, let me say that I’m quite sure this theory didn’t originate with me. There are plenty of crunchy granola new-agey types out there who no doubt have come to the same or similar conclusions. And how’s this for a revelation: my philosophy doesn’t even have to be true for it to have a positive impact on me. Awesome.

I’m calling it Net Theory, and it’s deceptively simple: Everything is connected. All of us are one. From what little I understand about Quantum Theory, I’m fairly certain that it supports this notion. On a sub-atomic level, we’re all a part of one big, uh….thing. We’re bathing in a sea of light waves. There is really no place where I end and you begin.

And once you accept this idea, the way you perceive the universe changes. For example, I’m not as irritated by obnoxious people. I’m just grateful that they are performing this role instead of me. I’m not jealous of people who are more successful than I am, because their success is a reflection of the healthy part of this great net. Politics seem even sillier if that’s possible. It’s just one side of us disagreeing with the other side of us, and whoever comes out on top, well, it’s still us. Prejudice seems absurd, as does war, violence, cruelty, selfishness, pollution, road rage, even petty grudges, because it’s all negative energy directed at the great net of which we are all a part. In other words, it’s self-destructive. I suspect that moving forward, I won’t be as bothered by boredom, because I’ll know that somewhere something interesting is happening. I won’t resent work, because it’s part of what needs to be done.

Charity will seem like a way to be good to myself, as will sex and learning. Religion makes much more sense, because it seems like someone must be keeping this massive organism, for lack of a better word, on track.

Eating, I was musing on the way in to work tonight, is kind of problematic. Am I eating myself? Yuck! But then, why not? It is the gift I give to myself to maintain life. That’s actually beautiful, if you ask me. It’s kind of like the last supper writ large. It sure makes me want to avoid junk food, though.

And the more I get into this concept, the less I am afraid of dying, because now more than ever I can believe that I’ll still be a part of this great interconnectedness that is all of us and everything. I can’t imagine anything more comforting than that.