Sympathy for the Devil

By Alisdare Hickson from Canterbury, United Kingdom (Peter Tatchell at London's anti-Trump rally.) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Alisdare Hickson from Canterbury, United Kingdom (Peter Tatchell at London’s anti-Trump rally.) [CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was in my mid-twenties, when I had a genius flash of insight about people:

Most people are not reasonable.

This insight explained a lot about my own sense of frustration and anger when dealing with anyone, whether at school, work, or at home. Appeals to logic and rationality, I realized, are largely fruitless, because this is not what people respond to. My modern-day corollary is:

People voted for Trump based on emotions, not facts or ideals.

Angry people voted for the angry man. It’s as simple as that.

I forgot my own insight at times over the years, hoping that, with the perfect set of words, I could sway uncompassionate or delusional people into being compassionate. And it just doesn’t work that way, sadly.

I tend to see people as falling into three primary “groups,” in terms of how they react to the world. There is the expansive group, which I fall into. This group is able to empathize with others, or at least make the attempt, and views resources as essentially unlimited, meaning that just because one person or group gets a benefit, that doesn’t mean it detracts personally from my benefits.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the limited group, which sees a finite pot of goodies, and any outsider who dips into that pot is perforce taking away from their own pile of goodies. This group is seldom empathetic, and can only identify with their own problems and needs, or at least, their immediate clan’s problems and needs.

Most of the population falls in the middle, being expansive sometimes and limited in others, depending on the circumstances and their own prejudices. I’ll call them centrists.

In an enlightened world, I believe everyone would be expansive, understanding that abundance is unlimited, although Miami beaches are (not everyone can live on one). But our world is not enlightened, so the centrists have good reason, at times, to be cautious.

As for the election, it appears that everyone on the limited spectrum voted for Trump:  “This should all belong to me and mine, and I don’t want to share it with you people who are different from me.” Here you will find your alt-right, white nationalists, KKK, what-have-you, and any person who claims they are not racist, but who would still prefer not to give any government aid to black or brown people. But a lot of centrists also voted for Trump. Some of them were convinced that the limited crowd had a point: I’m suffering, and maybe it really IS the fault of those immigrants, etc. Some of them were convinced because of their own misogynistic prejudices (“He’s not Hillary.”) Some of them were not convinced at all, but were largely ignorant of the policies and issues and naively considered that maybe Trump would “shake things up” enough that they would benefit. “He’s on our side,” they said to themselves, and believed it.

After the election, Hillary supporters say, well, we need to reach out to these hurting people. And we do, up to a point. Many of those centrists, while not reasonable per se, can be reached with an emotional connection. In other words, “I hear you, and I see your pain.” The entire middle and lower classes are suffering in the U.S., regardless of their color. The question is, can the white centrists work in their own best interests even if those interests align with the interests of minorities? I don’t know the answer to that, but I haven’t seen it yet.

As for the limited group, I think they are a lost cause in terms of dialogue. This group tends to go for simplistic, black-and-white (literally, in many cases) thinking. This group thinks, “If I’m okay, then I don’t care.” People could be dying all around them, and as long as their clan was doing well, they wouldn’t be too upset. The cognitive dissonance and abundant excuses kick in:  it’s because those other people fucked up, they deserve it, etc. But the moment their own interests are threatened (“Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!”), they rise up in anger.

The limited group, and many centrists, has indeed risen up in anger. The 1% crashed the system, and while corporations and bankers recovered, they did not. Their anger was ripe for the shaping. In this, Trump was not stupid. He played them perfectly, and it will be awhile before they realize (if they do) that they’ve been had. But by then, what tragedy?

Can one have sympathy for a white nationalist? For Hitler? For anyone with such a narcissistic, me-first mindset? Of course. Compassion, like forgiveness, is not about erasing sins. It is about serving and nurturing your own soul, and preserving your own ongoing enlightenment. But compassion does not mean that you have to invite them to dinner or allow them to hurt others, either personally or on a national scale, which we are watching unfold.

Steve Bannon thinks our struggle is one of West vs East, Christianity vs Islam. He is wrong. All struggle occurs within the individual human heart. It is one of Love versus Fear. The limited group responds to and frequently lives in fear. Be sorry for them, because this is a great suffering. But do not succumb to it or put up with it, either. Love will win, because it is always does; nothing else exists, in reality. Yes, you can have sympathy for the Devil while you chase him out the door and say, “No more!”

The Tightening Corridors of Privilege

be_this_guyWhen I left my husband for my the woman who would later become my wife, I did so in 2003 in a very liberal metropolitan area, where being gay, lesbian, trans, or anything in between is mostly accepted and unproblematic. We both know lesbian and gay couples who have lived it longer, however, and we were certainly not blind to their historical struggle to live freely, be accepted, and simply exist in the world. But we felt that attitudes were changing, even when we personally ran across the occasional bigot. In short, we lived with a great deal of privilege as a same-sex white couple.

This month’s American election, however, was a huge slap in the face, cold water washing over us and alerting us to the reality that many of our fellow citizens have no problem with throwing us under the bus. Because I am privileged, that feeling was new. And it hurts. It hurts to think of all the people I have known and liked who saw what Trump is and had no problem voting for him anyway. Yeah, he and Pence (in particular) may think that being LGBTQ is a “lifestyle choice” that you can “fix with therapy” and that so-called Christians should be allowed to discriminate against at will, but the ends justify the means! Whatever those ends are. Tellingly, I have yet to hear or read a solid reason why some people preferred Trump, except that they wanted “change.”

Of course, the LGBTQ population is hardly the only one with a problem right now. My fellow African-Americans are weary because discrimination and hate are not new to them. They greet my shock with a sigh borne of centuries of abuse, kindly revealing my own privilege in dealing with what is for them a very old problem. I see this. And this is the dangerous slope that we are slipping down:  the very privileged white people who voted for Trump do not see their own danger.

First it was the Muslims. Only a Muslim could be a terrorist. Certainly not the white Timothy McVeigh. Certainly not the white guy who flew an airplane into an IRS building. But then came the definition creep. Ecowarriors, those protesters who stood up for the health of the environment. Branding them as terrorists is politically convenient for the oil-owned politicians. Who else might be a terrorist, do you suppose? Latino protesters? Black Lives Matter activists? The right is already calling them this. Might gay pride parades one day be a provocative act, subject to increasingly militarized police intervention?

I’m seeing a great deal of denial even from white allies. They rationalize and seek out excuses. “Chill out, it’s not THAT bad!” Or, “you’ll be fine, it’s not that big a deal,” or “The media is blowing attacks out of proportion; very few people are causing problems.” I’m sure the Weimar Germans felt the same way. And sadly, even though this is looking way too familiar, my even comparing what is happening now with the fall of the democratic Weimar Republic makes people more likely to poo-poo the whole idea as a crazy overreach, because “it could never happen here.” Right.

In 1922, the New York Times did not take Hitler’s antisemitic rantings seriously. I say that if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck—it’s a fucking duck. Donald Trump has made his racist worldview very clear. He might have a soft spot for Jews, given his son-in-law, but his supporters don’t. Steve Bannon doesn’t. Jeff Sessions doesn’t. And when you start marking “them” as targets, the list never shrinks. It only gets bigger. Yes, Hitler killed 6 million Jews. He also killed 6 million other people:  gays, gypsies, communists, political enemies, and the disabled. In the attacks since Trump ascended his throne—, I  mean, the presidency, Muslims, African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, Asians, and the disabled have been targeted.

So far, the only white people in the vulnerable group are LGBTQ and the disabled. But if Muslims and Sikhs (just because they’re mistaken for Muslims) are open game, what about pagans and Wiccans? How long before they’re targeted? What about atheists? Pretty soon, anyone who holds any view that differs from the viewpoint of the people in power become vulnerable. This is what fascism looks like. This does not deserve excuses, normalizing, or Pollyannaesque “it will all be fine” magical thinking.

Tellingly, the normalization has begun. For example, the left is so focused on how reprehensible the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist is that they’ve forgotten the point that Donald J. Trump is himself reprehensible, and he’s president!

Trump’s emboldened followers don’t even bother to hide their deplorable views anymore. The KKK, American Nazi party, they’re all out and proud and singing “Sieg! Heil!” And yet, so many so-called “normal” white people aren’t worried. No, it’s not a problem for them. Today.

Fearmongering is insidious, and it’s enriching many who tell lies for a living. My own father reads and comments on these ridiculous lies, and he believes them all. The problem is that many people do. Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, would have loved it all. If you want to focus the population on a scapegoat (or two or ten), it’s remarkably easy. If you want to radicalize Christians to support a strong man, it’s remarkably easy. Here’s what my own father said in a comment on an “article” titled 200,000 Take to the Streets of Paris to Protest Sodomy-Based “Marriage”:

All churches are being infiltrated. All of them. You’ve heard how the Left wants to change the Catholic church. The United Methodists have recently elected a gay woman to be a BISHOP. Many Methodist churches have sent the United Conference a letter telling them that they do no recognize the authority of this new BISHOP…mine included. I’m still waiting to see what, if anything, my church plans to do besides their letter. It’s getting harder and harder to find a church that hasn’t been infiltrated to the point that it’s no longer a Christian church. These Catholics in France are doing the right thing, but they sadly may stand alone.

My father, like many before him, has graduated from the echo chamber of Fox News to the even narrower echo chamber and outright lies of the alt right. He is lost. His brainwashing is complete. The LGBTQ movement is a conspiracy, a “plot to infiltrate.” The problem is, he’s not the only one. And many of them have gone from simply commenting on articles to attacking people in the streets. Donald Trump has denounced none of them. Silence equals consent. This is our very real danger.

 

Kids, You Can Play on My Lawn

Davy Jones & Maureen McCormick from the Brady Bunch

Davy Jones & Maureen McCormick from the Brady Bunch

My university sent me a card congratulating me on the quarter-century anniversary of my degree. Quarter century. Not 25 years. A quarter century.

Like most people in their 40s, I have fond memories of college and other days. I still listen to New Wave music (that’s 80s music, if you’re wondering). I still smile at Big Hair and leg warmers. I remember when MTV actually played music. I remember growing up in the 70s with Marcia Brady, coveting her hair. So yes, when I find my body no longer recovers as quickly as it used to, or I absent-mindedly put down my phone and then wonder where it is three minutes later, I know that I’m not 21 anymore. Some of the kids I went to high school with are dead. It’s just what happens.

Aging, particularly in a society that sees this as a Bad Thing (cover your gray! dress younger! lose weight!) can make one feel anxious:  we don’t have as much time left. The world changes around us, and we no longer understand the slang, the technology, the mindset of those who were born decades after us. In our insecurity, we may begin to denigrate the younger generations, perpetuating the “generation gap.”

An older woman on Facebook recently referred to the Millenials as the people who are “raising more entitled kids.” It’s funny how we tend to see people our age as somehow better than the younger kids. My generation had its share of entitled kids, I have to say, which can only reflect poorly on the Boomers who were raising them. What does that even mean, though? Are we to believe that there were no assholes before 1990?

The world is changing, and it feels like chaos to the older generations. I was raised in a culture that had commonality in the Fonz, Archie Bunker, and Daisy Duke’s ridiculously short shorts. “What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” was instantly recognized. We shared a common lingo. We went to movie theaters—a lot. We swam without life jackets. When I was very young, we rode without seatbelts. And while all of this was my valid experience, that doesn’t make it necessarily the best possible experience. Because if my parents’ car had been in an accident, I would’ve been thrown out the window. And the long-term value of a show like “Diff’rent Strokes” can be easily debated.

My children cannot even conceive of the world in which I grew up. My daughter asked, “What kinds of apps did you have when you were a kid?” So I told her about my Atari and my Texas Instruments computer that didn’t have a hard drive, but I loaded games onto it with a cassette tape—which she’s never even seen. My kids have also never seen “The Brady Bunch” and they may never do so. When I showed my daughter “The Jetsons” at the age of three, her response was a yawn of complete boredom. The things that felt special to me can never feel that way to her. We have moved on.

We have a nice TV. We mostly use it to rent streaming movies from Amazon, or watch Netflix. We don’t have cable. My son mostly uses the TV for the Playstation. Their preferred entertainment is Youtube. Youtubers like DanTDM and Twaimz speak to them the same way that Marcia Brady spoke to me. The difference is that Marcia Brady was created for me to idolize by television executives, but my children are finding their peers and deciding for themselves whom they like and admire.

I’ve heard plenty of Generation X’ers and older folks complain about social media and the way the young people spend their time on Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, or whatever the latest rage is, but it’s because they don’t understand what they’re doing or why. Our kids are forging their own commonality, still based on communication and media, but in a different way. “The Dukes of Hazzard” was no better than a Youtube account, and many might argue that it was far worse.

In many ways, the Internet is like the Wild West:  it’s mostly unregulated and free, some people are good citizens, some are morally questionable, and some are just outright crooked and disgusting. We are no longer confined to Walter Cronkite for the news; now you can pick your own preferred source (and viewpoint) from anywhere in the world. For every argument, there is a blog with a counterargument. We have gone from four major networks (I’m including PBS because FOX came about when I was older) to millions of media outlets, from professional/corporate to homegrown/some guy in a garage. This is a little scary for some folks.

The world is changing, and our kids are leading the way. We can’t stop the changes, but we can support our youth in making them. We can adapt to these changes, or we can be left behind. Whatever we decide, screaming, “Get off my lawn!” is just howling in the wind.

The Worries of Children

"This is what Trump looks like!"

“This is what Trump looks like!”

My children have been talking about Donald Trump a lot lately. It’s not because they’re hearing a lot about him at home; we seldom talk about politics around them. They’re hearing about him at school, where roughly one quarter of his classmates are Latino. Another way of putting this is that one quarter of his friends are Latino and worried that they or their family members might be deported if Trump becomes president. Many of these children hold US citizenship, but their parents and siblings may not. They are faced with the terror of the breakup of their family. My children are faced with the loss of their friends to horrible circumstances.

But can’t they go around?
~Harry, referring to Trump’s proposed wall

When I was growing up in the 1970s, I had two big worries. My first worry was that my dad, who was in the army, would be sent to Vietnam. In those days, the war was featured every night on the news, in all its horror, not as sanitized as it is today. My father laughed and assured me that he would not be sent to the war. He could be certain of this because of his specialty, which brings me to big worry number two.

My father had been trained to maintain and build nuclear weapons. Later, he would instruct national guardsmen in their use. No, they would not invest in these skills to make him cannon fodder in the Asian theater. Dad was very proud of his technical acumen, and as a result, our house featured some unusual artwork:  nuclear mushroom clouds. These were photos of real nuclear blasts. I looked at them daily. They scared the shit out of me.

In the 1970s, it was a given that the Soviets would one day, in their communist madness, blow us all to smithereens. And we would respond, making the earth completely uninhabitable. I once voiced my fear about this to my father. He told me not to worry. He knew how to survive a nuclear holocaust. This didn’t help, because I didn’t want to survive a nuclear holocaust. I didn’t want there to be a nuclear holocaust.

I used to have nightmares about Mechagodzilla. I had seen ads for the movie on TV, and this metal beast, belching fire and duking it out with Godzilla, scared me pretty badly. In a way, he neatly encapsulated my fears of manmade global devastation:  the machine, without conscience, consuming all in its path.

Of course, I grew up, and with Glasnost and the demise of the Soviet Union, my generation breathed a temporary sigh of relief. The wall fell in Germany, Europe united, and we could forget our childhood fears for awhile.

But in reality, the sources of our fears did not go away. Many nations, not just two, have nuclear weapons. Terrorist groups could acquire them. The war in Vietnam has been superceded by the war in the Middle East, which is consuming countless lives daily. My childhood fears now seem trite compared with the reality experienced by children in Syria and other countries. Death, destruction, and terror fill their lives with real horrors—no need to imagine them or dream about giant Japanese lizards. Many children in Africa and Honduras are no longer allowed childhoods, as fundamentalist armies and drug gangs seek to recruit them at ever younger ages. Their choice is to join or die. The nightmare is real.

Too often, adults laugh at so-called childish fears. “There’s no monster underneath the bed,” we assure them. And they grow up and learn to accept that what they fear is “normal:”  we will always have nukes, we will always have war, it’s either us or them. Talk about love and peace is all unicorns and pixie dust. It can never be any other way. Be realistic. Be a grown-up about it.

I don’t believe that my neighbors’ children should have to accept that dividing their families is somehow “normal” or “how it has to be.” I don’t believe that perpetual war is a given, either. I have yet to see democracy at gunpoint or bombing people into submission work. Violence begets more violence. There is always another choice. A harder choice, perhaps. But the only one that will save us and this most precious resource, our planet and all life upon it.

The worries of children should be the worries of adults. Instead of offering our children platitudes, we should offer them something of more substance:  peaceful action.

There is no way to peace; peace is the way.
~ A. J. Muste

Our childhood fears pave the road for our adult fears. At 5, I feared Mechagodzilla and all it represented. At 25, I feared being able to support myself. At 35, I feared terrorists and more war. At 45, I am learning to fear fear. All hate is founded on the bedrock of fear. All anger, all conflict starts with fear. Our society and our world reflects our fears back to us:  look in this mirror and see what we have wrought. It’s time to change what we see.

Safety is an Illusion

Think of the Children!

Everyone wants to feel safe. No one wants to contemplate terrible things happening to themselves or their loved ones. But sometimes terrible things happen, and this isn’t something that anyone can control.

The truth is that safety is a comforting idea, but it is not real. No one is ever completely safe. Bad things can happen without warning. You or a loved one may lose a job, be diagnosed with a debilitating or fatal illness, lose life or possessions in a natural disaster, be harmed in an accident, or get shot and killed—just to name a few possibilities. Depressing thoughts, so naturally we prefer to avoid thinking about it. After all, if you always dwell on the possibility of horrible (a process you can call awfulizing), then you’re not going to live a happy and joyful life. Instead, you will live a fearful, unhappy one.

In general, I think most people prefer not to dwell on horrible what-ifs, but in a world where the folks with the majority of the wealth want to distract us from that fact, there is no better way to do that than by making us afraid—of each other. And it’s remarkably easy to do because fear appeals to our lizard brain, our most basic instinct. It can overwhelm logic and reason, and it pushes out love and compassion entirely.

The latest manufactured fear in the U.S. is that somehow “allowing” transgender women to use the ladies’ restrooms is going to unleash a rush of male pedophiles to peek under the stalls at your daughter.

Think of the Children!

Never mind that transgender women have been using the ladies’ room for as long as transgender people have existed (forever, in other words). Never mind that most girls are molested by someone they know rather than a complete stranger. Never mind that boys in the men’s room have always been at risk (from other men). Never mind that smart parents accompany young children to the restroom. No, you should BE AFRAID. And suddenly, many people now are.

In our pursuit of “safety,” we are quick to throw others under the bus. Many of the folks who are in favor of bans on transgender people in their restroom claim to have “no problem” with the transgender people themselves. (“Some of my best friends are black,” no doubt. The same North Carolina legislation that bans transgender people from the restroom they identify with also strips them of their basic civil rights, like the right not to be fired for being transgender. I don’t hear anyone in the pro-restroom bill camp decrying that.) But let’s assume some of these folks really don’t have a “problem” with transgender people, per se. The problem is they also don’t have a problem with revoking transgender rights so that they can “feel safe.” They won’t be safe. But they’ll feel safe. We’ve been here before…

“Gosh, it’s a shame that the Adachi family lost their house and business and got sent to that camp, but it’s war, after all. Gotta be safe. They could be traitors.”

“The Goldsteins always seemed so nice, but I’m sure it’s better to have them moved to a new home somewhere else. Can’t be too careful. Maybe what they’re saying is right?”

“Oh, we can’t let in any Syrians. They could be terrorists.”

Yes, sadly, there are terrorists in the world. And they’re everywhere. This policy or that policy is not going to change that fact. Policies, laws, and wars all give us the illusion of safety and security, but that doesn’t mean that a bomb won’t go off tomorrow in your town. It doesn’t mean that another mentally ill person won’t take a gun and do something horrible with it. And sexual assault is a terrible, terrible thing. That’s why we have laws against it, so that we can punish those who do it. But the laws themselves do not prevent sexual assault. And the ridiculous bathroom laws are not going to make a predator draw up short and say, “Curses! Foiled again by an invisible legal shield around every women’s restroom! Now I’ll have to find a different way to prey on little girls!” But such laws will further stigmatize and isolate a vulnerable population:  you have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered if you are transgender; you have a 1 in 8 chance of being murdered if you are also a person of color.

So, yes, safety is a highly desirable if unrealistic state, but it is also clear that fear kills. When your sense of safety begins to outweigh the needs or rights of others, we all have a big problem. There will be bad apples in any given barrel, but there is no sense in throwing out the whole thing. We live in a world with no guarantees. All we can do is take each moment as it comes. We can be empowered by listening to our own intuition; if something doesn’t feel right, then by all means, leave! Take reasonable risks. Be aware. But even so, Superman ended up in a wheelchair. Lightning strikes. But it’s equally terrible when we allow fear to take away our humanity and compassion for others, no matter how uncomfortable they make us.

You’re Not in Control

June 17, 2009 protest on Krimkhan Street in Tehran

June 17, 2009 protest on Krimkhan Street in Tehran

Most people try to control their world to some degree. We do whatever we think will make us feel secure, safe, and happy. Driven by the allure of safety and order, we believe that we can control our environment, our jobs, the people around us, and even society or the world at large. This belief, however, is an illusion that only serves to mask inner pain, constant worry, low self-esteem, and a deep-seated unhappiness in ourselves.

Control is an illusion for all of us, because of course we have control over practically nothing. It’s worth repeating:  we are not in control. Our egos will attempt to argue the point, but it’s useless. The only things we can control are the choices we make and how we react to situations. That’s it.

We are not in control of the other drivers on the road. We are not in control of whether our boss likes us. We are not in control of who our children are; we can’t even control whether they take a nap or not. We can provide guidelines and discipline, but our kids will be who they are and make their own choices, ultimately. And we cannot “prevent” so-called bad experiences from happening to us because, in the divine order of things, we need these experiences to learn and grow. However, we do have control over how we react to these experiences and deal with them.

For example, we can decide to be so irked with that guy who cut us off on the turnpike that it ruins our day. Which only hurts…us. Or we can shrug it off and let it go. We can decide that a medical challenge means that our life is over. Or we can find the gift in the experience and choose to live each moment to its fullest, regardless of the outcome. We can choose to worry and be upset, or we can choose to be positive and make the most of what’s been given to us.

Governments around the world are realizing how little control they have, as the people—awake at last—take to the streets and demand their rights. This doesn’t prevent any government from trying to maintain control, however. Many governments throughout history have used violence in an attempt to maintain power and control. Tiananmen Square, the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in India, Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland.  It can happen anywhere, including the U.S.:  the National Guard killed four peaceful protesters and wounded nine others in the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970. In the summer of 1921, coal miners attempting to unionize fought the Battle of Blair Mountain against not only company men, but also area deputies and federal troops. President Warren G. Harding authorized the use of Army bombers, and World War I era gas and explosive bombs were used against the miners. Ultimately, however, the government failed to maintain the status quo, and this tragedy, along with others from the same era, eventually led to the enactment of reasonable labor laws in the U.S. Modern governments, no doubt, will also learn—again—how little they control.

Governments cannot control people when they choose to take their power. Nor can it control the economy or the markets. The most brilliant Ivy League financial mind cannot even predict with any real certainty what the markets will do, and all attempts at controlling it are feeble manipulations of what is, in truth, a chaotic system that responds to the emotional states of human beings. You might as well herd cats instead.

And of course, we can never control another human being. You can’t “force” democracy onto someone, even if you think it will make them happier in the end. We can create a temporary illusion of control at gunpoint, but most people will say anything when a gun is pointing at their head. To win the mind, one must win the heart, and even then, each person makes their own sovereign choices at the end of the day. You may earn some influence, but you will never have control.

Why do we have the need to control things we can’t? The issue is largely one of TRUST—the lack of it. A control freak does not trust anyone. Some people are so distrustful of even their spouse and children that they feel like they have to do everything themselves—because no one else in the family “does it right.” The result? A person who has overburdened themselves to the breaking point and can’t accept help—because they don’t trust that anyone else will perform the tasks to their satisfaction.

For people in power, of course, they don’t trust their own power. In fact, they have given it away:  they rely on others to validate their power by doing what they say. In short, they have given their power to the things they wish to control, and they become controlled instead. Let’s take the late Kim Jong-Il, for example. He had no self-esteem, no real self-worth. The only way he has figured out how to feel better about himself is to exercise power over other people, so he did that. He told people what to do, and he felt better. But then he worried about his power. Was it enough? As he squeezed more tightly, he increased his attempts to control the people whose sole purpose was to validate him. But the main issue was still there:  inside, he didn’t really like himself much. He worried that other people didn’t like him, either. He didn’t trust himself to be enough. So he kept looking for external validation. He needed it, just like a drug. And he was controlled by it.

So what should you trust? Yourself, for one. And your own power. Your power has nothing to do with how many people agree with you or jump to attention when you enter the room. Your power is independent of other people and situations. Your power comes from the one Source:  the Universe, God, the Divine, whatever you want to call it.

If you are trying to control your world, then you do not trust this Source. God has our best interests at heart, and always will. God will handle things for our highest good, all the time. The only thing we have to do is actually listen to that small, quiet voice in our hearts that will lead us to our true happiness. The voice of the mind, the ego, shouts down the voice in the heart whenever it can, and most people listen to the ego instead of the heart. They take the safe job that provides security and “pays well” instead of pursuing their dream. Maybe they marry a person of the opposite sex, even though their heart points in another direction. Whatever it is that our heart tells us, that is God saying, “Trust me. Your heart’s desire, your soul’s purpose, lies on this path. Trust me to fulfill your dreams. Trust me to take care of you.”

If you listen to this voice, and if you trust this voice, you will have everything your heart desires, you will make it through any challenge, and you will find your happiness. And when you relinquish control, you will find your freedom as well.

How to Overcome Victim Mentality and Become a Powerful Creator

overcome victim mentality and become a powerful creatorDo you want to be happy? Do you want to feel at peace? Are you tired of struggling? Do you believe that the perfect set of circumstances must appear before any of this is possible? Maybe you’re waiting for a certain time. Maybe you’re waiting for enlightenment to reveal itself to you. Maybe you’re just waiting for the right partner or the right job or the right amount of money in your bank account. Or maybe you’re waiting for the people around you to change. But if you’re waiting for anything, you are living as a victim instead of a powerful creator.

Most people do not believe that they are living as victims, yet they are quick to blame other sources for their problems:  the government, the banks, political parties, “mean people,” the boss, the in-laws, the spouse, or even a physical or mental disability. When you blame your problems on anything, you are choosing the role of victim. You will never be able to change these things, so if you decide that these are the things that must be “fixed” in order to be happy or at peace in your life, then you will always be a long-suffering victim.

You do have another option, however. You can take your power. You can be the Powerful Creator that you already are. But what does this mean?

Being a Powerful Creator doesn’t mean that you can control the Universe. That still won’t work. But you can control your thoughts, choices, and reactions, and those are very powerful creative tools.

When you came into your human body, Victim Mode was the default setting. This was done by design. You came here to pretend for awhile to be everything you ARE NOT:   powerless, weak, separate, you name it. But when you begin to take your power, you are moving back into the consciousness of what you ARE:  a divine, powerful creator, made in the image of God.

To move from Victim to Creator doesn’t require a special date or event. It doesn’t require everyone else to “wake up” at the same moment. All that is needed is for you to shift your consciousness. Don’t wait for an event to live in an ascended world. That world is here NOW. It is available NOW. You can live in it NOW. But you have to take your power to get there.

When you take your power and shift your consciousness, that doesn’t mean that “bad” things will never happen to you. You are still going to face challenges in your life, possibly some very difficult ones. But when you are in your power, you will view them through a different lens and you will choose to handle them differently. Instead of blaming and becoming a victim of circumstance, take a deep breath and ask what Spirit needs of you next. Know that everything happens for a reason, even if that reason is hard to see in the moment. You may never know exactly why some things happen the way they do, but in order to live in your power you must also exercise your Trust in Spirit—or Faith, if you prefer.

Victims blame and react defensively, but Powerful Creators look within for their answers and cultivate Trust—knowing that they will always be led to make the perfect choice if they listen and stop blaming. If you are going to be a Powerful Creator, then you must start living in the moment NOW. Spirit doesn’t guide you yesterday or tomorrow. Spirit is guiding you right now, and in every moment. Stop and listen.

It is a paradox that to be a Powerful Creator you must surrender control. But when you are a Powerful Creator, you take control of yourself and surrender control of everything else. Victims try to control the world around them. They want to change people so that they behave a certain way. They want to change the way the world is. Powerful Creators know that by changing themselves, they ultimately do change the world—but not by force, and not in the way that they may think. The more Powerful Creators there are in the world, the more awakened people there are. And this is how the great shift in consciousness is occurring now.

So I have described how to be a Powerful Creator in logical terms, but living it and breaking old patterns can be difficult. How do you do this? Practice makes perfect.

Pick a day, any day, and wake up and ask, “What does God/Spirit need of me today?” Wait for the answer. Do whatever you hear, and keep asking all day long. When you complete a task, ask again, then wait. The answer could be mundane: go to your dentist appointment. The answer might not make sense: do nothing and just be (a difficult directive if you feel you have 50 things that you should be doing). But do it anyway, whatever you hear. As you practice, you will discover that you are perfectly guided at all times. And when you see that your long to-do list still gets done in a more relaxed, nurturing way, then you will learn to trust what you hear. Building this trust with your inner guidance is more important than I can possibly say in this article. It is vital. It is the key to your power.

When you live in the space of the new consciousness, you may discover that many things that used to bother you no longer affect you in quite the same way. This is because you begin to realize that everything truly is perfect right now. There is a gift in all things, even if you can’t see it yet. This is beautifully illustrated by the Taoist parable of “The Farmer’s Luck,” which is included in the children’s book Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth
:

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years.

One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning, the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses.

“Such good luck!” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the farmer.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg.

Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Such bad luck,” they said.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by.

“Such good luck!” cried the neighbors.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

Fearsome Freedom

are americans freeAs Americans, we do not question whether we are free or not. We assume that we are free, by virtue of where we live. And yet, we favor policies that will restrict our freedoms. Paradox? Or self-delusion?

In essence, most people believe in the freedom of all—as long as everyone agrees with their point of view. If you are a religious conservative, you are fine with freedom—unless you are gay and want to marry, or you want universal access to birth control. If you are an atheist, you are fine with freedom—as long as no one ever mentions God. If you are a liberal, you are fine with freedom—unless you want to own a gun. The list of “exceptions” is endless.

In a truly free society, every opinion, every choice, every way of living or being is welcome. There are no boundaries, no exceptions, and no box for true freedom. And this scares the heck out of people.

It’s a given that there is always someone in the world who will challenge your beliefs and your way of thinking. If everyone is truly free to express themselves in their truth, you will readily find someone who will challenge the borders of your box. And that can be truly frightening. We use our boxes to feel safe and secure. We seek out those who will agree with how the box should look to validate our own beliefs. So when someone comes across our path who is living out loud outside of our box, we react with fear.

Fear is the tool of the Ego, and we can probably attribute the source of every problem in the world to this little god. Fear keeps us trapped in our boxes, from where we can judge an “us” and a “them.” Fear encourages us to give our power to those who care about their own interests, rather than the highest good. Fear makes slaves of us all.

Fear is also the author of the great counter-argument to Freedom:  what about those who would kill us? What about murderers, thieves, and abusers? Surely they do not deserve the freedom to do as they please. This is a complex question, and the issue is largely one of context. Should you be free to kill? Most of us agree we should not; however, under certain circumstances, we are currently free to do so. If you are in the military, you are free to kill the enemy. If you are defending your life from another, you are free to kill your assailant. The state is free to kill convicted murderers or those convicted of treason.

Really, this question is about the age-old struggle of the rights of the individual vs. the rights of society. But is it really an issue? The answer is probably best answered by the Wiccan rede:  “An it do no harm, do what thou will.” In a truly free society, the individuals are free to be who they are and how they are, but they must also respect the choices and the existence of others.

In other words, people have the right to exist, whether you agree with them or not. Fear makes people believe that those in opposition should not exist; if the “enemy” no longer exists, frightened people don’t have to be challenged by their beliefs. This is the path of terrorism, genocide, and fascism. “If I can kill it or make it go away, then I won’t have to examine my own beliefs.”

Everyone feels that their beliefs are “right.” If they didn’t, they wouldn’t think them. No one wakes up and decides that they are going to make “wrong” or “bad” decisions all day. Each person operates from their own sense of “rightness,” which may be completely in opposition to someone else’s views. Does that make the other person “wrong?” No, it means that they are both right. And, they are both wrong.

Right and wrong is a matter of perspective. For the farmer, if a thief steals his produce, the farmer may feel anxious that he will not have enough of his crop to feed his own family, store food for the winter, and provide seed for the following season. From the farmer’s perspective, the thief is wrong to benefit from the farmer’s labor and threaten the farmer’s security. The thief, on the other hand, may not have land of his own and may simply be trying to survive and feed his family. From the thief’s perspective, the farmer is wealthy and can afford to share his crop with someone in dire need. In this scenario, there is no right or wrong. In any scenario, there is no right or wrong.

Freedoms are often curtailed because they are considered to be “wrong” (morally, religiously, empirically), while the restriction on these freedoms is hailed as “right.” It is another way of saying, “You are wrong to do this, so we want to stop you from doing it.” This is, quite simply, tyranny. It is also an attempt to control that which cannot be controlled:  the choices of others.

This back and forth, the ritual of “right and wrong,” is as old as duality. The thing is, duality is ending. And with its end comes the birth of True Freedom. Are you ready for that? Are you ready for what that’s going to look like? Are you ready to allow other points of view, other boxes, or even no boxes at all? Are you ready for the infinite possibilities that each of us embodies and can manifest, right here on this earth?

For those of us who thought we believed in “freedom,” the task may be hardest. We haven’t really believed in freedom—there were too many exceptions, which isn’t freedom at all. But freedom is coming. We are each a divine co-creator. We can create whatever we want, be however we want. But we also have a responsibility to the whole, to the highest good of all. This will require us to choose our thoughts carefully. The vibrational shift we are experiencing, the great change that is upon us, right now, is causing our thoughts and choices to manifest at an accelerated rate. Yes, we are free to make choices that do not serve us, or that do not serve the highest good, but we will be held accountable for what we choose, because we will experience the results ourselves.

In the past, many have defied convention to speak their truth and to live their truth. Many of these visionaries were silenced by those who feared their words and their vision. The list is long:  Christ; Joan of Arc; Galileo; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and the many nameless victims, including those accused of witchcraft, heretics, and the politically “inconvenient.” Those days are ending. If you are still trapped in fear, you will suffer, because you believe that you must. But if you can overcome your fear, you will find your freedom, and you will contribute to the freedom of others. As always, it is a choice.

Rebirth of the Warrior

stepping outside your comfort zoneJust over a year ago, I finally decided to do something about my need to move. I knew I needed some form of physical activity, something that I could enjoy and sustain. So I joined a gym and started taking various classes and lifting a few weights. Over time, I changed some classes for others, tweaking until I found the right combination of fun and fitness for me. During this time, I also made some dietary changes, and in the end, I lost 2 sizes and about 35 pounds. And for awhile, this was enough.

One of the classes that I have continued to take is a group cycle class. When I first started, my goal was to finish the workout without dying. Or at least, without feeling like I was dying. And then at some point, I started to challenge myself a little. I added on more resistance. A little here; a little there. Eventually, I even started to face my old enemy, the Sprint.

I have never been fast, and when I was in middle school and high school, I was basically coerced into playing basketball. I’m reasonably tall, but that did not make me a good player. Worse, practice meant lots of running. Worse still, it meant lots of sprinting. Dear God, you want me to run how fast and for how long? So it came as a surprise to myself that I would actually want to challenge myself to sprint as hard and as fast as I could during this class.

Building strength can be quite addictive. It’s certainly true that obsessive personalities are drawn to the gym. It is certainly something that control freaks can control. No doubt that is part of what’s going on for me, as I am (still) a recovering control freak…

But there’s more going on than that for me. After a brief absence, my Spirit Father has returned to remind me of the warrior I have been (in previous lives) and the warrior I must be now.

Last week, I went white-water rafting with a family member and his son. I had never been before. During the pre-rafting speech, I began to pray that I wouldn’t end up on the front page of the local paper. Ha ha. Please just keep me in the boat, I asked the angels.

The actual rafting part was not too difficult, and I was glad that I was in reasonably good shape. Not long into the trip, however, we stopped and walked along the shore past a particularly nasty bit of falls. Once safely around, we were given a choice:  either jump off of an 18-foot cliff into the middle of the river and swim to the raft, or walk down the trail to the river and simply walk to the raft from there. Given my fear of heights and the swiftness and coldness of the river, along with my memories of news stories in which people died in Pacific Northwest rivers, you would think that I would scurry myself along the easy path and simply walk to the boat. And a year ago, I probably would have done exactly that. But this year was different. I felt my Spirit Father with me. You are a warrior.

I didn’t hesitate too long. I simply jumped. Once in the air, I thought, Well, I’m committed. Splash, into the icy river, and then I had to immediately start swimming or miss the raft. And before I knew it, I was safe in the boat—and incredibly proud of myself.

A little further down was a waterfall that we were not going to walk around. We were going over it, which meant the raft would be submerged briefly. If you were likely to fall out of the boat, this was the time it would probably happen. It was optional, but I chose to face it, albeit with some trepidation. As I paddled toward that fall, I remembered doing very similar things in my long past. You are a warrior, he whispered.

I grew up with a great deal of trepidation about my physical body. I always played it safe and was never much of a risk-taker in that regard. So it is interesting to me now that I am pushing myself physically, and I know that it is part of a larger spiritual change as well. I am a warrior, but I do not make war.

The warriors of the future are very different from the warriors of the past. It is no longer about inflicting damage or death, of control or triumph. A warrior in the new world is a protector, a peace-maker, a provider. A warrior is characterized by strength through peace and love. A warrior understands that he or she is not separate, and that the entirety of Earth and the Universe is One Being. A warrior is still brave; a warrior still acts when required. But the expression of these things is changing. A warrior trusts that when he or she is called upon to jump from an 18-foot cliff (literally or figuratively), that the Universe is there to support them. A warrior is an enlightened being and a student of Life.

The great Mystery Schools of our past always included physical tasks that had to be completed. The purpose of these tasks was to help us overcome our fears. When you can overcome your fears, you are truly a spiritual warrior, and you can accomplish great things. I believe that this is a major part of this transformation in myself.

I don’t honestly know where this new direction is going to take me, but my Spirit is calling me to change, and the Universe is instructing me in this change, and it is good. It is always good.

You Are Free

freedom personal choicePeople in the “West” talk an awful lot about freedom. The U.S.A. probably talks about it the most (it’s a handy thing to go to war for), but 99.99% of all this talk is just lip service. As I discussed in another article (“Fearsome Freedom”), we say all the right things but don’t really mean any of it. If we did, there would be no exceptions to freedom. But we make a lot of exceptions to it, on both sides of the political spectrum. The details vary with your point of view. And by and large, people are afraid of real freedom. Because real freedom means exceptional personal responsibility.

Now, I’m not talking about freedom in Ayn-Randian terms, wherein every man or woman is for himself. Humans are not made to live alone, and the cult of the individual can be more appropriately termed the Cult of the Ego. The problem with the Cult of the Ego is the belief that we are in control, and boy, we are NOT in control. There but for the grace of God goes anybody, so if someone’s in a bad place, compassion goes a lot further than judgment.

Humans are tribal. Humans are social. We can’t just get by living as nuclear families side by side other nuclear families without ever interacting with them. It just doesn’t work. It makes us lonely, depressed, and anxious. It means we don’t have help when we need it, and sooner or later, we ALL need it. So freedom doesn’t mean, “I’ve got mine, so you figure it out for yourself.”

What freedom does mean is that no one is above you. No one is below you, either. You are me, and I am you, and if we fail to acknowledge that, then we aren’t free—we’re afraid. And every chain and every cage in the world is based on fear. Our media wouldn’t go to so much trouble to cultivate fear otherwise. Because if you believe there’s something to be afraid of, then you will give away your freedom to anyone or anything that can claim to “save” you from it.

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
~Steve Biko

The irony, of course, is that you are always free, right now. You can simply choose to behave freely. You can simply take your freedom. No one can ever control your mind, your heart, or your spirit without your consent. No matter what is happening in the world at any moment, you are a Divine Creator, and freedom is a part of who you are. It is a birthright that cannot be revoked, though you may give this power away.

Freedom also means being responsible for your choices, including the choice to give away your freedom. There are always consequences for our choices. Some may be “good” and some may be “bad” depending on your perspective, but every choice defines the way your life is going to look. It doesn’t really matter if someone else doesn’t like your choices. They don’t really get a say in it, do they? They also won’t bear the fruit of your choices, either, though they may be affected by them.

There is great power in choices, and no one has the right to narrow or define which choices are available to you. In the great wide Universe, there are infinite possibilities. There are also infinite paths, and some of them may be painful. So take care with your choices. Take care with your thoughts. The more at peace you are, the more likely you are to make happier choices for yourself (which doesn’t mean that “bad” things will cease to happen to you; challenges will still come).

Undoubtedly, it is the fear of the outcome of our own choices that leads us to give up our freedom. It is so much easier to be a victim, and to blame someone else for screwing up our lives. But this, too, is a choice, and I have never known a happy victim. But I have known some happy, powerful Creators.

Every spiritual master who has walked this earth was completely free in themselves. Some were tortured, exiled, and killed. After all, our physical bodies are not necessarily free from harm. Yet, these masters were free. Their spirits, their minds, their hearts were free. They understood that they were not just a body. They understood that the people who abused them were part of them. They had love and compassion for those beings who were in so much pain that they felt the need to inflict pain on others. But they stood in their power, and a number of them changed the world. They also knew that this was available to everyone. You are a spiritual master. You are a miracle worker—if you acknowledge that power and your own freedom to be yourself.

In our world today, it is easy to see the greed and corruption that are polluting our societies and our planet. But even in the midst of all this turmoil, you can be free. By choosing freedom, by choosing to follow your heart and your Spirit, you will help to transform the world. Greed and corruption exist because people are out of integrity with who they really are. To change the world, you must be in integrity with who you are. If you’ve been living according to other people’s definition of “integrity,” then you must decide what this means for yourself. Everyone is different. Your purpose belongs to you alone.

Be who you are, be what gives Joy to your Spirit. It may not look the way society expects, or demands. It may not look the way you expected it would. This is perfectly okay. Social constructs are just that:  constructs. They are not true. They are not real. They do not even matter. We can change them whenever we want to, for any reason we want to. If something isn’t working for you, that’s your cue to change.

Nothing is hopeless. We can heal ourselves and this planet in an instant if we decide to. It’s like what John and Yoko said:  “War is over. If you want it.” Conflict is over; pollution is over; corruption is over; inequity is over; the illusion of lack is over; misery is over. If you want it. You are free to choose.