When Sociopaths Rule


Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove”

Carrie Fisher died today. I also took the kids to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which includes a (very) slight surprise ending that made me cry, all things considered. This post isn’t quite about Carrie or Star Wars, even though non-nerds are looking to check out, so bear with me.

I was 8 years old in 1977 when I saw the original Star Wars. The Cold War was still a real thing, and many people wondered if—or when—World War III might break out. The possibility of a Death Star annihilating whole planets was not too far-fetched. My father was still in the army then, still working as a tech, building and repairing nuclear weapons and instructing the National Guard in their use. By then, most of the pictures of nuclear mushroom clouds—real ones—were no longer gracing our walls as they had when I was younger. Dad was very proud of these pictures, which I understood stemmed from his pride in being peripherally involved with one of mankind’s highest technological “achievements.” My father was no Oppenheimer, but he fancied that he could have been.

Where my father saw pride, I saw fear and devastation from toddlerhood on. When I expressed my fears about the Soviets and nuclear war, he assured me that he knew how to survive one. It didn’t occur to him that I might not want to survive one.

Before my father was in the army, he was in the navy. In October, 1962, he was aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, now a museum in New York City, when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. The Intrepid headed for Cuba and God only knows what. Every seaman on that ship thought World War III was at hand. Thankfully, the Soviets backed down, and the crisis was averted. Unfortunately, fear of nuclear holocaust was not.

When the Berlin Wall fell, I cheered along with everyone else. When the Soviet Union became simply Russia, and the Cold War faded to dust, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, the world still had nukes. But maybe they would just rot in their silos.

And then came Trump.

I’m not sure what I expected from 2016, but being faced with a President Trump was not one of them. A Republican I disliked, sure, but a thin-skinned, reactionary demagogue who is the political equivalent of a hammer in search of a nail was not one of them. The Russians may suddenly be our new overlords, but now Trump is looking for a fight with… China? North Korea? Iran? Himself? Was goes on in that straw-covered, fevered brain?

The Donald gave the world a new nuclear arms race for Christmas. Or a sort of arms race. A threat. A warning. A reason to buy lots of Trump wine. Or vodka.

The Universe has an eerie sense of timing. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is about the development of the planet-killing Death Star. When this awesome weapon is first deployed, the program leader calls the resulting mushroom-cloud-like explosion, “beautiful.” It is the sort of beauty only a sociopath could appreciate.

Climate change is occurring, but the sociopaths say, “No, that’s a hoax.” Cigarettes are good for you. We have nukes; why can’t we use them? (That last courtesy of The Donald.) It’s bad enough that the forces of White Nationalism have risen, that minorities are afraid, that a ridiculous loon is going to be… I can’t write it. This is all bad enough, but how on earth did nukes come back into play? Have we elected General Jack D. Ripper, from Dr. Strangelove? Instead of Commies being the problem, it’s now the minorities and the Chinese?

The problem with having a sociopath in charge is that the other sociopaths flock to them, and then the spineless stop speaking the truth (I’m talking to you, GOP). Who needs Stormtroopers when you have an army of Internet trolls ready and willing to unleash fear on those who have been chosen for “the treatment?”

I know there’s a healing opportunity in all of this. I know there is a way forward. The problem that many of us are having is how to shake off this horrible depression, this feeling of detachment from something we were very attached to, the feelings of betrayal, and to find our energy and channel it appropriately. I do not advocate violence. That will only make things worse. But we must defend what freedoms we have, what voice we have, and move forward for the good of humanity and the planet. This is do-or-die time, folks. You cannot sit this one out. Now is the time to take a stand.

The Woman as Devil: The Basis of the Attack on Hillary Clinton

By Steve Jurvetson - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/25392716563/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47720773

In the second presidential debate, Donald Trump referred to Hillary Clinton as “the devil,” and it wasn’t the first time. He also called her the devil at an August campaign rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:

“[Bernie Sanders’] people are angry at him, and they should be. If he would have not just done anything, gone home, go to sleep, relax, he would have been a hero. But he made a deal with the devil. She’s the devil.”

At the Republican National Convention, Ben Carson called her a “devil worshipper” on the basis of her friendship with Saul Alinsky, who once referred to the devil as “the original radical” in his book. Mr. Carson spent a good deal of time engaging in the mental acrobatics to infer that Hillary was ipso facto “one degree away from” Satan by this association. More far-right conservative supporters than I can count have talked about Hillary in these terms. Many men have run for the office of president, but few have been seriously characterized as Satan himself.

Unfortunately, women have a long history of being equated with the Evil One. Some women are witches, and all witches must therefore be evil. To qualify, a woman simply has to have the appearance of someone who is not following the male-imposed rules. They could be unmarried and unwilling to remarry. They could have a strong or independent personality. They could have strange (to the culture) ideas. They could simply have pissed off a man by spurning him. It doesn’t take much to win the disfavor of the patriarchy when you’re female.

In Papua, New Guinea, women are still being burned as witches. According to The Guardian, in one case:

Social media posts said the women were accused of “invisibly” taking the man’s heart, and then putting it back after they were tortured. In their attackers’ eyes this would also prove their guilt as sorcerers.

Taking the man’s heart…you mean, inciting lust? Sexual feeling? Torturing the men with want?

Indeed, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam hold women responsible for the feelings that they incite…in men. A “good” woman will cover herself (with burka, long sleeves, or simply “modest” clothing, however that is culturally defined) and thereby reduce the male temptation to sin. The reason we have a rape culture is exactly due to this belief:  if a woman is raped, it is her fault for inciting the man in some way to do it. In other words, “she asked for it.”

The woman as evil is deeply rooted in the Abrahamic tradition and religions, which several thousand years ago decided to divorce god’s masculine aspect from his feminine one, and consign her to oblivion. But the goddess holds the power of creation. She has Knowledge.

The books that comprise the Bible were specifically chosen by a group of men to conform to the message that they wanted to impart. The Bible itself contains two Creation stories, though the first is often overlooked:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

The preferred story for fundamentalists is the one in which the feminine is reduced to a mere rib, over which man is given dominion. Eve later reveals her true wicked nature by disobeying the jealous god and eating the fruit of the tree of Knowledge. Womankind is therefore condemned forever to labor pains, and man understands that inside, all women are evil unless they are made to behave by their diligent lords.

Many Gnostic Christians, however, had a very different understanding of the story of Eve (which no doubt inspired what would later become the Catholic Church to wipe most of them out). To the Gnostics, the serpent in the garden was sent by Sophia, a spirit of wisdom, to help man gain knowledge. Eve was not “tempted;” she was shown the light. In this version, the jealous demigod Yahweh wanted to prevent mankind from having knowledge, which does not make him the good guy. Jealous and rageful, he casts out Adam and Eve, but they have gained the knowledge that will lead them through their cycles of life until they can escape the realms of matter.

The latter story is not what shaped modern western civilization, however. No, what shaped our society is the inherent belief that women are evil and cannot be trusted. Hillary Clinton is actually brave, because she is putting herself out there to attain a position that people with this social/religious mindset can never countenance: she wants to be the supreme head of the country. Of course Hillary Clinton is not the devil, but to those who feel threatened by her, she represents the worst evil that they see in women:  she is independent, she is strong, she is smart, she does not care about their approval, and she does not need them. For many fundamentalists, these are grave sins, the kind of sins that only a woman can commit.

In this election, imagery of Hillary as the devil abound (just Google “hillary devil image”), as do shirts, signs, and other items bearing the most misogynistic slogans imaginable: “Trump that bitch,” “Hillary sucks but not like Monica,” “Hillary for Prison,” and so on. While many US elections have invoked high feeling, the only other candidate I can ever recall who suffered this kind of in-the-mud nastiness was Barack Obama. The black guy. (The correlation made by racists between black skin and evil will have to wait another day.) If two white guys are duking it out, though, it may get nasty, but not this nasty.

Hillary hatred is a real thing, and there’s nothing logical or reasonable about it. It’s visceral, emotional, and honestly, most people can’t put into words why they dislike Hillary. But I can. Basically, male and female haters alike, they’re upset that she will not keep her place, and that as good as puts a mark of the beast on her forehead. It’s 2016, so her haters talk about putting her in jail. It’s a good thing this isn’t New Guinea.

Photo of Hillary by Steve Jurvetson – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/25392716563/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47720773

The Perfect Gift

The Perfect GiftYou know that when you say something definitively that the Universe is going to smack you around. So, in my last blog when I said:

No one looks back on their life and thinks fondly of what they received for their 25th Christmas.

The Universe clearly had something to say to me, along the lines of, “We shall see about that!”

There are toxic gifts, and there are toxic gift-givers. We deal with them and move on. But there are also people who give from the heart, without reservation, and they know where we live. And their gifts reflect this understanding.

So, let me state now that on my death bed, I probably will remember my (early) Christmas gift, which I received in my 44th year, literally the day after I wrote the previous blog. It was my equivalent of Ralphie’s Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. It was something I had wanted and missed for at least 20 years.

On the day I received it, my beloved requested my assistance to move an object in a rented U-Haul van that was a “gift for the family.” He wouldn’t say more. I rode with him in the pouring rain to the far side of town, where we found the house of a middle-aged couple who was moving further south. And there, in their packed-up living room, was a lovely spinnet piano. “There’s your piano,” he said.

A piano of my own! I had wanted one my entire adult life. I will never be a world-class pianist, but I love to play. Making music for myself is a calming, meditative thing. I like to challenge myself to play that piece a little better than I did before. I like to be with the melody and just make myself happy. And now, after two decades, I could do it again. I had received a long-lost piece of myself, which I had mourned and missed. It was a gift of pure love and pure understanding, one that said, “I see you.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

The children are naturally drawn to the piano; I hope they want lessons. I’m trying to encourage them in that direction. I can’t play for long without having a cat perched on top of the piano. They love it, too.

The best gifts don’t really have a price tag. How do you put a price on the joy of music? But I know I am loved when I received the perfect gift—the gift that gave me back my music. So, yes, I’ll remember this gift always, but more importantly, I’ll remember the love that inspired it. I couldn’t be more blessed.

Measuring Our Worth

Extreme poverty in Rand, WV, USA in 1973. Roads were unpaved and housing was substandard. Source: Environmental Protection Agency Archives

Extreme poverty in Rand, WV, USA in 1973.
Roads were unpaved and housing was substandard.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency Archives

If I had to distill the essence of our social and political discourse as a nation and a global community right now into just a few words, I would say that the biggest source of all our divisions and quarrels lies in the measuring of our worth compared with others. Now, what do I mean by that?

In theory, our disagreements are about concrete things like economic policy, social policy, budgets, and the firm belief that there just isn’t enough money to go around, and some people are going to have to suffer to make up for it. The question at the core of the fighting is, “Who must suffer?”

It is a hard thing to condemn another to suffering, so it is human nature to make excuses for it in order to lessen the psychic burden of the person who is doling out the suffering. This feat of mental gymnastics is accomplished by simple rationalization:  the person who suffers must somehow deserve it because they are morally deficient, lazy, subhuman, or they simply “screwed up” somehow. When these ideas are born, compassion dies. And therein lies the root of every problem.

There is no question that sometimes people make poor choices, even harmful choices for themselves or others. It is true that some people may try to find an “easy” way to get by—which is quite the judgment, actually. A person who scams government benefits may “win” $200 a month in grocery money and a few hundred a month in other assistance, but is this really easy? Ask anyone in poor circumstances, and they’ll tell you how hard it is to live on such a meager income. If that’s “the good life,” then I wouldn’t want it. No, anyone who would work so hard for so little deserves my compassion for having set the bar so low for themselves.

In our modern money-centric society, we now measure everything by its perceived monetary value. If the “cost” of fundamental services (such as education, healthcare, road maintenance, etc.) is too high, then we’ll just have to cut back and “live within our means.” Abundance, however, is a river that flows in whatever direction you focus on. If you are generous with it, it is generous with you. If you are stingy with it, it is stingy with you. This is true for individuals and society as a whole. If we tighten our belts too much, we will no longer be able to breathe.

On a personal level, regardless of our political beliefs, we are accustomed to comparing our worth with the worth of others. If someone gets “more,” we take it personally, as a reflection on ourselves. If someone gets “less,” there is always the nagging belief deep down that maybe they deserve it, which makes us feel better because being better off makes us less “bad” or “wrong” than they are.

Everything is measured in dollars and bling, and now our self-esteem is, too. Our worst fears seem to be that someone else may get “more” than what we have without “deserving” it. Of course, what we’re really afraid of is that we don’t deserve it.

But of course, you do deserve to be abundant. So does your neighbor. So do the mentally ill. So does the guy down the street who’s getting public assistance, or the woman who’s sleeping in doorways. The key to everyone’s abundance lies in our compassion and willingness to share in it. You must give, without judging whether someone “deserves it” or not; likewise, you must receive, without judging yourself and understanding that you also deserve it as much as anyone else.

Imagine for a moment that Jesus stood on the beach, surrounded by thousands who came to hear him and learn from him. He passed his hand over the baskets, and as the loaves and fishes began to flow, he said, “I will give a loaf of bread and a fish to every person who can prove to me that they deserve to have it. The rest of you will have to fend for yourselves!” No compassionate being would say such a thing, and whatever happened on that day, Jesus didn’t either, or we wouldn’t know who he is today. When he offered compassion and unconditional love, it was for everyone, no matter who they were or what they had done or thought or believed. This is the definition of unconditional love. If you want to follow his path or any other enlightened path, then know that there is no such thing as a “measure of worth.” We are all worthy. We are all deserving. We are all One being, the Great I AM, and there can be no greater or lesser here. When we come to know this, we will know peace and true abundance for all.

The Lantern in the Window

lantern-blogEveryone has a home. For many, home is a physical place to go and be welcomed and nurtured, body and soul. For some, the physical home of happiness does not exist. There may be a place you live with doors and walls and windows and maybe even other people in it, but it is not the home you wish for. And for some, even the doors and walls and windows do not exist. But, whether it is a place you long for, or one you live in, we all hope for that place where the light in the window burns just for us.

Our goal in this blog is to be a lantern in the window for seekers everywhere. Brighthill is our web site, but it is also the name of our home. So, welcome to our home.

In this space, we will discuss everything from metaphysics and spirituality to healing your inner child. You  may also find channeled messages from the angels, and we may review relevant books or movies. We may feature guest writers in this space as well. But whatever we do, we will endeavor to do it with love and a positive outlook on the momentous changes that are occurring now on this planet.

Whether you are just exploring metaphysics, healing your inner child, or endeavoring to take back your own divine power and reawaken to who you really are, we welcome you and invite you to share our journey.

Asha & Ahnna Hawkesworth