A Cabinet of Dunces

Three weeks in.

Each day my primal panic subsides but my Virgo-heavy-and-Libra-light-leaning resolve intensifies.  (Once a woman interpreted my star chart, an endeavor of which I was exceptionally skeptical until she nailed my personality in just one phrase, “From what I’m seeing,  I’d say you fight loudly, perhaps indiscriminately, and passionately against that which you decide is unfair or unjust even before you’ve fully researched the actual thing.”  Survey says!?  DING!!!)

Each day it becomes clearer and clearer that President elect Trump meant and means everything he says.  He may change his mind later.  But the words that spill out of his puckered, orange-hued mouth or his tiny little racist fingers are Trumpletongue.  That means: They are fact and reality as created by Trump and thus are fact and reality for Trumpeters and thus become, if not fact and reality, equitably possible and normal in the eyes of the mainstream media and thus become, for most people myopically sleepwalking through their lives, fact and reality.  Thus, Trumpletongue has become fact and reality.

(Spoiler: Trumpletongue is NOT fact and reality.  It is the language of a money- and power-hungry con-man who hates, perhaps more than anything else, to lose or appear weak.)

I also very recently read an uncredited source explaining how Trump’s narcissistic verbal vomit is a pure projection and immediate deflection.  So, when he says Clinton is crooked, he’s really saying, “I’m crooked.”  When he says everyone is lying, he’s really saying, “I’m lying.”  When he says, “Bill is a sexual predator,” he’s saying, “I’m a sexual predator.”  This is the decoder.  Remember that old adage, when one finger is pointing out three are pointing back in?  Yeah, that.  Trumpletongue = project and deflect.

Now, I could be very afraid of this and hide my pristine, hipster-barber coiffured, straight white male head in the sand and allow the tsunami to wash right over me…leaving me unscathed, physically, if I choose.

Here’s the problem, I have a brain, and a heart, and a soul…whatever exists beyond the understanding of my human bio-computer of a woefully inadequate nervous system.  And remaining quiet means irreparable damage to those most important aspects of my humanity that are not the meat-suite in which they’re currently riding.

Plainly, God (…if that noun works best for you…) and the universe compels me to save my soul (…again, just a noun, to help you understand…), which is our shared soul (…a concept familiar in any spiritual tradition…) and simultaneously spread love, kindness, and understanding while actively combating hate, oppression, and willful ignorance.

Simply, I acknowledge and understand this mantle of hate, oppression, and illusion.  And, I refuse and shed it.  I will no longer participate in oppression, which serves only to harm people and fortify the illusion of separateness and supremacy.

Simpler yet, I choose Truth.

-G

P.S. I encourage you to visit my Patreon page.  You can become a patron for as little as $1/month, and that actually makes a difference.  Really.  Perhaps you have a spare $5/month, and you love several writers, podcasters, artists, journalists, or awesome thinkers who have Patreons as well.  You can be a patron to 5 independent artists…and that, in our world, is a critical, radical, positive, loving, amazing, helpful, active thing.

Irreversible Undesirability

Hey.

Have you been on Twitter recently?

Do you follow @driven2drink?  You should.

Do you follow @RealDonaldTrump?  You really should.  He’s kind of losing his shit on Twitter right now.  Not like regular Donald Trump losing his shit either.  Twenty four straight hours of blasting the recount bids in several states by the Green Party/Jill Stein and now, perhaps, Hillary Clinton.  He’s claiming there were millions of illegal (immigrant) Clinton voters.  He’s claiming, and I quote, “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem!”

Are you aware of my Patreon page?

Finally, a few thoughts from the past…48 hours now.  Just a few.

  • Although every human eventuality occurs gradually, there remains a distinct point that is “too late” to regain the desirable path and avoid irreversible undesirability.
  • Do you believe that white people are actually smarter than humans of other colors?  In particular, do you think white men are actually smarter than people who have been subjugated and oppressed for generations by white men?  If so, you are a white misogynist supremacist.
  • All independent thought is radical.
  • Think independently.  (i.e. meditate, consume art and contemplate it, actually listen to people and respond to their communication)
  • Problem.  Almost everybody watches the news they “like.”  This may just be a different way of explaining confirmation bias, but it’s important nonetheless.  Think of it this way.  “I believe this thing.  I only seek, remember, collect, share, and like information that confirms this thing I believe.”  Even if the thing I believe is inadequately nuanced, immeasurable, or wrong.
  • Solution.  Stop consuming things you like.  Start consuming other things.  Let your intuition guide you.  Not your comfort compass.  Your actual intuition.  That piece of you that, when you actually stop and attend to it communicates phenomenally accurately.

Okay, that’s what I have for you today.

Please, if you’re compelled to comment/dialogue with me/us, please do.

-G

Magic (RJ Again, pt 2)

We’re straight in with Beatles talk.

We’re also straight in with the concept of magic.

Music…can be magic.

Art…can be magic.

What is magic?  I’m not entirely sure but I know this, art has provided me with such emotionally overwhelming experiences, such glimpses into the heart of that which I typically cannot sense, such human beauty…that I can’t think of a better word than “magic.”

Some might say, “God.”

In either case, it’s a matter of faith, right?  That art can inspire and aspire and build impossible spires of Truth…is inconceivable.

That escalated quickly.

Anyway, here you’ll RJ and me, both entering the land of inebriation, brains focused, senses dulled.

Strap in, have fun, we present to you, “Magic (RJ Again, pt 2).”

-G

P.S. The music comes at the beginning (“Oh, Darling!”) and middle (“Strawberry Fields Forever”), not at the end.  Just a warning.  Warning you with peace and love.

ministry-of-abbey-road

Dear White Man

You’re either an oppressor or you’re not an oppressor.

This is a choice we white men have.

If you truly desire to relinquish your birthright of “oppressor,” there are paths.  Just as Christians believe we are all born with the original sin of the first humans who dared disconnect from the abuse and rhetoric of an oppressive father to find the Truth behind the truth, we men, the product of thousands of years of men who created and implemented contemporary religion, are born with an even older “original sin.”  Namely, oppression.

The path of relinquishing this burdensome mantle is long, arduous, and self-debilitating.  There’s no way to move toward enlightenment without taking responsibility for the lifetimes of psychic and emotional trauma we’ve inflicted on billions.  When that responsibility comes crashing down, it can take your breath away.  Sometimes much more.  (I don’t mean to be hyperbolic here, but the scourge of white men across recorded history is relentless and it is horrific.  If you honestly spend time contemplating it, reading about it, listening to people on the other side of the oppression dynamic [i.e. those oppressed], perhaps even experiencing it for fleeting moments or short time frames…it’s debilitating.  But utterly important if we wish to get anywhere as a species.)

My path is…my path, and I’ll share it with you here.  Your path might coincide with or stray from mine in a myriad of possiblities.  However, if you’re just opening the door for the first time, or if you’ve recently been ushered further down the path of enlightenment like me, these steps are certainly valid endeavors.

First, exposure and experience with all layers of diversity…with an open heart and mind.  Push through discomfort.  Push through anger.  Push through that tendency to always be right, to reflexively, deflectively,  school an individual about an aggression s/he actually experienced.

Second, ingesting the art of oppressed communities like it matters…because, it matters.  Literature, music, dance, film, visual arts, and perhaps most importantly, dialogue.  For me, “art” is both simply and complexly the endeavor to communicate the human condition.

Third, honest, mindful, loving communication with individuals from the communities mentioned above.

Fourth, finding the internal bravery to risk confrontation with others from power cultures, including friends and family.

Fifth, Travel.  Anywhere.  Abroad, a different state…hell, the city nearest you.  Wherever you can afford, conspire, or finagle to go…go.

Sixth, meditate, or pray, or think very, very hard about the histories and experiences of oppressed people, and your place in that narrative.

Seventh, look in the mirror.  Deeply.  Say, “I am not an oppressor anymore,” and travel the earth with that resolve.

Eighth, repeat any or all of the previous steps because this is a journey, not a destination. Add your own important steps, and repeat them as necessary.

Ninth, take care of yourself.  You can’t do a damn thing for anybody else if you’ve not attended to your personal sense and state of homeostasis.

Tenth, prepare to be bullied, perhaps assaulted.  Oppressors hate nothing more than their own kind turned against them.

It is possible to break free from the emotional and spiritual barbed wire cage of oppression, as the oppressor.  But it requires constant work and dedication.

I am not an oppressor.

I urge you to join me.

-G

Don’t Miss the Zebras

I. Dazzeal

Once, as a Peace Corps volunteer, I went for a run along train tracks in the countryside of Naivasha, Kenya.  I’d been running the same route for weeks, exiting the training center and following the tracks for approximately 2.5 miles before intersecting with a road which led back to the center.  Headphones in.  Head down.  Vision approximately 6-10 feet ahead of me.  I was a man with a mission.  A somewhat unconscious, single-minded cardiovascular mission.  One day, with all of the narrowly-focused determination that would soon lead me to run my first marathon at approximately 2 miles altitude in a Kenyan game park, I started the daily grind.  After approximately 1 mile, I nearly ran directly into a zebra’s hindquarters.  I slowed, looked up, one zebra became 2 became 20 became…I can’t recall the precise number, but I’d run directly into a group of them.  (What’s the name for a group of zebras?  Thanks for asking.  Are you ready?  I don’t think you are.  There are actually two.  Two amazing and awesome names.  It’s…a zeal of zebras.  Or…a dazzle of zebras.  How freaking cool is that?!)  Peaceful, tranquil, not spooked…thank the universe.  All dazzle and no zeal.  I walked among them, drinking in every moment of the experience, and, once well past, completed my run.  I’d nearly missed all of those zebras.  Worse yet, I nearly ran into one, perhaps spooking them all and creating a stampede.  Do zebras stampede?  I don’t know, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

Why do I tell you that story?  Up until that very point in Kenya…and for a handful of years leading up to my time as a Peace Corps volunteer…I had missed nearly everything surrounding me.  That’s kind of what our brains do, though.  Right?  Acclimation.  That which is astounding becomes mundane, and eventually everything fades into the background of, “been there, seen it, done that.”  After my first dazzling encounter with a zeal of zebras, and perhaps for several years resonating out, when I showed up somewhere, I paid better attention.  The entire Peace Corps – Kenya adventure fortified that, really.  When novelty is smacking you in the face nearly every day, it’s hard for the brain to make commonplace that which is utterly uncommon.

However, there were two previous experiences, both occurring during my time as a University student, which set me up for this critical lesson in mindfulness.  Neither of them stuck particularly well when they happened, from a functional perspective, but they stayed in the flip files of my memory…and the zebra experience, as you’ll soon enough see, connected directly to them.

That’s the thing about radical present-beingness, it requires vigilance and practice…and the muscles of mindfulness atrophy quickly when we fall out of practice and our brains default to whatever foggy modality in which it existed previous to the clearing of consciousness.

 

II. Over 90% is Showing Up

During my Junior year as an undergraduate, I applied to be a resident assistant (RA).  Ed, the resident director of the building where I would spend  the lion’s share of a semester admitting locked out residents (i.e. people who lost or forgot their identification at the bar and needed official vouching by the on-duty RA), asking athletes to keep the noise down, and occasionally chasing down the scent of cannabis (…the sweet, sweet scent of cannabis…), selected me.  At some point early in our training he explained to me, during a one-on-one meeting, that well over 90% of what I’d be required to do over the course of the year required, quite simply, that I show up.  The lock-outs, the noise requests, the resident dropping by to ask a question or hang…the bulk of my job…simply required that I be there when I was supposed to be there.  He told me, “Not everyone can be trusted for even that task.”  However, Ed explained, and I’m paraphrasing here, “The real reason I chose you, and why I chose the other RAs, is because of that final 5 – 10%.  There’s going to come a time this year where you need to make a critical decision, where you need to really be there for someone in a crisis, where you show your mettle as a mature, capable, caring, counselor.  Or, perhaps there’s a situation in which you save someone’s life.  That’s…why I hired you.”  It blew me away, it made me feel good about myself, and it helped me to take the position seriously.  From that point forward, no matter what the endeavor, I affixed that same philosophy.  90%+ is being there.  5% – 10% is having the maturity, skill, confidence, and knowledge to do the REAL job, when the real job decides to present itself.

 

III. The Tale of Horses and Zebras

Several years later, in graduate school, and approximately two years before my run-in with a dazzling zeal of striped horses, an administrator would relate a very similar message in the form of an analogy.  He called it, I think, the tale of horses and zebras.  Do you know about the horses and zebras?  Sitting in a room with aspiring Speech/Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, and Nutritionists, he related the following.

Many years ago, a man was hired to count horses.  This task, although repetitive and monotonous, was an extremely important job for the larger system in which the horse-counter would be integrated.  The horse counter initially took the job very seriously.  Arrived a few minutes early each day, clocked in, greeting everyone along the way, took the position in the horse counter spot, and went about counting horses. 

(clipclop-ClipClop-CLIPCLOP) One (clipcop-ClipClop-CLIPCLOP) Two (And so on and so on and so on)

After several weeks on the job, the initial shine having worn from the surface of his enthusiasm, the counter’s attention began to drift.  After several months, he began arriving a few minutes late, hurrying, head down, to the horse counting station.  And one day, he turned to look at something…and realized, “Wait.  I can hear the horses going by.”  By this point, he’d taken to using a manual counter (…you know, one of those metallic clickers…), and so the man began doing any number of things other than actually watching and counting.  Simply by the passing quadrupedal shoe echoes did he complete the only task for which he was hired.  And so it came that on one particular day, a zebra clip-clopped by…and, of course, the now counter-Counter clicked the metallic button and went about whatever business was not the business of horse counting.

Here the administrator explained, and again I’m paraphrasing, “You will see many similar patients.  You will find shortcuts as, perhaps, your enthusiasm wanes, but you must remember,” and here he spoke primarily of the task of differential diagnosis, “You cannot miss the zebras.”

There’s that lesson again.  The one from Ed.  (The one I’d relearn, literally, in two years.)

When that final phrase, “You cannot miss the zebras,” hit my ears, it rung like a trampoline-sized gong.

 

IV. Don’t Miss the Zebras

I’ve moved through the cycle of remembering and forgetting that lesson through my entire life.  The Kenyan zebras helped it to stick for a bit longer than previous years.  But still, it faded.  Additional people and experiences have helped me since.  I will forget again.  And remember.  Hopefully, the remembering will outweigh the forgetting.

First and foremost, show up.  Wherever you are, be there.  Wherever you need to be, go there.  This is a critical lesson in mindfulness, in being present…in any interaction, endeavor, or relationship.  Show up.

And then, don’t miss the zebras.  There will be times when your experience, your motivation, your attention, your personality, your training, and your intuition…

I want to pause there.

Intuition.

I believe that, if you do “show up” consistently, pay attention, learn and integrate lessons, bring passion and energy to whatever you do, look in the mirror at least as much as you stare out of windows (…though I’ve found that self-reflection is perhaps the most critical endeavor in which a person can engage, and other-reflection the most emotionally debilitating… so maybe spend more time with the mirrors…); if you do all that, your intuition will guide you exceptionally well.  And then, you won’t miss the zebras.

Because there will be times when your intuition, and all that informs it, communicates to you, “There’s something different here, something to be explored, examined, unpacked.  Perhaps there’s something wrong.  Something amazing.  Something inconceivable, previously imperceptible.  But nonetheless, dig around a bit.”

That’s the zebra.

You know what else the zebra stands for?  In an all-encompassing manner?  Life.  The really, really important stuff we miss when we’re caught up in everything but where, and with whom, and how we are.  Life.  Sometimes, even actual zebras.

Don’t miss the zebras.

-G

P.S.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, Trump is a zebra.

Subscribe to the New York Times

Very recently, President elect Trump invited executives and anchors of all major news venues, entirely off the record, to attack them for unfair coverage.  What else did he say to them?  That’s unclear, but how these networks move forward with coverage will be a clear tell. I’m already out of that pool, am no longer paying any attention to much of the mainstream media.  They’ve normalized white supremacy, Nazism, outright lies, bullying, and conflicts of interest too numerous for me to repeat here.  If you want proof, go find it.  It’s there and, for now, it’s easily and readily accessible.

Here’s the Times’ reporting on the meeting.

Trump then invited the New York Times for a similar meeting.  The Times insisted, because they have journalistic integrity, that there be a portion of the event, at least, on the record.  Trump refused, blasted them again on Twitter, and our apparent march toward constitutional crisis continues.

Here’s the Times’ reporting on the incident.

I’ve found wonderful independent journalists as well as many corporate-affiliated journalists with integrity in the face of an all-out assault.  Many on Twitter.  If you trust me, my handle is @driven2drink and you can peep who I’m following.  Then when you find a person you trust and respect, peep who they’re following.  And so on.  That’s the power of Twitter if you wield it thusly.

Mind you, I’m not pointing a judgmental finger at journalists or media entities that have acquiesced to President elect Trump’s bullying tactics.  I get it.  I want you to get it too.  Don’t blame them.  Don’t blame the victims of bullying.  Make no mistake: President elect Trump is the bully and the First Amendment is the victim.  Think about that.  Think hard.

We can’t let it happen.

And so, today, I’m taking one additional tiny step.  The New York Times stood up for me, for you, for Trumpletongues, for Trump himself…for everyone, by refusing to be bullied and so I’ll stand up for them by applauding them publicly and also by getting a Sunday subscription to the newspaper.

If you care about the sanctity of the first amendment, and if you don’t have lots of time, energy, or money to show your appreciation for legitimate, brave journalists’ work, sacrifice, and integrity, you can offer a very small donation, or also get a Sunday subscription.  Or, you can find any journalist or media organization that you feel has bravely stood up for ethics, professionalism, transparency, and Truth…and subscribe/donate.  Even $1 helps.  Really, it does.  There are lots of wonderful independent journalists who use Patreon and other similar crowd-sourcing platforms.  Seek out Truth.  It’s out there.  And it shall keep us free.

In what do I have faith?  You.  Me.  Us.  Really.

For me, ordering the Times is a clear message: I support independent journalism and the brave men and women putting their reputations, livelihoods, and, if anonymous cowardly social media death threats are any indication of reality, lives on the line to preserve the first amendment.

But there is another message: I utterly and loudly reject (oppose, resist, negate) President elect Trump’s attempts to dismantle the first amendment.

When you fuck with the First, you’re fucking with us all.

I can’t have that.

And you might not yet realize it, but neither can you.

I’ll fight back, peacefully but firmly.  For now.

-G

#SubscribeToTheNYTimes
#DefendTheFirstAmendment
#SupportJournalists
#UpholdFreedom
#PayAttention
#BeVigilant
#StayWoke

(And remember, always…ALWAYS take care of yourself.)

We Who Believe in Freedom

Ella’s Song was written and composed by Bernice Johnson Reagon and recorded by Sweet Honey In the Rock in 1981.

The song refers to Ella Baker, an organizer, leader, and activist in the early civil rights movement.  Here’s more information about her.  I adore this line of the article I linked above, “Affectionately known as the Fundi, a Swahili word for a person who passes skills from one generation to another, Baker shaped the Civil Rights Movement in the ultimate way: by doing it without seeking fame or recognition and truly making a difference.”

While an undergraduate student, I was introduced to several Black feminist authors, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou.  Additionally, I dove into Sweet Honey in the Rock.  Ella’s Song always sang to my soul.  It was obviously quite relevant in 1981 when it was written.  Sadly, or perhaps simply inevitably, it’s just as relevant today as it was then.  The Civil Rights Movement is not over.  A lot of us, white us, thought it was.  Some of us, white us, suspected it wasn’t.  Now all of us, woke white us, realize that it assuredly is not.  There is hard work ahead of us.  This song, these lyrics, those harmonies…well, I’ll ask you to just do two things.

First, hit play just below so that you can hear the song.

 

Second, read the lyrics as you listen.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

That which touches we most is that I had a chance to work with people, passing on to others that which was passed on to me.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail. And if I can shed some light as they carry us through the gale.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on is when the reins are in the hand of the young who dare to run against the storm.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me. I need to be just one in the number as we stand against tyranny.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot I come to realize that teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way our struggle survives.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard.  At time I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

-G

Black People Homework for White People

I want to introduce you to a concept: Black people homework.

The brilliant comedian, podcaster, producer, social justice warrior (…and please stop telling me that being a warrior for justice in society isn’t a wonderful and noble and biblical and fucking simply ethical and humane thing…) and all-around first-team thinker W. Kamau Bell introduced this concept to me.  He called it, “Black People Homework.”  BPHincludes art essential to understanding and connecting with Black history and culture.  By art, I mean any means through which humans communicate their condition: movies, television, visual arts, dance, music, literature, podcasts, an amazing conversation that causes your compass to shift, etc.

I’m all good on my White people homework.  How do I know?  I attended and graduated public schools in the United States with somewhere in the vicinity of a 4.0 average.  Sometimes higher.  (Not proud, just sayin’)  So…white history?  Got it.  History as told through secondary sources, analysis and opinion?  Of White people?  Mm-hm, yep.  Still got it.

I was introduced to the importance of understanding culture and history through the eyes of non-majority populations, oddly enough, by a book that stands upon the Mt. Rushmore of traditional high-school literature.  To Kill a Mockingbird.  When the author, a white woman, but seemingly one with exceptional empathy, described the plight of the Black folks in the book…I was touched, grieved, shocked, even outraged.  During discussions of the book in my advanced placement English class, full of middle-to-upper class white suburbanites, I found myself the only person arguing for justice and asking deeper questions.  It seemed to me the rest of the class, and the teacher, felt something like, “Well, that’s just how it was?  So, that’s okay. Mkay?”

No, not the fuck mkay!  Mkay?!

Later, I would find strong, fierce, intimidatingly intelligent Black feminists in Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison.  I connected with hip-hop and blues music.  I listened to the music of Black America as if it were my own.   I suppose, in a way, it is.  It’s all of ours.  (You take the good [which we love doing]…you take the bad [which we hate…but suck it up, white folks, because]..you take ’em both and there you have…the facts of [white] life…the facts of [white] life.)

This was my path to becoming “woke,” as contemporary folks say.  Woke.  I might call it, “Enlightened,” but somehow “Woke” has an almost onomatopoetic ring to it.  Doesn’t it?  Seeking knowledge, culture, and history of non-majority, disenfranchised, powerless communities to understand the larger picture of the United States of America.  Becoming woke, for a white man, is sobering work.  My family were Sicilian, German, and Irish…landing on the U.S. well after the country was founded, built, and made “great” with the dehumanizing, horrific, unconscionable endeavor called slavery.  They landed in the North.  I believe so many white Americans never really understood how integral to every aspect of the U.S. was the forced, brutal, relentless labor of Africans.  Shipped, whipped, sold, traded, owned, murdered, raped, and emotionally torn to fucking pieces by our great, “great,” forefathers.  And mothers.  But it was all kept quite secret from most white people.  A person, and a society, will always hide its most heinous behavior because, deep down, we all know the difference between right and wrong.  However, things start to dissipate when systemic wrongness is the structure of the endeavor.  It allows fine Christian men and women to go to bed at night, right with Jesus, after having separated a Mother from her babies, after having sold those babies to the highest bidder, after having flogged a Father for not having bailed quite enough cotton, and after having murdered a runaway human who wanted nothing more than to be free.

This…is all etched in our country’s DNA.

So, Black People Homework.)

I’d like to share with those of you who might be interested, a few readily available sources that, if you’re open and if you can wrap your heart around the magnitude of it all, should help you to become a bit more woke as well.

First, the book “To Be a Slave” by Julius Lester.  It’s a children’s book, but it ain’t no children’s book.  Weaving slave narratives with simple analytical connections, Lester provides a snapshot of life for the earliest Africans in America.

Next, “March” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powel.  This is a three part graphic novel highlighting Senator John Lewis’ experience in the civil right struggle of the 1960’s leading up to what’s come to be known as Bloody Sunday in Birmingham, Alabama; and the eventual election of the U.S.’s first Black President.

I’d also recommend, “Walking with the Wind: A Memoire of the Movement” by John Lewis.  Obviously richer, more complex, and much longer than “March,” it expands and deepens the story depicted in the comic.

Finally, and concluding the literary side of things, “Long Walk to Freedom,” by Nelson Mandela.  This book is a primary source of the apartheid struggle in South Africa.  You should get to know apartheid.  If you want to travel the path to woke.  You should shake hands with apartheid.  Know thy enemies, and what not.

(Okay, this is obviously not only not an exhaustive list, it’s an embarrassingly, perhaps insultingly short list.  However, I don’t want to fill this with all that you could read.  These are the four currently bouncing around in my consience right now.  That’s it.  Please don’t read any more or less into my decision.  But know that I know…that there’s so much more.  Ask your Black friends for Black people homework.  But make sure you do it in a way that’s not shitty, offensive, or otherwise ambiguous.  You know, you’re an adult.  Figure that out.)

Then, two documentaries.  First, “13th” by Ava Duvernay.  The reference is the 13th Amendment and expands from a literal interpretation of that amendment and how slavery was NOT, in fact, abolished within the words of this decree. (Don’t believe me?  Go ahead, look up the language of the amendment.  Pay particular attention to the bit between commas related to imprisonment.)  And, “The Black Power Mix Tape 1967 – 1975,” a documentary by Goran Olsson incorporating footage by Swedish journalists who were trusted by the Black Panthers and were permitted unparalleled access to the movement and organization.

(Again, not even scratching the surface of the surface of that shitty cling wrapper on top of the surface’s surface, but these are two that are just thumping away at my frontal cortext and limbic system.  I know right?!  Dropping neuro-anatomy and physiology knowledge…and the ability to Google search the shit out of anything.)

I really do think this is important.  Seeking out primary sources from the voices and perspectives of groups not powerful enough to write the official history books, governing policies, or mainstream media narrative.  But if you embark on this journey, realize that there’s really no coming back.  Once a person wakes up, there’s no falling back asleep.  And there comes a point in one’s wokeness where one realizes that doing nothing is not only not enough, but also contributing to the cancers vexing society.  By doing nothing, you’re doing the thing.

If you have any suggestions for me, I’m wide open.  Black people history, Native American history, Latino history, Queer history, Women’s history, etc.

Be well.

-G

Sonigenic (RJ Again, pt 1)

Hi.

Did you miss me?

I missed you, and I missed producing these podcasts.

Today, we begin a journey with RJ, discussing my recent dive into the Beatles pool, and various other music related ephemera.

We begin with the Beatles’ tune, “Flying” from Magical Mystery Tour.

We end with “Heaven On Their Minds” from the original cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar.

This episode is largely sober.  Things will become drunker, but no less sonigenic.  (I’m not sure if that is a word, the equivalent of photogenic but related to the ear.  But RJ is quite sonigenic.  I could listen to him forever.)

Okay, go listen to us!

-G

flying-beatles

(source)

Be Nice

I live in Pennsylvania.

Also, I’m a human with cognitive and emotional facilities minimally capable of processing the world around me.

We’re not being nice to each other.  Nice.  Just nice.

Do you think being nice is important?

If you don’t, stop reading.  I’m not sure what to do for you.

I’m an angry, temperamental, judgmental, righteously indignant human by nature.  And nurture.  I grew up with lots of poor, angry, racist, sexist, kind-of shitty people.  I had my ethical, moral, and kindness compasses…and fortunately they were much stronger in my core development than were the shitty people.  But…the shitty people still held heavy sway in my development.  What’s my point?

My point is, I get it.  I understand how being fucking ruthlessly mean can feel…awesome.  Belittling another person can feel…uplifting.  Throwing barbs at others provides a neurochemical rush like none other.  (If you get that, you get that.  If you don’t, say an immediate and emphatic “thank you” to whatever God you pray.  It’s no fun working through all of this pretentious meanness bullshit.)

But all of that is just emotional cancer.  It “feels” good, but it’s destroying you.  A Buddhist friend once reminded me, “When you pick up hot coals to throw at people, you only guarantee that you’ll hurt yourself every time.”  You also often harm others.  But you…always…harm yourself.

Do you hate yourself so much that you’d risk guaranteed self-harm for the possibility of harming another?

Being nice.  Is.  Important.

Are you a Jew?  A Muslim?  A Christian?  A Buddhist?  Hindu?  Sikh?  Scientologist?  Athiest?  Something else?

I promise you, if you read your good book(s) and follow the examples of your spiritual leaders, both historic and present, you will find that message.  Everywhere.  In fact, it’s so ubiquitous and obvious that it’s easy to miss.

Be nice.

It’s couched in a myriad of synonyms, metaphors, similes, lists, and stories.

Be nice.

Having communicated all of that, and considering the state of social media and interpersonal communication this past week, I share the following with you:

If you, dear Pennsylvania resident, are concerned (…or perhaps elated…) about the President-elect’s recent (…last night, in fact…) reassertion that there will, “…absolutely…,” be a Muslim registry and response to the question, “How will these be different than databases of Jews in Nazi Germany?” with a flippant, dismissive, “You tell me;” or if you are concerned (…or elated…) about Steve Bannon’s position as chief counsel to President Trump (…ever read a Shakespeare tragedy? This kind of thing doesn’t always go well for the people…); or if you are concerned (…are you elated?…) about the appointment of Michael Flynn as NSA adviser (…who recently, on Twitter, dared what he sarcastically and ambiguously deemed “leaders” of Islamic nations to step up to the plate and declare their Islamic ideology sick…) or Jeff Sessions for AG (…who, in 1986, was denied a federal judgeship because he liberally used the word “nigger” and cheered the KKK enough for Rs and Ds to emphatically say, “No,”…); I suggest you call one, or several, or all of Senator Toomey’s offices to express your concerns, or enthusiastic congratulations. You can try Speaker Paul Ryan too. Absolutely. Or with whomever you feel like you want to communicate.

A word of advice, coming from someone who has massive challenges with confrontation, emotional self-control, and a toggle-switch temper, do at least tiny bit of research before you call (e.g. have tabs open, know the names and ranks and titles of people to whom you refer, know your sources), roughly prepare what you want to say, and communicate kindly but directly with the person on the other end of the line.

Remember, you will not be speaking with Toomey or Ryan or whomever you call, nor anyone really near them. You’ll get the equivalent of the customer service representative from the cable or health insurance company. These interns and office staff have been fielding calls for 9 solid days and they’ve likely been yelled at more often than not. They’ve been trolled and mother fucked and also likely applauded by people with whom they’d never associate. It’s thankless, emotionally debilitating work. Answering phones, customer service, fielding complaints for a person many levels of bureaucracy above you.

Be kind. Be professional. (Yes, it’s possible to act professionally as a constituent.  Think about how you might want a human to talk to you if you were on the other side of the phone.) Be courteous. But also…be absolutely direct and clear. Toomey is still your Senator. He may or may not give one tiny shit-stain about my opinion or yours, but we voted for him…and he’s ours. Paul Ryan communicated an ethical compass at some point. I believe it’s still in there somewhere.

But please, do something other than yell at each other on Facebook. Christ, just go hug someone (…from whom you’ve gotten consent first. No matter what you think, you know consent matters…) or say, “I love you and I’m a safe person for you,” to someone who needs it.

Be nice, goddamit!

-G