Good people doing what?

triumph“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” has got to be the best quote that no one actually ever said. That aside, most of us are looking at ourselves in the mirror these days and thinking that we are good people who are wondering what it is that we are supposed to be doing.

About what? Come on, you know. We all know what is happening out there. We just don’t want to think about it.

For one, the election is only about thirteen weeks away now and we sort of hope this will mostly go away after that. Some of us support Hillary with enthusiasm, other accept her as the best choice and think she will be okay. Most of us can’t imagine that she won’t win. After she does, this nonsense will stop, right?

Photo published for Protesters plan to build a wall to prevent Trump from speaking in DetroitAnd the people you know who support Trump say it is no big deal. Oh, come on, you do know some of them. Acquaintances, neighbors, relatives, probably nice people too. They don’t go to the rallies and scream obscenities at minorities, and they like other things about him that you kind of understand. He speaks his mind, he’s not slick. They say most of his supporters don’t focus on hate and that Trump himself doesn’t really feel that way. He won’t really act that way if he’s elected. The nonsense will stop then, right?

Will it? The Southern Poverty Law center calculates that the number of hate groups rose by 14% in 2015. Former KKK leader David Duke has announced that he is running for the open Senate seat in Louisiana to stop the “ethnic cleansing” of white people. The New York Times has just published a compilation of uncensored expressions of hate from Donald Trump supporters at his rallies. You can view it here.

Okay, so maybe we do have a teensie weensie bit of a growing hate problem in this country. What is is that good men (and good women) should be doing?

I’ve been struggling with this question for awhile. It seems to me that one good start is to seek out objective sources of information. Independent fact checkers do exist. In aggregate, they approach providing actual truth. Then, when we have real facts at our fingertips, we need to share the information. We all need to vote our consciences and help others get to the polls to do the same.

I think we need a zero tolerance policy for demeaning humor in general, and particularly for humor that targets those whom are forced to play the game of life on a more difficult setting. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about check out the link.) We need to remove name calling from our speech patterns. Check out the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website on teaching tolerance. (Of course, they’d love a donation from you while you are there.)

change2We need to take a few slow breathes and say “this is not the world I want.” Whatever our personal politics are,  surely we can agree that throwing rocks at each other is a bad idea. As Gandhi said, we need to be the change we wish to see.

In 1770 the Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke did say “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one.”

In 1867 the British philosopher and political theorist John Stuart Mill did say “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

Okay, maybe neither one is quite as pithy as the fake quote at the beginning, but we all get the point.

 

 

 

Happy Honesty Day

Seriously. Would I lie about this?

book of liesToday is Honesty Day in the United States, thanks to author M. Hirsh Goldberg who created the holiday in the early 1990s while researching his The Book of Lies: Fibs, Tales, Schemes, Scams, Fakes, and Frauds That Have Changed The Course of History and Affect Our Daily Lives. Why April 30? According to Wikipedia, he intended it as a balance to April Fools day, and it is also the anniversary of the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789.

It is a shame it never really caught on, given that the lofty purpose of the day is to encourage honesty in politics, relationships, consumer relations and historical education. It was also intended to urge politicians to stay away from lies and tell the truth.

Good luck with that one. I would consider it an excellent start just to get politicians to not restate obvious lies which no one believes, not even their supporters. It’s this little dance they do, saying “oh no I never meant that” when even the people who like them are pretty sure that was exactly what they meant.

beautiful life4I recently became aware of one such historical example that really bothered me. Right after Ronald Reagan received the GOP nomination in 1980, he spoke at the Neshoba Country fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi where three civil right’s workers were murdered in 1964 and the ensuing cover-up by local authorities forced the federal government to intervene. Then-nominee Reagan devoted some of his 1980 speech to the importance of state’s rights and the evils of federal involvement in local issues. He never mentioned the murders or civil rights and columnist Bob Herbert of The New York Times wrote, “Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair.”

However, almost no one said so. “Oh no, he didn’t mean that,” was the a common response. Really?

Fast forward thirty-six years to now, when GOP candidate Donald Trump agreed to address the Suffolk County Republican Committee in Patchogue, a small village on Long Island which was the scene of a notorious hate crime eight years ago when a variety of incidents of escalating hostility towards immigrants culminated in an immigrant being stabbed to death.

Given the extent to which Trump’s campaign targets immigration, I don’t think anyone believed that his appearance at this out the way place was random.

TrumpThe day of the event, news sources reported that about a hundred people assembled before a small memorial to Marcelo Lucero, the murder victim, while anti-Trump protestors gathered at another spot. Trump gave his usual sort of speech, including his “Who’s going to build the wall?”  shtick that appears to delight his fans and makes the rest of us want to puke. Luckily the speech was short and everyone went on their way with no violence. Word was that it felt like police outnumbered attendees and protestors.

I was made aware of the similarity of these two incidents on the Rachel Maddox show. What struck me was the irony of how obvious the purpose of the choices were in both cases, and yet how easily the truth was denied when it was apparent to all. Have we gotten that used to lies in politics?

I thought maybe we had, and that set me off on an internet search with results that surprised me. Are you curious which politicians tell the biggest lies the most? It turns out that professional fact checkers can shed some light on that. Check out this article in The Rolling Stone.

What do you know…. The truism that all politicians lie equally turns out not to be the truth either.

Happy Honesty Day!

 

Bring back the good old days?

I get a lot of ideas for blog posts while I’m doing yoga. Some would say it is because my brain relaxes and stops talking. Others might guess that I’m lucky enough to have uncommonly profound yoga instructors. Normally I’d go with both of the above, but not today. This post comes from my mind’s refusing to agree to do what it was told.

The pastToday, I was instructed to be totally present in the now. This is a common prompt in a yoga class, but the problem started when we were asked to reflect on what kept us from being so. “I know, I know” the eager student in my head clamored.  She likes getting answers right. “I replay scenes from the past, and I concentrate on tasks and I worry about the future.” But another voice in my head spoke up, and it was less anxious to please.

“No,” it corrected. “For starters, you are not just replaying scenes in your head, you are spending time processing what has happened. Processing is not a bad thing. You do “after action reviews”, just like the military. You try to learn from your past mistakes, like every historian says we need to do. Replaying events in order to be wiser in the present is a valuable activity.”

Hmmmmm …. It looked like a rebellious section of my monkey mind was staging a coup. I managed to hush it for the duration of the class, but I picked up the train of thought as I drove home.

It was true. My sincere contrition for poor behavior is seldom spontaneous.  It often comes after a hard look at the past, hopefully the very recent one. My gratitude is often the fruit of this inter-cranial after action review process, as is my forgiveness, and my recognition of a job well done by myself or others. Monkey mind had a point. I would not want to live in a world where I didn’t review the past and grow. Some of my best behavior comes from that.

So what was the problem? Well, there is such a thing as an unhealthy obsession with what has occurred. Each of us has a thing or two we’ve spent far too much time reviewing. Often we are still angry with someone, or still trying to justify our own less than stellar actions. I know that I spend time there. Let’s face it. There is “learn from” and there is “fixate on” and they are two different things.

We also can hide in a glorified past, afraid of change and not wanting the future to bring that which we don’t understand. But it will, it always will bring it.

growing bolder 9I think that society has the same dilemma. Certain periods fascinate us beyond all reason. Too often we use historic events to perpetuate hatred and prejudice, not to grow and be better. And there is this insane obsession with returning our country, or our religion, or culture or world to some “good old days” of the past. Forget that those days were never as good as the hype. The real problem is that those days are gone, they are always gone. You cannot recreate them. You can make a better future and use some of the best ideas of the past to do so, but the obsession with making things just like they once were is only a way to waste your precious present.

I was sort of warming to this meld of ideas when my monkey mind, which is very good at digging up facts, reminded me of something. I suspect that every author has a scene or two in each book that they consider their favorites.  I know I do. This one from z2 takes place after Kisa discovers that Kyle is of a nationality that she has always despised. My yoga mind and monkey mind both reread it together and the good news is that they now agree. We do all need to learn from the past, and then we need to let it go.

Kyle asked more seriously. “Kisa, what do you think is a reasonable time limit for hate?”

“I don’t believe in hate.”

“No one does, but we all do. If someone kills my kin, hurts my friends, ruins my life, I may be able to forgive and move on. But if a large group of people does such a thing? Then I almost certainly don’t. I call my hatred lots of things. Justified anger. Revenge. Forcing this group to behave better. Even self-defense. But for how long do I get to punish all the people associated with or descended from those who caused the harm?”

“In parts of the world feuds are centuries old,” she remarked, “with a staggering list of injustice and cruelty on both sides. Once it gets to that point, forgiveness or even just acceptance between two groups seems impossible.”

“That’s what I mean. And each fresh insult keeps the fire going. To stop hating appears to dishonor the sacrifices made by those who came before. Who wants to let their ancestors down?”

“So we keep it going and let our children down instead, as we let the circle grow ever wider,” Kisa said. “Immediate blood relatives of the perpetrators? Those who look like them? Pray like them? Dress like them? Anyone who shares a city, or a nation, or a continent with them?”

“Exactly. In other words, how would you like to let one Spaniard who thinks that the burning of Tayasal was an abomination buy you dinner and start over?”

“I’d love that.” She thought a second. “Do you know who said ‘Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind’?”

Kyle shook his head. “Gandhi? John Lennon?”

Kisa laughed. “Good guesses. Albert Einstein.” Her anger and even embarrassment at not recognizing Kyle’s heritage was gone. “I think that it’s a good time for you and me to grow up.”

(As for what my monkey mind had to say about my never ending focus on performing tasks — see my post Frittering life away? on my c3 blog. For thoughts about focusing on the future, see Prepare for the Worst? on my d4 blog. And find out what my yoga instructor thought the problem was at Are you performing, or performing? on my y1 blog.)

 

 

 

And the Hate Goes On …

enhanced-buzz-wide-28244-1347483313-2It’s hard to be quiet after you turn on the news and listen to some of the surreal reactions to the terrorist attacks in Paris and Lebanon. For starters, members of the very same political party that once used the word treason to describe any one who disagreed with George Bush’s invasion of Iraq,  on the grounds that they were criticizing U.S. foreign policy at a crucial time, have now doubled down on criticizing the current president to the point of making his job unduly difficult. And they are doing this primarily to advance their own political careers. Hypocrisy only begins to describe the situation.

But what they are saying is even more disturbing.

Governors of some 30 states have now said they will not accept new refugees. Tennessee House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada believes the time has come for the National Guard to round up any Syrian refugees who have recently settled in his state and to stop any additional ones from entering. His words: We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can.”

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers cited the use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II to justify suspending the relocation of Syrian refugees to his city in Virginia and requested that all Roanoke Valley agencies stop Syrian refugee assistance. His words: I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.

Let’s take a breath and look at the facts.

growing bolder 5Syrian and Iraqi refugees are already the most heavily vetted category of people to enter the U.S. Their screening already includes background checks by the FBI and DHS, and seven other federal agencies. Furthermore, the U.S. has taken in only about 2,200 Syrian refugees out of the more than 4 million fleeing the war-torn nation. In the Middle East, America’s ally Turkey has done three orders of magnitude better, taking in more than 2 million of its neighbors. Tiny Lebanon is trying to absorb more than 1 million Syrians, and Jordan has more than 650,000. And by the way, only 30 of those Syrian refugees settled in the nervous state of Tennessee.

President Obama has called for us to take in at least 10,000 more refugees over the next fiscal year, compared to Germany’s 800,000, and brave France’s commitment to accept another 30,000 even after the attacks. An embarrassingly wide array of our politicians are throwing public tantrums about allowing even this small amount of highly vetted and desperate people to come into our allegedly welcoming and compassionate country.

Do the American’s saying these things listen to themselves? Do they not realize that they sound like the villains in a barely believable movie?

My novel z2 contains a lot of information about the history of immigration law in the United States but no one story moved me as much as this:

In 1939, the United States denied entry to twenty-thousand Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany, even though families had already been found here to care for each and every child. The reason for denying these children asylum? Admitting them would have forced us to exceed our set total quota for immigrants for that year, and the rationale in Congress, where the granting of the exception was refused, was that we couldn’t just go around bending the rules every time it was convenient.

walk talk 1Let’s stop this nonsense now. History does not have to repeat itself.

Apparently political philosopher Edmund Burke never actually said the words “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” although he expressed the sentiment in lengthier quotes. If you prefer a pithy summary of a call to action, listen to Plato. His words: The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Or Albert Einstein. His words: The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.

You and I need to speak up. Use social media like #stophatespeech and let your voice be heard. We are capable of being the good guys. Let’s start to act like it.

(For more on this subject see “I Live Here” on my “Face Painting for World Peace” blog.)