Month: September 2016

On Cheeto Jesus and Muhammed Mama

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“General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – David (Hugh Grant), Love Actually (2003)

Mankind, at some point, took a wrong turn.

I know that sentence will annoy some folks. They’ll argue about when things were best or how things might be. I’ll hold that evidence is slowly uncovering the truth. But here’s the thing. I think we can both agree that people have been loudly proclaiming that things have been going wrong since the beginning of recorded history.

People being, well, people have been trying to fix it. They’ve been told by the people in power that this is just the way things are. This is natural (it’s not). So they’ve been imagining how a solution would look.

A lot of it has come down to messiahs. One person, divinely inspired, who will show you through the shit-show that is reality to at least a decent life. Basically, they’re looking for a father; someone to look out for them, to provide, to inform, and most importantly, to protect. And sadly, it hasn’t worked. No messianic figure, whether embodied in royalty or an elected position or an individual, has worked out, mainly because you can’t maintain the same system that causes the problem and expect different results.

This is very important to keep in mind when discussing the 2016 presidential election.

People have been spreading a lot of vitriol about who to vote for and how to vote. You’re wasting a vote on Bernie Sanders. You’re wasting a vote not voting for Hilary Clinton. You’re wasting your vote on Trump. You get the point.

My point is that they, in typical American fashion, modern messiahs, anointed to look out for us, to provide, to inform, and most importantly, to protect.

Small catch, though. If you are feeling terrified and panicked at your side losing, as many people are, that means that this is a far bigger problem than one person. That means there is a credible force on the other side. These people, your opponents, are not going away. And no messianic person is going to fix it by winning a presidential election. The narrative for the other side is never going to be “Oh! The forces of good and decency won. We’d better rethink our positions.” It’s going to be “The Empire is here to claim us all.”

People are, pretty much, always the heroes of their own saga.

Here’s two narratives that are in play:

In the first, the messiah appeals to emotion, openly criticizes the establishment. The messiah is a clever jester, who teaches in story and provides examples of how one can turn the current order right on its head. Individual responsibility, enabled by the messiah’s sacrifices, is the key to a good life.

In the second, the messiah appeals to the rule of law, creates and encourages a system that binds together the best of beliefs and politics, embraces diversity and inspires a road map for world security. Common experience are what binds us together, as well as an educated populace who are thoroughly versed in the copious writings and interpretations so as to have a unifying blueprint on which to begin.

The above stories refer to Jesus and Mohammed.

Or they refer to Trump and Clinton.

Regardless of how you may feel right now about comparing Trump to Jesus, that’s how the other side sees him, figuratively though not literally. His story is as old as the Christian religion, as much as you can argue Clinton’s is as old as the papacy or Islam.

It’s funny that I can hear people scoff, even as I write this, and yet I’m saying it again: people are the heroes of their own story.

If the heroes win, then they go about trying to settle their house, eliminate the last of the evil and bring a brighter future to mankind. If they lose, they rise up, find ways to fight and tear down the evil oppressors who are bringing about Armageddon.

Voting for a messiah doesn’t make a significant difference. Voting for the apostles and saints of our government, who occupy the next tier of power, doesn’t make a significant difference either. Only by reaching out to our friends and neighbors, to the current opposition can we address the very real possibility of a civil war.

Only that way, and not in the voting booth, are we truly heroes.

Categories: Personal

A Death Among my Friends.

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Someone I was very close to chose to end their life early. Near that end, she and I weren’t on speaking terms — her choice, not mine — as she tried to sort out some incredibly complicated things in her life.

I know she tried to reach out to me about a week ago but in a way where I couldn’t reply without dishonoring her explicit wishes (and don’t think that’s not going to haunt me for a while).

So just for me, for her, for today, reach out to someone you love. Hold them a little tighter. Let them know you love them a little more. That’s there’s some light in the world for them and that together we’re a bit stronger than when we’re alone.

And for wherever she may be, having left this life, I hope she’s found the peace she was searching for and that whatever force may be behind this beautiful little universe holds her tight and says “Welcome home.”

My heart grows heavier as it sifts through everything we shared, good and bad. It grows heavier as I meet with the people she cared for, burdened as they are with her death.

The universe is as kind as it is cruel. There’s been plenty of things telling me to hang in there. There has been support and offered support. And I know by keeping a person’s story they have a link to this side of the world.

I just ache and with every wave of emotion comes the fear / knowledge that this tide will ebb in time and how I feel, how I react to this will solely become a faded memory. And I hate that. I hate that people who impacted us and loved us will only live on deep in our bones and not by our sides.

But you can’t fault the world for turning and the universe for moving on. And I can’t stop loving the world and all the people in it. We’re all stories in the end — that’s the quote I remember. My Zen dentist buddy will probably lecture me for hanging on to attachments for too long but this pain marks a person’s impact in my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of man who will grow tired of that trade.

Categories: Personal

A Helping Hand?

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Well, this could be uncomfortable

Tataviam tribe: mapOn Columbus Day (2015) a social justice committee at a church invited me to talk about the day, due to my previous work with the Tataviam people.  As you might figure out, the local tribe views that holiday just a wee bit differently.

I laid out the foundation of a conversation for the attendees: that the U.S., by its own admission, is in active occupation of 500 – 1000 sovereign nations in the continental U.S. and that the Los Angeles tribes (who are very much alive and still culturally active and yes, there’s even a tribal government) never had a ratified treaty.  If you live in L.A., you’re squatting on tribal land.

I also pointed out that the act of genocide, specifically attempting to annihilate the “Indian problem”, is still in full swing; it’s just out of the full-on murder phase and into the abusive plundering of tribe resources to make them into trinkets and historical items and fictions.

We had some very animated dialogue back and forth. One participant asked what the ideal solution would be and I honestly answered that I wouldn’t invent one.  The affected tribes could provide that answer far better than me and the answer would probably be complex and uncomfortable and angering and frustrating. But it’s a hell of a lot better than not having the conversation.

In the course of this same discussion, several people offered up that they felt the real solution was to offer up education and opportunity. With apologies, but it’s not their place to make the offer. That’s the province of the tribes. When you’ve (that is to say ‘us’ the settlers on this land) oppressed people for so long, you have to recognize the very real fact that the tribes may NOT want to play with you anymore and would like to take some time to repair all the damage you’ve done.

A Small Parable

A guy comes across a hole; it’s deep, it’s obviously artificial–maybe a well or a disposal site.  Someone is crying for help from the hole.  About halfway down, somebody is trapped. The smell from the hole is terrible.

“I need help” a voice from the well calls out.

“Give me your hand.” the person outside responds.

“Get me a board!” the voice replies.

The person’s just within reach. “You don’t need a board. Give me your hand.”

“Get me a board!”

“Just give me your hand!!!”

“I need a board!!!”

The guy’s upset. This person in the hole sounds unreasonable, right? The guy’s just trying to help, after all and in disgust, he turns to walk away. But he can’t resist one last biting question: “Why the hell do you need a board?!?!”

“I’m trying to save the kid beneath me.”

A Little Note on Importance

Here’s the point. No matter the good intentions of the folks living now, they can, in no way shape or form, relate to the struggles the tribes face. They can’t anticipate or intellectualize what the tribes need. The people can listen. They can understand if the tribe says “we want a spot over here and we don’t want to deal with you.” They can supply what’s requested. Because maybe the next generation of the tribe really needs help. Maybe it’s relatives. Or the landbase or the culture or generational damage.  Maybe the tribal authority requesting the help gets it wrong in the details. Hell, we’re only human! It doesn’t matter. We can’t see what’s going on nor are we required to.

Is it so hard to admit our shame and start acting like adults? We have the money, the will and the land to truly alter the future.

I harp on this because Los Angeles has an unprecedented opportunity to work on this and make a meaningful change. We need to restore history all the way back to its pre-European roots and admit that horrible mistakes were made.

I ask again, wouldn’t that be amazing?