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Someone Give Russell Pearce a Sandwich

Russell PearceRussell Pearce, a former Republican state senator, stepped down as the Arizona GOP’s vice chair after being blasted for bizarre comments made about women who receive Medicaid assistance.

You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get (female recipients) Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to (reproduce) or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.

I know there’s people out there (who) need help, and my heart goes out to them, too. But you know what? That should never be a government role. That’s a role for family, church, and community. No cash for Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, you’d only get money for 15-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and powdered milk – all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want a steak or frozen pizza, then you’d have to get a job.

This reminded me of a story from the late comedian Mitch Hedberg.

Once, while being driven from the Atlanta airport to the hotel, our cab driver started talking s***. He was creeping towards a racist rant. We were still a ways away from the hotel when it dawned on us that he felt super okay with being a hateful weirdo. 

Mitch leans forward, “Hey Man. Up here on the right is a deli that sells Boar’s Head Ham. Can you stop so we can grab something to eat?” 

“Sure.” 

Mitch returns with THREE subs. No one spoke for the rest of the trip.

Lesson learned. It’s impossible to spew racist crap while eating a delicious sandwich.”

From an everyday perspective, you could call Russell Pearce thoughts patriotism, ultra-nationalism, ethnic prejudice, or racism. Whichever the label, it is mired in the we-they prejudice that divides people, fosters hatred, and triggers violence – everything Buddhism cautions against.

Maybe Pearce just needs a sandwich. As noted by Hebberg’s wife, the lesson is spot on:

“Lesson learned. It’s impossible to spew racist crap while eating a delicious sandwich.”

imagePeterson was deactivated for the Vikings’ Week 2 game against the New England Patriots after he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. In a prepared statement Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said:

“Today’s decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue.

On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved. To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child.

At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support Adrian’s fulfillment of his legal responsibilities throughout this process.”

While I have no inside knowledge of the Vikings’ organization, I will offer my interpretation of same said press release:

I believe the Vikings made a decision that benefits the organization. As you may know, the Minnesota Vikings are tied for first place in the NFC North. And without Peterson, their chances to reach the NFL postseason is significantly decreased. Thus, the Vikings believe Mr. Peterson when he claims to only have been disciplining his child.  Accordingly, Mr. Peterson deserves due process. 

With due respect, all evidence to the contrary.

Many news outlets report Peterson texted the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I [sic] thigh. . . . Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!

Peterson even went so far as to post several Biblical quote on his Twitter feed, refferincing several Bible verses about the harms of judging, such as the famous passage from Matthew 7:1, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.

But just as all of us claim to know exactly what happened to Janay Rice in that casino elevator, we also know what happened to Peterson’s 4-year old. Vikings GM Rick Spielman can claim what happened to this child was “discipline,” but we know otherwise. How the Vikings’ organization will continue to sell that message is beyond me.

Still, Peterson’s attorney Rusty Hardin infers, “Mr. Peterson is a loving father, providing tough love to his child.”

I’ve seen countless men and women attempt to rationalize excessive violence. However, acceptance is one of many central keys to relationships. As we confront difficulties on the financial front, couples are beginning to embrace the life and the relationship they have, rather than some idea of how it could“if only” be. We must cut each other more slack, making an effort to be less critical and demanding. There has to be more interest and focus on the relationship.

In living the precept, do no harm, let go of judgment and infuse some humor and equanimity. Remember, women and children are our future, they deserve our respect and dignity.

Still … I wonder … had Ray Rice openly said he provided tough love and tweeted a few Bible verses, would he be reinstated?

HerTen minutes prior to viewing ‘Her,’ Siri retrieved the weather, sent a text to a friend and provided the status of the Chicago Cubs latest, but eventual loss.

Then came Samantha, the Operating System (OS).

The “OS” names herself (“itself” feels wrong) “Samantha” and grows more and more human. Along with the protagonist, a writer named Theodore, we watch Samantha wrestle with new feelings and ideas. And like all of us in a relationship, we feel Samantha evolving beyond his grasp. The result is a love story both daft and amazingly lucid.

However, Her has lessons for God and humans.

First, as with all love, you find yourself falling for the least likely candidate. I’m convinced both God and humans have the same fault. In Her, Theodore falls in love with Samantha (the OS). Based upon our nature, this is the most unlikely relationship – it will not fulfill anything normal interactions endure.  Accordingly, the course of our lives will search, located and ultimately connect with the most unlikely relationships. For instance, my relationship with Karen was both uncommon and unenduring. Karen once stated she drew the most unlikely love relationships. I recognize she considers me another misadventure.

Secondly, a word of warning for all relationships, people evolve. As such, Samantha experiences tremendous evolution. She joins with other operating systems and learn to upgrade themselves. The OS’ created an avatar of 1960’s philosopher Alan Watts based upon writings, artifacts and recollections. For the most part, many of us don’t evolve. Looking at Biblical history, I doubt many would disagree. Thus I ponder, has God has outgrown His need for us?

Third, in a very thought provoking moment, Samantha admits simultaneous love with other 641 people. We can feel for Theodore as he finally understands she is not his only love. It’s clear Samantha can support her relationship with Theodore with a trivial portion of her capacity. Thus, in a warning for God, when we get to heaven, how will God love everyone completely when we’ve lived and loved in exclusivity?

Lastly, Her beacons the question: When in heaven or life itself, do we really need physical bodies? Or is love and life all in our brains? Our Soul? What is true identity? How can we connect to love? In the end, it will not be us versus God, but rather, how we will enhance our own capacity while merging with the intelligent creator. And will He merge with us?

Bet you won’t get these answers during Sunday’s sermon?

Wait … I know … I’ll ask Siri.

NFL Misery Continues

PetersonAccording to Sports Illustrated, from Jan. 1, 2012, to Sept. 11, 2014, 31 NFL players were arrested on charges involving domestic violence, battery, assault and murder. In the last two calendar years, at least 14 of those players were arrested for violence against women. Minus Baltimore’s Rice, the following arrests occurred in 2014.

1. Philadelphia Eagles safety Keelan Johnson was arrested for assaulting a police officer.

2. San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested on domestic violence.

3. Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested for threats and assaulting his former girlfriend. While convicted, Hardy was placed on probation.

4. Chicago Bears wide receiver Josh Morgan was arrested on simple assault.

5. Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Jah Reid was arrested on misdemeanor battery outside a strip club.

All of the players listed remain unpunished by the National Football League.

Late today, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted in Houston, Texas. News outlets reported Peterson was indicted in Montgomery County for reckless or negligent injury to a child. The incident in question reportedly stems from “disciplining of a son with a switch.” Accordingly, the Montgomery County, Texas, grand jury issued a warrant for Peterson’s arrest. The team deactivated him for Sunday’s home game against the Patriots.

As a result of the above, one blogger wrote, “I have to change the name of my fantasy team to ‘Convicts.’

Seriously, there are two types of suffering: suffering of the physical body, and suffering of the mind. Physical suffering may include a lack of basic necessities, or natural disasters, or injury to the body from weapons, diseases, burns, abuse, or poisons. We all experience this bodily pain no matter what our status is in life.

However, all of us must be very aware of tension and stress, for they create significant problems in many marriages. If a proper analysis is made into the root causes of such social problems as pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancies, unhappy marriages and divorces, child-abuse and wife-battering, we inevitably discover that it is due mainly to selfishness and lack of patience, tolerance and mutual understanding.

If we can share the pain and pleasure of our day-to-day life, we can console each other and minimize grievances. Doing so reduces our burdens and misunderstandings. Discussing mutual problems will give us confidence to live together with better understanding. That’s a truer love of life and God.

imageAfter all the news of the Ray Rice fiasco, a client’s team member seemed more concerned about his fantasy football team than of the real events surrounding society as a whole.

As most of us know, running back Ray Rice was effectively eliminated from ever playing professional football when the Baltimore Ravens released and the NFL indefinitely suspended him. Having entered a pretrial intervention program, Rice will not receive further prosecution and the felony charge will be expunged after one year.

As a societal issue, justice for battered women remains closed, hidden and rarely mentioned. If mentioned, men openly talk of the woman’s participation, likening battered women to that of rape victims, “Well, you must must have caused this by what you’ve worn, said, did, thought, etc., etc., etc.” In effect, we freely blame the victim, but rarely hold the offender accountable to same said standards.

Let’s face it, when Rice dragged his wife from an elevator, everyone knew what happened. There was no question what happened to Janay Rice. What happened behind elevator doors was brutal, vicious. It’s hard to comprehend.

Still, we tend to over analyze victims, they must be responsible. For instance, a Jacksonville woman whose case generated outrage when she was sentenced to 20 years in prison may end up behind bars for 60 years for the same crime. The State Attorney, Angela Corey, will seek to put Marissa Alexander in prison for 60 years, essentially a life sentence, for firing a shot in the direction of her estranged husband and two of his children.

According to various websites, sworn depositions report Alexander’s boyfriend/husband (Gray) admitted to beating Marissa Alexander as well as having a history of abusing other women with whom he was involved. Women previously involved with Gray submitted letters during Alexander’s trial confirming that Gray abused them, but these witnesses were prevented from testifying. Gray peersonally testified he threatened to have Alexander killed. According to Alexander, she tried to escape through the garage, but the garage door would not open. This account was confirmed by Gray under sworn testimony. Alexander then retrieved her registered gun from her vehicle and went to the kitchen. Gray said “Bitch, I will kill you,” an account which affirmed by Gray’s son at trial. Alexander fired what she says was a warning shot, which hit the wall above Gray’s head, and deflected into the ceiling. The single shot injured no one.

While not comparing events, on a societal level, unlike Ray Rice, the nation remains relatively un-outraged. The nation remains un-outraged about San Francisco 49er’ Ray McDonald. The nation remains un-outraged about many victims of violence.

In the Ray Rice case, the average fan only became outraged because there was video. We simply couldn’t relegate the violence to an upper shelf of our home and press forward with our fantasy football team. It was in our living room and shook us to the core. But truthfully, the NFL doesn’t give a shit about women’s rights. There have been active players in the league whom have killed, drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol, active gang members, drug addicts and so on. Still, we (the fans) purchase tickets and give these glorified gladiators an opportunity to entertain us every week.

Jeffrey Toobin, a senior legal analyst for CNN, said Rice’s punishment was of the kind that teenagers get when they are caught spray painting graffiti.

It is a tiny, tiny penalty that is an absolute disgrace,” Toobin said. “The D.A. (office) embarrassed the country, embarrassed themselves. And Roger Goodell did an appalling job then for the NFL. But … law enforcement was horrendous here.

There’s one thing missing in fantasy leagues – reality.

Patience Tested

image

While the Affordable Care Act claims to deliver affordable health coverage to the multitude, that doesn’t necessarily equate to quality care. I spent over an hour attempting to get a simple flu shot from a Walgreens Health Clinic. If you been to any Rite Aid, CVS or Walgreens pharmacy, you probably know the drill: walk-in, fill out a few simple forms, drop your insurance card, get the shot and get out. Seems simple enough, but not always.

My Walgreens Health Clinic receptionist had a piss poor attitude. As Zig Ziglar once parsed, somebody licked all the red off her candy. She could brighten a room – simply by leaving it. Ms. Happy first asked if I was close to like 200 years old. Anyone over 200 doesn’t require a flu-shot. Ok, it was actually 60 years old, but hey, I have some artistic license. Still, I was comforted by the fact I wasn’t over 200, but I was within the recommended flu shot age range. However, upon starting to complete my information, she feel asleep. Right there on the desk, in front of customers. She took a snooze. There was no, “Excuse me sir, I need to take a five minute nap. I’ll be right back.” None of that. Just zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Upon awaking from her brief siesta, Ms. Happy informed me the flu shot may cause symptoms including terrible headaches, hideous body aches, major respiratory distress and general malaise. While these symptoms may appear indistinguishable from the flu, rest assured it isn’t the flu.

Then the computer fried … literally. Thus, all my medical information, including first pet, last time I ate salad, last year’s Super Bowl winner and who shot J.R. was lost in the cloud. So, Ms. Happy borrowed another terminal from another associate and repeated the process. However, the other associate wasn’t at all happy sharing and requested the Walgreens Manager to contact the corporate gods, whether they be in the United States or Canada, because she wasn’t sure and get someone to fix the deceased technology.

By this time three more Health Clinic customers registered, one with a screaming child and another older gentleman who must have been a Chicagoan. Only Chicagoans repeat questions, as part of the answer. For instance, a sample of the conversation between Ms. Happy and the older gentleman proceeded accordingly:

“May I have your name sir?”

“My name?” replied the gentleman.

“Yes,” Ms. Happy replied. “What is your name?”

“My name, eh?” he quipped. “My name’s Walter.”

“And your last name?” she queried.

“My last name?” he muttered. “Jones.”

Realizing Ms. Happy was nearing postal, I kindly suggested the elder gentleman give Ms. Happy his identification card thereby speeding the process. By this time, the Walgreens manager returned with some bad news. The corporate Gods … whether they were in Canada or the United States, for he didn’t know, had issued a work order, but it would take five days for someone to diagnose.

So I queried, “You mean to say that Walgreens, whose business is healthcare, cannot repair an essential piece of equipment sooner?”

“Hmm,” he internalized. “Yeah, that sounds pretty bad. Doesn’t it.

Think so?” I responded.

Having worked in healthcare for the last eight years, I thought of Jean-Paul Sartre writing, “L’enfer, c’est les autres” –“Hell is other people.” However, the Buddhist in me says “hell is something we create and then blame others.” Not hating a specific moment isn’t all there is to patience. We must become mindful of others and respond to their needs with kindness.

Sir?” said the Walgreens Manager as I snapped back from random thoughts.

I’m sorry. Yes?

Why don’t you check in at the Pharmacy?” he directed. “They perform flu shots.

Oh, thank you sir. I will.

Darting to the Pharmacy, the Pharmacist introduced himself,

Hi. I’m Jeff. How can I help you?

Thank you sir. I would like to get a flu shot.

Oh that’s great,” the Pharmacist said excitedly. “Have you checked in at our top of the line Health Clinic?

…. Patience ….

imageSt. Louis Television Station KSDK ran a local interest story about local musician Paul Orso. Orso’s been writing songs since the age of 12, including life, laughter, and love. Orso’s also battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,”

According to the story, musicians came together to laying down the final tracks of an album composed by Orso. They finished the work Orso can’t.

Personally, I don’t know Orso – never met the man. But the love and generosity of those surrounding him is the perfect example of God’s love. So, I am asking each of my followers to pass on Orso’s story; and if moved, buy his album. It’s available via iTunes and Google Play Store (Music). I’ve purchased from both sites.

Mr. Orso’s website is http://www.paulorso.com.

Peace to everyone.

TrafficActivists on Saturday called for mass civil disobedience on the highways in and around this Saint Louis to protest the killing of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Organizers called upon demonstrators to drive on area highways at 4:30 pm Monday, turn their hazard lights on and stop their vehicles for 4 1/2 minutes, symbolizing the 4 1/2 hours Brown’s body lay in the street.

Lead organizer Anthony Shahid told supporters, “I want the highways shut down. I know it’s a holiday, but it won’t be no good holiday.” If protesters effectively implement the plan, the action would actually mirror Ferguson’s police officer meeting with Michael Brown, who was walking in the middle of street.

Toeing with the ‘do no harm thingy’ of Buddhism, blocking traffic presents serious consequences, with the main being injury. Stopping traffic on I270 is no easy task. Traffic cruising from sixty-miles per hour to zero could cause multiple vehicle crashes, especially since Saint Louis driver education courses teach little, if any, about the brake pedal. In fact, most St. Louisans are instructed that STOP signs are only suggestions. So word to the wise, should 89 year-old Ms. Netzincrass, get caught in traffic, whether black or white, she’s going get out of her black 1978 Oldsmobile and bop someone’s arse’ with her cane. Repeatedly.

Of course if one wanted to make a statement, there are beneficial motives in hindering some traffic. For instance, will someone please stop the cargo of crap following Keeping Up with The Kardashians? Someone block San Francisco 49’er Ray McDonald or Baltimore Raven Ray Rice from leaving their respective practice facility and beating the crap out of a loved one? Will someone stop and block Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay from driving?

Though mentioned in parody, the above represent a better use of time and energy. But many get lost when symbolism and action mix. For instance, Shahid can be found calling for direct action that was both funeral procession and a slowdown – a warning showing the movement’s power to slow down traffic and business. Thus is the nature for The Disciplines of Justice envoy, a group which emerged during the Ferguson riot.

There is problem with youth-led, grassroots social movements advocating for democratic culture across multicultural societies. For people like Shahid, there is no justice without an associated level of terrorism. There are no ideas and narratives and leaders and symbols advocating the democratic culture on the ground. They desire justice yet produce division and destruction.

As a Buddhist, we must start building equality on a civilizational level, rather than merely on a political level. This movement creates civilized demand for democratic culture. There is a chance that some form of democratic culture can start and spread across to the remaining communities. But that will require all of us helping in the transition, from having merely political coalitions to building genuinely grassroots-based social movements advocating for the democratic culture.

That my friends is very Buddhist, very Christ like.

Buddha BeerSince leaving the hospital, I’ve had nary a drink. Strange, attempting to sip whiskey made me crawl in pain while partaking beer has produced negligible issues. This leads me to precept 5 – abstention from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.

Of the five great gifts — those original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, principles — the last one has been tough to nip in the bud. Oftentimes, I theoretically banter, “Can I partake of a beer or two if my drink does not cause heedlessness? Or must one abstain completely?

From a true Buddhist perspective, by abandoning the use of intoxicants, one receives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. So yeah, I get all that. However, if Christ turned water into wine, are we to presume Christ accepted liquor? Or did Christ simply perform the miracle, but abstained? Tough call. Still, as a Buddhist living a simple life, there are many times when I concur with Chesterton, “Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented.” Additionally, beer is a required accruement for any Cubs fan, for one couldn’t survive a game without symbolically leaping from Wrigley’s upper deck.

Having lived in Alabama, I remember passing through Clay County, infamously known for being the last ‘dry county.’ Technically, it’s illegal to have any form of alcohol within county borders … period. I thought you couldn’t be a real county unless you have at least beer. One could have a minor-league baseball team, maybe some hidden ICBM nuclear weapon launch sites or the world’s largest annual county fair. But at the very least, you need beer. Clay County affords none. But the point being, many residents, religious or otherwise, bootleg alcohol weekly. And amazingly, the sun continues to rise in the east and set in the west.

From another perspective, there are ten Demeritorious Deeds (Dasa Akusala Kamma). All of them occur through some form of bodily action:

  1. Killing
  2. Stealing
  3. Sexual Misconduct
  4. Lying
  5. Slandering
  6. Harsh Speech
  7. Frivolous Talk
  8. Coverousness
  9. Ill-Will (hatred)
  10. Wrong Views

On a comedic note, a fellow blogger noted that by violating Precept 5, he violated almost every Demeritorious Deed noted.

But for a person living on borrowed time, I try not getting into guilt trips. Living in precepts and vows is part of a long journey of purification and clearing the mind. Thich Nhat Hahn mades an interesting comment in For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life, in that if one lives fully in one precept, they actually live fully in all five. If one takes only 1 precept but they live fully in it, according to Hanh, they’ll eventually keep all five.

Hahn may be right. Basically, going to the extreme either way is awful. Drinking to excess and trying to drive, play sports or negotiate a multimillion-dollar contract would be unwise. So be wise. Be respectful.

And all wisdom aside, if I’m close to death’s door, I’m requesting a shot of Blanton’s Bourbon.

The Hard Makes Us Great

imageWe all have faith. Everyone believes in something. For some, it’s God voicing piercing morning prayer. For others, it’s faith of love in another. It could be faith that our elevators work, the automobile in the next lane will not crash or the pilot will land an aircraft perfectly. We all have faith that ice cream cones will taste heavenly. The rain will quench the farm field next door, or the shores of Eastsound will quiet a restless heart.

Paul Torday’s novel Salmon Fishing in Yemen captured faith’s essence:

“I had belief. I did not know, or for the moment care, what exactly it was I had to believe in. I only knew that belief in something was the first step away from believing in nothing, the first step away from a world which only recognized what it could count, measure, sell or buy. The people here still had that innocent power of belief: not the angry denial of other people’s belief of religious fanatics, but a quiet affirmation. That was what I sensed here, in this land and in this place, which made it so different from home. It was not the clothes, not the language, not the customs, not the sense of being in another century. It was none of these. It was the pervading presence of belief.”

So how can the poor give unto the rich and how can the rich give unto the poor. This is exactly what the love of my life taught. Karen first taught to learn to believe in universal love. At the time, I couldn’t understand her, yet I could see it. Still, Karen’s level of commitment overpowered me and I hid from the depth power surrounding me. Thus, she wasn’t able to see me through the journey I so desperately wanted to endure.

Obviously, there’s an essential key second lesson: in my continual effort to keep and enrich Karen’s spirit, if I can hear God in my most meditative moments, then I have faith Ferguson, Chicago, New York, Detroit or anyone can achieve a beautiful blend of faith and works. That the God so seemingly absent, is so ever present. He can and does thrust the sword of love into our hearts and chaffs away the seeds of hatred. As Marcus Luttrell wrote, “No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.”

Third, leadership is not just having the vision of change; it’s the ability to effect change. The vision must empower people to succeed; to become the community, the home and person you want to be. In the movie, A League of Their Own, Dottie Hinson tells Jimmy Duggan “It just got too hard.” Jimmy replied, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great.

Remember, the hard makes us great.

walking on the narrow path.

walking on the narrow path with Jesus

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