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imageMissouri University Payton Head felt hurt that people hurled racial insults. Additionally, Mizzou black students attempted to crucify a professor for being insensitive when he scheduled a test. One twitter user JJ not Jay-Jay, stated he was offended the teacher asked his students not to give in to bullies.

To all who stayed away from campus out fear, I understand your fear and I feel your pain.

Many will argue I couldn’t possibly feel the presence of racism or the fear of death like a black man. I counter, “Why not?” Technically speaking, I can’t feel anyone’s personal experience from racism’s spear. But neither would that same black man or woman completely understand the racism I’ve received either.

Regardless of race, racism itself isn’t completely unique. At it’s core, racism has a strange common bond for many of us.

My viewpoints aren’t developed from entitled white privilege. I understand everyone is trying hard to make all black lives matter. But having been sexually abused as a child, beaten by a gang of school yard bullies on a regular basis, told my life was worthless and that I would be worthless, I determined my life mattered.

Think I’m over the top, hear me out.

Do you think I don’t fear death when I get on a plan and head to the Middle East, solely for the purpose of helping them with healthcare? I am constantly aware of bombs, kidnappings, mysterious deaths, beheadings, beatings, arrests and so on. Like many others are targeted because of race, I’m targeted simply because of my nationality and race.

Don’t believe for a minute I haven’t felt a sense of fear in poverty stricken areas of Africa, where black racists followed me and a colleague. Why? Because of my race and nationality considers us an easy mark.

Then there’s the homeless of East Los Angeles, with whom I’ve had to set aside delusion, shame, direct cursing, spitting, hitting, and attempted assaults. I’ve navigated “white-out” and “black-out” rooms during healthcare clinics and enrollment; derogatory insults in Asia, Mexico, India, South America and America; was accused of being a spy in Asian; constantly watched my surroundings in the Middle East, Asia, Philippines; experienced resentment in Africa; dodged gangs in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Saint Louis, New York City, Boston, Denver; evaded drug gangs in Mexico and South America; had personal body guards in Venezuela; was abandoned by interpreters deep in southern Chile; was forced at gunpoint, by the Brazilian military to pay a bribe; been stripped searched by authorities in Argentina; was sexually harassed in Saint Louis, Missouri; received multiple death threats in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

But wait,” one might say, “you have clarify! I mean what about those insults?”

Well let’s discuss insults. I have a lengthy list. Over the past thirty years I’ve been called 8 Mile, Abe Lincoln, Charlie, Albino, Salt and Pepper (when I was with a black female friend for dinner), Anglo (by several Mexicans), Bacon Bit, Bai-Tou (Chinese for white head), Sai-Tou (shit head in China), Bak-Guiy (white ghost), Beach-Nigger (when I got too much sun tan), Bean Dipper (when I went for drinks with a Latino woman), Bird Shit, Bleach Boy, Brady (demeaning word for Brady Bunch), Bubba, Casper, Clampett (from Beverly Hillbillys), Cock (short for Caucasian), Cornfed (meaning I was too fat), Crisco (i.e., the white grease), Ditchpig (because I worked cleaning side-street ditches during college one summer), Gabacho, Goober (by Black NYC Racists just a few months ago), Gusak (by Alaskan racists), Hillbilly, Honky, HP (human parasite), Lo-wai (outsider), MacLord (simply because I use a MacBook), Milkhead, Mouse (used by Black racists as I walked in NY City), Nightlite (used by black racists in Africa, meaning I could be seen in the dark), Redneck, Cracker, Ritz Cracker (because they thought I was rich), Saltine, Skinhead (because being bald obviously means I’m a racist skinhead), Tornado Bait (white trash that gets hit by tornado – they seemed to think that since I help restore medical services in disaster areas, I somehow deserve this name), Triscut (a cracker, but worse than white trash), Wasian (because I lived in Japan helping the Japanese, local racists thought I was fascinated with the Japanese culture), White Out (Meaning no whites – used in NYC when I went to a meeting to hear how I could assist with healthcare), YT (sent via a post-it note during an audit, means Whitey).

Oh yeah, I’m white. Still think I’m privileged?

So why do I do it? What motivated me get up and go to school, earn a degree and work? Turns out, my love for people and my passion to help others is far more powerful than the fear from some dipstick hurling insults from the back of a pickup truck. My soul’s inner core is more resilient, has more wisdom and more strength than the stupidity we reduce ourselves.

I never went on a hunger strike, protested in some lobby, interrupted town hall meetings or screamed demands. Change did not come by demanding some other person do something. I became the one I had been waiting for. I was the change I sought. I went to work, served people, built relationships and changed small snippets of the world through one act of kindness after another.

You need to do the same.

Mizzou ProtestIt is our duty to fight for our freedom!” was the chant from hundreds of students on MU’s campus after the announcement of Wolfe’s resignation was made. “It is our duty to win!

For months, black student groups had complained Wolfe was unresponsive to racism. A week ago, graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike. The complaints came to a head several days ago, when at least 30 black football players announced that they would not play until the president was gone and Butler ate.

But few protesters and organizers, if any, ever review the consequences. Both action and inaction have consequences.

  • University of Missouri system’s president, Tim Wolfe, and the chancellor of the flagship campus, R. Bowen Loftin, announced on Monday that they were resigning their posts in the face of growing protests by African-American students, the threat of a walkout by faculty and a strike by football players who said the administrators had done too little to combat racism on campus.
  • Janna Basler, an official with the school’s Greek Life department, pushes a reporter and snaps, “Don’t push me.” At one point, Basler blocks the reporter from taking a picture, and after making contact with him, claims she didn’t touch him in any way. Janna Basler has been placed on leave Wednesday as Mizzou investigates her actions.
  • Melissa Click, professor of assistant communications recruited “muscle” to get rid of a reporter, pushing his camera and yelling at him repeatedly to “get out.” Ironically, it was Click who posted on social media that there should be more press covering the unrest at Missouri earlier in the week. Click later apologized and resigned her courtesy appointment. Currently, Click’s not out of a job. She is still an assistant professor.
  • Jonathan Butler, the student whose hunger strike kicked off a chain of events leading to Wolfe’s resignation, comes not from poverty and oppression, but from great wealth. The Concerned Student 1950 group, which led the recent protests at the University of Missouri, had demanded that University President Timothy Wolfe “acknowledge his white male privilege.” The comparisons between Butler and Wolfe has a sense of irony.
  • Mizzou Student Body President Payton Head tweeted, “Students please take precaution. Stay away from the windows in the residence halls. The KKK has been confirmed to be sighted on campus. I’m working with the MUPD, the state trooper and the National Guard.” There were no KKK, National Guard or state troopers. Mr. Head’s actions raise larger issues. Could some of this drama have been inflated? While several news outlets posted actual evidence of the police report of the feces painted swastika, many questions remain. Who exactly were the pick-up truck offenders? Since we don’t know who they were, it’s possible they weren’t even students.
  • Dale Brigham, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, submitted his resignation as outrage among some students grew in the wake of his email message. “If you give in to bullies, they win,” Brigham wrote. “The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose.” Under intense pressure, Dr. Brigham has cancelled the exam and resigned from the university. There is no definitive indication that Mizzou has accepted the resignation.

The casualty list continues to climb.

At the end, the victorious idealists became the very essence of that which they hated, oblivious to anyone’s point of view but their own. Thus, both Mizzou and student leadership cannot attest to their leadership. Stupidity, maybe. Leadership, No.

From a Buddhist perspective, there are genuine life lessons.

  • What failed both protesters and administrators alike is not being open to negotiate. When we negotiate, we come to a new situation without any preconceived notion of how we’re going to take care of it. All of us must come completely open.
  • When stuff happens, you’ll find better success facing suffering together, when everyone is actively engaged in dialogue.
  • How we lead is significantly important for all we lead.
  • Not everyone is out to get us … that statement is true on both sides of the negotiation table. No one person is accountable for every slight life offers.

It’s a shame that any victory for the common good was trampled by ego and self-promotion. Instead, “viral” social media sensations became more important than substance. What will these protesters will do when a future boss doesn’t compliment them? And zero-tolerance racism may be a great goal … is it possible?

With the lack leadership exhibited by all parties in the Mizzou fight, it’s great knowing the systemic oppression of racism will finally be banished.

Missouri graduate student on hunger strikeMissouri University President Timothy M. Wolfe, stepped down early Monday morning. Later in the day, the Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also bit the dust. The issue was Wolfe’s lack of response to a recent spate of racist incidents on Mizzou’s campus, where graduate student Jonathan Butler’s protest received the support of Mizzou’s football team. Butler’s response to recent wave of bigotry came in the form of a hunger strike.

“I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”

It’s good to die for something worthy.

In truth, Wolfe was probably forced out by a set of unified stakeholders, from internal department heads to state legislators. The backstage strategic puppeteering in such high-press cases is amazing. Today, the unique role is litigating in the court of public opinion where evidence and personal bias gets shoved down a listener’s throat is powerful.

One key group was Concerned Student 1950, formed on Mizzou campus in response to racially-motivated incidents. (1950 referred to the year black students were first admitted to the University of Missouri.) Concerned Student 1950 demanded the removal of Tim Wolfe, whom they felt had not handled these incidents well, if at all. Butler noted:

“Students are not able to achieve their full academic potential because of the inequalities and obstacles they face,” he said. “In each of these scenarios, Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.”

Personal bias aside, “Bullshit!.”

Former Mizzou football player A. J. Ofodile raised a valid point. To Mr. Ofodile, the 1950’s-style oppression wasn’t apparent.

“Through this whole process I haven’t heard one example of any oppressive action or policy that is systemic in nature. I’ve seen tons of examples of individual bigotry and claims that those incidents weren’t handled appropriately but at this point I have to seriously doubt that people fully understand what systemic oppression really is.”

So this is the same Mizzou that’s so racist it elected a black man student body president and homecoming king? Or, are we to believe Mizzou racists systematically elected the black student body president only to hurl racial insults? Is this the same Mizzou that embraced gay defensive lineman Michael Sam in 2014? And nearly 18 months beyond Sam, Mizzou is fraught with racism?


Still, after hearing of Wolfe’s resignation, students danced where activists had set up a tent city. The football team announced that it was ending its strike and hundreds of students chanted in the sun, “I … am … a … revolutionary!” Social media users around the world joined in, tweeting more than 100,000 times the day’s protest.

While I believe incidents of racism must be addressed, what will be interesting is watching how Mizzou students and residents struggle with their response. Even if all the reports of racism prove accurate, Mizzou’s president shouldn’t have been adjudicated via a lynch mob mentality that served no meaningful purpose other than to inflame.

I propose that losing $1,000,000 of football revenue is what really forced Wolfe to resign, more cash than protest. Yes, football gold and the massive amounts of money pouring into the ol’ football coffer.

So I repeat what I wrote after the Ferguson Riots. After the cameras stop rolling, they’ll (Mizzou) be left nearly in nearly the same place they started. After all the sound bites and television interviews, someone will query, “What did we accomplish?“ Probably not a hell of a lot.

Real change requires effort and love. But no worry for Butler. Technically, Butler won. He received his pound of flesh. However, what Butler and others will learn is that whether right or wrong, every university has an adjudication process. And sometimes that very process is goddam slow. You can’t cure cancer via instant soup.

Mizzou will play the remaining three games. That’s approximately $3,000,000 bucks into the coffers. One University President was sacrificed unto the football gods. And football players run the university.

Good Lord! All hail the “Pigskin God.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 2.20.07 PMVisiting San Diego this week, I had the chance to visit Juárez, Mexico.

A PRI The World program noted that once known as “the murder capital of the world,” Juárez is still recovering from cartel violence and some on both sides of the border say they feel safer. Despite current politics surrounding immigration, people constantly flow back and forth on a daily basis. Some who ebb in and out of the yin-yang flow are students.

These students travel, each day, from Mexico to the US, all of to break the cycle of poverty.

Families living in extreme poverty see quality education as an impossible cost. Even public school carries costs, including books, uniforms, and transportation. Because parents have not experienced the increases in earnings, quality of life, and personal dignity that come from education, they don’t know what they are missing by pulling a child out of school to work instead. This is why it’s a cycle: children who grow up without education are less likely to send their own children to school.

By providing a quality education, a vicious cycle gets replaced. Instead of poverty sowing the seeds for still more poverty, education creates an environment that leads to opportunities and education for successive generations as well. Instead of leaving school to work, children have the chance to engage their intellectual curiosity, and live in a more stable society.

Children in poverty are less likely than middle-class children to develop basic educational skills before kindergarten. Too often, poor children have fewer early learning experiences. For example, poor and low-income children tend to live in homes with fewer books and less language stimulation.

If society wants to adopt a quality lifestyle for all children, then breaking the cycle of poverty requires investing in our children and ensuring they have nurturing and enriching experiences, including high-quality early care and educational opportunities.

Yet few politicians offer solid solutions.

Governors in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin and Connecticut’s Democratic governor have proposed higher education cuts for the 2016 fiscal year. Higher education spending traditionally is a juicy target for budget cutters because schools can make up the lost revenue by raising tuition.

A day before jumping into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Scott Walker signed a state budget that, among other things:

  • Slashed $250 million from the University of Wisconsin;
  • Expanded the state’s voucher program that uses public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, including religious schools — even though there is no evidence the program has helped improve student achievement; and
  • A majority of public school districts in Wisconsin will receive less funding this year, and no school district’s state funding will keep up to inflation.

If the Buddhist principle that all things are connected is correct, then our own fate and the destiny of the world may be intimately bound up with the educational fate of the poor. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40 per cent of its adults able to read and write.

Statistics show why education is perhaps the most effective strategy to tackle poverty and is integrally linked to human, community and national development. When people have basic life and literacy skills, economies grow more quickly and poverty rates decline.

I remember a scene from Saving Private Ryan, where Captain John Miller said, “This Ryan better be worth it. He better go home and cure some disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, or something.” From time I wonder if an errant drone strike destroyed the world’s chances to cure cancer? It is just me, or does anyone ever think some terrorist annihilated humanity’s best chance to defeat Alzheimer’s?

Decreasing poverty through education is very Buddhist and very Christian.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.48.32 AMIn my post about Mississippi: Faith Without Works, I noted, “If we are pro-life, then we must be pro-quality of life. If we do one without the other, our works is inconsistent with our faith.” I wrote that in July 2012. And some three years later, that post lived a quiet, subdued life, archived to distant memory, maybe wasted space or rolling of the eyes.

Then came Governor Christie’s recent comments about addiction. I can’t say the following text is 100% accurate. It’s close. I tried transcribing Christie’s comments correctly:

“My mother was a smoker. She smoked her whole life. She was addicted to nicotine. She started when she was sixteen (16), which was 1948. 1964 came, the Surgeon General’s report came out and she was in her mid thirties. She knew smoking was bad for her. And I’ll tell you, watching her as a kid growing up; she tried everything she could to quit. She had the gum, the patches, and hypnosis. She tried everything. She couldn’t quit.

Now, when she turned 71, a little after that, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. No one came to me and said, “Don’t treat her, for she got what she deserved.” We know the lung cancer was caused by the smoking. We know it was. But no one came to me and said, “Your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was sixteen. Then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. So we’re not going to give her chemotherapy. We’re not going to give her radiation treatment. We’re not going to give her any of that stuff. You know what, she’s getting what she deserves.”

No one said that. No one said that about anyone having cancer.

Yet somehow, if it’s heroine or cocaine or alcohol, we say, “We decided they are getting what they deserved.”

I am pro-life. And I think if you’re pro-life, that means you have to be pro-life for the whole life, not just the nine months in the womb. Alright? It’s easy … It’s easy to be pro-life for the nine months in the womb, for they haven’t done anything to disappoint us yet. They’re perfect in there. But when they get out, that’s when it gets tough.

The sixteen year old teenage girl, on the floor of the county lockup, addicted to heroine … I am pro-life for her too. She has just as much a precious gift from God as the one in the womb. And we need to start thinking that way as a party and as a people and the President needs to say those things.”

Like MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, “I’m still kind of blown away by Christie’s comments.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Christie’s overall political views, his comments of being pro-life for life were genuinely real. They were the perfect “in the moment, from the heart” stuff. I wish all politicians spoke accordingly.

Christie’s comments were very Buddhist, very Christian. How beautiful! Imagine living in such a world … Pro-Life for Life?


See Christie’s complete video by clicking his picture.

GOP DebateAll over the world today there is debate about the relationship between politics and religion. As tonight’s GOP debate draws near in Boulder, Colorado, I’ve given some thought to the current candidates. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Thinking critically about the implications of any overarching objectives, is it possible in today’s world, which candidates remain aware of not only their own interests but the interests of all those they lead?

“Value-based” politics is not new. It’s been around for decades. What this increasingly meant was a politics based on a particular interpretation of the Christian religion and what it implied not just for theological understanding but also for political, social and economic practice. Thus, religion is no longer personal and private, it’s political and public.

I’ve come to this realization based upon several trends. First, religious texts are treated as statements of fact rather than a guide to meaning and life. Secondly, the reliance one particular religion as the ultimate truth is frightful. Thus, that belief system becomes the basis of government, law and practice. All other religions may be tolerated but not all will be respected.

We need leadership around sound principles and a political framework that can take us forward rather than back to what would be a contemporary version of the dark ages. The Dali Lama is such a leader. The Dali Lama meets with heads of state and beggars. In essence, he gets information from people at every level of society. By casting a wide net, he understands situations, can analyze them in many different ways, and creates solutions.

There are many, many leaders like the Dali Lama. However, in keeping the Lama’s leadership style in the forefront for a moment, the questions I would ask GOP candidates are:

  1. Once we understand people and their life, how will you lead the country in extending compassion to the people?
  2. How will you ensure your administration serve humanity by showing traits of peace, happiness, wisdom and enlightenment?
  3. In a diverse world, how will your administration and leadership foster inter-religious harmony and the welfare others while maintaining identity, culture and religion? Can we serve humanity without harming it?

If freedom and love is to be restricted, engagement limited, rights undermined, compassion thwarted and peace replaced with force there needs to be good and powerful reasons and a proper dialogue beforehand.

Unfortunately, for the moment, dialogue doesn’t seem to exist.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to a question as she testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in WashingtonLast week I actually listened to the Benghazi hearing. Then, I went watched the fiasco. After eleven hours, I sat for a moment and ponder a most interesting question: “What if the interviewee was either Donald Trump, Ben Carson or Chris Christie?”

Whether you believe Hillary Rodham Clinton or not, commentator Eugene Robinson echoed it correctly when he said Clinton must have been mindful of the old adage that you never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. Clinton was very presidential. I just cannot see any other Republican candidate looking so presidential.

Chris Christie claimed Clinton was “unaccountable” because she left the Benghazi compound’s security arrangements to be handled by lower-ranking professional. Yet “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson noted Christie gave a similar explanation to exonerate himself in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Overdosing on his Miss World pageant sound bites, Donald Trump claimed he could unify the world …. A pseudonym for “All I want is for world peace.” Ok, actually he said he could unify congress. A former CIA analyst stated, “What was learned was irrelevant. What was relevant wasn’t discussed.

And here’s why I agree.

Rep. Trey Gowdy told Clinton he understood that people in both parties suggest that this investigation was about her; further stating this investigation was about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil. That argument comes across condescending ten minutes into the hearing.

For example, while the Benghazi committee has spent $4.7 million for three hearings, the deaths of two-dozen from a bombed a hospital operated by the charity Doctors Without Borders, in Kunduz, Afghanistan appears particularly uninteresting. Congressional leaders have spent little time investigating why some 30 Americans are being held hostage overseas today. The 2009 suicide bombing at Camp Chapman in Afghanistan did not merit this kind of scrutiny. That was when seven Americans working for the CIA were killed when a man who was supposed to be an informant, invited by American agents to be the base, turned out to be a radical jihadi, a suicide bomber who blew himself up.

The hearing only served to embarrass Republican lawmakers in search of a political crusade. In recent days, some prominent Republicans have even admitted as much. The Republicans are expected to issue a report. May it be the final chapter of a wasteful and counterproductive exercise that accomplished nothing.

Thus, I am left with my opening question. Basically, how presidential would Trump, Carson or Christie be were it them?

EscobarI was in Michigan over the weekend. But I did not see the now infamous Michigan-Michigan State game, where Blake O’Neill bobbled a low snap on a punt attempt with 10 seconds left on the clock, then fumbled the ball as he attempted to salvage a kick. Michigan State sophomore Jalen Watts-Jackson picked up the loose ball and carried it 38 yards for a touchdown as the clock expired.

As always, some Michigan fans (should we call them that) brought down the hammer via Twitter and other social media outlets and sent shocking, hurtful, spiteful and vicious comments to one of its students.

  • Tyler Gross tweeted, “I’m 80 yard punter Blake O’Neill and I have Direct TV and I’m no hands O’Neill and I have cable.”
  • A man named Chris Vomish tweeted that O’Neill “…should go to the equipment room and “start chugging that bleach my friend.
  • Another tweeter told O’Neill to “jump off of a cliff into a pool of spikes and cyanide” and that “you might as well cut your hands off.”

Sports builds character, but sports also reveals character — and not just the athletes. While few Michigan-Michigan State fans know Andres Escobar, his ghost must have been pacing the Michigan field.

Why is Escobar important? And how are Escobar and Michigan University related?

Well, Defender Andres Escobar, known as “The Gentleman of the Field,” accidentally put the ball in his own net in a game against the U.S., contributing to Colombia’s rapid exit from the Cup and a massive national disappointment. Colombia entered the 1994 World Cup among the favorites to win it all, led by star goalie Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama and forward Faustino Asprilla. But then the unthinkable happened. The squad lost 3-1 to Romania, midfielder Gabriel Gomez received a faxed death threat and the coach contemplated resigning. Ten days later, 27-year-old Escobar was shot dead in a Medellin parking lot in a killing that sparked national outrage.

Escobar’s murder remains unsolved.

And to the Michigan keyboard warriors, what do we say? Nothing, for they live behind their own hatred and shame. Today, we read of parents berating coaches, punching referees, and lately coaches telling players to take out referees. Brazilian referee Gabriel Murta, produced a handgun after he was slapped and kicked by a player when he (the ref) decided not to give a red card over a foul.

It’s insane. Stupid people do stupid things, keyboard warriors are no exception.

Sports in America was never intended to achieve this level of inhumanity. Nevertheless, we should be repugnant at the level of protests “we fans” create in the wake of player mishaps and referee decisions. Such inhumanity displays scant regard for the men and women, players and referees alike, and turns a “blind-eye” to our own hidden vile.

What followed the Michigan-Michigan State game was nothing short of thuggery. All of us need to need to reevaluate our support and our morals. We should support O’Neill. I’m not a Michigan fan and I support O’Neill.

Colombian Defender Andres Escobar asks us too.

imageOn some level, maybe I’ve grown accustomed to ignorance. Not that I’m completely ignorant, but more so that I’ve got an ability to ignore that which surrounds. That whole statement sounds so New York. And maybe in that light, I’ve become more New Yorker each day.

For instance, I week ago I once threw change to an old man struggling on two canes. The weathered seventy something year-old glisten Fuji Apple red in the morning light. Eaten by blistered peeled skin, his hands shook unceasingly like a Home Depot paint mixer. There was no computer genius here, no lost mathematician or concert pianist. He was a societal cast away.

Yet dropping a few coins into his coffer became his morning ritual. That seemingly downtrodden man followed me, found where I worked and met me there each morning for several days. He became a pseudo toll agent and stood defiantly in my path until someone produced a few coins.On several occasions, I tossed a few outdated tokens obtained at a western Indian casino. After deducing who the culprit was, this gentle soul became belligerent. One morning, he was hauled away by NYPD authorities and I never saw him again.

But this reminded me that sometimes acts of kindness become entitlements. I am not not referring to entitlement programs offered by the government for the poor. Rather, it’s when an act of compassion is interpreted as comeuppance. And that’s what addicts do.

So many times in my life, I looked for hourly, daily, weekly and monthly comeuppance. It was a prerequisite to the day. At the end of the day, I became just like a New York castaway. And tired of my shit, people no longer moved to help. They sat. They watched. They commented upon my fall from grace and laughed.

Their lack of faith in my humanity did not dissipate overnight. Rather, I chiseled away my own humanity piece by piece, moment after moment, excuse after excuse. Like ‘Red’ in the ShawShank Redemption, I’ve lost my humanity, not because I’m an addict of this or that, because you think I deserve it.

The list of those celebrating my demise were many, Katherine K., Karen N., Joanne F., Mari T., Matt M., Tim B., H.H.H., and many many more. Yet no matter what anyone thought of my life’s experiences or worth, like all people, there was so much more underneath to learn. But no one did. Instead, personal redemptive efforts were suffocated, smashed and crushed like used cigarette butts.

There were many sleeplessness nights, where the desolate prodding of loneliness and loss accumulated like anvils. If I had life-affirming qualities, there were extended periods they where unacknowledged. But in that depth of darkness, I learned to tolerate life’s burs. Eventually, I became tough, calloused and could bear the verbal abuse of a thousand men. I became like and unlike those who walked New York’s concrete pavements. Like them, I wandered in-between corrugated steel girders almost without notice. Unlike them, I was full of compassion, love and beauty whose flowers simply waited for a few drops natures nectar.

It’s a weird place – a divergence between heaven and hell. But at the end of the day, we manufacture our own hell quite well. Find a way to live in heaven.

imageAs I think about it, trial and error is vastly overrated. I keep hoping the next town, the next person met will open some unknown mantra and shed light unto Shangri-La. Yet addicts repeat steps others accomplished. Or mostly, what others haven’t accomplished. We continually yearn for the ‘something for nothing.’ Our often depressing day-in-day-out life relishes an idyllic world, where hope cures ills, where the guy gets the girl, bravery trounces cowardice and justice wins.

Addicts and common folk alike, simply cannot accept that we must do something for ourselves. You got here, wherever that ‘here’ is by yourself – and accordingly, we’ll have to find a way out of it – by ourselves.

New York City reminds me of all this and more.

My first impression of New York is vastly different from television. For the true witnesser, one quickly understands that dirt covers everything. Architecturally speaking, in the midst of all the grime, nothing seems eloquent. People become after thoughts. Streets are witnesses to personal unseen demons. Street grates and vents are clogged by strewn trash. The discard of humanity is archeologically petrified by wind, rain, snow and salt. Why toss stuff into a trash can when the street’s receptacle is logical, quick and readily available?

Whether we care to admit it or not, all us are like New York streets. Like personal shame, hidden fear and restlessness, crushed styrofoam, discarded remnants from Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King line New York roadways. Discarded gum liners, cigarette boxes, severed construction cones, old mattresses, foam, fragmented shipping boxes dot become pseudo roadway markers.

Every six blocks Apple iPhone 6 picture is silhouetted on some large building. One in particular caught my eye. It was a picture of a lone Saguaro cactus against the backdrop of a sun burnt Tucson, Arizona sky. It’s caption read, ‘Taken by an iPhone 6.

Saguaros only grow near Tucson, Arizona. I’ve been there. Most New Yorkers haven’t. They’ll buy into Apple’s dream, that the iPhone 6 will produce some semblance of freedom and openness. It won’t. Probably never will. Few will ever embrace the open skies of New Mexico, Colorado or see the sun flowers of North Dakota.

Statistically speaking, New Yorkers live, breathe and die in New York. Few venture beyond the stagnant miles of steel and glass. Dressed in business attire and white sun dresses, the hordes simply bustle past their surroundings, willingly accept their surroundings and their fate.

The chronically drunk and addicted are pasted against shop walls. It’s not unusual to stroll past high priced outlet stores without seeing a forgotten soul splattered against the window pane. In their eye, there is no other life, there’s no hope. They’re soulless. Days filled by walking endless concrete carpets and alleyways, sleeping here, resting there, hoping for tossed parcels of used burgers and reclaimed sub sandwiches.

It’s difficult to sort fact from fiction. These are the same folks whom conservative pendents extoll as lazy, dirty and dangerous. Yeah, they are dirty. Sure, they can be dangerous. But society’s disdain and hatred put them there. With iPhone earbud drilled embedded into ear-canals, New Yorkers, walk past these wanderers with extraordinary contempt, nary a footnote in the biography of life. We’ve consumed ourselves in ignorance.

I hate my cowardice in dealing with people.

The Seeds 4 Life

Plant seeds of inspiration, positivity and happiness within your mind and watch as your best life grows!

Oscar Relentos

Welcome to my cathartic release


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