Archive for March, 2016


ascension-dayThe Easter sun rises through my patio window. Another Easter, another year of challenges – another year remembering could haves, should haves, and would haves. Over the years, I’ve experienced several hard transitions between Good Friday and Easter. Each year I vow otherwise, but like many, I spent Easter reminiscing, not so much on loves and past dreams but more so on what went wrong.

Easter 1984 I was informed I had a major disease. I would live maybe 20, 25 years if going downhill with the wind behind me. Now, I’m 56. Go figure?

Good Friday 2010 I was fired by telephone and lost the love of my live. Both walked out the door on Good Friday and never looked back. Six years later, I have received none of the forgiveness requested.

Easter 2016 brought another round. Like an old food item, doctors gave me an expiration date. Doctors informed my body is expiring, slowly. I linger, not so much in pain, but prolongation and loneliness. I vowed never to be the guy who ingested six medications. Yet here I am. Major illness and cervical injuries to the C4 and C5 vertebrae leaves walking nearly impossible. Medications control everything from dysphagia, cardiac problems, high-blood pressure, chest pain, paraplegia and vertigo from inadequate blood flow.

In life, the body doesn’t always follow best-laid plans. Having made my living in hospitals since 2008, the variance between living fully and tragically collided daily. One day, you’re full of life. The next day, you must learn a new normal, one requiring every ounce of soul. And that newer pathway often leads to mental decline and frailty. Yes there are some joys, but for most, the declining body saps of everything.

Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel noted that living too long is a loss. His picture of living past 75 wasn’t pretty – no skydiving, no horseback riding and endless commercials reinforce cholesterol medications and Viagra cannot rejuvenate youth.

I cannot even envision 75. At 56, I don’t ask for anything but dignity. I’ve put aside any desire to live longer. None can cure aging. Still, for the time remaining, I want to live in the real world, to accept the year head on, valuing those around me. I want to love once more, lie in someone arms and embrace the sweet nectar of romance. I want to experience a level of agape love never received. Can one live in love? It seems simple? Maybe too simple? Maybe not.

I understand Easter’s hope in ways many never will. It’s not about an Easter Bunny, coloring eggs or finding chocolate. In the late stage of life, we become housed and nurtured by those around us – a prisoner within a prison. Thus Easter’s real hope is prison’s destruction. Revering God’s ability to overcome fear and human boundary, leaving any willing to mercifully love God who will overcome breathing difficulties, aches, pains and of course death itself. That my friends is what Easter’s all about.

Live in love and experience the real beauty of God.

hqdefaultAfter reading of the events surrounding Donald Trump’s Chicago Rally, I thought of an old story of a guy who wanted to be a locomotive engineer. Accordingly, the lead instructor present the applicant a problem.

If you had one train coming from one direction at 55 mph, and another train coming from another direction at 45 mph, what would you do?”

Thinking for a minute the applicant responded, “I think I’d call my brother.”

That’s a really strange answer. Why would you do that?

Because my brother has never seen a train wreck before.

What’s disturbing about Trump’s combative Chicago Rally was all of us saw it coming. Instead of decorum, understanding and forgiveness, it appears many went and got their brother.

Over the past year or so Black Lives Matter, Ammon Bundy, Mizzou Football team, Melissa Click, Mizzou’s Concerned Student 1950, Racial Protesters on many college campuses (Mizzou, Yale, Ithaca College, UCLA, etc), Muslim Protesters, Mexican Immigration Protesters, Syrian Immigration Protesters, Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooter, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and a host others have practiced “in your face” degradation and hatred.

One cannot be certain if there is an actual increase in racial incidents or just an ability to record and post such events in moments. In our age misbehavior can be documented with a cellphone and spread simultaneously via social media. Videotape of protesters using “in your face” tactics only guarantees violence at political rallies will increase.

Both Sanders and Trump have raised the specter of violence. Trump’s campaign began depicting entire categories of overwhelmingly peaceful people as threats. Sanders’ political revolution hints at overthrowing a government of bureaucratic privilege, replacing it with government based on workers’ democracy while maintaining state owned property relations. Political revolutions occur throughout history and many times end in a worse situation than before.

Oh yeah, one fact most revolutionaries neglect – in revolutions, people die. One only needs to look at Ammon Bundy as history’s most recent example. Bundy’s revolutionary plan ended January 26, 2016 on Oregon’s Highway 395, with eight arrested and the death of LaVoy Finicum.

From a Buddhist perspective, our political leaders could use a heavy does of “Right Speech.” Right Speech is the third of the eight path factors in the Noble Eightfold Path. And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech and from idle chatter.

If this country is going to move forward, eventually, we’re going to have to sit in a room with each other—both sides—and find common ground.  Our country has problems, which most of us agree upon. Our problems are similar to those of the world around us. But we have to find a way to work them out, together. Civility means learning how to make political change to address the frustrations of the American community.

All of us should be aware of what we say and how we say it. However, it seems we’d rather just get our brother.

trumpsandersAt the end of the Democratic primary debate on Univision, Sanders received standing ovation. If Hillary Clinton loses her bid in the Democratic Primary, March 9th at 10:56 PM will have been a defining moment.

Over the past several months, Sanders and Trump have lured the disenfranchised who’ve claimed to have been ignored for years. If Starbucks were a political coffee shop, the aroma of café de’ wizz would be so strong many would cringe. Yet, voters are hooked by the fragrance.

Each candidate targets different groups, but uses the same methodology. Trump’s message rests solely on culprits:  corrupt Washington politicians, outsiders, drug dealers and rapists from Mexico, terrorists from Syria, Islamists who hate America, the Chinese and Japanese. Bernie Sanders has decided to assign all the ills of this world to the financial services sector. To Sanders, Wall Street’s business model is fraud: greed, fraud, dishonesty and arrogance. Wall Street and Washington are filled with “oligarchs” where campaigns are “rigged” and “corrupt.”

In many ways, both Trump and Sanders want to rewrite the rules via political revolution.  One wants to soak the rich with higher taxes to finance a cornucopia of proposals, including free state college tuition for all, expanded Social Security benefits and a major surge in highway and bridge construction to create new jobs. And the other? Well, the other pretty much wants to kill someone, anyone … especially anyone un-American.

We are left with these two nitwits from two reasons: one, each coddles our inner most fears; and secondly, we don’t know the difference. In the movie, The American President, fictional President Andrew Sheppard stated the problem eloquently:

Lewis Rothschild: They don’t have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.

I don’t discount America’s problems. We have quite the laundry list. Yet the average voter has little understanding that neither Trump nor Sanders will really help. Borrowing from Sheppard again, I guarantee that whatever your particular problem is, neither Trump nor Sanders is the least bit interested in solving it. They are interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

Giving a Pledge To Trump

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Gumby has spoken!

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 7.48.44 PMAt this point of the political season, relabeling the Grand Old Party is necessary. Watching the March 4, 2016 debate was filled with mixed emotions – like the time my mother in-law drove over cliff while in my new Cadillac. Sarcasm aside, the GOP should change its moniker to be more reflective of the current crop of presidential candidates … Grand Old Pricks. In all my 56 years, I’ve never seen a candidate defend his penis.

With all remaining GOP candidates in Detroit for last night’s GOP Debate, penis size was the first question, Flint’s water crisis was 33rd. In the backdrop of unemployment, healthcare spending, taxation, balanced budget, military spending, international assistance, immigration, ISIS (ISIL or whatever they’re called today), racism, Black Lives Matter Movement, the Flint, Michigan lead scandal and quality education issues, here we are … first issue out of the box is talking about the size of one’s penis.

My apologies to the NY Times reporter fact-checking penis size.

If these are the best Republicans candidates, no wonder the party is imploding. And more than likely, we’ll implode with the selectee as well. To emphasize, all candidates reiterated their support to the Republican nominee, even if it were Trump.

I’m bemused by leaders stating they can’t understand why Trump is winning. Really? It’s simple, it’s the inability of the GOV electorate to positively impact life on the street.

During the last two weeks of travel in New York, NY, Baltimore, MD and Los Angeles, CA, I’ve asked the average Joe on the street question:

“What GOP legislative act has positively impacted you?”

I queried 10 cab drivers, 6 Marriott hotel bar tenders, three concierges, 8 waitresses, and one newspaper reporter. Not one could immediately think of any one GOP legislative act that positive impact.

Here’s some quick facts. In mid-May 2015, the 114th Congress passed zero (0) jobs bills. Republicans voted five (5) additional times to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), bringing the total to 58. Additionally, all House Republicans voted against the student loan-refinancing bill. And lastly, does anyone know number of jobs that would be destroyed under the House GOP FY 2016 Budget? 2.9 million.

In talking with people, one emerging trend is clear. The average John Q’ Public has worked hard to build a life, buy homes and attempt to create a better life for their children. But in the last eight years, we’ve discovered those values are quite meaningless in darkest hour of unemployment and need. Painful lessons have been etched during those darkest hours. Tomorrow brings neither  a guarantee nor peace.

I want to see Trump go up there and do damage to the Republican Party,” said Jeff Walls, 53, of Flowood, Mississippi (NY Times Article, Rank and File Republicans Tell Party Elites: We’re Sticking With Donald Trump).

Ed and Deb Shapiro wrote the “… Buddha clearly taught about the dangers of greed, hatred and ignorance, what he called the three poisons that Trump seems to display quite frequently. Where greed grabs our desires, hatred uses fear to incite insecurity and then blames everyone else, while ignorance clouds our vision.”

The three fires of greed, hatred and ignorance destroy the mind from which they are born. — The Buddha

That’s Trump.

So to all GOP leaders stumbling upon my blog, Trump keeps winning. America knows Trump is an idiot, an asshole, remarkably narcissistic and will do anything to demean others. He’ll make a lousy president and wreck the economy even further.

America is saying Trump’s our candidate. And his candidacy was created in their darkest hour.

intoleranceIt’s Super Tuesday, March 1st and I stand in New York watching teletype and news media while wondering about the maturity of the United States electorate. I’m completely baffled as to how so many people could propel any of the current crop of candidates to office.

To answer my conundrum, we need to only look unto ourselves. The mirror need not go anywhere else, as our current electoral candidates only reflect our internal state of affairs. And for the moment, that reflection looks pretty awful.

The anger oozing from our candidates’ ooze from within our very breath. Each of us has become a honeycomb of hatred and vile. Dialogue and symmetry for the common good is assassinated by legalism, conservatism, liberalism or one issue voting.

The absurdity of Black Lives Matter and University of Missouri protesters reflect our incapability of common dialogue. Opportunities to move critical racial issues were tossed like yesterday’s news, managing to become only a mere byline on a newspaper’s forgotten page. I wonder what positive contribution could have been made without the screaming and violence. Yet Ferguson, Baltimore and New York fretted golden synergistic opportunities for civil disobedience moving little, if anything, forward.

Both GOP and Democratic candidates have issues.

The GOP has carved a difficult path forward. In the aftermath of raw hatred, degrading Muslims, Mexican’s, blacks, while calling other candidates liars, losers, has-beens and unheroic are ‘en vogue.’ A leading GOP candidate has labelled women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” How they move forward is a vision from its past.

On the Democratic side, one leading candidate proposed free education, healthcare overhaul and cutting prison population by 50% after the first four years. It’s ludicrous.

If we look at just the prison population issue, Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson tweeted Sanders’ promise raised a serious question:

Is it even possible, considering that the vast majority of the nation’s inmates are held in state, not federal, prisons?

Only 215,000 of the 2,000,000 million inmates are in federal prisons. The rest are in state and local facilities. So even if we abolished federal prisons altogether, the United States would still have more prisoners than any other country.

Many claim current “social action” processes proposed purportedly intend to benefit mankind. Yet, much of the current election cycle is based upon the notion that complex or critical thinking isn’t required. In fact, both of those are highly discouraged. At its core, the political message is fairly simple: grab a Bible; go to church once per week; hang a U.S. flag; buy a gun; and repeat the talking points being fed.

America’s issues are real and require hard choices. Real “social action” requires a range from simple individual acts of charity, teaching and training, organized kinds of service, “Right Livelihood” in and outside the helping professions, and through various kinds of community development as well as to political activity in working for a better society.

Instead, we’ve become cheerleaders for intolerance.

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