Tag Archive: Compassion


In the past several weeks Stephen Colbert, Kathy Griffin, Rena Aslan and Bill Maher have wandered into a world where many have ventured, yet few survived. Maher and Colbert have survived. Griffin and Aslan did not. Hate filled speech by comedians and commentator alike appear to be more raw in recent times. Maybe it isn’t more raw as more reported. In a world filled with iPhones and Galaxy whatever, if you spew hatred, you’re likely to be recorded.

Colbert, Griffin, Aslan and Maher should have been fired. And each in their own way will live with the consequences. Do I personally believe Colbert, Griffin and Maher are racists? No. You wouldn’t know that from some of vitriolic words spewed from all sides of the issue. Yet, Americans’ collectively yawn to the broader issues political leaders undermine weekly.

For those that wade into stupidity, public indignation is often swift and severe. However, while that same public and news media endlessly debates such racist diatribe, real life issues are silently condoned. It is within the public squabbling that business elite and politicians alike hope the public remains fixated. And within that fixation, politicians barter American lives as policy decisions are made, deals are cut and riches made.

As the Trump-Comey fight lingered in media headlines, Americans who need the most help in affordable health care will get purged under the Obamacare replacement plan. As Americans were glued to Comey’s testimony on Capital Hill, GOP Senators moved the House GOP healthcare plan toward passage. Hiding details, GOP Senators were making backdoor deals to coerce wavering Senators. With little fanfare, public debate or protests, we silently condone our fate, waiting for the privileged few to determine the fate of millions. It’s a process which has been repeated for thousands of years. We naively think, “Well, this time it’s different.”

It’s not.

The least among us will be detrimentally impacted for decades. As Americans and individuals, we must speak for those who cannot. Yet publicly, and individually, we are more apt to take a hands-off approach, turn our head to the cold wind ahead and silently thank fate that we aren’t affected. Don’t have health care? “Sucks to be you.” Is your marriage experiencing significant turbulence? “Sucks to be you.” Out of a job. “Whew. Sucks to be you.” Are you hungry neighbor? “Sucks to be you.” Have a bad President? “It’s ok. He’s different.”

Yesterday a coworker stated he opened his company assigned email and found a rather short, four line email from Human Resources, stating he was being reclassified from full-time to hourly. “If you want to continue health care insurance, you’ll need to contribute $500.00 on a bi-weekly basis.” No phone call. No Human Resources conference. Just an email. “Sucks to be you.

As a whole, we’ve ditched decency and embraced apathy, racism and hatred as acceptable values. “It’s ok. It’s different,” we’re told. In spite of living in highly racialized times, Americans appear rather indifferent to many social issues, including killing of innocent African-American citizens by police, bigotry towards Latinos, and outright condemnation of Muslims.

The golden rule propounded by Buddha is that you do not do unto others what you do not want others to do to you. We must get back to those values. What’s happening now is not ok.

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.

What Should I Have Done?

lsAs a preface, I write of an event at the large grocery store store located in Missouri. I will briefly describe an incident that occurred February 11th at approximately 1:20 PM while waiting for service at 20 items or less checkout lane. This event has haunted me since and I repeatedly ask, what should I have done?

From an outward perspective, the event is simplistic. Yet, my deeper emotion also indicates a potentially deeper theological, political and even a moral issue. So much so that my own moral obligation resonated throughout the night and into today.

Approximately 1:20 – 1:25 PM I entered the 20 items or less checkout lane, purchasing diet coke and one potato. A Middle Eastern woman wearing a brown Squere Hijab was in front and a store’s employee who I presume to be on break was behind me.

Most the woman’s item’s had been scanned before I entered the checkout line. Thus, only a few items remained. The cashier rang the customer’s final items and informed the woman of her charges. The woman proceeded to swipe her card through the Point of Sale system.

And nothing happened.

The customer looked at the cashier and said, “Nothing happened.

Looking over her shoulder, the cashier responded, “You obviously have no money left on your food stamp account or you entered the wrong PIN number.” Turning her head forward, she looked at me, briefly sighed and rolled her eyes.

And that was it. The heart of the entire event lasted approximately five seconds.

But what I saw in those eyes was complete contempt. For those five seconds, I saw total disdain, from business to customer, from human to human. More so, what bothered me all night was the fact I did nothing. And what should I, as a customer had done? While feeling an undying urge to standup for this ordinary woman, I sank into a darkness rarely experienced and said nothing.

Based upon a single and exceptional encounter, it’s strange how everyone crossed at that precise moment of time. More than likely, neither path will cross again. Still should each of us have taken a different approach? Could we?

I’m unsure if the cashier has ever been to any Middle East country, but I have. The terror, anguish and brutality Middle East women experience is horrendous. Maybe this specific customer overcome tremendous odds to make it here in America, only to be humiliated here at a St. Louis, MO grocery store. Then again, maybe this customer is second generation Middle Eastern woman who proudly honors her faith. Then again, maybe this customer was recognized by the cashier and the customer repeats this same process each week. I acknowledge each scenario as potentially valid.

As a business owner myself, I believe there is a teachable moment for each and everyone of us that five seconds can make a huge difference in the life of each and everyone of us.

But as a dedicated customer of this store, I remain haunted. I sit nearly 21 hours later and ask, “What should I have done?

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.

imageThe U.S. experienced two extreme discussions regarding racism. The week began with Rachel Dolezal and her belief in being black and ending with nine (9) shot dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The entire discussion of race seems so narrow. In reality, people with ancestors from Northern Europe or Japan tend to have lighter skin than people whose ancestors are from sub-Saharan Africa or Australia. The reason for these differences may have to do with the amount of sunlight in each place and how much melanin you have. The versions of the skin color genes tell your body how much melanin to make. All of this means that the difference between dark and light skin is only a few changes in DNA!

Yet with all these changes, the world uses skin color as the basis for discrimination, hatred and genocide.

Dolezal, who admittedly overstated and embellishing her childhood and ethnic identity, has been the dart board of the internet and television. From Buzzfeed reports to NBC’s Matt Lauer querying her upon whether she was a ‘con artist’ and or ‘Blackface.’ Others attacked her credentials, her family, her life and her accomplishments as if everything of one’s life could be claimed null and void.

Then came Dylann Roof, a bigoted man whose use of racial terrorism was violently displayed. Roof’s actions were designed to strike terror and fear. Yet, what ultimately occurred was a lesson of courage and grace. One relative claimed:

Everyone’s plea for your (Dylann Roof) soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win.

So who’s crime was worse? Dolezal or Roof?

What Dolezal critics missed is that by comparison to Roof, Dolezal claimed to have felt a spiritual, visceral, this feeling of central connection with black, embracing its beauty and wanting to celebrate that experience.

Her critics also negated her love and work.

They really don’t know what I’ve actually walked through and how hard it is. This has not been something that just is a casual, you know come-and-go sort of identity you know, or an identity crisis. It’s something that I’ve paid away.”

And through all the media and web mud slinging, has any journalist reported of her accomplishments?

“I don’t think anything that I have done with regard to the movement, my work, my life, my identity, I mean, it’s all been very thoughtful and careful, sometimes decisions have been made for survival reasons or to protect people that I love,” Dolezal said.

Many have struggled with questions of how to forgive those who carry out those horrendous acts. In a time of such deep grief, how do you forgive the unforgivable? Forgiveness is a spiritual practice. As such, forgiveness has been taught by Jesus, the Buddha, and many other spiritual teachers.

Practice forgiveness for our own sake, to be unlocked from anger, fear, and resentment. Doing otherwise gives those who wronged you an even greater victory than their original act. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church family members and vistims embraced forgiveness in a beautiful act of selflessness, something that can attempt to stop the seemingly endless cycle of hatred.

Ethel Lance’s daughter said:

“You (Roof) took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And [may God] have mercy on your soul.”

Myra Thompson’s relative, Anthony Thompson, told Roof:

“I forgive you and my family forgives you,” he said.

Forgiveness is poignantly illustrated in a well-known Tibetan Buddhist story about two monks who encounter each other some years after prison release where they were tortured.

Have you forgiven them?” asked the first.

I will never forgive them! Never!” replied the second.

Well, I guess they still have you in prison, don’t they?

In the spirit of forgiveness, it’s time to forgive Dolezal. Let her continue the mission of rights equality.

bs-md-protests-20141210-001You are suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines, right? Freddie Gray will never be back. Those windows will.

~DeRay McKesson to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer~

This past Sunday, I caught the dialogue between Sally Kohn and LZ Ganderson on CNN’s Reliable Sources. At the end of day, Mr. Ganderson posed a question, after all that’s been said and done in Baltimore, “Will anyone care?” Does America want change? Are we really committed to making lasting change?

As I thought about his question, DeRay McKesson’s activism proliferates my thoughts. Can society dialogue without destruction?

I want to believe there is a way to protest that is more than marching but not bloodshed,“ DeRay McKesson told The Washington Post.

And that’s where the protest movement fails. Against the long road of progress, protesting is easier. It’s quick. Raising the conscious thought of America is one thing. Making a last impact in society in and of itself is exhausting.

McKesson emerged from Ferguson a prominent organizer and activist. However, in the wake of Baltimore, Ferguson, New York and others, McKesson’s “Word To Action” online newsletter is nothing more than a list of tweets and quips. Little content actually brings people together to promote solutions.

To highlight, McKesson’s tweeted,

We have become too casual with the word violence — it refers to harm done to people. The police are the only violent ones here” and “Property damage is not violence, it is property damage. Violence is when people are hurt, injured, harmed. The police have been violent.”

Sometimes windows are never replaced. Sometimes businesses close. The Baltimore Sun reported that in addition to damaging an estimated 200 businesses, rioters torched 144 cars, including both police and civilian vehicles. City restaurants lost millions of dollars from a weeklong curfew and fear from long-term harm to Baltimore’s image.

In December 2014, the Baltimore Sun also noted,

The symbolic starkness of medical students sworn to save lives participating in a demonstration known as a “die in” showed just how wide-reaching protests have become.

“People of all races, all different types of people and all different kinds of organizations — not just civil rights organizations — are taking part,” Baltimore NAACP chapter president Tessa Hill-Aston said. “Everyone is seeing that there’s something wrong.”

Empowerment Temple of Baltimore has asked its congregants to wear black to Sunday services in honor of “unnamed African-Americans who have been brutally murdered by police,” church spokeswoman Nicole Kirby said.

So I ask, will society institute police reforms but fail to alter the culture? In and of themselves, police can’t resolve public problems alone. Ferguson’s city council passed several bills to establish a police review board, set limits on excessive court fines and fees exposed after Brown’s death. But substantive much-needed infrastructure investment and community solutions throughout America remains aloof. Solving racial disparity requires a variety of stakeholders creating bold initiatives and solutions that imprint new educational standards, employment and societal opportunities. Little of that effort exists.

To end, I paraphrase poet Ted Hughes. Wherever life takes me by surprise, and suddenly the artificiality proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, it is then we must throw ourselves into the front line. That’ what these moments require. It’s where society must come alive—even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. We must call upon our own resources—those real inner resources, to account, and love, to give, to provide comfort, to enjoy the simple notion that giving unto the man next to me is a worthy and just cause.

As Buddha said: live like a mighty river. Make plans and solutions as though they are the manna of life, then partake partake partake. This is how we get to where we need to be. Protesting is only an act. If any life matters, solutions are mandatory.

Turing“Do you know, this morning I was on a train that went through a city that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you. I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn’t for you. I read up, on my work, a whole field of scientific inquiry that only exists because of you. Now, if you wish you could have been normal … I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t.”

~ Character Joan Clarke, The Imitation Game ~

I am haunted by the character’s words.

Why?

Well, there’s a ballot initiative that rivals ISIS atrocities, calling for the execution of gays and lesbians. It’s called the Sodomite Suppression Act.

According to the attorney pushing the ballot initiative, the only way to save righteous Californians lives is enacting a “kill the gays measure” found in the Old Testament. The author’s fanatical reasoning is to prevent “all of us from being killed by god’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating wickedness in our midst, any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification shall be put to death by bullets to the head or any other convenient method; this by wise command of the good people of California.

This is not the first time for such stupidity.

In 1982, Congress held its first hearing AIDS. Only one reporter showed. Some Republicans and Reagan administration members cast AIDS as a “gay disease.” One Republican, Rep. Bill Dannemeyer of California, delivered a speech on the House floor titled “What Homosexuals Do” and read graphic descriptions of sexual acts into the Congressional Record. He also pushed to create a government register of AIDS patients, corralling those who were HIV positive into internment and deportation.

Still, our current war against LGBT rights progresses onward. Governor Bobby Jindal supports a Constitutional Marriage Amendment, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Arkansas Govenor Mike Huckabee purport anti-LGBT theology and retired neurosurgeon and possible GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson believes jail turns people gay.

Why must there be war on the LGBT? Why do we need a “Religious Freedom Act?” Does California really need a Sodomite Suppression Act?

Diversity is America’s strength. We aren’t better by being one and the same. If we were the same, all clouds would be the same. Every tree would be the same. Every child would be the same and individuality would disappear and indifference would rise.

If we shot members of the LGBT community, Elton John would be dead and the world doesn’t get Queens, “We Are The Champions.” The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by a gay Michelangelo, would have to be destroyed. Great works of art by Leonardo da Vinci shouldn’t exist; that includes the Mona Lisa and Last Supper. Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker or Swan Lake ceases to exist. There would be no theatrical plays from Tennessee Williams or Stephen Sondheim. Andy Warhol’s groundbreaking Campbell’s Soup Cans painting would be a dream and Independence Day would not have been filmed.

Would we shoot Leonard Matlovich, an openly gay technical sergeant and Vietnam War veteran who received the Purple Heart, before or after he served? Are we willing to forgo Alan Turing’s team cracking Germany’s Enigma code during World War II, shortening the war by two to four years and saving an estimated 14 million to 21 million lives? Last but not least, can any of us condemn the hundreds of thousands gay men and women walking and working in everyday life, performing random miracles love, often unnoticed?

Shooting, killing, intimidating, expropriating the LGBT community’s ability to perform or exchange business services and property is no better than Hitler. All we’d have done is change the decade of occurrence.

Graham Moore stunned and inspired the audience at the 87th Academy Awards with his deeply honest acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game.

When I was 16-years-old I tried to kill myself,” revealed Graham. “Because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here and so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different.

America! Stay different.

Someone Loves You, Live Safely

BullMy grandfather told of a neighboring farmer who placed a sign upon the fence of his pasture.

“Caution! If you want to cut across the field, you must run from one end to the other in 9.6 seconds. The bull runs it in 9.7.

You’d be surprised at the number attempting to outrun the bull.”

I recalled this story today as I drove down a highway and saw a Department of Transportation sign: Someone Loves You, Drive Safely.

Starting out as a mother-daughter driving lesson, Tammy Myers’ day ended in a volley of road rage-fueled gunfire. After an argument between Myers and another driver, Meyers drove home and summoned the help of an adult son and sent her daughter inside. Meyers and her armed 22-year-old son followed a car believed to have been involved in the road rage incident. Eventually, they stopped following and returned home. After arriving home, a car matching the description of the one followed began shooting, with Meyers’ son returning fire. A bullet struck 44-year-old Tammy Meyers in the head, killing her.

From a Buddhist perspective, we need to step back from the decisions we make and understand those which are suspect from the start. Meyers placed herself and family in undue risk by going home, requesting her son grab a weapon and searching for the offender. By reengaging the offender, Myer unduly increased the level of risk. By grabbing a weapon as a potential form of solution, she risk increased exponentially.

In nature, bees protect themselves against decisions spiraling out of control. They listen to what other bees say; explore contrary facts; change their minds when better alternatives appear; and make judgments without undue influence of others.

Before reason was set aside and emotions took precedence, there was a beautiful and fleeting opportunity for one side to stand naked in compassion and take the difficult road of understanding and reconciliation. With effort and compassion, all of us can shepherd compromise, become a voice of reason in the face of intolerance or ignorance. Perhaps Myers could have pointed out similarities and areas to which they agreed rather than exaggerating differences.

As Booker T Washington said, “I would permit no man, no matter what his color (or temperament) might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.

I’m convinced that had any party involved in Myers’ death taken the effort to be kind, listen and compromise, they might have been surprised just how far grace could have gone.

My grandfather had a caveat to the bull story.

“Had anyone presented the bull with several sugar cubes, the bull would have been a friend for life. Instead, almost everyone tested the bull … with most losing.”

Imagine what would happen if we found another way.

Someone Loves You, Live Safely.

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