All Means ALL

I don’t normally dig too deep into politics, or even into everyday events. Which is why you won’t hear me driving too deeply into the Charlottesville mess. At least not directly. Nor will I dig into Donnie’s responses and the lack-luster part of those responses. Because while politics of all kinds of levels touch my life – daily and otherwise – I refuse to let any of that tinge what I am or who I am. I don’t really care about race arguments, debates, and fights – not because I’m thrilled with being a white male with privilege. But because I refuse to join in on the label game. For me, people are people. We should all be treated equally – in life, how the law is applied to us, how we are taxed…what have you. We treat one another differently, in my opinion, because we are taught to do so. We are conditioned into a variety of ways to not only see differences between one another, but to also glorify those differences in any manner that we can.

I like to call this the “Us v. Them” complex. We want to be different than everyone else. We want to stand out. We want to be noticed immediately as being different. We want privilege to automatically apply because of those differences. Sometimes, we want to set the standard of what this or what that is. We want to be the epitome of that standard. Or we rebel against the standard by dressing differently, acting differently, talking differently. We want to create our own group where others cannot enter – particularly if they are not like us. We develop these cliques in high school, we continue to create cliques at our churches, our social functions, at work, in college – nearly everywhere we go. We look at those not like us with disdain. Who wants those people for friends? They aren’t the “right” people to be around me.

…and I have talked about this before. We label people. We place everyone into convenient containers that allow us to quickly determine what type of person that individual is or isn’t.

They wear all black clothing, dark lipstick, and makeup that makes their complexion look pale. They smoke clove cigarettes, and wear anklets or bracelets or collars adorned with spikes. Women like that have loose morals. Men like that are aggressive and just prefer to be violent all the time.

Nine Hells, if I followed that advice, which incidentally came directly from my late mother, I wouldn’t have half of the friends that I have now. And I would be missing out on some of the people that I treasure deeply in life today. All because I followed some inane labeling concept of what a person was or wasn’t. But I decided, back when I was in my late teens, that I just didn’t want to be in a world that was so monochrome. Painting people with a broad brush of stereotyping would get me nothing. I would miss out on the Punks that I became friends with. Or the Goths. Or the Preppy types. Or the Rednecks. Or the Loners. The Geeks. The Freaks. The Nerds. The Jocks. All because I let a set of labels and definitions divide me from them.

Sure, there are a few people that fit the stereotype and definitions associated with that. So what? Talking with these people allowed me to see a different side of the world. And you can change all of that into the racial labeling that goes on as well. If I had paid heed to why this person wasn’t worthy to talk to – I would have missed out on some very special friendships that I managed to work with.

Tony – whose name is changed here – was literally a card-carrying neo-Nazi skinhead when I met him. He never had a kind word for me. He even beat the smeg out of me one night. I had nearly given up on the concept of having a semi-intelligent conversation with him. But he eventually he stopped doing things, and asked what my deal was. See, no matter had happened the previous day, when I passed him in the dormitory hallway, I always said “good morning” to him. So, I asked him to come over to the end stairwell, and have a sit, a smoke (he smoked, I didn’t), and a conversation. We talked, we disagreed on a lot of things, we agreed on very few things. Five cigarettes later, we got up, shook hands and went different directions. The next four years there were lots of times to talk. We never changed one another’s minds. I cared about everyone regardless of skin color, he only cared about whites. Twenty-two years later, I ran into him in a bar called The Bomb Factory in Dallas. We talked a bit to catch up, and I asked about the racist attitude. “Dropped it,” he said. “Didn’t fit with what I turned into.” “What’s that?” I asked, literally on the edge of my bar stool. “I became a human being. Everybody’s gotta make their own way on this ball of dirt. You taught me that back at college.”

If I had heeded the labels and definitions that we create for ourselves and within society, I would never have had that conversation with Tony. Was I the one to change him? Nine Hells, no!! Tony changed himself. I only provided a different window for him to look out of. And I honestly doubt I would have ever made a difference, if I spent my time shouting at him, or trying to bash his skull in with my staff. People in Charlottesville didn’t want to talk…they wanted to shout over the other side. Loudest side wins, ya know??

Except that it doesn’t. Simple, plain discussion is what gets heard. REALLY gets heard. All of this started with the desire for the removal of Confederate statues. Absolutely. Let’s remove the statues. Let’s put these things into a museum, where they really belong. Where all of this can be noted for what it is – the adoration of a group of people that decided to step away from the union of the United States over a myriad of differences…the easiest of which to understand was the subjugation of people into a lower class based solely on the pigmentation of their skin. Its not the sole reason for the parting, and to truly understand the reasoning behind the Civil War is a complex, difficult thing. But overt racism was one of those reasons. And there were those that adored these leaders of the Confederacy for just that reason. These statues are the proof of that.

Much like the concentration camps of World War II are still open to the public to tour…these statues need to be set somewhere in a museum so that we don’t forget. Not that we don’t forget who these men were, and what they stood for, but rather for what the statues came to symbolize as our country got further and further from the Civil War. And in that same museum needs to be statues of those who fought for equal rights. Equal rights for blacks. Equal rights for women. Equal rights for all. Because that is the struggle that I keep thinking today is losing the sight of. Instead  of fighting the Civil War all over again….let’s change the narrative to fighting for equality for all. So let’s keep one set of labels:

ALL: which means everyone.

Human Beings:  which replaces all the racial, gender, etc etc labels out there and applies to ALL [see first label].

#TwoPence

That’s Me

The past two days, I have been talking about the “abridgment of Ann Coulter’s free speech rights” by the University of California at Berkeley. Or at least, that’s the way that Coulter has been spinning the narrative. The reality has been that UCB was trying to keep their campus in a state of a “safe environment” for their student populace – a number one priority for any University or College. What has started to come out of all of this conversation – both in face-to-face discussions and online – has seemingly come down to a labeling of me by quite a few.

So let’s get a few things out in the open.  I’ve talked about labels and my dislike for them before. I even wrote a poem about it. Yes, I know the world works via labeling. Its convenient to pile a lot of these similar things over here. And some of those things that are similar to one another, but not the first group in another pile over here – and so on. It makes it easy to understand what we believe is the basic nature of this, that, and those others. Except it doesn’t.

I have been labeled a lot of things. Crazy. Odd. Hippy. Old. Out of touch. Headbanger. Punk. And so on. The reality is that I ascribe to three labels. Pagan. Priest. Druid. For me, these three labels are who I am. These three labels are what I am. What I say, what I do, the way I do it – all reflects, in my opinion, on who I am as a Pagan, a Priest, and a Druid. As I told Scott (I’m sorry to throw this into the post, Scott – its not a reflection on you, but on what I am saying) earlier today on Facebook:

I don’t identify myself as much. I’m a Pagan, I’m a Druid, and I’m a Priest. My personal perspective of politics tends to lean towards the assignment of being a liberal, but liberal doesn’t define me. Its an ideology that I utilize from time to time. That doesn’t make me a liberal, it makes me….well…”me”. My actions, words, and personal worldview aren’t defined by politics. Its framed by my beliefs, by the way I serve my Gods, and the by the manner in which I find my connections in the world around me. My political striping is merely a singular – and honestly, rather minor – connective string in all of that.

I’ve mentioned before my aversion to the label of “Priest” – and then came back to revisit the concept a second time. So, in a way, this concept of defining labels is something I have talked about quite a bit. But there’s a reason for that. I don’t believe a word, which has a meaning ascribed to it by our wide-ranging concept of “society”, can truly be a complete descriptive of a single person. I’m a Druid – an Ovate grade student in OBOD. Cat Treadwell is also a Druid. So is John Beckett. So is Damh the Bard, Philip Carr-Gomm, Kristoffer Hughes, and so many other people I know. Not one of us is the same Druid. We all bring our own individual persons into what we are. To utilize a single descriptive of “Druid” and apply a wide-ranging, generic descriptive to all of us captures *some* of who we are, but it by no means is a complete descriptive of who we are. We are all individual human beings who approach our beliefs, approach our understanding of the Gods, and our perception of connectivity differently. And this unique approaches are what makes us the people we are. Not some singular, generic descriptive of a singular aspect of who we are.

Most interesting in all of this, it seems that politics – particularly American politics for me, are what showcase the nonsensical concept of singular word descriptives of people. Its almost as if politics takes the labeling concept and wraps it in the dull, glowing light of flash-fired neon lights down the Vegas Strip. Are you a conservative? Are you a liberal? Well, honestly I have liberal leanings, as well as some libertarian theories, and some aspects of classic conservatism wrapped up in my politics. So what does that make me?

Well, damnit, it makes me who I am. A Pagan. A Priest. A Druid. That’s me.

Against All Aggressors – Foreign and Domestic

Well, tomorrow is the “big” day for the little-hands guy. And I get where folks are fearing the worst. Donnie’s definitely got that in him. There’s folks that will be marching in protest. Awesome. All the folks denigrating these marchers – shut up. They are doing what they feel they need to, and in a manner of their choosing. They have that right, and they are exercising it. Let them do so.

Me?  Well, I won’t be marching. I won’t be protesting. But I will be watching. See, I’m ex-military. My enlistment oath had a line in it concerned with the protection of the Constitution against aggressors – foreign and domestic. At this point, Donnie’s made noises about bending the Constitution and the basic rights of peoples in this country. If I were a wolf, my ears would be perked up, and I would be watching over the field. Let’s just say that this is precisely where I am. I am watching. My interest has been increased because of some of the nutty things he has said. But anyone has the right to say nutty things. Its when he puts those nutty things into motion, where he actually fractures, breaks or flat out places himself above the Constitution – that’s where I go from watching to action.

What would I do? I honestly have no idea at this point. But I certainly will weigh my options and determine a course of action. Violent overthrow or violent action against the government? Not really. Not yet. That would be the ultimate last resort, and like President Obama I have faith in the American citizenry to keep its government in check.

So Donnie will raise his tiny hand and swear an oath similar to my oath of enlistment. I take my oath very seriously. I left the United States military services back in 1994. My enlistment oath, as far as I am concerned, continues to apply to me to this very day and beyond. I keep a very keen eye on the various governmental entities that provide governance to our daily lives. I measure what they do, and see where it holds water as being within the guidelines set forth by the US Constitution. I have seen where the US Constitution has been severely bent, but very rarely broken. As a citizen of my own state (Texas), I have made my voice known on various issues from time to time. Sometimes with no discernable action taken on the part of my elected representation, and sometimes definite steps on their part. My vigilance, along with the same on the part of everyone else, is what our government needs to understand. The statement that our government should fear its citizens, not the other way around, is true. But it shouldn’t fear an armed and violent overthrow. Our governments at every level should fear that its citizenry is watching, armed with knowledge at the next election cycle.

It will take a while for newer voters, the younger generation coming into the voting rolls, to understand how this concept of eternal vigilance as a citizen will come to be. In the meantime, much like the wolf at the edge of the forest – I wait. I listen. I weigh options in my mind. And when the time comes, I try to influence wrongs with the slightest of nudges. The howl of the wolf in the night places fear into the individual at the fire because a single wolf howl may mean more wolves are about. Silent. Watching. Waiting. When I voice my perspective to a representative, I remind them that I may be single voice writing or calling them – but there are many more who think the same way that I do.

I watch. I listen. I calculate. I act, when I need to. Donnie might not understand that right now – though I suspect he does – but one misstep across the unforgivable line of Constitutional rights is all it will take. And people have every right to fear what they are perceiving. That’s only natural. But remember, I am only one. A single sentinel that watches from the prairie lands of north central Texas. There are many, many others that are watching too. That is the checks and balances that are in place between government and citizenry. So long as we protect and cherish the rights and freedoms we have been given – individuals such as Donnie need to be fearful of the ever watchful citizenry.

Tomorrow is his day in the sun, so to speak. This weekend will be the time of citizenry here in the United States to voice support or opposition to his Presidency. The next four years will be another period of vigilance and observation by many others, myself included. Against ALL aggressors – foreign and domestic.

Too Little, Too Late? I Can Only Hope Not….

Well, hello. It is a cloudy, cold day here in Texas. Wait five minutes…that might change. However, it is a new calendar year. And eventually, the long cold of Winter will take hold. I hope. When I was in Ireland at the end of this past year, and the beginning of this one – it was warm there (in the 40f to 50f range) compared to the 20f range back here in Texas. Arriving back in Texas, it got into the 70f range here. ::sigh:: Winters have always been weird here in Texas.

So, with my return back to Texas, it is time to get the blog rolling again. And there is a lot to talk about. With a new President-elect stumbling into office like a drunken thug…times look to get contentious and “interesting” here in the States. But as I have posted before, we will make it through – together. Then there are the recurring dreams….well, let’s start there – shall we?


 

Dreaming is one of the strongest connections I have with my two Gods and my singular Goddess. I have many, many entries in my Dream Journal about moments with Them. I also have many other entries about odd dreams, and recurring ones. The latest recurring dream deals with something I have already posted about during my time in Ireland. The wall. Not Donnie’s idiotic dream of separating the United States from our Mexican neighbors. No, this wall separates parts of cities and towns. Where “good” citizens are protected from those not like them.

img_0236

What I am referring to is something similar to the so-called “Peace Wall” in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When I first saw the wall, I heard a very distinctive voice in my mind – Fliodhas – telling me that this a glimpse at a future that could be. Once the bus stopped along a stretch of the wall, I was able to stand across the street from it and realize the starkness in its existence. Painted up with graffiti like a prototypical streetwalker, it seemed to be a semi-sweet reminder of days gone by. After all, attacks between Catholics and Protestants have been on the decline for quite some time. Both sides seemed to be making friendly. Belfast is quiet.

But that makeup is a farce. If there were peace between the two sides, the electronic gates that close up streets that run through this saccharine emblem would no longer close at night. People would be free to travel both sides of this division at any time of the day or night. Peace? Calm? No. You can feel the Storm’s rise in the city. The issues that divide these two sides still fester. The energy from that fouls the entire atmosphere of this city. Politically, there’s a left/right divide that mirrors that of the United States. The difference between the States and Northern Ireland, is that Northern Ireland is more well schooled in the physically violent aspect.

During Donnie’s run towards the Presidency, the political rallies that he held were tinged with protesters trying to make a point of how dangerous his regime may be. And those rallies were also tainted with the often violent responses to these protesters by his followers that were in nearby seats. And all that was done with Donnie’s encouragement from the podium. Now, with Donnie getting ready to set his bum on the highest seat in the American political landscape – images of divided communities staring at walled off areas where non-conformists are kept is not difficult to discern. Those images are easily found in my dreams.

There is no cute and colorful graffiti found on those walls. No statements written by visitors who are presented this stark reminder of what divided society can look like. There is nothing but the cold, stark, gun-metal grey of walls made of steel and metal. The top is graced with razor wire, and watchtowers on the “good” side blot the linear skyline that the wall provides. This wall does not separate two populaces from one another to avoid fighting. This wall is designed to separate “wanted” populations from those that would pollute the “good” society.

We, humankind, have built walls like this before. Remnants of this can be found throughout Europe, where the Nazis walled off parts of the cities to create the Jewish ghettos. As Roger Daltrey belts out in a Who song called “Eminence Front”….

The news slows
People forget
Their shares crash, hopes are dashed
People forget

Yes, we forget. We forget what we have done to one another – in the name of ideology, in the name of religion, in the name of Big Oil, in the name of skin color….in the name of so many things. And one day, we will wake up, look around us and see what’s been done in the name of….whatever. And we will remember that was done before. And we will vow to never do it again. Until the next time.

When I heard the Gods telling me that the Storm was coming, I could not see a reason to grab my staff and utilize it for more than assisting my old ass in walking. The Storm arrived, and I was ready to fight, but still did not understand what I was fighting. I arrived in Ireland in late December, still unaware of what there was to fight. Then in Belfast, Northern Ireland…standing at the Peace Wall and seeing what a divided society looks like, I understood. I can only hope that my effort to help is not a measure of too little, too late.

One Step at a Time, One Issue at a Time.

I still remember the mantra.

One step at a time. One issue at a time. Take things in the order you need to. Solve each issue, so that you can solve the next issue.

Back in Air Force Basic Military Training, this was the mantra that one of our drill instructors taught us. TSgt Moody was a very strict disciplinarian. Her point to all of us – fifty-two young men – was that we could beat the Confidence Course (an Obstacle Course that we had to finish in under a specified time), if we tackled each obstacle one at a time. If we were focused on the Tower (the obstacle I hated because of its sixty-three foot height), we might make mistakes on other obstacles ahead of it.

In the end, I finished the course with two and a half minutes to spare. I did so by following her mantra. Each obstacle had to be overcome, beaten, conquered before I could think of the next one. When I finished the course, I felt that I had accomplished something with a tool set I had never realized I had before:  my own sheer will.

Not even a year later, I found myself applying the same mantra to doing something that completely terrified me. My first duty assignment was at Carswell Air Force Base, and my first job was working in the base telephone switchboard until my clearance would be granted. Aside from answering and placing telephone calls, as well as providing phone numbers for folks that asked for various base locations, I also had to conference commanders together for radio and secure conference calls. These were people with ranks like Colonel and General, extremely high-placed individuals on the base. Trying to insure that they were pleased with my performance was stressed by both my duty section supervisor and the civilian workers who had been in this position for years. My first attempt at making a conference using both secured telephone connections and over-the-air hand-held radios was a sheer disaster. I was literally terrified of these upper-level commanders yelling at me. Shortly afterwards, it dawned on me, this was just another obstacle to overcome. I studied the steps needed to make the conference calls. I learned each motion. And when the second call came in, I connected all the commanders in what was considered record time. One step at a time. One issue at a time. Until resolution. That methodology has allowed me to remain calm in the face of most issues. Some people think I’m frenetic, but the reality is that I am calm inside. I solve one step at a time, and move on to the next one. I try to resolve the issue at hand.

On the morning of November 9th of this year, I woke up and checked the news. What I had realized the previous night had turned out to be true:  Donnie and Mikey had been elected to the positions of President and Vice President of my country. It was an election I had somewhat feared, but had braced myself for, nonetheless. I was in a state of shock for about three days. To this day, I still refuse to acknowledge the Republican nominee as being my President. Sure, some can see that as childish, but its no different than what was done when President Obama was elected to both of his terms. Its now the end of the month of November.

Many of the people I know are scared and upset over the election of this turd as President. And with good reason. He made statements during the election about changing laws regarding the equal treatment of people. He made demeaning statements against people of color, people in non-traditional lifestyles. Since he has been elected, he has made statements about changing laws regarding free speech rights. In short, he has turned the concept of human rights in this country back to what is nearly the 1950s. But that’s just his statements. There’s still the changing of the laws.

Remember the mantra?  One step at a time. Sure, Donnie can make the statements that he wants to. That’s free speech. Changing the laws?  That’s a different step. And that’s where I, as a veteran and a taxpayer of this country, draw the line. He can make all the statements that he wants, but when he starts to change the laws – that’s where stuff gets real.

Right now, I am grounding myself into my own daily practices. I venerate my Gods and Goddess daily. I continue to draw experience and strength from the connections with my local area. In short, I have gotten back to doing the things that make me the Pagan, the Druid, and the person I am. I wear a safety pin to signify that I am safe for those needing me. I will also not stand by when someone is berated or even physically attacked by others. I will step in. I will let the blows rain on me rather than them. I will fight back to keep us both safe. That’s my first steps. Where the next steps come from, I’m not sure yet – but I am ready to take those that are necessary. I won’t speculate how far that might be – I’ll worry about that when the situation comes about. In the meantime, I focus on the now.

One step at a time folks. That means assessing where you are now, and what needs to be done now. Once that is completed, what is the next step to take? Or is the issue resolved? If there is nothing there to take action on, reaffirm who you are. Be the person that you are. If you are a Polytheist, connect back with your Gods and Goddesses. Reaffirm those things that make you the Polytheist that you are.

Some of you are stronger into politics and stuff like that than I am. Be sure of what steps you need to take in that world as well, if that’s where you are. For me, its time to start scouting through all the people out there to find a political candidate I can believe in. Someone who stands with me on the issues that are the ideological pillars of what I believe. And once I locate someone who is close to that, I will begin trying to see how to get this individual to the forefront of the Presidential run in 2020. The race for 2020, as far as I am concerned started on November 9th. Time to handle the first step — find a candidate to support.

Remember….one step at a time. I cannot change who is President. But I can resist to the best of my ability. I can be a protector for those that need it. And above all, I can continue to strive to be the Pagan, Druid, and Priest that I am meant to be, which will keep me grounded in the right direction for everything else. Because THAT is what I am. No apologies. No explanations.

#TheStormIsHere

So, its November 9th. Depending on how you voted, either your revolution came true, or you heard the iron gates of the concentration camp slam shut. Overly dramatic? Reading through posts on nearly every social media platform, I would say it certainly is not.

Quite a while back, I asked what would happen if your candidate does not win? Would you ask for proof of how an individual voted before you helped to pull their vehicle out of the ditch on a snowy night? Apparently, there are some folks hitting that knee jerk reaction. I have seen several statements of “if you voted for [x] delete yourself from my friend’s list now.” Look, I understand that kind of angry response, especially if you were pinning all your hopes for changes in our government to a single individual running for the Presidency of the United States. But the President is only one small piece of that puzzle. The position is the forward-looking face from this country to the rest of the world. Legislative, money-related decisions, treaty-work and even the function of declaring war belongs to the Congress, which gets far fewer looks from the public in any election year. Its because the position is a whole lot less sexier. Nobody in the rest of the world cares about Representative Cattlegrazer whose constituency is the several dozen of folks living in eastern Montana. No international glitz, no sexiness to the position. This is why the Presidency gets such a strong look, or I should say one of the many.

So, Donnie has become the President of the United States. Great. No seriously, great. We survived eight years of Reagan, we will survive four years of Trump. Last night, before I went to bed, I wrote the following on my Facebook status:

….many of us have heard the words from the Gods and Goddesses we work with. We have heard the whispers on the wind. We have seen the signs. We are past the time of preparing. The leading edges of the coming storm arrived a while back. Now the teeth of that storm are here. Now its time to shelter. Now is the time to look out for those less fortunate than you. And for you warriors out there, you know quite well what is going to be expected of you… Be prepared, be aware, be wary, fight when necessary, flee when necessary to survive, help those that cannot defend for themselves. Its time. #thestormishere

Its definitely true. I have written about the coming Storm before. Now, I am not saying its going to look like 1980s communist Russia, but there is a chance that freedoms for many of us are going to be tightly curtailed under this coming administration. Some have prepared for all of this, others have waited until recently to get ready. However, with this coming administration, we – Pagans, LGBTQ, “fringe” religions, and many others – must live our lives being very aware of our environment. We are going to have to be ready to stand up for those who cannot do so for themselves. We are going to have to check on our Elders more frequently. We are going to need to band together in communities of solidarity. We were wanting change, we got some of that. Now, we cannot rely on our government or our political allies to do this. We want change? We are going to have to make that change ourselves. That means taking a stand where we have been in silent reserve to issues. If we want change, we are going to have to this TOGETHER.

Running to Canada might be option for a few. I joked with Mojo and Sparrow of the Wigglian Way that they would meet me at the Washington/Canada border with a duffel bag. They could stuff me in the duffel, and then smuggle me across the border. But that’s wishful thinking. I have a home here, in north Texas. I have three cats that rely on me for their safety and meals. I am not about to leave my furry girls behind. I have friends and extended family here within the United States as well. I will be here to help and harbor them as best I can. I am no warrior, but I will not leave those that I love to be defenseless.

No, running is not the answer. Being completely cutoff from the larger community is not an answer either. I live a long way from either the DFW or OKC Pagan communities. But now is the time to reach out and connect with them. If we are going to make it through the next four years, we are going to have to do it together. Through Solidarity, not being apart. It is far easier to beat an opponent when you can take on a small piece here or there at your leisure. We must stand together, if we are to manage through the storm.

Pointing fingers of blame as to why Donald Trump pulled out a victory for the Presidency does no one any good. Looking at a Clinton candidacy against Trump versus a Sanders candidacy versus Trump does no one any good. Being prepared for the potential curtailment of freedoms for various peoples that do not fit “comfortably” into a Trump vision of America is a better way of looking at things.

I asked before….what would you do if Trump were elected? We are past the point of answering that. His presidency will be here in January as the duly elected individual. The questions that we need to face now are far different. What would you do if the rights of Muslims are curtailed in the name of the war on terrorism? What would you do if the freedoms of LGBTQ individuals are curtailed – simply because of their status? What if the marriages of that same community are considered to be null and void? We have always look to our government o stand for the rights of these individuals. What if the government is the one that is coming to remove the rights of those individuals? If we want change….real, honest, permanent change. We are the ones that are going to have to do it.

In Babylon 5, when the Centauri conquet the Narn for a second time, G’kar issues the following statement before he is forced off the Babylon 5 Council by Londo:

No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power tyrants and dictators cannot stand. The Centauri learned that lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free.  –G’kar

…and then there’s my version of that….

….when you push a populace further down, you foment rebellion. Even the most logical individual will lash out at the curtailment of their freedoms. Republicans and Democrats understood this before…after this election cycle is done, its up to us, the citizens of this country to teach it to them again.

We need to take care of each other. We need to look out for those that cannot defend themselves. We need to make sure that those who are less fortunate among us have what we can give to them. You want change? You want permanent change? We have four years to plan to the next election cycle for President. Lick your wounds today. Tomorrow, we need to find a new way.

Yah…the Election is Coming to a Close

Well, election day is coming here in the United States. From my perspective, vote how you want to vote (or not at all). You don’t need to explain your choice to anyone beyond yourself. For me, my interest in the election cycle is really starting to wane the closer we get to election day. In fact, for me there’s a lot more important issues to deal with. There’s the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline protest, for one. There is the perspective of working on my own Spiritual Path, and following what Crow keeps pointing me towards. Yes, all of that matters far more than an election.

See, no matter who gets elected, America will continue to function in the form it currently has. The Democrats are not coming for your guns. The Republicans are not going to abolish the Congress and create their own vision of America under a reformed Constitution. There are checks and balances built into the system. Plus, there’s a military that’s sworn to protect the Constitution at all costs. Yes, there are orders to follow the President, but the protection of the Constitution supersedes that. Nearly every military member – part, present or future – will tell you that the oath concerning the protection of the Constitution is the primary mission of the military.

Now, do I fear an election of a presidential candidate with whom I disagree? Not one bit. Do I fear a foreign policy of a candidate I don’t agree with? Definitely. But I also know that Congress and the Supreme Court are the checks against a President that commits combat troops on a whim. Should a government change the rules, illegally amend or suspend the concept of the Constitution, I’ll be one of the first to take up arms to overthrow such a government. My oath of enlistment still pertains, long after I have left the military. And that is precisely why I do not fear a Clinton or Trump presidency. I know that whichever one gets elected, there will be enough eyes on them to keep an abuse of power from happening. And should such an abuse occur, there are many who have sworn to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution of the United States as the guiding principles to what this country is about.

So, go and vote for whomever you want. I might disagree with your choice. So what? Its your choice. Make it. Vote it. And remember, you don’t need to justify it to anyone. Except yourself.

 

The Hippies Were Right: Be Kind to One Another

I have taken to not writing much on the weekends. Typically, I use the two days I get off from work as ways to try and replenish who I am. Walks. Spending time at my circle in the backyard. Reading. Listening to lectures and music. You know, just generally avoiding the television and the insane twenty-four-hours news cycle that seems to permeate everything.

This morning – a Sunday – finds me sitting here at the keyboard of my Mac, drinking coffee, scratching the ears of the youngest cat (Kaylee) and listening to a concert from September 2015 by Phil Lesh, the former bassist of the Grateful Dead. Yeah, I have more Grateful Dead, and Grateful Dead related music material than anything else. I definitely am an individual born into the wrong generation.

I kid people at work, and tell them constantly that they don’t want my input on projects. I would only infect it with my hippie perspective. Except that I am not kidding about that. I bring a hippie perspective to nearly everything I do. Yes, I was born to the wrong generation, I firmly believe that.

img_9678Now, when my coworkers hear that I am a hippie, smoking weed immediately comes to their minds. Or doing some form of consciousness-altering drugs. Nothing could really be further from the truth. I smoked weed once in my life, in the parking lot of Hamel’s Amusement Park in Shreveport. After one pull, I promptly barfed my toenails up. And harder drugs just never appealed to me to even try. I had friends that got hooked on cocaine. The aftermath of what it did to them was warning enough to me. But I do enjoy whiskey…just a little too much. I’m a mean drunk, so I watch my alcohol intake very closely. And I know how I am around whiskey, so I don’t venture too far from a couple of IPA beers for the night – provided I am not driving. But the mythology of hippie culture being nothing more than drug-soaked indulgence…total nonsense, at least from my perspective.

But. The hippie culture was about loving one another. And not just in a sexual way. Mickey Hart made the proclamation of “Be kind to one another” at the end of the 50th anniversary concerts in Chicago last year. I have quoted that many, many times here in the blog. And for me, that is the one driving mantra of the hippie culture – to be kind to one another. You saw that in the Burning Man festivals from a few years ago. People who needed something to eat were provided that from nearly anywhere. Sadly, Burning Man became something that was “hip” – and the folks that have come to this event now bring their own security, and keep out people that they consider to be “undesirable” from their camps.

For me, the hippie mentality is one of inclusion. After all, we are all part of the same human race. Skin color means nothing. Height, weight, hair color, eye color, personal musical preferences, sexual orientation, gender identity, even political affiliation – none of that excludes you from the being a human being. And somehow, we manage to forget this every four years – particularly here in America.

Its called the Presidential election cycle. And every four years, we divide ourselves into smaller factions and make proclamations about how bad the other side is. We resort to insults. Yes, even I have done this in this political season. I am not fond of what the Republican nominee stands for. Not so long ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of the zombies from the TV series “The Walking Dead” wearing the “Make America Great” hats and carrying some of the yard signs for the Trump campaign. Shame on me for doing that. In essence, I got caught up in the “Us v. Them” breakdown that happens in every Presidential election cycle.

Ok. Take a moment, and close your mouth. Don’t be in too much disbelief over what I just said. And here’s why. On November 9th, what are we – as a collective nation going to do?  Think about it. There’s a fair chance that Donald Trump could be the President of the United States. There’s an equal chance that Hillary Clinton could be President of the United States. What are you going to do when the candidate that is not your choice, wins? Riot in the streets? Grab your gun and shoot every supporter of that candidate until you feel satisfied with thinning out the gene pool? Board up all the windows in your home, and wait for an inevitable nuclear strike? What are you going to do if YOUR candidate DOES win? Are you going to gloat over how your candidate was really the ONLY choice that Americans could make? Or maybe, you might consider a different tactic…

What about going on with your life as you did on November 7th, just before the election? What about extending a hand to your neighbor who voted for the OTHER candidate? Are we going to start checking voter affiliation and asking who people voted for President before we provide assistance to them in their time of need? Maybe, we do go that route of pure political division. But I have faith in human beings.

I do believe we can put aside our political differences. We can stop regarding one another by the color of our skin, or how much money we make doing our mundane jobs. I have faith that we will eventually figure out that we are all part of the human race. That all the other divisions that come about from birth or from personal choices and preferences, won’t be seen as factors that keep us from working together. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. And by the Gods, I share in that dream. But to get there…as I regard our current election….we have a long way to go.

I want to thank Nadia for planting this into the foreground of my thoughts. Sometimes, it is the most controversial topics that can bring about some of the most inspired thinking. Thank you for planting that seed of thought….

 

It Really is a Rigged Political System….

….just not the way you might think it is. No, its not rigged like the Donnie thinks it is. It is; however, fairly close to what Senator Sanders said.

For those of you outside of the United States, I understand that this particular post might not be your particular brand of meat. I promise not to linger on American politics much more than this single post though. So, please forgive me this one transgression.

The American political system truly is rigged. It is not rigged so that Secretary Clinton will get elected. It is; however, rigged so that the Republican and Democratic parties will remain in favor.  As well as pull down the most monies in the “matching funds” pot from tax refunds, among other goodies, including a permanent stranglehold on Congressional (and thus budgetary and legislative) powers. That’s right. Third parties are essentially frozen out of the entire equation. From impossibly high hurdles to gain a spot on the national stage for debates, to aggressively impossible tasks towards getting candidates on state and local ballots – third parties are kept at bay by the two powers in charge.

But before we all start charging out of our houses, affixing bayonets to the ends of our staves, and trying to take the local courthouse by force. Let’s take a quick look at how to fix the system. And it is easy. Believe it or not, the Tea Party showed everyone how it can be done. They just never followed through on the end result. The way to make this work is local grassroots. Local elections. Win the bottom of the ballot offices. Show that candidates of your third-party choice have the ability, desire, guts, and yes….stamina… Wha?  Its true…stamina. In it for the long haul. Show other folks that party (x) candidates have what it takes to hold offices, make PROPER changes, and then move up the ballot to the county, and state. Eventually up to the National Legislature, and…eventually the Presidency.

The Presidency. The weakest, but most well-known political position in the United States. Congress holds the budget strings. Congress holds the legislative strings. That’s where the real power lays. But holding Congress, along with the Presidency – that’s a pure mix for getting legislation through. That’s the formula for making change. But that’s getting ahead of where we need to be. The mistake that the Tea Party made. They pushed through the local, county and state. They provided their viable candidates. When they started taking the National offices, they started not paying attention to the base that got them there – local, county, state (lcs)….and they lost a lot of their support. Now, they are playing catch up to resolidify their movement. But they have shown themselves to not be caring about the lcs aspect, and that’s cost them some voting support.

So….now for my formula for how to handle an election where the candidates that are offered are so bad, you just can’t make a choice between them. My solution?  Don’t. Leave that part of your ticket blank. But be sure you vote your candidates in the lcs aspects of your ballot. If the congressional stinkers have a candidate you can support, vote there too. But if you just look at the Presidential candidates and cannot find a good reason to vote FOR any of them. Then don’t. Or, if you prefer, pick the least worst candidate and vote for them. Don’t fall prey to the mantra my late father tried to feed me time and time again:

If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.

My response to him, much later in life than when I was eighteen and voting for the first time in my life:

That bullshit. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. Your vote, my vote, falls under that right. Its our opinion being tallied. And if we choose not to vote, we are voicing an opinion. Just not one that is being tallied directly. Its our CHOICE to vote. Our vote is our voice. Our freedom to voice that choice, voting or not, is our RIGHT.

Don’t worry. If you feel I haven’t swayed you, that’s all right. It wasn’t my purpose in writing this. Besides, it didn’t sway my father’s opinion either. And the world didn’t end then. Its not going to end this election, either. But I really do believe…if we want to change the system. If we want to get more choices. If we want to get better choices. We have to start small, and allow things to grow. And nurture the movements we believe in. That’s how we are going to change the system. Not by electing a President. But by electing a whole bunch of people to a whole bunch of political offices. That’s the way we make the system change.

The Whispers From the Four Directions

Do you hear the sound on the wind?
The beating wings of crows?
Do you hear that on the wind?
The whisper of Andraste and Segomo
Do you hear the spears and swords beating on shields?
Teutates! Teutates! Teutates!
For the protection of Land!
For the protection of Tribe!
For the protection of kindred Spirit!
Standing Rock is the battle line.
—Robyn Birchleaf, 9/7/16

Its been a while since I have dusted off of my old poetry moniker. Back in my early days as a Wiccan, this was also my “Craft” name. Eventually, Wicca faded as a part of my life, but the moniker continues as my writing name.

This piece of poetry I wrote last night. I had set some music from the Johnny Whitehorse series of albums on rotation, and pulled on my headphones to block out noise. As I listened, I let my mind wander to my inner grove, while watching my stone circle in the backyard being bathed by the sprinkler system. It eventually brought my mind to the perspective of water, which naturally led my mind to what is going up in North Dakota. People were protesting, as peacefully as they could, the building of an oil-transport pipeline underneath the Missouri river. Any leak at or near this point threatens the clean drinking water source for the peoples of this area, and everyone else downstream. This includes farmers, whose crops feed the markets of this country where people shop for their food. Odd how all of that is so interconnected when you think about it, right? Not really, to be honest.

There’s nothing truly odd about the interconnection of all of us. What we do to the environment, our communities, ourselves, others, the animals, the air, the water, the land….it affects all of us to one degree or another. That’s a huge part of what I have come to understand and relate deeply to within my Druidry. There’s more than a “Circle of Life” – there’s an interconnected web, where everything finds harmony to one degree or another with everything else around. Everything that is, except mankind.

As human beings, we have managed to be arrogant enough as a species to consider ourselves above everything else in Nature. As a collective species, we have even managed to excuse that arrogance with “divinely inspired” spiritual perspectives that categorize the earth, the animals and everything else to the position of a giant grocery store for our use and abuse. We place ourselves above everything else, and then excuse our abuse and overuse of resources by declaring that there will be an end to this Earth, and the righteous will be flung up into the heavens to enjoy a plentiful and never-ending paradise. The wicked will be sent to a place of eternal damnation. And the planet and the animals?  Who cares? Its use will be finished. We can just wade it up, and pitch it over our shoulders. After all, we’ve managed to create a very disposable society in the same vein. But I digress slightly…

lakota-siouxWhen I wrote that last night, I was remembering that time and again, the clarion call of the Wild Hunt’s horn in my dreams and meditations. I remember a few meditations that were filled with whispers on the wind. “The battle draws closer”  “I do not ask for war. But I do ask you for to defend when the time comes”  “Remember, your staff is not just for aiding you in your walking”  Those were some of the louder whispers that I heard. For me, a determined peace-loving Druid, to speak of hearing whispered words of war is a difficult thing. I don’t like violence of any sort. I prefer to find peaceful, negotiated manners of dealing with conflict. But many times over the past months, I have been reminded that sometimes physical battle comes to one’s doorstep despite your best efforts to quell it.

The issue at Standing Rock is starting to resemble those moments where one has to reach for your staff because peaceful resolutions cannot be easily found. Last weekend, during a three-day holiday stretch, the corporation building the Dakota Access Pipe Line decided to bulldoze a large swath of burial ground that is part of the area that is to be built up. The protesters there immediately started to attempt to stop what was happening, only to be met by a “security” detail with poorly trained (if at all) dogs. The protesters were attacked by dogs that were encouraged to attack by their handlers. Protesters, including children were bitten. Many other protesters were maced by these same “security” folks. All the protesters had to defend themselves with were a makeshift flag on a stick, and their bare hands. What they really should have had in their possession were mace canisters. Not to attack with, but to spray at both the “security” detail and the dogs once the attacks against them (the protesters) had started.

I have always lived by the perspective that being non-violent and peaceful in protesting is the key to getting one’s message across. But just because you are being peaceful and non-violent does not mean that you are not prepared to defend yourself with forceful means. Trying to resolve issues with words and negotiation is the appropriate measure to take, but always be prepared to defend yourself against violent action. Defend, not retaliation. Retaliation belongs in the realm of vengeance, and that is a business that is far more serious, and should be far more thought out and appropriately measured.

From my perspective, and my interaction with Gods and Spirits….there’s a palpable anger on the wind. And return is coming…like I said, vengeance is for deeper thought, and far more measured response. I leave that to the Gods. Should They decide to utilize me as part of that response, I’ll know when They tell me. Until (of even, IF) that time, peaceful, non-violent, legal protesting is the call for the moment. Standing Rock is the battle line.

Respect My Authority!

Someone’s got to step up to the podium, and grab the reigns of leadership. We need a person that can be the spokesperson for the wider aspect of the Pagan community. Someone we can all point to and say “that’s who you talk to when you want to know what’s what in Paganism.” We need that one individual that steps to the forefront every single time and asserts their position of autho….wha?

Ok…you got me. What I just spouted off on is completely antithetical to what I believe about Paganism in general. No, the Pagan community, as a wider arching body, has no need of an authoritarian figure. And before anyone suggest it…even if the Pagan community had need of such a thing, its definitely not me. Yeah, I have this blog…with the five people that read it. Yeah, I have the podcast with its three dedicated listeners. But if I wanted to utilize either platform as a bull pulpit and try to make my idea of Paganism into the be-all, end-all….honestly, I would have gotten into Talk Radio and tried to give Rush Limbaugh a run for his money. But that’s not what I want. At least not for Paganism, and definitely not for me.

What do I want for the Pagan community? For people to respect one another’s differences, and be kind to one another. Yeah, that’s a definite theme of mine – being kind to one another. And if you disagree with others, be respectful about it. Of course, I am more likely to get a goose that shits solid gold eggs given to me by a kid with magic beans that grow huge beanstalks that could feed every third-world country for years, then any of that respect hogwash. But I can dream, can’t I?

Essentially, we have made it back to the “They aren’t ____ enough” arguments that have been prevalent for the last decade or more. Seriously folks, it was attitudes like that which ran me out of the Christian belief systems. People proclaiming that you weren’t Christian enough because you didn’t fork over 15% of your take-home pay into the offering plate on Sundays. People claiming that you weren’t Christian enough because you acted on the natural urge to have sex…even when you weren’t married. People saying you weren’t Christian enough because you didn’t read the “right” version of the Bible. Give me a fucking break! If you follow what’s in your heart…then you are doing what’s right. Even as a Pagan.

Look, I’m the last person to hand out a commandment to anyone regarding how they live, who they are having sex with, what you eat (or who), or how you offer up prayers and devotions (or not) to the Gods and Goddesses. I do what I feel is correct – for me. I post about it here on the blog and talk about on the podcast – because I feel its a good place to talk about things. To re-examine (or not) what each of us is doing in regards to our Spiritual lives. I’m not here to condemn you if you do things differently than I do. That’s what makes us who we are – individual, unique, human beings. All I ever lay down as a commandment of any sort — that you examine things as each pertains to you. Adopt it if it works, reject it if it doesn’t. In other words, think for yourself!

I know there’s going to be people that disagree with me. There always will be. And frankly, I am perfectly fine with that. So long as those detractors and disagree-ers (is that even a word?) just take the time to think for themselves, rather than just parrot what they are hearing – for the sake of going along with the crowd. And have enough respect for others, to allow those differences to be what they are – unique differences between us that can be acknowledged and respected.

–T /|\

I’m No Leader and Neither Are They

I have said it hundreds of times, and I truly mean it. I am no leader. But I do know what leaders look like, what they act like, what they do, how they handle themselves…and I am definitely not one of those people. But I hear it all the time for folks.

You are a natural leader.

People just seem to want to follow you.

I cringe every single time I hear these words. Because I am not a leader. I have said it before, I follow the Edgar Friendly principle of leadership:  I get things done; sometimes people come along.

I am an individual that likes to get things done. I am a problem solver. I do like getting information and resources into the hands of people who do make the decisions. In the military, I was referred to as a “dog robber” or a “scrounger” because I managed to take things that were useless to my unit, and trade those to other units to get things that were useful for us. One year, we needed a Connex Shed. Those things aren’t small. They are the cargo containers that you see on the decks of transoceanic ships. You can park three full-sized SUVs inside these things. I traded carpeted floor tiles for a raised floor (three-hundred of them) to a Naval unit based in Rota, Spain for a Connex Shed. And I even got the naval unit to deliver it to us in Germany by truck. Right to our doorstep. Getting things done is what I know how to do. I am never worried about what something was built for – I always looked at its utility value. What can it do?

“I’m no leader; I do what I have to do, and sometimes people come along.”

Like I said, I get things for the people who make the decisions – the people who are the leaders. I have worked under good leaders, and some of the very worst. I have worked for extremely hard-working leaders, and some of the laziest souls you will ever meet. I have seen the qualities of both. And because I have seen those qualities, the upcoming Presidential cycle in America scares the shit right out of me. Every single one of these candidates have the scariest qualities that I have seen in bad leaders. Every single one of them. Its almost as if we have decided to hold a Presidential election with the worst possible candidates we can find.

But I completely grok the whys of it too. We drag every candidate’s entire personal history through the mud. We scrutinize their every step in every location to see where they stumble and fall. We require them to know the ins and outs of every single situation and come up with potential solutions, which when examined show a total disregard for the way laws are truly mustered through our governmental process. And even more so, the “solutions” have no financial capacity for survival under the tight budget constraints that the United States should be operating. We set every single candidate up for failure, or drive them away from the process because something about their familial connections may be repugnant to one sector of society or another. And that’s just the starting course. We, literally, set an impossibly high bar, and are let down in every cycle by the lack of good candidates that we get compared to the last election cycle. Holy shit, what we were expecting? We slam any moderate candidate that comes down the line, and extoll the virtues of each extreme member of either the Republican or Democrat parties. The smaller, lesser known third parties have to be outrageous just to get any press, which drives any sensible voter away from them and into the arms of the Republican or Democratic candidate from whom they were wanting to find an alternative to. What are we expecting??

We sure aren’t expecting leaders. Leaders are people who understand compromise. Leaders understand what areas have give and take, and what other areas require a hard, uncompromising stance. Leaders communicate not just with the people who agree with their plan of action, but also with those who disagree. Leaders listen, understand, and redraw plans where compromise makes sense. Leaders empathize not only with those who agree with them, but also with those who disagree with them. Leaders do not antagonize. Leaders do not mock. Leaders keep control of their emotions during the heat of discussion, and insure that the topic never slips away. Leaders do not do outrageous things or fire off inflammatory comments just to get attention. Leaders understand that consensus does not always mean that they (the leaders) get their way on an issue.

But I know this:  I’m no leader. I’m the one who puts plans into action, even when I disagree with the plan. I make sure that things get done. I’m not a leader. And neither are any of the people we have running for President during this election cycle.

 

Eventually, There is Sunshine After the Storm

I had another topic in mind for this weekend, but given what has occurred over this past week, I want to set that to the side for the moment. A while back, I noted that in my dreams, I had been hearing the statement “the storm is coming” for some time. And that shortly after the #Brexit vote, it had changed to a statement of “the storm is here”. I got baked over that by a handful of folks proclaiming that I hated their country (England) for making that statement after the #Brexit vote, along with my opinion that a vote to leave was not how I would have voted – *if* I had the vote. But the reality of that, turned out to be that those who saw that opinion as the notation behind the statement of an oncoming storm was essentially missing the mark. The storm is most assuredly here. And it has nothing to do with #Brexit. Or I should say that the #Brexit issue is just one of many, many markers. Here, in the United States, we have gone through another profound period of violence, racial issues, and political bantering that exhibits even stronger notations that the storm is here.

This storm isn’t about politics. Its not about a country’s population deciding to remove themselves from an economic and political union. Its not even about racial issues. Those are all symptoms of what the issue is — a lack of respect for one another. A lack of respect for our planet. A lack of respect for any other creature inhabiting this planet. Its an egocentric perspective, where my way, for my people, for my country, for my race is all that matters.

Make no bones about it. We are in perilous times now. The divide between “Us” and “Them” grows wider and deeper. We are once again forming definitions over who is “right”, and who is “wrong”. Those definitions are starting to be parsed against social status, economic status, religious beliefs, skin color, and politics. And its happening all over the world, not just here in the United States. The only reason I see the stuff happening here in the States is because I live here. We are dividing up into little groups. How much longer will it be before we start ostracising others based on these divisions? And who will get to make the decisions over who is right and wrong? Well, that’s easy – it will be the group of people for whom the government and political divides place in positions of authority and power.

Even more concerning, is the manner in which certain areas of blame are placed by the people working towards change. For instance, there are commentaries that are going up condemning those that proclaim #all-lives-matter as not understanding what #black-lives-matter really means. I’ll be honest, I don’t give a shit about what either movement means. I want people to be treated fairly, regardless of any condition or litmus test placed upon them. And I want the killing of citizens, and officers to stop. Jam your fucking hashtag where the sun doesn’t shine, especially if you are going to point a finger at me calling me “the problem” simply because I take a movement far beyond the scope of what is currently being desired. In my opinion, one death has already been too many.

From where I sit, the real problem is communication. I don’t need to be black to see that there is a problem, and to relate to where the frustration is. I also don’t need to be a police officer, nor have respect for a corrupt, unfair, and unjust system to grieve for the deaths and injuries to officers. In my world-view, both situations are bad, and solutions need to be found to put this back on the right Path.

How do these solutions come about?  I have no idea. I am just as clueless on this as anyone else. I know the killings have to stop on both sides of the argument. I know that pointing fingers is not going to solve anything. And as my friend Bran states – if we’re pointing fingers, we can’t hold hands. Both sides are talking, but neither side is listening. People are talking past one another. As long as that happens no solution can be found. Everyone needs to hear, listen, comprehend, and DISCUSS. But that’s going to require a change in a lot of headspace. And on issues like this, change does not come quickly. So folks are also going to have to be patient as well.

A fellow OBOD member while on vacation, collected seashells. Her and her family wrote positive messages on slips of paper, and passed the seashells with the notes out to complete strangers. Just a simple gesture of showing people that they matter. And the reception they received from this little gesture has been amazing. I can only imagine the smiles that they have put on people’s faces when this little gifts are handed over. Just a simple gesture of honestly thinking selflessly about others. The world can definitely use a lot more of this type of gesture. Druidry in action, folks.

In time, may there be peace throughout the world…. /|\

Enjoying Freedom – Thoughts on the 4th of July Weekend

Here in the United States, its the fourth of July weekend, when we celebrate our independence as a nation. There’s a lot of good food, BBQs, excellent beers, and fun to be had, typically culminated by fireworks displays. There’s also a lot of flag displays, and a lot of faux patriotism that fills the air as well. You won’t find me waving any of the flags, or placing my hand over my heart and reciting the pledge of allegiance, or proclaiming America to be “the greatest nation on the planet.” That’s not me. I displayed my affection for this country by giving eight years of my life in military service, where I was not protected under the Constitution that I swore to protect. I agreed to be governed, instead, by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And I have heard my fair share of criticism over the years for it.

At baseball games, I stand during the National Anthem, but with my hands behind my back. Many people take that as a political statement, and I have heard many times from people how “un-American” that is. My typical retort is to ask whether they gave any service to their country that they are claiming to love? Military service? Governmental service? When I do this, I am not trying to make my military service into the ultimate action of patriotism, just pointing out that if these folks love this country so much – why have they not given service to their country in some fashion?? Typically, when they hear that I served, I hear the one statement that never sits well with me:  “thank you for your service.” But that’s a post for another time…

It is July the fourth. It is a time to be thankful that the individuals that gathered together to form the basis of our government, had the foresight to realize that people needed to have the free choice to handle their lives. But that free choice needed to be made within the bounds of civilized laws for a society. For instance, one can follow the beliefs of their own choosing, but they cannot kill, hurt, maim, or terrorize another in the name of those beliefs. Even though, folks such as the followers of the late Fred Phelps have found ways to do just that within the bounds of the law through protesting high profile funerals of soldiers and victims of terroristic crimes. Regardless, each person is afforded rights under the laws of this nation that are equal. Or are they?

For the longest time, Americans could not marry whom they loved. Only hetero couples could do that legally. Its only been recently that this nation has realized that these folks have rights too. And even despite that, there are those that do not wish to accord those rights to these folks. In many ways, we like to crow about our freedoms here in the United States, and yet not stand up for those whose rights are not recognized in an equal manner for whatever reason.

But let’s not confuse what I am posting as an example of why I keep my hands behind my back during the National Anthem. Again, my desire to not place my hand over my heart and gaze loving at the American flag during the National Anthem, or my desire to not recite the Pledge of Allegiance whatsoever has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with a statement of what I think is right or wrong with the United States. Its merely because I choose not to. I am not a fan of overt nationalism, nor am I believer in American exceptionalism. In my eyes, America is one of many “nations” that inhabit this planet. Some have resources and “wealth” simply because of where they happen to live or how their country is positioned within the global marketplace. For me, that’s just a matter of how things have managed to shake out. We, here in the United States, are no better than any other country on this planet. We are all citizens of this planet. What we do throughout the planet affects all of us. Especially now, with a conjoined global economy that rises and falls together.

I don’t show the over patriotism that many others do on this weekend, because I see us as part of a larger organism. We are all together on this planet…nations are, in my eyes, political, economic, and geographic manners of division. We are all on this planet together, and these divisions are sometimes far more harmful than they ever are helpful. Yes, I am thankful for this great experiment in societal governance that is the United States. I am even more hopeful that the rest of the world may one day see that these divisions are not necessary, that we all inhabit this planet together. But I doubt I will ever see that happen in this lifetime. But I am hopeful over the lifetimes to come.

I mean this in every gentle manner that I can — enjoy this holiday here in America for what it is: a celebration of what this great societal experiment offers to us here – our freedoms. And while you are splashing in your pool, as I will be doing in mine, and enjoying the marvelous foods that are prepared for consumption over this holiday weekend — remember, there are those that are not provided the same freedoms that you may have. Keep those people in your thoughts. And if they happen to live just down the street, invite them over. Show them that you respect their freedoms too.

July 1992
Me – USAF – July 1992

This is Not It! This is Not It!

The mass shooting at Orlando is something that has been on nearly everyone’s mind. I have seen the obligatory Facebook posts about pro-LGBTQ and anti-LGBTQ posted. I have read meme after meme making statements about pro-gun and anti-gun positions. I have also seen posts following a position of the Donnie lamenting the word choice of the President concerning Muslims (“radical Islam”). In essence, its the same knee jerk foolishness that happens from both the Left and the Right whenever a shooting occurs.

Yes, foolishness.

I do not own a gun. I do not want a gun. Yes, I know very well how to handle both a pistol and a rifle. The US Air Force taught me very well where that was concerned. No, I have no desire to take anyone’s gun away from them. I have no desire to keep people that want to purchase a gun from doing so. I only want a better, far more thorough process for that transaction to take place. How does all that occur? I have some ideas, but I am not sure how realistic any of them may be. That is why I vote individuals into legislative offices. For them to work out how the processes should work, and create checks that insure the processes are being followed.

Yes, I am “pro-LGBTQ”. I hate that term, because it gives off the impression of being one a single side of that particular argument. So, let me put it another way – I am for “love-who-you-want.” That includes the legal agreement of marriage. People should be able to marry who they want. Its their life/lives, they should have the freedom to tie themselves together.Anyone standing in the way of something like that, I would offer them to place themselves in the position of those that they oppose. What if it was their marriage to their wife or potential wife that was being challenged and opposed? But then, no one wants to consider that when opposing LGBTQ marriages and unions.

I get that some people think that Donnie is going to change the world and bring us all back to the 1950s Beaver Cleaver lifestyle. But I look back to the 1950s, and I see a very divided world. Whites were in their own communities. Blacks were separated into their own communities. Rarely did the two mix. Other minorities are barely even given a second thought. There’s no way in the Nine Hells that I want to live in a world like that. I like the diversity that my current world offers to me. In fact, I prefer it that way.

I have mentioned this in my previous posts – as a world society, we stand at a crossroads. We can be a society that is inclusive of others. Where people are given a fair chance to succeed. We’re not quite there yet, but we can definitely continue traveling down that road. Or, we can choose to be a separated society. One where certain groups of people are denied access to things, materials, knowledge and other things – merely based on the color of their skin, the color of their eyes, the color of their hair, their sexual choices, their gender identity, their religious beliefs, or where they were born.

In the movie I, Robot, Will Smith’s character, Detective Spooner is led to the edge of a robot storage facility, where older robots are sent to live in storage containers. The scientist whose murder he is trying to investigate makes a statement that the “three laws are perfect”, but will lead to only one outcome:  “revolution.” This idea of separating folks into various groups of haves and have-nots based on some of the criteria I mentioned above may create a Utopian society for one or two privileged groups of people, but the outcome will be the same – an eventual revolution of those who are pinned underneath because they do not meet a certain criteria. Are we, as a society, ready to create that world? Are we ready to elect leaders who make statements that point in that direction?

In some ways, I would suggest that we are already at this tipping point of a societal revolution. That the rise of the Donnie as a leading figurehead of that polarization movement is the gasping and wheezing of that 1950s model that I mentioned. The people who are comfortable being in the position of a have, with their foot on the throat of a have-not, are not ready to give up that position in the sun – so to speak. And as their definition continues to grow a larger and larger list of excluded criterion, the pressure from the teeming mass of individuals and groups defined by those criterion grow as the push-back gets greater.

As that pressure grows, the combative phrases of “Obummer wants to take your guns”, and “Barrack Hussein Obama is a secret Muslim that wants to overthrow the West from the inside” will get louder and louder. But those voicing those perspectives are becoming a smaller and smaller minority, as they shore up more and more definitions to make their circle of cohorts more exclusive. And those that they exclude don’t want their guns, nor do those that are excluded want to make them marry same-sex partners.

No, those that are excluded want one thing:  the freedom to make those same choices for themselves. They want to be able to make those choices, and live those choices. And not have to live in fear of someone coming into a club and gunning them down – simply because they made different choices, as they should be able to. A friend of mine, actually more a family member to me, noted that a simple public display of affection – kissing his significant other – brought a moment of fear over having someone see that happen. No one should ever have to feel fear – even for a single moment – of sharing a public moment of affection for someone, regardless of whatever different descriptor you can put on them. I am sorry, but I am not about to live in a world like this. Nor am I going to tolerate anyone that would make my family members have to fear for their life for stuff like that.

In the movie “Gladiator”, Maximus makes the notation that the Emperor that he served had a vision of what Rome was. I have a vision of what our modern global society will be. And I shout as Maximus did:

This is not it! This is not it!

 

My Druidry Has Very Little Room for Politics

There’s just so much to not bother with in the news. Tons of political commentary, tons of political posturing, tons of commentary on the posturing. There are times – and its quite frequent over the last six months – where I feel like a kid moving the broccoli and cauliflower all over my plate. Essentially I spend most of my time just avoiding the foods that I don’t want to eat. And to be honest, I’ve grown a bit tired of it.

I have many friends who spend lots of time hip-deep in political commentary, and whatever the newest protest movement is at the moment. I completely grow the perspective that this is part of their personal makeup. Politics dovetails into what they do. Its a part of their everyday walk on their Path. And personally, I think its really awesome for them.

For me, and possibly many others, its an emotional drain. And at times, it can be a complete mental drain as well. Yes, there is a certain need to stay “up” on what is going on in the political world. Yes, there are some protest movements that curve into my own spirituality. And in those instances, I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone working the same side of the road with me on an issue. So rather than pour anything more beyond these three paragraphs, I’d rather spend the rest of this post talking about some of the stuff that inspires me.

I live about eleven miles away from my daily job. I live a similar distance from the Texas-Oklahoma border. In other words, I moved from the suburbs of the DFW Metro-Mess out to the rural areas north of there. My drive to work is a farm road that traverses between several cow pastures. I drive east to work, so the sunrise is something I always see. And while the road is not the greatest in the world, the views are simply amazing. I have managed to follow the travels of the yearly Wheel just by driving to work. This Spring has seen the arrival of a LOT of little calves. They frolic. They run. They jump. They curl up in the grass and go to sleep in the afternoon sun. Over the last few weeks, they have gotten bigger and bigger. They are no longer walking on thin, shaky legs. They have stocky, much thicker legs and bodies.

There are other visitors on my drive. In one stretch of the road, you have to be a bit more aware, as the farmer’s dogs like to chase the cars that go through there. Sometimes they get too close. Earlier this year, one of the dogs had apparently been hit and was lying dead on the side of the road. I really hated seeing that. It reminded me that more than cars, tractors and motorcycles share that little road. From time to time, I see hawks on the fence posts to the pastures. Very regal, very strong features. And then there’s the occasional fox, rabbit, or cat that will dart across the road – traveling from pasture to pasture in their daily existence.

Crows
Looking at the tree in my neighbor’s yard from my backyard. Yes, those birds are waiting for birdseed..

But the road’s not the only place where I find solace, inspiration, and that peace of mind that I like to enjoy. All around me are quiet, nearly forgotten corners of north Texas. The Spirits of the Land are strong here in an area only partially touched by the spread of technology. Sitting on my back porch, I can feel the western wind kick up, bringing the promise of rain and stormy weather. Or I can stand at the western end of my pool (and yes I am lucky enough to have a small pool) and watch the sunrise come up over the trees just to the east of me. I have a small stone circle which I built in one part of my yard, where I step outside to honor Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas. Unlike down in Corinth, the suburb I lived in, it is extremely easy to see the changes in the Wheel here.

I also find inspiration among my fellow Pagans as well. Honestly, online communication is nice, but it doesn’t replace the awesome time spent with folks talking, discussing, and laughing with one another. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to make gatherings in places such as California, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. And every single time I get the chance to meet with other Pagans, I come away energized and recharged. And many of these people have become more than just friends to me, they have become the family I have never had.

Sure, getting wrapped up in politics works for some folks. And I am not saying that one should ignore everything in the political realm. Part of my Druidry is staying aware of the environment around me – even the political one. But politics is not my focus. Honoring the Gods and Goddesses, venerating and remembering my ancestors, working with the Spirits of the Land, learning, reading, living, loving…those are far more important to where I want to be in my Life. Whether I live up to anyone else’s expectations of me doesn’t matter. So long as I live up to my own expectations, remain honest with myself, and continue to grow and nurture my connections to the environment and people around me….that’s what matters. To me.

 

 

Good Jazz and Changes (Waiting Out the Politics)

With the Presidential nominating process for the Big Two finally winding down – you would figure that everything would be ramping down as well.  Not really.  Judging by the rhetoric and anger and posturing that takes place in social media, you would think that the entire election process would be far closer to November then where it actually is. Essentially, its down to three candidates:  Trump, Clinton and Sanders. None of which I will likely cast a vote for. Why?  Because I don’t really care for any of the three. But in today’s social media climate…you can’t just make a statement like that and leave it alone. No, instead, you have to defend why you aren’t for this candidate or that. Sheesh.

But that’s where things really have seem to have gotten to. Everyone seems to be looking for a debate or an argument…even when the statement that is going to be in contention is a non-committal and neutral one. Everything’s about arguing and debating to be “right”…there’s seemingly no room for discussion. The true reality is that most of the social stratosphere in the internet is not about socialization, its seemingly about how correct you can make yourself out to be.

As I watch people move more and more to one side or the other throughout the Presidential nomination process, I have started to notice how few the numbers are here in the middle. Once again, there that feeling of being in no-man’s land during World War I trench warfare. And to be honest, neither side in the trenches seems like a place where I would want to be. Thus, there’s a growing feeling of strapping on my helmet, getting as low to the ground as I can, and weathering the coming battle.

But is it really that much of a battle? My mind goes back to when Bush v. Gore was underway, and there was anger of a similar nature then. It took a few weeks, but eventually it all blew over, and everyone settled back into their daily lives and routines. That’s known as the short-term memory of the American voter. But it starts to bring up other thoughts for me as well.

People get hot and bothered about change. Whether that be in politics, or in their own mundane lives. They stamp their feet, stand around debating the points that they feel are relevant, and raise their voices when they feel that they are not being provided the proper amount of attention or respect for what they have to say. And once the dust settles; everyone starts to head back to their routines. The parts of their lives that they have agreed to handle, are comfortable dealing, and are not as bothered over. And the desire for change begins to recede into the past, melting away as quickly as ice cream on a hot summer day. Perhaps, that’s why change is not really taken seriously by so many. Because its essentially lip service to the moment.

Now, having started this point by dredging up the political backdrop, I am going to ask you to forget all about that stuff. In other words, I am about to change the scenery in the background. All I ask, is that you set the politics aside and keep up with the backdrop’s change (there’s that fscking word again!).

Change is important in our lives. Without change, we don’t grow. We stagnate, become rigid, and eventually we will break rather than bend. I turned 50 last year (those of you over 50, shut up with the smart remarks) – an age I never thought I would be alive to see. Seriously. My twenty-something mind could never comprehend that. But as I have grown older, I have noticed an odd trend in my life….I am far more pliable now then I was in my youth. I am more accepting of change; more willing to allow change to happen before reacting to it; more understanding of the reasoning behind the change; more conscious of all the choices that change can provide. I always thought it would be the complete opposite. That I would get older, become less accepting of change, more settled into routine…and I have no explanation of why things are set up this way.

To be honest, I am not sure I care why things are this way, either. So I handle change a lot better than most people I know. Big deal, right? Well, at least that’s the sentiment that I tie to it. Life is going to happen all around me. There’s not much I can do to alter things…so I should be cognizant of what takes place and figure out how I need to adapt to it. For me, life isn’t about making changes – life is about adapting to changes. And I can’t say for sure where I picked up that concept in my beliefs.

Perhaps it came from my studies within OBOD, perhaps my studies within Zen Buddhism, perhaps a combination of those…perhaps something altogether different. All I know is that life is a lot like improvisational jazz. There’s an underlying rhythm to the music that has to be honored, but across that current – you can bring whatever notes you feel are necessary. Or as a blues musician that I used to hang out with was fond of saying: “You don’t play the music, the music plays through you. You’re just the conduit from which it flows. Don’t fight it. Play it.”

So let’s set the politics backdrop back into place. Its May. The election takes place in November. That’s six months down the road. A lot is going to happen between then and now. And if you think that politics is at a fever pitch now, you’ve honestly not seen anything yet. Down here in no-man’s land – among those that look to the third-parties, or those that have not made up their minds yet – perhaps we need to dig our own trench here in the middle of the battlefield. And then hunker down for the long haul. I’m not much of a guitar player, but I am going to sit down in the trench here and play. Play whatever comes to my fingers, and see what happens.

Oh…and who will I vote for? I honestly have no idea at this point. Currently, I see three candidates for the Big Two…and I won’t vote for any of them. There’s still time for newer candidates to come forward, and I am sure I can find someone among them that I would want to cast my vote for. And with that vote, I will essentially be saying that I want that person to stand in my place as a representative for my values. And I will likely be criticized by some quarter of society over my choice. So be it…I just hope that wherever that criticism comes from, that they won’t feel compelled to get further into my face, when I smile and provide no other response to their statements.

Good jazz, centering and balancing….yeah, man. Good, centered calm. Watching for the changes….on my back porch with my guitar, some birdseed, and my stone circle.

/|\

IMG_5745

Be Offended, B-E Offended…

Every political cycle, stuff seems to get more contentious between folks. And its really not just politics that does this – religion, sports, even statistical programs and analytics methods can bring out the worst in folks. However, I sincerely believe that its not really the subject matter that gets folks on edge, but rather the way they approach their subjects. But with our over-exposed media coverage – particularly here in America, where politics seems to be a hobby for some – it certainly seems like politics is the catalyst for everything.

Let’s face it, depending on your perspective, you either view America as a country that needs to get religion (Ted Cruz), become “great” again (Donald Trump), get civilized in its discourse concerning legislation (John Kasich), needs to continue some (but not all) of President Obama’s policies (Hillary Clinton), ditch every model of government and give everything away (or so it seems) (Bernie Sanders), or just needs a complete change to something new (any third party candidate). Or perhaps there’s some direction I’ve not mentioned for any of the above noted candidates or (seemingly invisible independent) third-parties. To be honest, none of that really matters one bit. Its all an over-generalized (on my part) perspective concerning various perspectives towards electing a figure-head position in a “representative” government, where the true manner of representation for the citizenry is flat-out ignored by that same citizenry. And much like Robert Conrad’s old battery commercials…everyone wears their political perspective on their shoulders, daring everyone to “knock it off”.

See, we’ve created a society that is more interested in getting offended than anything else. We wear our politics on our sleeves. We slam our beliefs under everyone else’s noses. We dare others to be offended over what we say, read, speak, and act upon. We seem to want to pick the fight. And this is especially common during political election cycles. We champion the President of the United States as being the “everyman” – the individual that we want to typify the everyday, average citizen of this country. Its not about electing a spokesperson. Its not about electing an individual that understands how to marshall legislation through the political waters of the Congress. Its not about finding a statesman (person?) who can find common ground with the political opposition in order to find legislative means to benefit the common citizen. No, what we want is a politician that will fight for our rights, trample the rights of those groups we could give two shits about, and tell the media to go fuck themselves while flashing a million-dollar smile. All while balancing a battery on his shoulder, just daring anyone to be “brave” enough to come knock it off. We want someone who is going to stand up and personify the manner in which we want to react to being offended.

Perhaps one day, we will come to our collective senses and realize that our government represents more than just our singular political, religious, sexual identity perspectives. That this country’s (and others’) greatest strength is that we stand together as a diverse group of people, embracing an ideal of freedom of individual choice. That we may choose differently…but we are united in the conceptual freedom of making our own choices. Maybe one day. In the meantime, I guess we will just have to continue looking for ways to be offended….

 

Into the Void….Again…

Every single year, its the same tired statements that arise:

There’s a war on Christmas! People are trying to take Christ out of Christmas! Christmas is a Pagan holiday taken by the Christians to gain converts!

Blah, blah, blah.

IMG_0140Over the past five to six years, I have penned a few blog posts making statements about how there is no war on Christmas, and that it really does not matter where Christmas originated. Its not about which religion it belongs to, it matters what is in your heart.

And that two sentence statement will be all I have to direct towards that. Because the truth is – no one is listening. Particularly on the internet.

What we have with the internet is a vast echo chamber, where people shout into it – expecting to hear a chorus of echoes on what they have shouted. They are not shouting to make a statement, rather they are shouting to be heard. And yes, I am quite aware that I am utilizing the very platform I am criticizing to make this statement.

Take a long, very detached look at the campaign of Donald Trump. He makes wild statements about various topics. Many of these statements are incendiary in nature. The kind of statements that old BBS users would liken to “flame-wars” or “trolling”. When people agree with him, they create the giant echo he is wanting to hear. When people disagree with him openly, particularly people who have some aspect of celebrity status that generates headlines, he berates them and insults them. This tactic is about drawing the message away from his statement, and placing the individual in a position of defending themselves against his baseless accusations. In my many years on BBS “debates” (I am reluctant to call those rolling arguments that wasted hours of time and effort a “debate”), I found this to be a strong tactic of those who were looking for the echo chamber, not a discussion.

But Trump is only a single example of this. A shining example, because of the oxygen that the media give to his claims. That stuff generates web-clicks, and issues sold…stuff that corporate giants need to infuse their systems with the lifeblood of money. Let’s face it folks, the internet has left the idea of being a free exchange of information and ideas long behind its current wake as a monetary intravenous system for companies. Furthermore, platforms such as Facebook – where many of you will click to read the entirety of this blog post here on WordPress – provide the perfect environment for shouting into the Echo Chamber Void that exists. We share memes that quote “famous” people on topics we agree with or in manners which showcase those same celebrities as being wrong-headed about some topic. But a short fact-finding mission can turn up these same quotes attributed to some other celebrity or politician or what-have-you. When your Druidry notes that seeking the truth is an exercise that one should undertake at any time, these confusing aspect of the memes that are quoted becomes extremely suspect. Even when the memes seem to be on target, or have a particular degree of snark that makes them darkly humorous.

Individual:  Hello?

Echo:  Hello?

Individual:  How are you?

Echo:  Doing great!

Individual:  How’s the wife and kids?

Echo:  They’re doing great too!  Thanks for asking!

This was a routine that Disney put out at one time when I was a kid. My father recorded this particular album onto a cassette tape, so we kids could hear some Disney on the long trips through Europe in our family vehicle:  a 1970s Ford Pinto.

On the internet, this is the kind of discourse that many folks do not want. A give and take conversation. They want the people to click the “like” button, and occasionally make a “me too!” comment. After all, knowing that others share your perspective is a powerful way of affirming who you are, what you believe, and provides support for one’s internal question of “why do I believe this.” I’m not immune from this anymore than anyone else. When I attended events such as the ADF Imbolc Retreat in south-central Texas, or the OBOD East-Coast and Gulf-Coast gatherings, I am spending time with people who believe a similar manner to myself. We are not completely the same in our beliefs, but our core values are much the same. Gathering with folks like these, talking with them, discussing/debating/arguing topics with them, and gathering together in ritual – all of that helps me to realize I am not alone in this world with my faith and beliefs. But I am also among folks who will hold me accountable for my statements and actions according to those beliefs as well. In discussion, they will question my reasoning, and help me to place my thinking onto solid ground. Its similar to the Echo Chamber Void that I mentioned, except that there is interaction of a critical analysis nature. Very rarely do you see that within the Echo Chamber Void of the internet.

So, back to the annual Christmas debate thing. This year, I decided not to write a post about why both sides in the fray are wrong-headed. Rather, this year I am choosing not to wade into that fray. No one is going to listen. The shouting there is to merely be heard for the sake of being heard. Neither side is going to resolve the entire issue. Furthermore, its almost a proxy war for other issues.

[initiate dream sequence]

After all, if our side can win the Starbucks red-cup debate and get “Merry Christmas” and a manger scene depicted on the side of the cup; it stands to reason that we can tackle our next major topic of getting the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, right?  And once we tackle and win that topic, we can then petition Congress to set forth legislation that makes America a Christian nation. All people would need to bend their knee to Christ, and profess their faith or get the hell out of our Christian country!  Yes!  ::crowd roars approvingly::

[end dream sequence]

Yeah, sorry to disappoint some, but I have no desire to play in the internet proxy war throughout the social media platforms. If Starbucks wants to depict a manger scene on their cups, and emblazon “Merry Christmas!” all over it – more power to them. If I am in your store, and you wish me a “Merry Christmas”, a “Happy Yule”, or whatever else you might think of – I’ll smile, say “thank you, you too!” and carry my purchases out to my car. I will celebrate Yule as the Pagan that I am. And have no desire that you do as well.

I have no need or desire to shout into the void any longer. Rather, I have a belief system that works just fine for me, a strange triad of Gods and a Goddess that I work with, and no desire to be a Christian of any shape or form. In the end, if my choices concerning this bother you, you may need to re-evaluate how your faith works for you…rather than trying to force it to work for me.

 

Bringing Up the Nightmares of My Past

A few months back, I stopped reading the news. Not because I did not want to be informed, but because I was tired of getting angry at what I read. Particularly in the election cycle. Essentially, this Presidential election cycle in the United States has become a manner of which politician can say the most off-the-cuff, vulgar statement to make headlines – particularly in the nomination for the Republican party’s candidate. Turning off the news provided me with a little peace, but it put me at odds with wanting to be aware of what was going on in the world around me. So I would turn the news on every few days, get an idea of what was taking place, and then shove the news back into the little box I had created for it. All of that worked, until today.

Senator Ted Cruz, from my state of Texas made a statement that brought back all the fears that I had thought I left behind several years back.

We will utterly destroy ISIS. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out. And we are going to make abundantly clear to any militant on the face of the planet, if you wage jihad against the United States of America and try to murder innocent Americans, you are signing your death warrant.

The bold and underlining is my emphasis. His statement here is essentially pointing out that he would consider a nuclear strike against the ISIL contingent. And apparently, he cares very little for all the innocent civilians that would die as a result of this. For me, this makes the man extremely unfit to be the leader of a country in control of a nuclear arsenal.

I grew up in an age where the threat of nuclear strikes both here on US soil, and by US forces was very real. It was a threat that we lived with every single day of our lives. We were taught absolutely ludicrous concepts such as “duck and cover” to avoid the inevitable destruction that a nuclear detonation would cause. It was a 1950s concept that had permeated into the same thinking in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was a useless concept, considering the advent of nuclear fallout, nuclear winds, and radioactivity – just to consider some of the more obvious aspects.

When I was ten years old, I searched for a science project for a school science fair, and settled on showcasing the manner of atom splitting that allowed a nuclear detonation to grow in scope and strength. After that, I researched the concept more and more – until I began to realize what this “neat science trick” was really capable of doing to human beings – both in short-term and long-term effects. Five years later, I was a teenager who was scared of what my government was capable of doing – and terrified of what other governments could do as well. The concept of mutually assured destruction was horrific in my mind.

When I joined the military, I found myself a part of that war machine – ensconced within the command-and-control structure, working in cryptographic communications. When I was stationed in a command-and-control facility as a part of a multi-faceted NATO unit, I found myself in a position where I could potentially be the individual that sent out nuclear release codes to units in the field. It was a very sobering thought to know that I could be in a position to send the codes that could potentially kick of the MAD policy that kept two major superpowers at one another’s throats. Always threatening the other with weapons.

Over time, the Iron Curtain between West and East fell, and I was able to meet Soviet troops for the first time. We could talk to one another, share drinks and coffee, and realize that we were not that different from one another. That essentially firing a nuclear weapon on them would result in the same destruction we would feel within the United States, as well as throughout Europe. They had the same fears we did – that someone in their government or ours, would feel that nuclear weaponry would be an acceptable conclusion to some moronic political difference.

Shortly after I left the United States Air Force in 1994, relations between the Soviets and the United States would normalize. People would talk to one another without posturing with maniacal weapons of destruction. And while we disagreed on the political formation of the world around us – we learned to coexist. My fears had subsided.

Until today. When I heard a Senator from my own state make a passing allusion to weaponry that is indescribable for the usage mentioned. Where a group of people are covered in a blanket statement of being “the enemy” – simply because of where they live or what they believe. Dear Gods and Goddesses above and below, we are apparently forgetting the lessons of our past — not even eighty years looking backwards. We have candidates (Donald Trump, in particular) for the leadership of this country making statements about needing a registry of people of a certain faith. We have another candidate making statements with a passing reference to nuclear weaponry, based on bombing a terroristic organization with no known country affiliation with no regard for the civilian casualties and deaths that would result from it.

For me, its fairly obvious that many individuals here in the United States – and elsewhere – have a hatred for something or some group of people that have a foreing way of life to theirs. The fact that the religious belief in question, and the people that practice it are as different as possible from their own Christian (for the most part) faith only makes it easier for them to dehumanize these people, and strengthen their “us versus them” rhetoric. What disgusts me more, is that many of these people profess to follow a faith that is about peace, love, forgiveness, and understanding – and yet chose to do none of those things. Instead, its about how much you can shove into the offering plate, so that others can see how pious you are as the result of the amount of money you gift to the church. Its not about doing, but about being seen.

In the meantime, politicians can ramp up the rhetoric, bring out a beast from the past – and pretend that its ok to do so.  Because the only individuals having that horrific experience are just “them”. Nobody important. Just a bunch of people who don’t need our sympathy or assistance. No wonder so many of these people become “radicalized” — its a “fight or flight” response. And when your back is against the wall with nowhere to go – the flight response is removed from that equation.

There’s no easy way out of the miasma that we find ourselves in with ISIL and Al Qaeda (among others). But even hinting at a nuclear strike — even meant in jest — is not the way to achieve what you are trying to accomplish (supposedly). We will achieve peace by finding a way to coexist – finding that middle ground. We won’t achieve that with candidates like Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Not when they begin to call up the nightmares of my past as an option to solving issues such as this. All I can do is write a blog post about how I feel, and hope that note will resonate into the future where these candidates’ are considered.

Deep Peace to You
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.