I absolutely loved a recently aired episode of RadioLab titled: Man Against Horse. It originally aired December 28, 2019, but I heard it May 23, 2021. I had been working on my story trying to getting straight in my head man’s long line of evolutionary changes that ultimately lead to us, the living beings who stare at screens and do everything to extremes.
Man & His Ancestors
There was Australopithecus afarensis who emerged 3.67 to 2 million years ago in the Middle Pliocene to Early Pleistocene of South Africa, an extinct species of australopithecine. Spread:Southern Africa (Lucy’s species). I love them. Look at those eyes!
There was Homo habiliswho emerged 2.4 to 1.5 mya inhabiting parts of sub-Saharan Africa from roughly 2.4 to 1.5 million years ago (mya). In 1959 and 1960 the first fossils were discovered at Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania – roamed Eastern edge of Africa, moving from the Horn of Africa to the tip.Spread:Western to Southern African
There was Homo ergasterwho emerged (“working man”) is an extinct hominid species (or subspecies, according to some authorities) which lived throughout eastern and southern Africa between 1.9 to 1.4 million years ago with the advent of the lower Pleistocene and the cooling of the global climate: 1.9 to 1.4 mya (although some classifications include additional individuals that extends their range to between about 700,000 and 2 million years ago). Spread: Africa: 1.9 to 1.4 million years ago. Considered an early, exclusively African form of Homo erectus. Started making stone tools 1.6 million years ago.
And of course, there was Homo erectus who emerged 2 mya, evolving from either a late form of australopith or one of the more primitive forms of Homo, and went on to spread into many parts of Asia. Spread:Western African,Europe, Arabian Peninsula, Southern Asia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, Eastern coast of Asia to Bering Strait
There are many more early hominoid species that evolved, lived for thousands (and some more than a million) years, and then died out and disappeared. This is where I was getting lost, and this is when I took a break and tuned into RadioLab and heard this episode that straighten everything out in my mind. It all came down to the nuchal ligament and the human butt.
It’s All About the Butt
I was skeptical at first because this episode started out with Matt who began saying:
Okay, so this story comes to us from Heather, who is a fantastic writer who brought us this story that, if I were to boil it down, is about a horse, a lone man running through the desert, and what it fundamentally means to be a human being. And weirdly, butts. I didn't see this coming, but it's about butts. Just butts. Your butt. It's about your butt.
Heather is writing a book about the cultural history of the female butt. She said:
I thought I'd save that one for on tape. It started as an essay that I was just working on because I have a big butt, and I grew up in, you know, the suburbs of mid-Michigan. That was -- it was pretty white. And in high school in the '90s, it was very much like, not good to have a big butt. Like, I got made fun of, et cetera, et cetera. But then sometime in the mid-aughts, all of a sudden this body that had sort of been bringing me all this shame became attractive in sort of a mainstream way.
As Heather started taking apart and looking into issues such as race, appropriation, beauty, her essay about the butt ended up becoming a book about the butt. She asked herself: what does the butt mean? Like, what does it symbolize and why does it symbolize that? Then, she realized she had to answer a more fundamental question: Why do we even have a butt at all?
Gluteus Maximus & Evolution of Man
Daniel Lieberman is an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who is interested in the evolution of the human body and the effects of physical activity for a long time. He wanted to understand how and why the human body evolved the way it did. Back around 1992, he was a post-doc doing research on pigs…miniature pigs running on treadmills!
Lieberman was looking at how different parts of the skeleton respond to the effect of the loads caused by exercise. Lieberman says, “Sounds like an exciting thing, but believe me it eventually gets kind of — kind of dull.” This is until the day a fellow called Dennis Bramble, a professor at the University of Utah, came to Harvard to do his own research next door to Lieberman.
Dennis Bramble recalls turning to his co-researher saying, “What the hell’s that sound? Is somebody doing something there?” And they said, “Yeah, and this guy Dan Lieberman is running pigs over there.” I said, “Oh, I gotta — I’ve gotta see this!”
Lieberman recounts Bramble popped his head in and watched the pig, then cocked his head to the side and said, ““You know Dan, that pig can’t hold its head still when it’s running.” Lieberman said, “It’s funny I’d spent hours watching pigs run on treadmills, but I never really thought about it.“
Bramble said: “You know Dan, I bet that pig’s head is flopping all around because it doesn’t have this thing called thenuchal ligament.” This ligament provides support for the head and neck. It is like a rubber band attached to the back of the animal’s skull and runs down the spine to keep the head straight as it runs. Bramble pointed out that all mammals that have specialized as runners have this nuchal ligament–everything from cheetahs to leopards to antelopes to horses, to jackrabbits and dogs. Animals who are bad runners don’t have this ligament–like pigs.
This is where my attention perked up: humans have anuchal ligament.
But, our closest hominoid cousins do not have a nuchal ligament. This includes apes, chimps, gorillas.
Humans Evolved to Run
Way back, our closest hominoid relatives split off into the genus Pan, while humans split off into the genus Homo. The first hominoid in the genus Homo to have this ligament was Homo erectus. Paleontologist can tell this by a sharp ridge on the back of the skull that this ligament leaves behind as a trace.
Daniel Lieberman says, “It doesn’t have a snout, it has smaller teeth. It’s — it’s the first species that’s really very much like you and me from the neck down.“
Around the time that Homo erectus emerged, spectacular changes were occurring with its foot (e.g., toes were shortening, arch was forming, Achilles tendon), hips (i.e., taller, narrower, twisty that helps us stay stable on two feet), arms (shorter), legs (longer), inner ears (semicirucular canals got larger to balance), joints (got bigger to bear the load of running), and butts!
Butts evolved for running. Lieberman explains that when humans run, the gluteus maximus muscles fires twice with every stride to prevent the trunk from pitching forward and falling face first.
"Running is a controlled fall. Very different from walking. And so your gluteus maximus fires just before your body's about to -- your trunk is about to pitch forward and make you hit your nose on the ground, and it helps pull your trunk backward. And the other time the gluteus maximus fires is when your leg is swinging forward when you're in the air, and it helps decelerate the leg so that you bring your leg down onto the ground. So the gluteus maximus plays a very important role when you're -- when you're running, and turns out to barely be active when you're walking. And, you know, you don't need the fancy equipment in my lab to figure this out. You can just do this yourself at home. Just walk around the room and hold your butt and, you know, clench your kind of butt. And -- and when you're walking your butt will just stay kind of normal, right? It'll stay kind of, you know ..."
But Why Did Homo Erectus Evolve Bigger Butts?
Climate change! That’s what happened about two million years ago. The tree filled jungles were disappearing and being replaced by open grasslands. This was triggered by an ice age that was drying out Africa. These vast open spaces were quickly filling up large grass-eating animals such as the kudu and antelope. Carnivores were rapidly evolving to catch and eat these big food sources such as lions, tigers, and cheetahs.
Compared to these apex predators, Homo erectus was puny and not a good runner. But, Homo erectus could do something they could not do. Homo erectus could sweat! This meant Homo erectus could chase his prey over long distances. He didn’t have to be fast; he simply had to have endurance, pay attention to tracks, and be patience.
Daniel Lieberman explains:
"The trick is you find that animal before it's cooled down, because of course the animal would have run away, and when it runs away it gets hot. Like, when you -- running generates a lot of heat. And these animals aren't very good at dumping heat."
There is a lively, fascinating argument on this episode of RadioLab as to whether Homo erectus tracked and followed its prey to exhaustion or if he simply looked for vultures and other scavengers that an apex predator killed and banded together to scare them away. We don’t know. Probably a little of both. But, the extra protein, fat, and nutrients he got this way helped his brain grow bigger and other evolutionary changes to occur. So, the evolution of a bigger butt and nuchal ligament were pretty important to get to modern human beings.
Man vs Horse
The last half of this episode you just have to listen to… really, you should listen to all of it… I skipped a lot of good stuff. But it is all about a crazy race that takes place in Prescott, AZ every year. It is a high desert long distance race (50 miles) between a group of human runners and a group of horses with riders.
The story goes like this:
HEATHER: So in 1983, a city councilman in Prescott comes into this bar in Whiskey Row, like super-old west America.
MATT: And he gets there, he sits down, and he has a beer. And down at the end of the bar …
HEATHER: There’s a couple of cowboys. The city councilman’s just run a marathon.
MATT: And at some point …
HEATHER: The city council guy says, “I just ran this crazy race.”
MATT: And one of the cowboys says …
HEATHER: “My horse could run that far easily.”
MATT: “You’re not that fast.”
HEATHER: “My horse could do that in an afternoon. Wouldn’t even break a sweat.” And then the city councilman’s like, “You know, I’m not sure he can.”
MATT: “Actually, in fact, I bet I can outrun your horse.”
HEATHER: And for 30-plus years, they have been sort of seeing who’s right.
Matt and Heather follow the racers and it is fantastic, fun story. Who do you think wins? Listen and see!
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I was working on my story while listening to NPR, as is my habit. I remember perking up and paying attention when This American Life introduced the subject of this episode: Bloody Feelings — Stories about the Power of Blood. The stories were not at all what I was expecting from the title.
Act 1 was about Adele who she described herself as “the worst phlebotomist in the whole hospital.” She was a physical therapist until the Coronavirus gripped the country. With all her physical therapy sessions cancelled, she was not needed there. But what the hospital really needed was more people to do blood draws. I loved her story.
Act 2is about the discovery of 30 century-old postcards written in old Yiddish by a distant family member challenges David Kestenbaum’s ideas about the unimportance of blood ties.
Act 3 is about a Shakespeare theater production that involved a lot of blood that was a little too real for the audience and what befell everyone.
Act 5is about a broken heart… no, not a love sick broken heart… a heart that required open heart surgery.
Walk In The Woods
While I enjoyed these stories, I wasn’t bowled over by them as other stories I’ve heard, although the color red stuck in my mind. I finished what I was doing and got my pup ready to go for a trot. This is our pandemic routine. Pumper loves our trots, especially when we see other dogs! I am pretty sure that she thinks all dogs exist on Earth to play with her. She plays well with all dogs no matter their size or temperament, adapting herself to whoever she mets for an instant playdate.
So, when we caught sight of big dog ahead of us, it was Pumper’s mission to catch up with them. They were walking fast, but Pumper was pulling me faster. Eventually, we caught up and found out the big dog was a Great Pyrenees–-Poodle mix– a Pyrepoo! It was the first one we’d ever met, and it was only 7 months old but already twice as big as Pumpernickel (now 15 months). I was admiring all the similarities between the two dogs who got along splendidly together. The owner of the Pyrepoo just told me how the Great Pyrenees were guard dogs of a flock not herders. And I just told her my dog was a Pyrepitt (she’s actually many more dogs mixed in but the Great Pyreness and Pitt Bull are the most dominate) when a Pitt Bull came upon us.
The guy walking the Pitt looked a bit anxious, but neither I nor the owner of the Pyrepoo took alarm. As he passed us with the Pitt on a super short leash, the Pyrepoo pup went over to say hello. This is common doggie custom to greet all new incoming dogs with a sniff. But no sooner had the pup approached the Pitt to sniff when he yelped in pain. The Pitt had bite him and would not let go. Both owners tried desperately to pry the Pitt’s jaws open. Pumper and I stood stunned and helpless watching what was happening before us.
Finally, the Pitt released its grip and Pyrepoo pulled back to a safe distance. I was relieved to see his nose was not the part bitten, but blood dripped from his lower lip. There was also blood in the Pitt’s mouth, and blood on the hands of both owners. It turned out the man was helping his sister with her dog and apparently didn’t know the Pitt’s temperament. The whole thing was terrible. I helped flag down a Kleenex for the owner of the Pyrepoo, then they were off to the vet get stitches. I felt so bad because had we not stopped them to say hello, they would have missed the Pitt Bull.
The synchronicity of the moment was duly noted. I have learned to pay attention to such moments when I recognize them. There is usually more going on that needs to be understood, but I had no idea what. Ruminating on blood was something I did not do, really at all… perhaps due to cultural programming.
Brooklyn Center — Then & Now
The next day, another terrible synchronicity occurred when Daunte Wright was fatally shot in Brooklyn Center, MN during a ‘routine’ traffic stop. The shooting occurred hardly more than 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. And it happened right in the middle of the trial of Chauvin, which had just completed its second week of heart wrenching testimony about George Floyd’s final moments, his life, and lost potential and presence in the lives of all who loved him. It was painful to absorb. And then, another young black man lost his life at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.
These deaths hit close to home because I grew up in North Minneapolis. I know where George Floyd died and where Daunte Wright was shot. I could walk to Brooklyn Center from where I lived. I often went to the old Brookdale Mall in Brooklyn Center because that’s where you went with your friends in high school (well, maybe that’s where the nerdy kids went). It was a place we could go to feel young and free.
I remember meeting my girlfriends at Rocky Rococos, then walking around the Brookdale Mall. We mostly just walked and talked, dreaming about our futures. None of us had much money to spend, but every once in a while, one of us would buy something special there. I remember hunting for prom dresses there with my friends and buying one even though I didn’t have a date and did not go to my high school prom. But I wanted a picture in a prom dress…lol. Looking back at these moments, they were times we were pretending to be all grown up, and the Brookdale Mall was the perfect backdrop to step into our fantasy lives.
Back in its day, the Brookdale Mall was part of cutting edge suburban social architecture being one of 5 malls opening around downtown Minneapolis to provide the perfect place to go for suburban housewives and families who needed ordinary household supplies, furniture, school supplies and clothes–whatever was needed for a suburban household. They were knows as the Dales and included Brookdale (Brooklyn Center), Rosedale (Roseville), Ridgedale (Minnetonka), and Southdale (Edina). Brookdale first opened in 1962 and grew in stages. A lovely blog called Abandoned Retail recounts the rise and fall of the Dales surrounding Minneapolis, specifically the Brookdale Mall.
When I was growing up, I never considered the privilege my white skin afforded me as I walked around places like the Brookdale Mall or drove to it myself after getting my driver’s license. I never thought about how the dreams I entertained or how the gallivants with my friends at the mall were carefully packaged in specific ways designed to make us believe we each had a chance to become Cinderella and to find our Prince Charming.
It would take decades before I realized how fatal the childhood fairytale fantasies I reveled in were. How they obscured brutal realities embedded throughout American society, inherited from its long history of slavery and institutionalized racism. Places like the old Brookdale Mall sold the white suburban fantasy to white Americans, but it was an artificial, super sugary coating trying to cover up the cruel realities faced by black and brown people every single day.
I have never feared for my life being pulled over for a traffic violation. I never felt watched by workers at stores who worried I might steal something. I know now my friends and I got get out of jail free cards simply for being white. This was not so for my friends and classmates who were brown and black who were losing their lives for making the very same mistakes I had made.
Policing & Justice in the United States of America
Description of this episode: Last summer, millions across the country took to the streets to protest police violence. Now, against the backdrop of the trial of Derek Chauvin, criticism of the criminal justice system in America is once again under scrutiny. Recent shootings of Black men by police officers in the suburbs, including in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, have attracted new attention to the changing demographics of the suburbs and the tactics police use there.
We recommend this thread from researcher Will Stancil, who is one of our guests for this conversation:
And conditions are often different for people in wealthy, white suburbs. From a piece called “The Case For Defunding Police Is In Our Affluent White Suburbs” in Mel Magazine:
Homicides, robberies, rapes and other violent crimes happendisproportionately in poor minority communities. Crime rates have been falling across the country for the last 30 years — it’s statistically the safest era to be an American. But Black and brown people, especially those in inner-city communities, are victimized by crime that’s practically unseen in whiter, more affluent suburbs.
Those suburbs aren’t safe and clean and orderly because they’re white and wealthy. White, wealthy suburbs are safe because they benefit from two world-shifting factors: 1) the police harass less and solve more serious crimes; and 2) there’s significant funding for municipal and social services, whether that’s schools or health-care facilities or simply park space.
How are police and local officials responding to changing demographics in the suburbs? Have police been able to answer calls for justice from local residents?
We’re talking about how policing works in the suburbs.
Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. As the trial of Derek Chauvin plays out, it's a truth and a trauma many people in the US and around the world are again witnessing first hand. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of policing in the United States and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.
Description: Black girls are suspended six to seven times more than white girls in schools across the U.S. Now, Rep. Ayanna Pressley is reintroducing a bill that aims to disrupt the school-to-confinement pipeline.
Here & Now’s Tonya Mosley speaks with Rep. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, about the bill to address the disproportionate punishment of girls of color in schools.
Description: Recently, The Takeaway convened five of those voices, across law enforcement, advocacy, and academia, and asked them to come together to talk about the way forward. What is the future of policing in America? In our ongoing coverage, we tackle what’s broken in today’s system and what it would take to fix it.
April 20, 2021 — Today Was A Monumental Day, But We Are Not Done
Wow — I did not expect this verdict today. What a relief. It is one step in the right direction towards justice, but there is still a long ways to go and a lot of work to do to transform as a people, a society, a nation that values the lives of all its people–black, white, Asian, indigenous, immigrant, religious, non-religious–whoever you are, you belong in a society that treats everyone with dignity and respect and justice.
We Are a Nation of Beautiful People and Each & Every One Is Precious, If We Could Just Learn to See
The United States of America is at another inflection point; a time of reckoning of cultural precepts obscured and hidden through false politeness and talk of freedom for all, but with harden attitudes and deep brutality and injustices baked into our systems, our stories, and our brains. To change deeply ingrained attitudes, actions, and behavior, they need to be made visible. Even when they are made visible, they need to be reckoned with honestly by each individual in which they exist.
Perhaps that is why my attention got drawn to blood and its brutalities just before another police officer killed another precious soul in my hometown. Just the word blood conjures up violent, brutal images. But it also heralds new life (though any mother will tell you labor is hard and painful work). To do the work necessary to transform collective reality requires lots of individuals doing the hard work of self-development. A good place to begin is how we are programmed by our culture. For a modern man or woman, this gets complicated fast because modern society frequently requires belonging to lots of groups with each possessing its own unique culture that exerts an influence an individual’s mind space. This is important because it is here in this invisible space of mind where our values, beliefs, and attitudes are formed. These then inform our actions in the world, which create our collective reality.
Shankar Vedantam explored recently how culture and the cultural narratives we carry around inside of us influences our individual attitudes and actions in a podcast called Made of Honor. He introduces this episode saying, “Stories help us make sense of the world, and can even help us to heal from trauma. They also shape our cultural narratives, for better and for worse.” His guest speaker, Ryan Brown, begins with a story from his childhood where he finds himself along with his boyhood friends flying down a dark country road with no headlights on, no seatbelts, no helmets. The car was driven by a friend but appeal to him to go slower only goaded him to go faster. It was a moment Ryan believed he and his friends would die. It was also a moment that led Ryan to become a psychologist at Rice University in Texas.
Ryan Brown now understands why his fried refused to slow down nor apologize later for his reckless behavior. His friend was following a cultural script based on honor culture. “Honor cultures are societies that put the defensive reputation [of the group] at the center of social life and make that defense one of the highest priorities people have.” It is a culture that encourage excessive risk-taking behavior to show how brave and tough a person is, especially males in the culture. Doing so is a way to build and solidify one’s reputation in the society. In an Honor Culture, if your honor is threatened, you never back down, especially as a man, then you can only double-down and never show an ounce of weakness.
Ryan tells how his ancestry traces back to Southern Scotland that is steeped in the values and beliefs of Honor Culture. Residue of Honor Culture have been brought over from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and many other immigrant groups that had these beliefs. These attitudes and values took root and grew strong in the Southern colonies, even when the United States had not been born yet. And they continued to flourish when the Southern colonies transformed into the Southern states, and then they pushed West.
Ryan says (12:39): “And so if you think about westerns, if you think about Western movies or Western history, there are always rough and tumble guys with names that sounded kind of Scottish, a McTavish McDonald, McDougal, Graham, et cetera. And that’s not an accident. So even today, even though most people in the us in the South, I don’t think of themselves as byproducts of Scottish history. You can still see this cultural residue in some fairly powerful patterns of, of social life, that social scientists, many others, including myself, have documented over the last 20 years.”
Over the past 20 years, Ryan and his colleagues have documented a strong connection between Honor Culture and Military Valor. This is a positive trait of this culture but there is a dark side too because honor cultures can get trapped in endless cycle of violence where retribution for dishonor is followed by retribution upon retribution of escalating violence. Honor cultures are found all over the world in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and also found in black and brown communities in the U.S. Honor culture is particularly prevalent in states like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. The names of towns and businesses even reflect honor culture such as a little country town in Texas called Cut and Shoot. But, naming places is only one small example of how honor culture shapes the lives of millions of people.
Honor cultures tend to take the stance: “That’s not my people. That’s not my family. That’s not my community.” Such a mental stances discourages individuals to reflect on situations that arise that end in conflict, even violence, and these cultures do not cultivate empathy, kindness, and compassion. These qualities are considered signs of weakness. If you lose your honor in an Honor Culture, you lose your value, your standing, your reputation and never get it back. Honor cultures tend to have a veneer of extreme politeness, but violence bubbles below and can break out at the slightest perceived slight. For instance, a simple insult in an honor culture can rapidly escalate into a violence.
Gender roles tend to be highly rigid as well in Honor Cultures with Ryan saying (29:59), “If you’re a real man in an honor culture, then that means you’ve built a reputation as someone who’s strong, tough, brave, loyal, and utterly intolerant of disrespect. If you’re a woman in an honor culture and your considered a good woman and honorable woman, that means that you’ve lived up to the social standards that say you should be loyal to family, especially loyal to your husband and sexually pure.“
In a complicated country such as the US, honor cultures have effects on how politics play out (47:55) “And what to spend a few minutes talking about the role of honor culture in politics. You’re a list of States where there is a strong honor. Culture include South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee and States that don’t include Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Minnesota. It’s hard not to see a division there between, you know, a prototypical red States and prototypical blue States, Republican States and democratic States, right?“
AprilSometimesBrings More Than Showers
Honor Culture explains a lot, but it’s not the only influence shaping individual attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. There are many factors shaping who we are as individuals. Circumstances such as social status, economic status, rural or urban dweller, religious community all exert tremendous influences on individuals. To be a modern human living in a highly technological society requires belonging to many systems and groups that all have unique cultures all exerting expectations and limitations on individuals. In short, modern humans live in very complicated worlds, made so by us. Although living in groups has proven to be an undeniably successful strategy to survive, there is a price and there is a dark side. The eruption of violence seems to be a deadly cost of living in huge groups.
As I did research for this blog, I came across an article about how April 14 to April 20 is historically a Bad Week for violent or disastrous events to occur. I will not speculate why bad things seem to cycle in patterns or occur in series, but here is a partial accounting of this week through time:
April 19, 1995: Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City on
April 19, 1993: a 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX ended in a devastating fire that killed more than 50 people, including children
April 20, 1999: the Columbine shooting occurred that left 12 students dead and 21 injured happened
April 16, 2007: the Virginia Tech shooting killed 32 people and wounded 17 others
April 14, 1912: the Titanic sank
April 18, 1906: the most deadly earthquake in U.S, history hit San Francisco.
Regardless of whether violence is because of honor culture, racism, or the growing disease gripping the United States of America of mass shooting, it leaves a on survivors too. One group, impacted more than most, is hardly ever heard. Millions of children around the country are affected by gun violence every year. Whether it’s sitting through safety and violence prevention programs in school, losing a friend or loved one, or being a victim themselves, this brand of cruelty has an effect on the young.
1A talks with author John Woodrow Cox who shares powerful stories from young victims–and looks at what their experience can tell us about preventing further harm, both physical and mental.
Here & Now talked to racial trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem in this interview. He brought up something terribly important in the wake of the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death almost one year ago. Menakem says what Chauvin did was not only traumatic but meant to inflict terror in the community as well. He says (which has been said by many others as well in the past 24 hours) that “— guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — is not justice, but rather accountability. It took uninterrupted, uncut video evidence to prove what people of color have been saying for decades about the police.” He said, “This particular video, compared to other taped incidents of police violence against Black Americans, represented white body supremacy so clearly that people could not dismiss it anymore. [But] still, there are significant swaths of people who don’t believe there are innocent Black and Brown people who are profiled and unfairly targeted by police.“
I know such people. I know what Menakem says is true about white people in particular.
Menakem further states that “there’s pain in not being believed, and also trauma from racialized gaslighting — a form of psychological manipulation that white bodies in the U.S. have done to Black, Brown and Indigenous people for centuries.“
I’ve experienced gaslighting, and I know people who still suffer from the pain and trauma of being gaslighted by people they depended on who gaslighted them instead of took care of and nurtured them. Mencken is right to point this out. It is tremendously painful and highly effective at tearing apart the fabric that sustains us all. A gaslighter is a person who makes other people feel like they are the one who is going crazy. They are insidious, crafty, deceitful people.
“If a white body says something and then a body of culture says something else, what ends up happening is that the white body is always given the benefit of the doubt,” Menakem says. “So throughout the trial and verdict, people of color held onto hope for accountability on one hand while on the other hand, knew “white bodies will never admit that this system is feral.”
It is feral. The United States of America has a completely lopsided, feral system. And because of all the sugar coated, fluffy fantasies white kids get fed in their youth combined with being instilled with you’ve got to be somebody, white people are left with very little inner resources to see and deal with the truth. It is much easier to pretend not to see how brutal, how feral, how sick our culture really is.
Healing is possible, Menakem assures. He ends saying we need to start by turning towards each other and seeing other other rather than away from each other. This is powerful advice.
Lots of Human Beings, Lots of Disasters
Human beings seem particularly prone to creating circumstances that end in disaster:
You get the idea. Now, how do we get out of cycles of violence and disaster (mostly human made)? How do we recover and get to a place where something better can take root and grow?
Something else flows alongside the red blood cells in our bodies. It is not something that is visible, but it can be felt. This invisible substance (or perhaps force) is essential to sustain our inner spaces and to maintain a healthy state of mind. Each and every human being is born with this invisible force flowing through them just like blood flows through them. Because we are human, we are aware of this force and this awareness allows us to channel it and to alter instinctual responses and urges before acting on them. Human beings can suppress instinctual responses. They can amplify them, and they can transform them into something else entirely. Carl Jung called this ability consciousness, or perhaps it is spirit blood.
It is through our choices and how we alter instinctual responses before acting on them that our collective reality is created. Eastern traditions, religions, and philosophies call this power Karma, which is simply the recognition that every action creates a reaction, a consequence.
This all ascends quickly into the realm of spiritual and metaphysic concerns, which is a realm most often regulated to religions to grapple with the nebulous inner spaces where thoughts, attitudes, and bias materialize into action.
I was raised Lutheran, but during the time of my father’s death, I found my childhood religion negated the realities of powerful synchronicities that occurred and inner experiences my father and I experienced during the 10 days he lived beyond the moment he should have died. I have written about his previously, so will not do so again here.
Instead, I would like to highlight something that my friend Ali Raza Saleem posted, which caught my eye during the time my attention was focused on blood. My friend is a neuroscientist and scholar of Jung and posted the following:
Qalb (Faculty of Heart) and Lataif e Sitta
The faculty of heart (Qalb) is the faculty of the Spirit, not the biological pumping heart when we refer Qalb in terms of spirituality. The nerves associated with heart are primarily concerned with pumping of the heart, conveying signals to muscles, as well as sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to control the pace of heart beat.
Faculty of Heart, spiritually speaking, isn’t tied strictly to ’emotional aspects’. Brain has designated centers for emotional perception and the affects are mediated through signals to the body including changing contraction and pace of the heart, bodily sensations, fight or flight mechanisms etc.
Faculty of Heart is the faculty of immaterial Rooh (Spirit) that along with other faculties (lataif) ‘feels’ Love, Suffering of the other Soul, Compassion, Benevolence, Bliss, Tranquility (itmenaan), Gratitude, Spiritual longing and Joy of Union with Beloved, Divine Beauty and Majesty etc, and blocked by Greed, Anger, Arrogance, Bukhl (stinginess), Hasad (Jealousy), Bughaz (spitefulness), malice, malevolence etc stemming from unpurified Lower Nafs (Ego). The emotions resulting from gratification or failure of gratification of lower Nafs (Ego) are also more of bodily/’brainy’ in nature. But in a loose sense, speaking poetically, heart can be said as preceptor of emotions in general as their ‘Affect’ is ‘felt’ at the heart.
The immaterial lataif including Qalb (heart) have specific locations on the body (metaphysically superimposed on various organs like heart as in the case of Qalb) as described in Lataif e Sitta, where the virtues associated with them are experienced spiritually.
He further sent me this graphic.
And he explained:
For a Sufi his body is in service (submission) to Divine Will helping him fullfil the tasks for nourishment of the Spirit/Soul.
The terms in this diagram maybe used in different meanings compared to the ones used in Psychology like the term Self here have meanings different to what we use in Psychology. This article further explains the model and the meaning of terms used in this diagram.
I know so little about Muslim teachings and wisdom, but I find everything Ali Raza Saleem shared extremely helpful in understanding the workings of the Invisible Self. These are the parts not visible to others unless we share them through words or actions. I have also been reading The Philosophy of the I Ching by Carol Anthony and have found her writing also very illuminating about the Invisible Self. Beginning on page 35, she writes:
“People who can hear within are called psychic, but, in truth, we all have this ability; it is simply suppressed in most of us. Through inner listening we can also become aware of other people’s conscious thoughts. Our superior self listens and looks, but does not speak. What we receive from the inner world that we perceive and know as intuition comes from inside and apart from ourselves, just as what we see of the outer world is outside and apart from ourselves. What we hear within comes from the teacher, the same Sage who speaks through the I Ching. It knows the way and comes to help. We can only hear it when we maintain emptiness, innocence, and receptivity. When we jump to conclusions because of fear and impatience, we can’t hear the quiet suggestions of the Sage within.“
“When we say a thing ‘comes totally out of the blue,’ this is an intuitive ways of saying that we are helped by the Sage. We say ‘out of the blue,’ because our words have the clarity of the sky and come from nowhere. What we say is what needs to be said and is perfectly appropriate. Innocence and emptiness make it possible; we are noticeably free of emotional attachment and our words come in the vernacular of the moment; everyone understands and agrees. when this happens we are always a bit surprised. The fact is, we are not in possession of such moments, although we make them happen through being in a complementary relationship with the Creative Power. This we can do only through cultivating our superior man within.“
This makes me thinks how each of us is a livingwork of art constantly in progress and transformation. As living works of art, we are both artist and the art. We choose the colors, patterns, subject, and background–and by so doing, we live them, we feel them, we see them, we know them. The canvas is our mind. And we develop our art of being by listening and learning how to regain our innocence and inner emptiness that allows us to be open and receptive to every moment we met. This is how we can transform ourselves, and by doing so, transform the world.
The video below is an artistic-musical journey of some of the events that defined and reshaped our shared reality over the past year. It spans natural disasters, disease disasters, and human made disasters that occurred beginning around Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2021.
I began by drawing the sad woman sitting by a fire contemplating something. I drew her early in 2020 before most of what happened transpired. Behind her is a dreamlike landscape, which was drawn some years earlier. However, I felt it belonged in this dream-like landscape. I then wanted images to appear between the flickering fire, but I didn’t know how to choose which ones to draw or feature among all the disasters and terrible things that occurred last year all around the world.
I decided to focus on the United States and found a regional map that I redrew artistically. I found other maps of where fires occurred, where the derecho hit Iowa and left a 750 mile path of destruction, where hurricanes came ashore, where Black Live Matter marches took place after the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis (my hometown), and where COVID-19 infections were rising. I artistically re-envisioned and redrew these maps as layers that could be used over the Regional Map or alone.
I blended live videos of 2020 events (e.g., driving through fire, driving through the derecho, hurricane mapping and video, Black Live Matter marches) as well as murals painted by artists worldwide honoring George Floyd and/or illuminating the collective struggle of COVID-19 into this video montage of 2020.
Towards the end, I include drawings I made many years earlier. There were lots so many glitches in getting this video posted, including having to throw out 6 songs at the very end and replace them since the musicians did not allow their music to be used with anything other than their original videos. I understand this, it is their creation. However, I am deeply grateful to the musicians who do allow their musicto be used with ad revenue going to them (as it should). I have cited all musicians and tried to give credit to all videos and images used that are not my own drawings or photography. I list these sources in the description section on YouTube.
It is with gratitude I offer Mother of Grief — Remembering 2020
Note: The above video is redone due to a copyright claim on one song that block the first version from being viewed. I have removed that song (and then two subsequent replacement songs that ran into the same issue) and replaced it with more gracious musicians who realize art is meant to create and give birth to new art, always. I will leave a link to the previous video because sometimes these claims get lifted.
I completely support any advertisements that the musicians place on this video so any money goes to them. I have never intended, nor ever will, monetize this video for my own profit. It is meant as a work of art expressing some of the dramatic changes that occurred around the world in 2020. It is a year that will be remembered as the moment the world walked through a doorway from which it will never return to the world it had known in the previous year.
How we move forward from this point depends on the quality of character of every living human being on our planet as measured through mind, heart, and each individual’s ability to see the humanity of all people and the preciousness of all life on earth.
Remembering who we have lost and how our lives have changed is important, especially as we prepare and begin making choices on how to move forward as individuals and as communities. Our choices matter. Without taking time to reflect and to grieve for what has been lost, we are bound to go in circles and repeat fixable mistakes in attitudes and ideas over and over. Taking time to remember and grieve is a sacred act. No matter if your life has been impacted in big or small ways, this past year has caused a pause–and Now is the time to reflect, remember, and cherish the precious gift of life–something that is so fragile and fleeting for all of us. This is how we grow and transform by remembering, reflecting, and cherishing what has been lost and using this remembrance (this accounting of one’s life to this moment in time) to make different choices moving forward.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book about the philosophy of the I Ching. It is a book one of my brothers got a long, long time ago. I don’t know how I ended up with it. For years it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust. Perhaps I would not have understood what the author was revealing had I picked it up earlier. However, after 5+ years of significant reversals, setbacks, and losses, it really resonates with me today.
Carl Jung said the East charted inner landscapes and developed a deep understanding of who and what we are as conscious living beings while the West turned its time and attention to charting and understanding the outer world. Neither focus is bad. Both are part of reality; however, the Western focus on the reality of the visible, outside world grew lopsided (very lopsided), creating an imbalance in the psyche that resulted in a lost of awareness of sacred inner landscapes forming one’s inner realities. This forgetting has put the wellbeing of individuals in peril, and possibly placed our collective survival as a species, a civilization in jeopardy as well. All hands are needed on deck to heal the chasm created by this extreme lopsidedness; I will tell you more about this in my book: Sapience.
Returning to what I was reading last night that felt like it belonged in this post. I was reading a chapter about the Student-Sage Relationship. The I Ching believes student and sage are one. And, we come to know our inner sage by developing inner discipline and quieting our mind. This is how our inner sage can be heard, understood, and followed for the good of self and the greater good.
What felt like belonged here is the following:
The Sage is polite, but firm in stating cosmic principles.
It is through such firmness that we perceive his total personality as gentle, kind, firm, and correct–one that believes in us in spite of our deviations.
He waits while we exhaust our enthusiasm for false ideas; he allow us to self-destruct if we stubbornly insist upon doing so, but would rather we did not, because, as he tells us, we have the potential for achieving something both great and permanent for the good of all, if we will do it.
While working with the Sage, we feel a nourishing, helpful presence.
If we become arrogant, however, this presences departs and we begin to feel lonely.
We are hardly aware of this presence until we lose it and miss it.
When we return to our path, the presence gradually returns.
It is as if an inner light comes and goes.
By his coming and his going, he teaches us about himself and about our relationship with him.
The book is called: The Philosophy of theI Ching. It was written by Carol K. Anthony who I came to discover recently died in August 2020. She founded her own publishing company and lived close to me. I could have met her had I been a little faster in my curiosity about the I Ching, but time and fate is what it is. Her biography is beautiful:
Carol began her study of the I Ching in 1971, during a mid-life crisis, when she was age 41. Her difficulties made her receptive when a friend, desiring to be of help, introduced her to the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching. It taught her to meditate in a way that helped her to understand what the hexagrams were saying. She kept notes of these insights as they occurred. Within seven years she had a complete set of notes on each hexagram that helped friends understand the hexagrams they received. She quickly realized that her notes filled a unique need. Two meditation experiences led her to publish them under the title, A Guide to the I Ching, and to found Anthony Publishing Company. This book was followed by The Philosophy of the I Ching, in 1981, The Other Way, Experiences in Meditation Based on the I Ching, in 1990, and Love, An Inner Connection, Based on Principles Drawn from the I Ching, in 1993. These books interested other publishers and some of them were translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Croatian.
Kojo is retiring soon and will be missed. This was a wonderful look back on a year that turned world upside down.
It was Friday, February 28, 2020 on The Politics Hour when we first covered the coronavirus in any detail. We discussed it again briefly on The Politics Hour a week later. But at that those moments we had no idea how deadly the virus would become and how the year would unfold. We were talking about elbow bumping and hand washing.
Over the days that followed cases started to gradually increase in the D.C. region and throughout the country and the world. And on March 10 we devoted the entire show on the virus with doctors and public health officials and began covering the COVID-19 pandemic regularly.
This broadcast will take a look back at the year of COVID, with insights and reflection from Emergency Physician and Professor Dr. Leana Wen, Washington Post Columnist and Parenting Coach Meghan Leahy, and WAMU/DCist Staff Writer Elliot Williams.
Description:The year 2020 was one of painful loss. We said goodbye to respected leaders and lawmakers, to gifted athletes and entertainers, to people who have inspired us and enriched our lives even if we didn’t know them personally. In some cases, people were taken from us far too soon, victims of a pandemic that has caused death and suffering around the world. And some of those we lost were the victims of grave injustice, cruelly robbed of years of life they might have spent with family, friends and loved ones.
To lose these people is a reminder of the fragility of life, and a reminder to take care of one another to the best of our ability. But in the midst of feeling sorrow for people who are no longer with us, we should also take comfort in the gifts they gave us while they were here. Here, TIME pays tribute to those who left us in 2020, people who changed the world for the better and helped show us a path forward.
The year that COVID built: a look back on 2020
The World Economic Forum put together a wonderful snap shot of 2020 based on what we searched for on the Internet as well as other key moments of 2020.
Taking a break from the news over the weekend, I had not paid attention to the emergence of Naked Athena until I heard NPR’s Michel Martin talk with Portland NAACP President E. D. Mondainé about ongoing protests taking place there. Martin begins saying:
“Let me just go to the piece that you wrote. It’s gently worded, but it’s very tough in its message. You said that I don’t believe it’s a time for spectacle; unfortunately, spectacle is now the best way to describe Portland’s protests. Vandalizing government buildings and hurling projectiles at law enforcement draw attention. But how do these actions stop police from killing Black people? Was there a particular moment in the course of all this that made you feel this way? I mean, in your piece, you speak about the woman who’s being described as Naked Athena…”
Reality is Messy & There is Never One Simple Narrative to Explain It, Ever
I had to see Naked Athena in Portland, OR. When I found her, I did not see spectacle. I saw splendor. For centuries, women have live under lopsided male-centered, patriarchal cultural bondage. It goes on today taking many forms, but the core impulse is to control women and deny them their rights as a human being–often cruelly and violently. The same weekend as Naked Athena made her appearance in Portland, teenage girls were harassed and spit on by the Moral Police in Iran. I heard this report on the BBC and found it written up in UK The Daily Mail.
“An Iranian undercover morality agent spat at teenage girls and asked them ‘where’s your dirty owner?’ after seeing them without a hijab. In a shocking video, which has been circulating on social media, a man stops his car and gets out before hurling abuse at the youngsters.”
Think again. Reality is never as simple as we would like it to be as human beings. It never has been, nor will it ever be. But our propensity as a species to simplify reality is tremendous. It always has been, and probably always will be.
In times long past, humans used myth, folklore, and magical tales to explain complicated, perplexing, and frightening things that confronted them and challenged their survival. In my last blog, The Beautiful Gift of Outrage, I give an example of old Scottish folklore about fairies that swap out a healthy human baby and replace it with a changeling to explain why a new born infant would fail to thrive. They did not know modern medicine. They did not understand that their newborn baby was sick and needed care, not to be left out on a fairy hill to see if the fairies would bring the real child back to them. But our species has created many stories that now days sound strange and outlandish to explain the unexplainable.
And, we are still doing it today.
Untied States of Conspiracy
Frontline is airing an episode tonight titled: The United States of Conspiracy. Also, Fareed Zakaria aired a special on CNN about Conspiracy Theories; Mondaire Jones; Hillary 2016 Communications Director; Your Anecdotal Census; and Protesting During a Pandemic. Both of these episdoes explore the deep roots of misinformation entering into American culture, politics, and the rise of Trump who has long purported kooky conspiracy theories, such as the birther theory hurtled against President Barack Obama. Trump used this cockeyed theory to launch his political career (or more aptly to launch his political farce and mockery of democracy). Zakaria covers all the conspiracy theories of the past 50 years, including one of the most recent to emerge: QAnon, which is a far-right conspiracy theory detailing a supposed secret plot by an alleged “deep state” against U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters. Zakaria makes the connection between believing in fairies and fairytales in times past to believing in whimsical, outlandish, bizarre conspiracy theories today. Doing so, provide simple, linear explanations to reality, especially to people who feel like they are losing control of their lives or their values or their culture.
From the Frontline report , a write up says:
“The United States of Conspiracy includes a striking sequence that illustrates how Trump adopted Jones’ claims — voicing them publicly in a way that shocked even InfoWars staffers as he ran for the highest office in the land.”
As 2015 drew to a close, then-candidate Donald Trump made an appearance that was unprecedented in the history of modern presidential campaigns.
It was on InfoWars, the hard-right outlet run by extremist conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a trafficker in false information who had exploited national tragedies from 9/11 to Newtown. And it was brokered by Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone, a frequent InfoWars guest, in a bid to win over Jones’ millions of viewers.
A new FRONTLINE documentary traces how the alliance between Jones and Trump, facilitated by Stone, would help to bring conspiracy theorist thought into the political mainstream — ushering in the current era, in which misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic has spread like the virus itself.
Everything. The spectacle is Trump and the rise of modern myths and fairytales that millions of people believe–stories that are just as strange and farfetched as fairies and changelings. Trump is taking advantage of this human fallibility to win. He got away with it in 2016, but reality is catching up with him. The Coronavirus refuses to comply to his fairytale, and his complete and utter failure to deal with it is causing him to lose in the polls. Of course, he is losing in the polls because of this. We are nearing 150,000 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19. Meanwhile, many European and Asian countries have successfully gotten the novel virus under control so they can reopen their economies safely and mark COVID deaths in the hundreds… not the hundreds of thousands. But, not us.
What exactly does 150,000 deaths looks like? What if all these deaths were concentrated in one geographic location? What would it look like?
It would be like losing McAllen, Mesquite, and Killeen, Tex.; Dayton, Ohio; Fullerton, Orange, Valencia, Torrance, Pomona, and Pasadena, Calif.; Syracuse, Borough Park, Astoria, and East Hampton, N.Y.; Savannah, Ga.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Naperville, Rockford, and Joliet, Ill.; Paterson, N.J.; Clarksville, Tenn.; Hollywood, Fla.; Kansas City, Kan.; Alexandria, Va.; or Springfield, Mass. Eric A. Gordon captures this for us to imagine in a compelling article titled: 150,000 dead of coronavirus in U.S.: What monument will they have?
So Trump needs a distraction. He needs his loyal believers of his fairy tale about reality to not look at the real spectacle of this moment–his utter lack of interest and ability to deal with reality–but to believe that America is falling into the clutches of the fatal-thinking, wacky left wing democrats. So, what does he do? He co-opts the beautiful, genuine cascade of Black Lives Matter protests and marches that are sweeping across the country, and across the world, after the brutal murder of George Floyd by a white police officer who believed he could get away with murder. Well, he didn’t. Here is a map a professor created of all the protests around the world evoked by George Floyd’s death.
This is the battle Trump is fighting. He is turning a long overdo moral accounting of White Privilege into an urban war to scare the hell out of his core supporters. He and his collaborators (like Barr) are not interested in saving or protecting human lives. If so, Trump would be sending PPE and swabs to hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, clinics in the 70% of the country he said not to look at when he was telling America how well we were doing in combating the coronavirus. He would be much more concerned with human life (black, brown, elderly, and everyone else) rather than abusing his power as President of the United States of America to protect a building in Portland. In the same insane compulsion to win the 2020 election, Trump is systematically and cruelly undermining all the hope and promise that the Black Lives Movement is bringing into the light of day. This means coming to terms and reckoning with everything this country has done to black and brown people–slavery, Jim Crow laws, Redlining, endemic impoverishment of black and brown people due to racism and structural inequalities putting white people first, and police brutality.
This is Trump’s War. He is making sure these changes don’t happen on his watch and that’s why his supporters need to reelect him in 2020, but what he keeps hidden to himself is that he doesn’t have an ounce of empathy for his supporters. He does not care what happens to them after he is elected. He is demonstrating this right now in more outlandish ideas about miracle cures for COVID-19 citing a doctor (just yesterday) who talks about demon sperm. He just wants to serve himself to more helpings of greed and gluttony for another four years.
Wag the Dog
Most U.S. Presidents who have gotten in trouble just before their second term are fabled to begin a war to keep in power. Trump’s war is with Americans. He is sending in federal troops (many contracted military units not trained to deal with lawful protesters) to stir up trouble precisely so he can get great photos and video footage to bolster his lopsided narrative of America falling into chaos and violence. This is the spectacle.
Naked Athena is the beautiful emergence of ancient knowledge and wisdom of dealing with men like Trump and the troops his has sent into cities that do not want them there. It is no accident she was named Naked Athena–the Goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and warfare. These ancient Gods and Goddesses are not dead because we no longer believe in them. They live inside of us. They are part of us. They are the building blocks of our psyches that hold the energies inside each of us that move us to take action. How that action is expressed depends on the constellation of archetypes that begin to take shape when we are born and become consolidated when the ego is born at the moment of the Primal Split, as defined through Melanie Klein’s work and object relations theory. Archetypes were first described by Carl Jung. They are poorly understood by modern humans, but they hold the psychological templates of everything that we feel and do: love, fear, greed, war. If we do not pay attention to them and the balance of our inner worlds, they can get triggered and take over our minds–sometimes this is good, often it is bad. They can also emerge collectively in moments like these and quickly turn into monsters. Naked Athena placed herself between the beasts of our collective rage on both sides of the divide. She emerged at the right moment like soothing rain to calm the archetypes rising in rage against each other. That’s what the ancient myths, legends, and folklore are all about. They are stories about our own abilities to create reality or to destroy it. To me, Naked Athena is a beautiful counter force to hate and violence–in her nakedness, she is vulnerable and unadorned by trappings of modern civilization, placing her body bravely in the middle of the line of conflict. Some say this is the moment that these protests descended into spectacle. I say, it is a moment they ascended into a realm of transformation and good trouble. We must remember how to travel and navigate our inner spaces. This is where things become cloudy, inside the mind, for the body is a clear place.
Appendix of Resources
I am not going to digest all these things here, but all of them feed into my ideas about why Naked Athena is part of the Splendor of this moment rather than the Spectacle of it. White people have a lot to work out now and a lot of it is between other white people. So much has been hidden, kept secret, silently enforced. There is a reckoning going on many levels and the streams inevitably will spilt, but the force all of them are pushing back against is the spectacle of Trump, his base, and his collaborators, not naked Athena or any of the protests going on that include examples of Good Trouble and Bad Trouble, yes, reality is messy and there is not one easy, simple, all-inclusive narrative to explain any of it.
A flawed response to a global pandemic. A string of falsehoods concerning the efficacy of mail-in voting. A violent and undemocratic response to nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
The president of the United States has a lot to answer for in the eyes of his critics.
Ibram X. Kendi is the author of “How to Be an Antiracist” and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He’s written a cover story for The Atlantic detailing how President Donald Trump’s racism has forced America to confront its own, especially the prejudiced systems which have allowed the oppression of minority communities in the United States.
Ed Yong is a staff writer for The Atlantic. He recently published a piece for the same magazine painstakingly detailing the numerous failures and inadequacies in the federal government’s approach to combating the coronavirus. Yong explores how the underfunding of medical resources left minority communities particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, contributing to the country’s skyrocketing death toll.
We ask both of them: Is America ready to reckon with its past? And what happens to America’s future?
This is a five-minute listen that is time well spent. One of the thing Jonah says is ‘we are going to see glorious video clips of how violent and degenerate America has become in future Trump for President ads and during the republican national convention.’
Seattle mayor calls Trump’s response to protests ‘un-American’ — Protesters and police again clashed in a number of U.S. cities over the weekend, including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. President Trump has defended sending federal law enforcement to the cities, but many local officials say their presence is only exacerbating the existing unrest. Amna Nawaz reports and talks to the mayor of Seattle, Jenny Durkan, about what she’s seeing in her city.
I found the following part of this interview particularly compelling:
Amna Nawaz: Mayor Durkan, I should point out, your critics will point to the fact that, for weeks, protesters several weeks ago had basically taken control of a few downtown city blocks.Your police chief had to go in earlier this month with heavy machinery and riot gear to clear that area. There was already concern about violence over the weekend. The police chief called it a riot on Saturday night.Do you think that the presence of federal forces could help quell these protests before they get out of control, and something similar to what happened before happens again, where protesters are able to take over some chunk of city space?
Jenny Durkan: I think that when you saw that the area on Capitol Hill that we were able to return to normal, that our police were able to go in there and clear that area with very little conflict and restore it back to a place that all the neighborhood and businesses could enjoy it.Contrast what’s going on in Portland, where, night after night after night, it is proven that what they’re doing is not working. They have not quelled anything. To the contrary, they have escalated it.So I do not believe that there’s any evidence whatsoever that any of the strategies that the president is trying to employ will lead to peace. And I don’t think he wants it to.He’s been very clear that what he is doing is targeting cities that are led by Democrats to show that there can be division and the lack of law and order, so that he can run on that as a president.That kind of political maneuvering of law enforcement really is un-American. And I think it’s dangerous for us to go down that path.
Amna Nawaz: Mayor Durkan, very briefly, you weren’t told before the current federal team that’s on the ground in Seattle was sent in. Do you have any assurance you will be told in advance of any further deployment?
Jenny Durkan: So, the assistant secretary did say he would call the chief of police and myself if the posture changed. But I know that — look, there’s one person who’s guiding the activities of this administration, and that’s the president of the United States. And so, regardless of assurances that anyone else might give me or any other local government official, we have to take the president at his word. And he keeps escalating his rhetoric, and then the behavior follows that rhetoric. And so, as a mayor of a city, I will tell you, I do need the federal government’s help. I need more testing for COVID-19. I need to make sure that, as this health emergency gets worse, that my hospitals can withstand it. I need the kids who are hurting not going to be back in school to be able to learn. That’s the kind of help we need from this federal government that we don’t get. A president should step forward and lead the nation. And, instead, he’s dividing the nation. And I think it’s a really dangerous time for America to be on this point of inflection in our history. And what — our choices today will decide what happens for generations of Americans to come.
When Trump first pulled this stunt (with Attorney General William P.Barr serving as his hedge man and is is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this very day about this despicable day of failed democracy), I published this short video blog:
“White supremacy has made recent local news, between Jeremy Christian’s murder trial in Portland, and the presence of white nationalist groups in rallies across the state. A special edition of the Oregon Historical Quarterly is out now, that reminds residents that the problem is actually rooted deep in state history.
KLCC’s Brian Bull talked to the journal’s editor, Eliza Canty-Jones. Bull asked how ingrained white supremacy is in Oregon’s settlement.”
Chris Cuomo and Difference Between Good and Bad Trouble — The CNN anchor went on to define what is “good trouble” and “bad trouble.” Cuomo echoed Lewis’ assertion that the Black Lives Matter movement was “good trouble,” but noted that the “riots” and “touching to hurt” and “destroy” was not included, suggesting that focusing more on the violence rather than the protests is “bad trouble at work.”
This is a Fox News report. I watched this broadcast when Chris Cuomo made these comments and did not come to the conclusions being made in the Fox article. But, we all do this, twist what we see and hear to fit our narratives. Trump is a master in doing this. He has a natural born instinct how people are reacting and how to twist any reality playing out in front of him to appeal to his willing supporters and collaborators
“To the American reader, references to Vichy France, East Germany, fascists, and Communists may seem over-the-top, even ludicrous. But dig a little deeper, and the analogy makes sense. The point is not to compare Trump to Hitler or Stalin; the point is to compare the experiences of high-ranking members of the American Republican Party, especially those who work most closely with the White House, to the experiences of Frenchmen in 1940, or of East Germans in 1945, or of Czesław Miłosz in 1947. These are experiences of people who are forced to accept an alien ideology or a set of values that are in sharp conflict with their own.”
One of the powerful things Applebaum said during this interview is that politics are just ideas that men and women form in their minds, then get together to try to implement in society, nothing more. Often these ideas have nothing to do with the reality of the people. Rather, they tend to be overly idealized and simplified ideas of how to run a civilization. For Trump, it is even more lopsided because he knows the ideas he promotes has nothing to do with reality. To him, it is a game to see how many people he can get to believe them.
The example of the old Scottish folklore about fairies swapping out a healthy human baby and replacing it with a changeling, comes from Outlander. Claire is the lead character of this series, and she would soon find out why her friend Geillis Duncan warned her not to go up the Fairy Hill. Claire did not listen. She searched for the child, but found it too late. It died from exposure. All she could do was hold it tenderly; her heart broken because she could not find it in time. Her beloved Jamie finds her, puts the baby back in the tree, and takes her home… telling her perhaps believing the real child will live forever with the fairies will bring comfort to the parents who lost their child.
In the next episode or so, we find out why Geillis warned Claire not to go up the Fairy Hill. She was not warning Claire about the fairies, but the town’s people. When Claire and Geillis get arrested and put on trial for being witches, Claire listens in horror as the mother of the child she tried to save testifies to her witchery and spells. She realizes as she listens and looks at all the town’s people crammed into the court that they are turning into an alien, broiling, in-human lump of hate and violence that seeks only one thing: To see her and Geillis burned alive. The Fairy Hill was a metaphor for the townspeople who lived in a one-sidedness that was unsustainable. The monster inside of them all had to be let out once in a while, and it was coming out now as she and Geillis were about to be killed by these gentle folk. They were they fairies, and they were turning into zaries right before her eyes–evil, mischievous, in-human things.
I pay attention when things come in threes, and so it is now with outrage. I have also been writing about Cloud Atlas recently, which uses Fyodor Dostoevsky’s often-quoted maxim derived from his book The Idiot as its super structure: ‘Beauty will save the world.’
So, let’s get after how such a feeble, fleeting, and fragile thing like beauty intersects with outrage to save the world.
Number 1: “I’m Mad As Hell”
Chris Cuomo opened his show last night with this clip from Sidney Lumet, 1976 movie: Network.
I found a fellow blogger who writes eloquently about this clip and Beale’s speech. And, I love Neil Hughes byline — Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own! Bravo! We need more unique thought in this world! I leave it to Neil Hughes beautiful written recap of the circumstances causing Howard Beale to rebel live on TV. But, I will carry over this powerful speech, which still resonates vividly still today.
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’
Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. (shouting) You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’
I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’
Are you going to your window? I think this clip is an absolutely magnificent moment distilled by the writers and filmmakers of this movie from the 70s showing the beauty of being human. In our super modern world, we need such moments to keep us human.
Number 2: “Give Back the Goat!”
My new favorite series is Outlander–I don’t know how have I missed this story for so long? And so after getting my fill of the news, I switched to story, and last night I watched episode 5 of season 1. You guessed it… it’s about outrage.
Claire is the main character, and she is the outlander in this world. I will not spoil why she is if you are like me and have not read this story or watched this series. Do not read what comes next if you plan to read or watch Outlander because it will spoil all the surprises.
If you are continuing to read, Claire has proven herself as a capable healer and is taken on a road trip to help Dougal (who is the brother to the clan’s king) to collect the rents from their tenants of the land Mackenzie. While on the road she is faced with the horror of the conflict between the English and the clans (and the injustices of collecting rent from people who have practically nothing to give). While she grapples with these horrors occurring between landowner and peasants together with the growing conflict between the Scottish-highlanders and the British, she becomes keenly aware of the future bloodshed that her Scottish friends will soon face: The Jacobite rising of 1745, also known as the Forty-five Rebellion or simply the ’45. (Eye, 45, seems an ominous number throughout the course of human history).
This clip is a little cheesy, but it does a good job explaining why Claire feels outraged, which is absolutely beautiful in its purity, intensity, and passion.
My friend Jurgen, who is a brilliant blogger, sent me his blog several days ago, but I did not read it until today. He writes beautiful pieces on his site called Mach was!? (Do something!?). This one is titled: ‘A gentle reminder’. He begins this piece by saying:
“Having spent nearly three months in complete seclusion from the outside world, alongside a next-to-perfect disappearance of electronic communication channels for most of that period, I had a lot of time to think about, and feel into, the so-called Corona crisis. It was a time of intense joy over the increased quality of life, owed to civilization’s coming to an almost complete halt, and it was also a time of intense agony over what my growing understanding of the crisis brought to light, both in terms of outer truths and of the resurfacing of psychological traumas.”
He goes on to say: “It’s time to re-discover our common humanity and the huge pile of pressing issues we need to look at right now.“
Indeed it is. Jurgen writes extensively and from a point of consolidated consciousness that I find compelling about culture and civilization and we are indeed at a moment of reckoning now. He says: “My credo though – whether explicitly or implicitly stated – remains the same throughout: this culture will eat the world alive and turn it into poisonous trash.” This is the very same truth expressed beautifully in Cloud Atlas when the character Adam Ewing writes in what he believes to be his final letter to his beloved wife and family summarizing everything he’s seen over the last couple of months and says:
“One fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself.” (11.15.7)
And indeed this world is realized in the one where Somni-451 has been condemned to live, except she ascends consciously and learns the truth as to where her sisters (her fellow servers cloned by the corporation to cater to the banal needs of consumers who are also the prey of the corporation) are taken in Xultation. Sonmi-451 is a beautiful arch in this complex and dazzling story compelling us to examine what makes us human!
Truth and Trauma — Reality is a Gift
Truths and traumas are the common thread running throughout the three examples I have shared above. We are one human tribe and when one part of us goes a little bit rotten, or completely rotten, feeling itself entitled to rob ‘the other’ from their humanity and right to exist in space and time, it is mostly certainly WRONG and deserves our OUTRAGE!
It is entirely human to feel shock and horror triggering outrage when we encounter the grotesque wrapping of our shared human nature.
It takes courage to act on outrage, but most of us have been put to sleep or are too afraid to act on it any more, and this is another twisting of our birthright as human beings who have been granted the precious gift of consciousness. But, we are wasting this gift and turning Earth into a barren desert where life cannot survive.
What are these modern horrors that I speak of: consider the crisis in Yemen. This is entirely a manmade crisis of a more powerful group of humans destroying another less powerful group. I do not buy the narrative that these women, children, and beautiful people of Yemen deserve their fate or created these circumstances because they are vibrating on the wrong wavelength. NO! Their despair and suffering is on our hands. It is the failure of those of us who are not suffering like that to take action to mitigate and remove their source of pain. This lack of action to help ‘the other’ is what will be marked in time.
Or consider racism, the brutal enslavement of an entire race of people just because of darker skin. It is one group of people systematically and cruelly removing the humanity of another group. It is an unjust system that sanctions and allows individuals like George Floyd to be killed right before our eyes with impunity by officers of the law who are suppose to safeguard everyone’s human rights. But instead, because of the infection of racism, they have taken the lives of so many beautiful people of color who have been murdered by them under the cover of this barbaric system underpinning Western civilization, which all of us living now have been baked into.
Or consider the brutalities we allow as modern human beings to be conducted upon other living beings with whom we share this planet such as the recent revoking of a law banning hunters from blinding hibernating mother bears and their babies so the hunters can kill them easier. If these things do not strike disgust, shock, or horror inside your heart, there is a deep sleeping going on and a silent support and holding up of brutal ways of being in this world.
When one becomes conscious of injustice, brutality, and the grotesque wrapping of human nature, it deserves, in fact, demands our outrage. Without it, we are destined to wobble off the cliff of extinction as a species on this planet. This is what happens when we ignore reality by stifling our inner truths and failing to take right action to correct course.
Look around today. What do you see? Then, look inside yourself. Take your time like my friend talks about doing and really notice what is rising inside of you. What do you really feel in you now? Is now a time to be silent, to watch, and to do nothing?
I cannot answer your conscience. This belongs uniquely to you. But silence for me is not an option, nor is hiding under a Rock of Ignorance. To be clear, this rock is entirely mine. I was born under it and have carried it with me through time ever since. All of us are born into ignorance and must work steadily throughout our lives to shift through and dissolves the barriers to reality that living in groups has necessarily required of us. And yes, I still listen to the news. But, I choose my sources carefully. I agree with Jurgen…many sources of news have been co-opted by people desiring power…lots and lots of power. It gets twisted and warped into grotesque propaganda, but it appears so good to consume, which is what is intended so that it gets into your mind and sets up its workshop of ignorance manufacturing. And, news today, let’s face it, is mainly entertainment, especially social media where so many of us get our news these days, which is a little scary. So, you must choose your news wisely. I choose to listen to scientists and news sources I have grown to respect over time (e.g., PBS NewsHour). I also consume large amounts of other sources of information such as the writings of Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, Alan Watts, and many others.
Then, I digest what I consume over long walks and bike rides in nature, by journaling, or through artistic endeavors such as drawing or making mini artistic movies of my rides. It is very important to digest what is consumed through our culture, our media, and our lives. We often forget that digesting information is just as important as digesting food. This is how we grow our individual field of consciousness and diminish the burden of our Rock of Ignorance.
Most importantly, I act on what I have consumed and digested. Consumption without action is imbalance. It risks growing so huge and lopsided inside your mind that you will surely collapse under the weight of your own ignorance. Action must be taken daily to distill, transform, and sublimate what you have ingested into your mind. Only you can do this. I believe it is possible to reach a state of consciousness where knowledge of everything, including current events, is simply known inside yourself. My journey through time leaves me far from this state, and so I must pay attention to my surrounding, digest what I consume, and then I write. This is my act of transformation. Mostly I write the story I have been working on since 2012. This is a story about the collective transformation of human consciousness after the world falls over the climate cliff. I will also act wherever I can to stand up against racism and to participate in the politics of my country, which is failing right now, badly.
Lastly, as I write this blog (which is a process of digestion of the ideas I have consumed), I realize all along I have been doing what Neil Hughes suggests: Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own!
What is uniquely your own?
Find it, claim it — it is your precious contribution to Indra’s Net. Humanity needs every jewel of consciousness we can distill and sublimate now.
There is such a thing as False Outrage. This is a twisting of basic human nature for someone else’s purposes. It feels like it is your own personal outrage, but it has been carefully crafted by a swindler, a pretender, a cheat, a Confidence Man. In a time of rapid change and growing crisis, these men emerge like roaches from the woodwork of civilization where they are normally regulated to live. But during times of upheaval, people crave to consume confidence, simple stories of their lives and their fate, and they flock to such men giving them their time and attention and unquestioning loyalty. This simple thing makes such men grow big and strong, making them look like magic men, saviors, but they are not. They are twisted and wrapped. They are dangerous. And we, the Good of Earth, are extremely vulnerable to such men and the mobs they create during times of crisis. These men create and seed False Outrage. It is very contagious. This is why each and every individual must fed their mind with good, nutritious mind food that is fully digested and then put into action. This is the only way to grow your individual field of consciousness.
I add this due to two things consumed since posting this blog yesterday.
Number 2: Seeing Black Jack Randall’s real personality — Twisted Outrage
This is Outlander again. Yes, I consume lots of stories into my mind. I suppose it is like eating dessert when I am too tired to work but not tired enough to sleep (which is a super digesting time for the mind… watch your dreams… pay attention, especially now). This episode immediately following the one before where true human outrage is so beautifully expressed by Claire, now shows the viewer a twisted soul. A man who deceives and preys upon others for fun. These sorts of people live in every century. They are master manipulators and extremely dangerous individuals for they are not stupid. In fact they know how to sharpen their mind, but they choose destruction, disaster, monstrous actions in the world. This is their masterpiece, as Black Jack Randall gruesomely reveals to Claire in this episode. I will say no more for my story delves deeply into such souls. This recap does a good job explaining what happens.
I heard this last year, and it belongs here because I believe we are all being manipulated by False Outrage. Listen to this excellent episode of Hidden Brain to learn more.
VEDANTAM: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – Julie Zimmerman checked Twitter and saw something that made her upset. It was a video filmed hundreds of miles from her home in Ohio at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
JULIE IRWIN ZIMMERMAN: There was this older Native American man, and these kids surrounded him and were yelling things at him and laughing at him. And they were blocking his path. He apparently was trying to, you know, walk over to the Lincoln Memorial or something like that, and they wouldn’t let him through.
VEDANTAM: The kids surrounding this man looked like 15-year-old boys. They were nearly all white. A few were making gestures that looked like tomahawk chops. Some wore hats that read Make America Great Again.
ZIMMERMAN: These kids were making fun of this guy because he was Native American because he had a drum and was chanting something unfamiliar to them. It was pretty cringeworthy.
VEDANTAM: We’re going to look at Julie’s encounter with the story in some detail because it’s revealing about how outrage works today. Like many others watching that day, Julie fixated on one boy in the video. He was standing directly in front of the Native American man staring at him. He had what looked like a smirk on his face as the older man sang.
ZIMMERMAN: His image evoked all the horrifying things Americans have done to Native Americans throughout the centuries.
VEDANTAM: As the day went on, more details emerged. The boys were students at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati, where Julie lives.
ZIMMERMAN: I started seeing tweets that the kids were chanting build the wall, build that wall.
The modern world has brought us many wonders. We understand reality so much better than just 200 years ago when folklore, myths, magical thinking ruled most societies. Not that there is anything wrong with myth, folklore, or magical thinking, it is only when it becomes a cage for the mind that trouble sets in, which has happened again in our modern age with the brand-new behavior (but very old instinct) of doomscrolling. Watch out. You are being imprisoned in your own mind. Don’t believe me? Consider several experts studying this phenomenon. Clinical psychologist Dr. Amelia Aldao warns that doomscrolling traps us in a “vicious cycle of negativity” that fuels our anxiety. She says, “Our minds are wired to look out for threats. The more time we spend scrolling, the more we find those dangers, the more we get sucked into them, the more anxious we get.” Not only this, all this doom is triggering massive releases of neurotransmitters that are attaching to receptors in your brain. The more you do an activity that triggers the same response, the more your brain gets wired to want more and more…it is like an addiction. Your brain actually grows (rewires itself) to be dependent on bad news and doom. Instead of harnessing your natural outrage to do good in the world, you turn it in on yourself and consume your own brain, reducing your mind’s ability for creative thought, rational thought, and the expression of kindness, compassion, and healthy emotions. You must take back your mind first, otherwise you will likely never leave your room of doom.
A postscript on Doomscrolling:
My friend, Rag Mars (pseudonym), provided a thought provoking comment to an update I posted about this blog to my friends on Facebook.
“As a German Biochemist Ph.D., in my view, it is the fast accelerating complexity and pressure [that we live in today as modern humans]. We have no way to understand the most simple things anymore. In the Supermarket, I saw a Mouse Pad [that was] imprinted with the periodic table of all chemical Elements. [Imagine that how taken for granted this knowledge is to humans today.] [Meanwhile,] the Alchemists [were rigorously trying to figure out all we know today.] [They] were convinced, Mercury is the Element that can be transmuted into Aurum [the Latin word for gold]. In Quantum Chemistry, we know [today], Hg, Mercury has 80 protons, and Aurum, Au, has 79 protons. We also know, when a proton captures an electron, it can be transmuted, converted into a neutron. When in the nucleus of Hg (Mercury), [if] one electron from outside hits a proton [inside], it will [be] converted into a neutron, hence becoming Au 79–Gold.
“The Alchemists had no way to know anything about Quantum Chemistry. So how did they use Hg to perform the transmutation to Au 79?[It remains] a mystery. Today, we have no Mysteries anymore, we know [everything, or so we think]. And we also know, economically, it makes no sense [to do this–convert Mercury into Gold this way]. But, [in this knowing] we have lost the mystery. A mysterious insight in the strange cosmos. Not knowing–and still gaining insight. This riddle puzzles me. In our hyper complexity, we could know a lot. [But,] we do not–[our lives are flowing much too] fast [and we consume way too much knowledge.] [Because of this,] we have lost All of the Ancient Mysteries and Insights [our ancestors had]. So in this view, we are much more impoverished. We may even ask, was there [ever a time of] so much mystery? [We have forgotten to leave space in our mind] as the little known [is] too [small] to fill a great and bright mind, and so an Alchemist had to search for a deeper, complex hidden world. [He did so rigorously and did not settle for simple answers, and he stumbled upon amazing things.] [What did] he find access to [within his mind]? Was there Magic [there?]–[an inner realm where he was driven to] because of [his more} simple reality? Mind boggling to me.”
“Once again you write about what I write about right now–mysterious things such as the parallels between quantum mechanicians and ancient knowledge of the Alchemists (and even further back!). I did not know about this strange link between Mercury and Gold. It is fascinating and it illuminates a little more of my own inner darkness — not that this darkness it bad, it is simply unseen.
Seeing is knowing and with knowledge we are able as human being to make different choices than what has proceeded us before. Knowledge is illumination–it is inner light (at least one form of it). Again, I veer to the story I am currently consuming Outlander to help add insight to these ideas. In this scene, Claire hears a baby crying in the forest. Her friend Geillis Duncan tells her this:
“Claire, that’s a fairy hill. That baby is no human child. That’s a changeling. When the fairies steal a human child away, they leave one of their own in its place. You know it’s a changeling because it doesn’t thrive and grow. If you leave a changeling out over night in such a place, the wee folk will come, take it back, and return the child they’ve stolen.“
Claire; however, knows different and runs up the hill to help the child, but she is too late, the child has died from exposure. She is devastated, but Jamie finds her on the hill and comforts her by saying, perhaps the belief that their child will live forever stay and happy with the fairies is a comfort to this family who placed the infant here.”
Believe as a comfort, even if it has nothing to do with reality, why do humans do this?
A couple days later, I watched a documentary about Trump and his conspiracies theories by Fareed Zakaria. After going through and showing us all the fanatical modern day conspiracies ranging from Q to Alex Jones and other fantastical conspiracies manufactured and believed by millions and millions of people in the U.S. (and around the world) is akin to believing in witchcraft and fairies and monsters from times long ago. Fareed explains this is because reality is complicated and people strongly desire to feel safe and in control of their world and their fate. Thus, if magical thinking explains why something devastating happens in a way that gives them a sense of lost control, they grab onto it, regardless of how little it has to do with reality. You can hear Fareed’s show in the link below.
Remember, you are beautiful just the way you are right now. Your inner beauty will save yourself and the ones you love, and even the world when you remember just how magnificent you are. Each and every one of us has tremendous capacity to do good in the world. This is power that is equal and opposite to the ones choosing to do bad in our beautiful world of so much complexity and life. In fact, I bet there are far more ‘Good People of Earth‘ than there are ‘Bad People of Earth‘. You spin your thread to freedom every moment of every day by the choices you make. Make them consciously.
The Logic of Rage— Neuroscientist Doug Fields was on a trip to Europe when a pickpocket stole his wallet. Doug, normally mild-mannered, became enraged — and his fury turned him into a stranger to himself. Today on Hidden Brain, we explore the secret logic of irrational anger.
The Protest & March in Washington, DC — June 6, 2020
On Saturday, June 6, 2020, 12 days after George Floyd was brutally murdered by a Minneapolis policeman, I went down to Lafayette Park to be one of thousands of people from the Washington, DC metro area to go down and push back against a brutal system taking the lives of black and brown people. It is a brutality occurring for more than 400 years—ever since the first human being was taken from his or her home to serve another human being without pay, without basic needs, without rights, and without dignity for these humans were taken as slaves and the takers took their humanity as well.
I went down to the protest despite the global Coronavirus pandemic that has shut down the DC area for 2.5 months and taken 110,000 American lives. A disproportionate number of people who have died from Corona have been black and brown people who are black and brown. This is because of structural and systemic racism that have marginalized entire communities and people. It is a brutality that is baked into our systems denying people essential services, justice, and rights just because of the color of their skin. Black and brown people are failing because they do not have proper health care, enough grocery stores, enough community and supportive services, proper education, or access to high paying jobs that locks millions into poverty.
Racism is a Global Pandemic that has Lasted for Centuries
It too is a global pandemic that is much older than six months. This pandemic has gripped the world for centuries, and it grew stronger and became institutionalized when Portugal and other European kingdoms began the transatlantic slave trade in the 15th century.
In America, the first slaves were brought to Jamestown in 1619. But this is a worldwide pandemic growing stronger in recent years as racists ideologies have steadily increased everywhere. The cruel, barbaric death of George Floyd by a white police officer and three other officers that was captured on camera ignited protests around the world that are pushing back on its growing strength. But there have been many sparks before this one ignited a huge global response.
This is why I braved the Corona pandemic, as did thousands of other people from the DC area, so that I could be one more body (perhaps anti-body) in an immune response to a much older pandemic that has brutalized and killed far more people. The DC protest was an organic response that swelled into marchers who almost encircled the perimeter fence Trump set up to protect himself after being rushed down to the White House bunker on a Friday night when the first wave of protests began to sweep across the country and world—protests that have been sustained and have grown into a second week and occurring everywhere—in cities, in suburbs, in towns and rural communities.
The Black Lives Matter Protests in DC
In DC, there were shouts and chants, but there was also joy permeating the DC protests expressed through music and dance and singing. The newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza was a gathering point for this powerful demonstration of joy and celebration of life. To me, this was one of the most a powerful part of this protest for it demonstrated boldly the strength, endurance, and resilience of people who have suffered for generations under the ignorance and structural racism that has been baked into every layer of the systems we live within. I bet this joy bothered Trump more than watching the marchers, but all of it was vital to be expressed and heard and understood. Another powerful part of the protests is the spontaneous ecosystem that has emerged supporting all the protestors who come with free food, free water, and medical support. This is truly inspiring.
Enough is Enough — Pushing Back on Racism
Even if you cannot participate in a protest, each and every person, especially white people, has an opportunity to expand personal knowledge about racism. Now is also a time to grow and strengthen our empathic abilities. Both are needed to push back and go past the constricting systematic racists systems and beliefs put in place by our forefathers and that we have all been taught.
Now, is the time to push steadily on every boundary, on every level, which includes responsible social media, safeguarding truth, safeguarding justice, and voting, but it also includes deep cleaning of our minds. Each of us is responsible for implicit and overt biases that exist inside our minds. They are our beliefs and opinions. Each of us must find them and dispel beliefs that do not serve us anymore. One measure of if an opinion or belief is worn out and needs to be discarded is asking yourself who does this benefit and who is left out? And are the people left out hurt by the belief?
This takes practice. It is not as easy as it appears because we have all developed blind spots that hide the truth all around us. So, to get rid of the blind spots—one needs to listen, one needs to grow their knowledge by seeking and delving into diverse sources of knowledge and perspectives that are different from what we have known and are comfortable inside. To cling onto these old beliefs is dangerous to us all because we are all connected and we need every individual to participate in our shared reality to overcome the next great challenge humanity must met together, and that is Climate Change. To disregard one human being, one human voice, we will not make it because we are all one human species, and we are all connected.
Together, we can change the world.
Some of the Images from the Black Lives Matter Protests in DC
This is an artistic tribute of my experience at the protests on Saturday, June 6, 2020.
Music in Video
Mt. Wolf – Life Size Ghosts (Catching Flies Remix) by Catching Flies – The Stars-EP album. I discovered Life Size Ghosts through Apple Music. “Catching Flies is an English musician, DJ and record producer from London, England. His sound has been described as sitting on the “smooth, mellow side of electronic music” somewhere “between Flying Lotus and Bonobo” and “contains shades of everything from hip hop to house, from soul to jazz.” – From Wiki
Smile by Jon Batiste – Hollywood Africans album. I discovered Jon Batiste in a rebroadcast of Live From Here with Jon Batiste the guest host. It is a wonderful show you can listen to by clicking the link.
Green HillZone by Jon Batiste – Hollywood Africans album
IDK (fet. Bjay McFly) by Bebe O’Hare – Made, Vol. 3 album. I discovered Bebe O’Hare through Apple Music. She is a Chicago native who has captivated fans and garnered respect as a rapper, singer and songwriter. Follow her on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram.
Flyin’ Home by Hannibal Leq – Flyin’ Home album. I discovered Hannibla Leq through Apple Music. You can follow him on Facebook.
What a Wonderful World by Jon Batiste – Hollywood Africans album.
How I Am Examining My Beliefs & Biasis
In a time like this, it is my instinct to preach, which I come by naturally as my father was a pastor. But I will choose instead to turn this preaching on myself and focus on self-knowledge and self-development. These are some of ways I am working on myself to dispel my worn out, dysfunctional beliefs.
“Racism in America is Like Dust in the Air”
I heard Kareem Abdul-Jabbar interviewed on CNN about an Op-Ed he wrote in the Los Angeles Times. In this essay, he says “racism in America is like dust in the air. It’s invisible until you let the sun in. Then, you see it everywhere.” He says other really important things in this Op-Ed, and I have been thinking about this and the dust. It seems to me as a white person growing up in America, we are exposed to all this dust and it settles inside our minds and over time it turns into shapes and objects (these would be our beliefs and opinions). But, if we went inside and did a solid housecleaning and we cleaned and dusted all these shapes and objects that have accumulated inside our minds, they would just disappear because they are made of dust. They are fragmented beliefs and opinions of the systems we have grown up in… systems that punish everyone when they step outside of expected norms and values… the problem is Western Civilization’s norms and values have brutality baked into them and this is hurting everyone, most especially black and brown people. These beliefs need to be cleaned out and thrown away. And, I am following Kareem on Twitter now. My social media needs a better diet! His article is titled: Op-Ed: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge.
A Leader Cries Because A Leader Embraces All of Their Humanity
Anderson Cooper spoke with Professor Cornel West after the beautiful funeral of George Floyd who was laid to rest today in Texas. Cornel West was speaking so eloquently and passionately about what this moment meant. I was tearing up when I realize Anderson was too. This interview is worth watching. It embodies truth, justice, dignity, resilience, and joy.
Consequences of Racism
I heard Clint Smith on the TED Radio Hour. Clint Smith is a writer, poet, teacher, and Emerson Fellow at New America. He is so smart. His TedTalks are powerful antidotes to the dust and infection of racism. He has done two talks. One is one “The Danger of Silence” and the other is “How to Raise a Black Son in America.” Collectively, they have been viewed more than seven million times. For the TED Radio Hour episode, he discussed “The Consequences of Racism.”
What is Next?
MPR News: The death of George Floyd, a black man killed while being forcefully detained by a Minneapolis Police officer, has sparked peaceful demonstrations and destructive riots between protesters and police in the Twin Cities and across the country. MPR News host Angela Davis had a discussion with cultural trauma experts Resmaa Menakem, Justin Terrell, and Brittany Lewis about the most recent high-profile incident to become an example of historic racial injustice.
Policing Wasn’t Always This Way
Policing Is An ‘Avatar Of American Racism,’ Marshall Project Journalist Says: Lartey is a staff writer for The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal justice system. Lartey notes that America’s model of policing is a relatively recent phenomenon: “Policing wasn’t always this way. It wasn’t always this big. It wasn’t always this bureaucratic,” he says. “Modern policing — the policing that you and I and listeners recognize today — is really a product of the 20th century.” He says that Floyd’s death — and the deaths of other black people in police custody — highlight the need to change a broken system.
‘I Want to Touch the World’
The Daily remembers George Perry Floyd Jr. who nearly 30 years ago told a high school classmate that he would “touch the world” someday. Manny Fernandez, who is The New York Times’s bureau chief in Houston, went to the funeral in Houston of an outsize man who dreamed equally big and whose killing has galvanized a movement against racism across the globe.
Intense and informative, This American Life present 4 compelling acts about this moment in time. It is introduced this way: “An exhaustingly familiar story. Maybe it’ll have a different ending this time, but maybe not. We hear what different people said and did one weekend in reaction to the killing of George Floyd.”
This is another This American Life that tells about the other pandemic that is taking so many good people, trusted people, people who are making a difference in the world away from us. This pandemic is also striking black and brown people at a higher rate. This story tells about one precious life lost: “Some of the first Covid-19 patients to arrive at Henry Ford Hospital were police and others who’d attended a community breakfast in early March called Police and Pancakes. Aaron K. Foley has this story of this breakfast and of one man — Marlowe Stoudamire — who ended up at Henry Ford.” (20 minutes)
TEDRadio Hour: As protests for racial justice continue, many are asking how racism became so embedded in our lives. This hour, TED’s Whitney Pennington Rodgers guides us through talks that offer part of the answer.
It is all about “when we are asked to make a moral choice, many of us imagine it involves listening to our hearts. To that, philosopher Peter Singer says, “nonsense.” Singer believes there are no moral absolutes, and that logic and calculation are better guides to moral behavior than feelings and intuitions. This week, we talk with Singer about why this approach is so hard to put into practice and look at the hard-moral choices presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
If we do a favor for someone we know, we think we’ve done a good deed. What we don’t tend to ask is: Who have we harmed by treating this person with more kindness than we show toward others? This week, in the second of our two-part series on moral decision-making, we consider how actions that come from a place of love can lead to a more unjust world.
Social Networks — Just How Unbiased Are They?
Radiolab re-aired a show about Facebook titled: Post No Evil. It is about our social networks and how they police their platform, or more aptly, how they do not police their platforms due to implicit (or not so implicit) biases. Brief highlight: Breastfeeding, beheadings and bombings, Facebook has rules to handle them all. Today, we explore those rules and ask what they tell us about the future of free speech.
This is a riveting podcast. I have only heard the first one, but I am hooked. This is such an important topic in the Age When Everyone Is An Expert and Has An Opinion (or do they?). This series gets down into the trenches of how the social media platforms manipulate us. Highlight: “What is the internet doing to us? The Times tech columnist Kevin Roose discovers what happens when our lives move online.”
About a month before George Floyd was brutal murder by a Minneapolis police officer, I had listened to the NPR broadcast of the podcast White Lies. It is about the Rev. James Reeb who was murdered in Selma, Alabama. Three men were tried and acquitted, but no one was ever held to account. Fifty years later, two journalists from Alabama return to the city where it happened, expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved and uncover a story about guilt and memory that says as much about America today as it does about the past.I listened riveted to each episode that unravels the web of lies white people told and continue to tell about their role in perpetuating racism. One thing that really resonated with me is that even white people who cross the lines that have been baked into our systemic systems of racism are victims of brutality, like Rev. Reeb. Anyone in our modern Westernized capitalistic systems that does not obey and serve the corporate masters is subject to inhumane and cruel retaliation that can become particularly savage when white people cross the invisible lines of standing up against racism and fighting for justice and equality for all people. Rev. Reeb was white and killed for supporting the protests in Selma and the killers were protected from the law for more than 50 years by the White Lies. And, it is still happening today. Take for example a man you admits to being a leader of a Ku Klux Klan in Virginia uses his car to hit peaceful protestors: Man who allegedly ran over protesters is an admitted leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Virginia officials say.
This is one of the compelling messages that NASCAR drivers put out in a video against racism and inequality. I have to admit I have held a negative bias against NASCAR, but these men are changing my mind. They are showing us how to change inside out! I saw the interview on CNN and could feel Bubba Wallace’s candor and commitment not to just virtue signal but act. He was speaking on behalf of all the drivers who collaborated to make this video. This is huge because this hits right in the center of Trump’s base, which until this moment has been unmovable. That video was taken down, but this one is just as powerful.
“Bubba Wallace says NASCAR Confederate flag ban is about inclusion at races, not getting rid of it everywhere.”
“Wallace, the only African American driver in NASCAR’s top series, said he and his colleagues understand that for many, the flag is about heritage hot hate, and they aren’t trying to tell anyone what to do in their personal life, but he wants all fans at the track to feel included.” — both quotes and full article can be read on the Fox News Channel
But the cruel, dispicable backlash has begun as NASCAR announces a noose was found in black driver Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama over the weekend. Learn more in Justin Wise’s article in The Hill published June 22, 2020.
Excerpt from this article: “It would mean that after 525 years, someone had actually paid attention to the good sense that Native Americans have been offering almost from the start. It’s not that American Indians are ecological saints—no human beings are. But as the first people who saw what Europeans did to a continent when given essentially free rein, they were the appalled witnesses to everything from the slaughter of the buffalo to the destruction of the great Pacific salmon runs.”
Special note about Bill McKibben. He is a Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at my daughter’s school, Middlebury College, and he a founder of 350.org as well as a member of Grist’s board of directors. I just participated in a Zoom talk with Bill McKibben a week ago.
He is speaking about our inner guidance systems of reality: Our beliefs, opinions, assumptions. He elegantly speaks about the importance of one’s state of mind and how easily it can be blinded by cultural, system-wide biases and built in brutalities. It is well worth listening to. With COVID, we have time to slow down. Ask yourself two questions in this moment: Where are you putting your time and attention now? How is this growing your reality?
I continue to add to this list under Resilience Resources, which can be found on this site under the category listed below. To explore more on how to combat racism, please see these resources.
EQUALITY FOR ALL PEOPLES BEGINS BY BRINGING EVERYONE TO THE WORLD TABLE: While one human being any where in the world remains oppressed, so do we all.
Mapping Black Lives Matter Protests Around The World
This map is too darn cool not to include here. Just heard this aired on Here & Now:
More protests are planned Monday in American cities to support Black Lives Matter. They’ve been happening every day for weeks after the police killing of George Floyd.
To help give some perspective on the scope of the demonstrations, one man created an online map that shows the many cities worldwide standing up for racial justice.
Here & Now’sTonya Mosley speaks with Alex Smith, a geographic information system analyst in Tucson, Arizona. — This segment aired on June 22, 2020.
Just before I headed down to the DC protests, I heard Scott Simon read the first page of Invisible Man (no, it is not the one on TV now). This Invisible Man is a classic written by Ralph Ellison who had put his life on the line to fight in WWII only to return to an America that spite and despised him.
This is theOpening from: “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination - indeed, everything and anything except me.
Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a biochemical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves. Then too, you're constantly being bumped against by those of poor vision. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren't simply a phantom in other people's minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy. It's when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you're a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognized you. And, alas, it's seldom successful.
One night I accidentally bumped into a man, and perhaps because of the near darkness he saw me and called me an insulting name. I sprang at him, seizing his coat lapels and demanded that he apologize. He was a tall blonde man, and as my face came close to his he looked insolently out of his blue eyes and cursed me, his breath hot in my face as he struggled. I pulled his chin down upon the crown of my head, butting him as I had seen the West Indians do, and I felt his flesh tear and the blood gush out, and I yelled, "Apologize! Apologize!" But he continued to curse and struggle, and I butted him again and again until he went down heavily, on his knees, profusely bleeding. I kicked him repeatedly, in a frenzy because he still uttered insults though his lips were frothy with blood. Oh yes, I kicked him! And in my outrage I got out my knife and prepared to slit his throat, right there beneath the lamplight in the deserted street, holding him in the collar with one hand, and opening the knife with my teeth - when it occurred to me that the man had not seen me, actually; that he, as far as he knew, was in the midst of a walking nightmare! And I stopped the blade, slicing the air as I pushed him away, letting him fall back to the street. I stared at him hard as the lights of a car stabbed through the darkness. He lay there, moaning on the asphalt; a man almost killed by a phantom. It unnerved me. I was both disgusted and ashamed. I was like a drunken man myself, wavering about on weakened legs. Then I was amused: Something in this man's thick head had sprung out and beaten him within an inch of his life. I began to laugh at this crazy discovery. Would he have awakened at the point of death? Would Death himself have freed him for wakeful living? But I didn't linger. I ran away into the dark, laughing so hard I feared I might rupture myself. The next day I saw his picture in the Daily News, beneath a caption stating that he had been "mugged." Poor fool, poor blind fool, I thought with sincere compassion, mugged by an invisible man!
Most of the time (although I do not choose as I once did to deny the violence of my days by ignoring it) I am not so overtly violent. I remember that I am invisible and walk softly so as not to awaken the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers. I learned in time though that it is possible to carry on a fight against them without their realizing it. For instance, I have been carrying on a fight with Monopolated Light & Power for some time now. I use their service and pay them nothing at all, and they don't know it. Oh, they suspect that power is being drained off, but they don't know where. All they know is that according to the master meter back there in their power station a hell of a lot of free current is disappearing somewhere into the jungle of Harlem. The joke, of course, is that I don't live in Harlem but in a border area. Several years ago (before I discovered the advantages of being invisible) I went through a routine process of buying service and paying their outrageous rates. But no more. I gave up all that, along with my apartment, and my old way of life: That way based upon the fallacious assumption that I, like other men, was visible. Now, aware of my invisibility, I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century, which I discovered when I was...
This is a part of a comment sent to a local public radio station for a segment about protesting in America, which is washing over the United States after George Floyd was brutally murder under the knee of a cop.
My hometown is Minneapolis. I am white and of Norwegian heritage. My father was a Lutheran minister. We moved to Minneapolis from South Dakota just before I entered middle school. I hated the city and longed for the vast and empty prairies that my family had left, but in the course of my time living in North Minneapolis, I grew to love this city, the people, and culture deeply.
I attended North High School, which at the time was considered one of the most dangerous high schools in Minneapolis. There were riots at this school regularly back then. White people were a minority. At times, it was very hard such as the day I was punched in the head by a black man riding past me on his bike while I was walking to my school bus after school. This shook me deeply. But I participated fully in my school. I ran track and cross country and went to state in cross country skiing. I grew into my school and made many, many friends of many different skin colors than me.
After seeing George Floyd brutally killed, all my early years flooded back into me. I could feel the land and the people—and it was crying out with the pain of injustice and racial tensions that so many of my childhood friends had to live within. Friends who had showed me how to endure pain and injustice with courage and grace.
I just heard this air on Snap Judgement! Wow — Monaea Upton is wonderful and she is going to the high school I went to in North Minneapolis!
2020 has been a YEAR, and Monaea Upton has a lot to say about it. This week we bring you an episode from the podcast Vice News Reports. Vice sent 17-year-old Monaea Upton a recorder and she’s been keeping an audio diary of her senior year of high school in North Minneapolis — during online school, the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, and a spike in neighborhood gun violence. We take you inside her world.
This story does contain strong language, sensitive listeners please be advised.
BIG BIG love and special thanks to Monaea Upton, for letting us into her world! Thanks to her Mother, Rochelle Upton, as well.
This episode was produced by Vice News Reports, a new weekly podcast hosted by Arielle Duhaime Ross. Go on… check it out! This incredible podcast brings you to the news so you can hear it for yourself. VICE News reporters and producers take you along as they travel across the globe to where life is happening, right up to the frontline as a story is unfolding. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!
VICE News Reports is produced by Jesse Alejandro Cottrell, Jen Kinney, Janice Llamoca, and Julia Nutter.
Senior producers are Ashley Cleek and Adizah Eghan. Associate producers are Adreanna Rodriguez, Sam Egan, and Sophie Kazis. Sound Design and music composition by Steve Bone and Kyle Murdock.
The executive producer and VP of Vice Audio is Kate Osborn. Janet Lee is Senior Production Manager for VICE Audio. Production coordination by Steph Brown. Fact-Checking by Samir Ferdowsi.
Special thanks to Mauri Milander Friestleben, Charles Adams, Sam Wilbur, Courtland Pickens, Azhae’la Hanson, Samir Ferdowsi, and Alex Baumhardt.
Photograph by Foluso Famuyide Jr, illustrated by Teo Ducot
Season 11 – Episode 41
I Never Protested Until
I have never considered myself a person who protests, but when the Woman’s March took place, I was compelled to go down. To my great surprise, not only did I go down, but I interviewed more than 30 people attending the march. I was terrified to go up to people and ask to record them and their reasons for coming, but I did it. Everyone I asked was happy to express why they were there. As I grew more comfortable going up to people and doing this, I realized I was falling back on my implicit bias and only going up to older white women. So, I challenged myself to find individuals outside of my invisible, internal bias. This is when I met Sioux Z Dezbah who protested at the Standing Rock protests, which had occurred before the Women’s March. Police had turned violent, and she had been hit in the eye with a rubber bullet or tear gas canister that caused her to almost lose her eye.
She was spectacular. I have attached this interview. I went on to interview as many different individuals than myself as I could.
I Am Afraid of the Police
Now, I realize I am afraid of what the police will do. Last night at Lafayette Park spectacularly demonstrates why I harbor this fear (i.e., Trump’s photo op at the church). And, the images of so many violent confrontations with peaceful protesters around the country is greatly disturbing. I understand that there are agitating, anarchist agents at work. But there are more peaceful people who are in pain. I am in pain. My country is in pain. There must be a better way.
The Mayor of DC said in a press conference after Trump’s photo op and what resulted afterwards (as well as before) that she was overwhelmed and could not take the time to discriminant between peaceful protestors and nefarious agents. I don’t buy that. If we don’t take the time now to understand what is going on, when will we understand this pain and hear it and honor it? Yes, the nefarious agents need to be detained, but hurting peaceful protestors, detaining peaceful protestors… I am distributed by this.
This is not the right direction now. Just as the coronavirus has made all of us stop and take more time to do ordinary things like going to the grocery store and change our behavior to protect each other. Now is a time to do the same around issues of white privilege and structural racism that have been baked into our systems, which are unsustainable. We need to take the time to find the people who are clinging to their fear of losing power and looting and hurting police from the peaceful protestors. We should not be hurting and arresting peaceful people who are joining together to embrace a new, braver, better America.
Also, women have long suffered from the stringent, misogynistic, brutal rules made by fearful white men. I experienced this in Denver when I was hit by a car while biking. The white, male police officer who came to the scene followed me to the hospital and harassed me for not wearing a helmet instead of looking for the driver to never even stopped and there were many witnesses he could have talked to get details about the car and driver. But instead he followed me to the emergency room and then threaten to write me a ticket and make me appear in court for not wearing a helmet. For goodness sake, it’s on me if I landed on my head when I fell. Rather I landed on my tailbone, breaking it, which was very painful and frightening enough. This was a mild case of police abuse, but the fear is real, and it spans across every interaction that bad Cops have with ordinary people who they are supposed to protect. I understand the mistrust. I have it too.
The Showdown in Lafayette Square — Are We Losing Our Democracy?
As more is coming out about what happened on Monday, there is good reason to fear the police, especially a militarized police being directed by a leader who interested only in amalgamating his power. For anyone interested in drilling down on the truth, here are two podcast produced by The Daily, one aired on June 4, 2020 and the other on June 5, 2020.
The Showdown in Lafayette Square: What happened outside the White House, and what it reveals about the debate inside over using the military to quell protests. Click the link to listen to this 31 minute podcast.
Why They’re Protesting: “Hate killed Mr. Floyd,” one said. “This kind of conduct has been allowed for far too long against people of color. And enough is enough.” This podcast is a series of interviews with individuals and what motivated them to take to the streets and protest now. It is a series of stunning interviews.
Another interview that aired on June 4 on FreshAir with Anne Applebaum is a must hear. She is an expert in authoritative governments and how people rationalize their complicity or collaboration in allowing a dictator to rise and grab power, then ruthlessly rule. She warns the United States is closer to this moment than we think it is.
Reality is complicated… and now it is more important than ever before to hold competing realities simultaneously in our mind to understand what is happening now. It is complicated and there are no simply narratives to explain it. It takes all of us to do the work to understand it, thus the title to Applebaum’s article in The Atlantic.
In the FreshAir interview, Applebaum tells how Trump’s intentional effort (along with many, many others) to simplify what is happening across the country due to the brutal death of George Floyd by a cop is an assault on democracy and a dangerous power grab — to which the Republican Senate is complicit like the Russian Duma or Hungarian governing bodies. She says that his and others attempt to blame the radical left and liberals as well as Antifa as the only reasons for the riots and looting is an intentional effort to divide Americans and grab more power.
Our own media doesn’t help by seeking the better shot on live TV of a trash can or police car on fire rather than a bunch of peaceful protestors doing the electric slide. Even our social networks tend to focus on these micro parts of a much bigger reality, thus amplifying or distorting them.
Applebaum says very poignantly that what we are witnessing is a Nation committing suicide (this is in the FreshAir interview when it is available), and history will judge harshly those who have been complicit in the destruction of democracy.
Another important interview occurring today was on The Kojo Nnamdi Show with an interview with Greg Carr Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University; @AfricanaCarr. A brief overview of this critical piece of information includes:
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked a movement.
All across the country, people are stepping out and rallying against police brutality and institutionalized racism. The District has seen a surge in protests, as thousands of residents have gathered for the last week.
As riots and looting remain a part of these protests, many see a comparison to the riots after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The comparisons between the fight for civil rights in the 1960s and today are easy to make, but how much do they have in common? What does this mean for the movement today and what happens next?”
A Better Way Forward
I think what the Sheriff in Flint, Michigan did before Trump’s disgraceful photo op is one model to follow. He put down his weapons and asked the people he knew and was there to protect what they needed him to do. They said walk with them, and he did! We need bridge builders now… not frighten white men who are blowing up our fragile community connections (I include our President and the disruptors taking advantage of and/or trying to hijack this extremely important moment).
I have been hearing the chant in my head that the white men in Charlottesville’s repeated over and over during that horrible gathering, which killed Heather Heyer. They chanted, “You Will Not Replace Us.” What terrible fear and smallness this chant embodies. I hear a new chant: “We are all connected.”
When we come to understand that ‘Your pain is my pain. Your weakest moment is mine too. Your suffering and loss of justice and human dignity is my loss of justice and human dignity. When we help each other to achieve justice, fairness, equality for everyone (no matter the color of one’s skin), we heal each other. And, as we heal, we can help Earth heal and recover from the damage we (the human race) has inflicted upon our planet.’
Climate Change Is Part of This Wave of Despair Too
Climate change is a part of this too because the same isolationist, authoritative, supremacist thinking is what is destroying our beautiful planet and accelerating Climate Change. The front end of the effects of Climate Change are already hurting and killing the people who have done the least to damage our world. The vast majority of people being impacted are black and brown and poor individuals who need to migrate due to deteriorating climate that is causing droughts, locus plagues, disease, lack of water, and wars. Then, when hurting humans try to escape these conditions in Europe and the US, they face another massive injustice with wave after wave of the anti-immigration policies thrown up against them, trapping them in dangerous places and situations.
Bridges to Hope, to Justice for All, and to a More Beautiful and Sustainable World
When we build bridges to justice and to hope and to sustainability, we build a more beautiful and sustainable world for all living beings on Earth.
Right now, in the USA, it feels like we are losing our democracy. We are no longer the land of the free and the brave. Rather, we are falling into a self-made chasm created by fear, injustice, intolerance, and oppression fueled by greed and a hunger to hold onto power. This hopeful moment of grief and outrage is being hijacked by small groups of people who are being selfish, or even worse, seeking to divide us. And, divided we fall…divided our beautiful world falls.
Just before Trump’s disgraceful use of St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op of his power and authority, I had taken pictures of the moon rising over the Potomac. The juxtaposition of this beautiful and peaceful moment followed shortly thereafter by Trump’s use of force to clear Lafayette Park (the people’s park) just so he could walk across it for his photo op shocked me.
Your pain is my pain
I made this video and post as a creative act of defiance to capture this strange juxtaposition and terrible moment:
Moonrise Over the Potomac…Just Before Trump’s Photo Op
This is a moment symbolizing the Re-Feudalization of America. We are at the edge of turning the United State of America into an Authoritative, Dictatorial, Undemocratic Nation & Trump had a bible in his hand… give me a break. His deplorable photo op and call to use the military if governors could not stop the protests themselves occurred on June 1, 2020, if you can believe that. And now, he is building a fence around the people’s park.
It is important to remember that nature goes on so beautifully and perfectly without us… it’s our decision (isn’t it) if we decide to stick around here on beautiful Earth… or if she shakes us off, which she can do so easily…(more likely we will do that for her)
We are all connected–aren’t we. Your pain is my pain. Your weakest moment is mine too. When we help each other to achieve justice, fairness, equality for everyone (no matter the color of one’s skin), we heal each other, and as we heal, we help Earth keep being so beautiful (and she heals us too…). This little movie is a creative act of defiance against the forces that are crushing us. We need to join together like never before… all around the world.
As I posted the video and words above, my friend in Norway posted this:
“All is good. America is mad. USA and Brazil governed by demented psychopaths. Pandemic. Collective insanity in the world. Climate crisis. Extinction of species. People staring at small machines most of the time, seeing bullshit, vulgarity and trivialities. Disconnected. Arguments with ghosts and shadows. Truthers the liars, pro-lifers the killers, antiracists the racists, “we are waking up!” from the most asleep, cops the criminals, those with vision lacking power, those with power lacking vision, those speaking most, least to say. Pollution. Plastic, water, air, soil, language, mind, conduct. Hypnotic memetic parasites feeding on human attention, funded by internet profiteers, distracting from everything valuable. Numbness. Science fiction entertainment: evil, murder, death and doom on the menu. Lovers divided. Brother against brother, sister against sister, father against mother, parent against child, neighbour against neighbour, human against human, based on misunderstanding. Disease. Seldom ease. Worried, restless, wanting, rushing, thinking, thoughts of empty babble: state of modern mind. Round and round and round. Dreams replaced, laid to waste, by crap, with haste. Until this life shall meet its end. Finger pushes send. Message into void placing bet. Hope for something yet to get. And yet. All is good.“
His comments resonated so closely with the juxtaposition I was trying to capture in my video and words. So, I shared my video and some of my post.
He responded saying: “Wow this video really hit home with me!😀 I know just this feeling, from some of those enormously wonderful summer days when the whole world explodes in wild beauty and song. This really hits the essence of what I wrote about last night as I was supposed to go to sleep, when then this sentence «All is good» suddenly came to me like a wise whisper. I realized that this simple everyday expression which points to an eternal truth, is also a container that can hold all the painful and mad absurdities of our time safely. Like that great big sky we catch a glimpse of in the video is always in the background, looking over and holding us, safely and patiently and gloriously.”
I said: “Yes, this is such a raw and painful moment in the US. You could not have known what was happening here, nor did I know what Trump was going to do as I filmed this beauty in DC just before one of the most disgraceful moments of our modern age in the US. I felt the juxtaposition of our collective human now with nature’s beauty was so powerful. This is what we will lose if we lose ourselves.”
Thank You Because You Are the Change We Need Now
If you cannot protest, take the time NOW to understand reality from many different angles and perspectives. We all have time right NOW to understand our reality better because of COVID, so take it to become informed, to become an expert. This is the strong medicine we are all going to need for what needs to be done next — when the protests calm down and COVID subsides (or doesn’t and we go into lockdown again) — when we emerge from this NOW, we have a devastated economic landscape, fractured communities, broken justice system (as well as just about every other system)… in short, we are in trouble.
Stay informed! I rely on you and you rely on me to understand Now.
Thank you for reading! Your time and attention is precious because where each of us puts our time and attention reality grows. I choose to put mine as much as I can on peace, love, and understanding. I choose justice for all living beings.