Thursday, August 25, 2011

Important Memories and Strange Bedfellows

I received an email this morning about the Holocaust.  I have an uncle by marriage (he was married to my mother’s sister, now deceased) who is a very conservative man, born and bred in poverty in the little towns around Meridian, Mississippi.  He has remarried to a woman who is a devoted born-again Christian and, judging from other emails I’ve received from her, is also quite conservative.  This morning’s email came from her.

It’s important to me to note here that my uncle has made a generous, ongoing effort to maintain an uncle/niece relationship with me since my aunt’s death, which is a little ironic, since we had no relationship to speak of while my aunt was alive.  That was largely my choice, because I had never really forgiven him for banning my black father from visiting their white New Jersey home when I was a kid.  I didn’t particularly like my aunt, either.  When I was a teenager, I christened them Aunt Tarantula and Uncle Fuck.  Fortunately, we all grew up and calmed down – and my uncle had a very nice relationship with both my parents during the last 15 years (or so) of their lives.  And my uncle’s second wife, Tommie, was accepting of me as a niece right from the start.  If you can keep politics out of some relationships, the ties that come to bind can surprise you.

Earlier this year, my uncle and step-aunt visited Israel with a Christian touring group.  They came back filled with delight and, I think, a sense of renewal.  For some Christians and Muslims, as well as Jews, Israel is regarded as a holy, treasured place.  “Everyone who considers themselves a Christian or Jew should go there,” said my uncle.  Since the “Left” abandoned Israel and it became embraced by the “Right,” my uncle has taken a great interest in Israel’s safety and survival, and has developed a genuine simpatico with Jews.  It’s too bad this didn’t happen when he was married to my aunt, who, at his request or through her own instincts (I don’t know which), hid the fact that she was Jewish from his family for the first 15 years of their 30+ year marriage.

Anyway, Tommie sent me an email with a link to a video about The Auschwitz Album, which is very moving and informative and I hope you’ll take a look at it.  I sent her the following verbose reply:

Dear Tommie,

Thank you for sending this to me.

No, I've never seen this album before, but I of course have seen many other photos and hours of Nazi war footage over the years.  I have been fascinated, appalled, and in many ways galvanized by the Holocaust since I first saw footage from the camps on TV when I was about 8 years old.  My parents and grandparents did not hesitate to explain the Holocaust to me -- as much as the Holocaust can be “explained.”

When I was growing up in the 50s, knowing about the Holocaust, which at that time had ended so recently, was the duty of all Jews and something essential that had to be understood by Jewish children so we would keep the memory alive.  I have very vivid memories of Nathan, our local small grocer in the Bronx, who wore short-sleeved shirts even in the chill of winter, because he wanted people to see the number tattooed on his arm and talk to him about what happened.  I also remember my grandfather sitting close to a little white plastic radio, clutching the arms of his chair and crying as he listened to the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel.

I wonder if many secular Jewish children today know anything about this shattering event.

Since the Holocaust, there have been other horrible instances of mass murder around the globe, properly described as genocide.  But the Holocaust is unique – not because it happened to Jews, but because it happened in Germany (and Poland, and throughout Nazi/Fascist Europe), one of the most refined and “civilized” countries in the world that has made virtually unparalleled contributions to art, music, science, literature, social development and religious reformation.

It is different because of its cold, meticulous organization.  The Nazis were not ignorant peasants or savages, killing with machetes and rocks and malfunctioning guns out of misplaced passion and ignorance.  They were calm, cool executors of a deliberate, evil, master plan, so planned and so “thrifty” that they made sure to collect gold fillings from the mouths of the dead and use their skin for soap and lampshades, and save their eyeglasses for recycling.

Yes, it was the ultimate act of anti-Semitism, but it was also an outrageous cautionary tale about what so-called civilized people/countries are capable of doing to other people who are fully integrated into society.  Before the Holocaust, many Jews were prominent German businesspeople, educators, renowned artists/musicians/writers/scientists, community leaders, and local/national politicians, many of whom identified themselves as Germans ahead of viewing themselves as Jews.  There were lots of poor, commonplace Jews, but there were also a good number who were rich and had fine homes and beautiful, treasured belongings.

The Holocaust is also unique because it was not done to cleanse society of destructive elements, but because the aim was to permanently rid society of everyone and anyone deemed inadequate by the twisted standards of Aryan superiority.  Which is why it's also important to remember that there were not only six million Jews who were destroyed, but another six million people, as well: Catholics, political dissidents, Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally challenged and physically deformed –  essentially anyone considered inferior, but more significantly, considered unnecessary, worthless.

The Holocaust was the pivotal event of the 20th century and has much to teach us in the 21st.

Especially now, as America and Europe endure such socially/politically/ financially difficult times, it's important to remember what unvarnished hatred can lead to, what resentment of immigrants and minorities can lead to, what the desire to be rid of criminals and drug addicts and “social deviants” can lead to.  It's so much easier to destroy rather than compromise and co-exist.  It's why the present feels so dangerous and frightening.

And, if for no other reason, the Holocaust is reason enough to support Israel, which was created by and for Jews (not to mention the British...) as some insufficient compensation for the devastation of the Holocaust.  I know that many people believe Barack Obama is anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, which provides just another reason to hate/oppose him.  But that's not true.  PM Netanyahu is a conservative leader with conservative views about how to protect/preserve Israel.  There are many, many Israelis who do not agree with his opinions and approach.  And these dissenters must be heeded, because the Arab Spring is creating a larger, tighter ring of hatred around Israel than has ever existed – and as the US's key negotiator said after resigning out of frustration, Israel will not survive without local allies. How this can/will be achieved remains to be seen, but in memory of the Holocaust and as an act of important present-day diplomacy, it's an alliance that must be created.

If you wish, feel free to pass the above rant on to anyone you'd like.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Blues

I’ve been neglecting ya’ll; sorry ‘bout that.  I’ve been a little busy, a little unwell, writing other stuff (I don’t limit myself to political rants), and feeling very disheartened and disturbed about our social, governmental and overall future.

The debt-ceiling debacle really knocked the wind out of me, and Bachman winning the Iowa Straw Poll as well as Perry entering the presidential race finished me off.  Except I reserved a little energy for knocking TV news over the head with a lead pipe.  Now if I could just get my hands on a pipe…

You know, I don’t sit around here in the Tower just being grumpy because I think I’m smarter than everybody else and I have the solutions to the mega-problems (and they are problems, not “challenges”) we’re confronted with here at home and around the world.  That said, there is something each day that renders me speechless because of its stupidity.

Yesterday, it was an article in the Times about new scientific research that “proves” men can truly be bisexual (it’s been assumed for some time that women can be bisexual, because our sexuality is more “fluid,” no puns intended, I’m sure).  I just sat back and sighed.  I had no idea there was a question about this, let alone that someone doubtless got a major grant to confirm it.

Among the stupidities that most distress me are (1) the frequent obtuseness of those who practice science and their insistence on applying a hard-wired “testing” process while ignoring all “anecdotal evidence,” by which they’re saying that human experience doesn’t “prove” anything.

And (2) the ridiculously rigid way that science – and people in general – regard human sexuality.  It has been my experience and observation that all sexuality is “fluid.”  Yes, we’re born with a basic sexual proclivity: essentially straight or essentially gay.  But that doesn’t mean that people don’t experiment, or go through stages, or even, much to their surprise, occasionally (or once) find themselves strongly and genuinely attracted to someone outside their basic sexual comfort zone.

I don’t imagine that this latest study takes into consideration that bisexuality isn’t always a clean, even, 50/50 split – in fact it rarely is.  And since they’re not considering anecdotal evidence, I assume they’re also not taking into account the influence of religion, family expectations, social disapproval, professional consequences, etc.  Apparently, this study was based solely on arousal, and as men (and women, but men more so) themselves know, they can become aroused watching herrings mate if their need for sex is particularly great at that moment.

I guess the rigidity and stupidity bother me so much because they reveal such a lack of imagination and sense of wonder.  It also bothers me because the same rigid scientific approach has always been taken in regard to psychic phenomenon and spooky/occult stuff in general.  Scientists – whom I genuinely respect and value – are the ultimate five-senses crowd; if they can’t see, feel, hear, taste or touch it, they doubt its existence, whatever “it” is.  You would think that the discovery of germs, the atom, and other micro- and nano-scopic…stuff would lead them to be open-minded about everything, but too often the reverse is true.

Another stupidity that raises my blood pressure is people who reject the reality of major climate change – manmade or otherwise.  There were three significant earthquakes yesterday: in Virginia, Colorado and San Francisco, not to mention that Japan has again been hit, repeatedly, since the big one in March.  In addition, a killer storm named Irene is heading our way, we’re winding down one of the hottest summers we’ve ever had nationally, and the famine that is ravaging Somalia is the worst in 60 years.  How is it possible that these erratic and damaging weather and “natural” disasters are unrelated to a global population of nearly seven billion, and a totally unprecedented use of fossil fuels?  How was this morphed into a Left Wing Conspiracy?

Which brings me back to politics.  I’ve decided that in the best interest of my gastric health and emotional sanity, I’m not paying too much attention to the Republican race until the GOP candidate is selected at their convention next summer.  I’m also not going to listen too closely to anything the President has to say, but will instead keep a close eye on what he does.  Anything more will turn my summer blues into an autumnal nervous breakdown.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Clarification of 2012 Predictions

The following is quite long, but except for this brief intro, I didn’t write it, I’m just the messenger:

I recognize that many people regard the 2012 phenomenon as a mountain of New Age trash and, indeed, there’s been a lot of misinterpretation and misunderstanding about this subject.

In the interest of correcting some of these erroneous ideas, I’m reprinting the following interview with Carlos Barrios, a Mayan elder, who is just as disapproving of the misinterpretations as the 2012 cynics – but for obviously different reasons, of course.  This piece is making the rounds on 2012-related sites on the Web.  A friend sent it to me; I found it on several sites, including The Official Web site: December 21, 2012 and Dr. Kashonia’s Blog, and now I pass it along for your edification.

You may continue to be a 2012 non-believer, but at least you’ll better understand what it is you don’t believe.  The piece is long and I won’t attempt to summarize it.  I’ll just make this one important point: December 21, 2012 does not mark the end of the world, but rather, is the date of a particular astronomical event (that whole planetary alignment thing).  In general, 12/21/12 refers to a period of change and transformation that is already in process and will continue for several years after 2012.


Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij (is a ceremonial priest and spiritual guide) of the Eagle Clan. Carlos initiated an investigation into the different Mayan calendars circulating. Carlos along with his brother Gerardo studied with many teachers and interviewed nearly 600 traditional Mayan elders to widen their scope of knowledge.

Carlos found out quickly there were several conflicting interpretations of Mayan hieroglyphs, petroglyphs, Sacred Books of ‘Chilam Balam’ and various ancient texts.

Carlos found some strong words for those who may have contributed to the confusion:

Carlos Barrios: “Anthropologists visit the temple sites and read the inscriptions and make up stories about the Maya, but they do not read the signs correctly It’s just their imagination. Other people write about prophecy in the name of the Maya. They say that the world will end in December 2012. The Mayan elders are angry with this. The world will not end. It will be transformed.”

“We are no longer in the World of the Fourth Sun, but we are not yet in the World of the Fifth Sun. This is the time in-between, the time of transition. As we pass through transition there is a colossal, global convergence of environmental destruction, social chaos, war, and ongoing Earth Changes.”

He continues: “Humanity will continue, but in a different way. Material structures will change. From this we will have the opportunity to be more human. We are living in the most important era of the Mayan calendars and prophecies. All the prophecies of the world, all the traditions are converging now. There is no time for games. The spiritual ideal of this era is action.”

Carlos tells us: “The indigenous have the calendars and know how to accurately interpret it — not others. The Mayan Calendars comprehension of time, seasons, and cycles has proven itself to be vast and sophisticated The Maya understand 17 different calendars such as the Tzolk’in or Cholq’ij, some of them charting time accurately over a span of more than ten million years.

“All was predicted by the mathematical cycles of the Mayan calendars. — It will change –everything will change. Mayan Day-keepers view the Dec. 21, 2012 date as a rebirth, the start of the World of the Fifth Sun. It will be the start of a new era resulting from and signified by the solar meridian crossing the galactic equator and the Earth aligning itself with the center of the galaxy.”

At sunrise on December 21, 2012 for the first time in 26,000 years the Sun rises to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic. This cosmic cross is considered to be an embodiment of the Sacred Tree, The Tree of Life, a tree remembered in all the world’s spiritual traditions.

Some observers say this alignment with the heart of the galaxy in 2012 will open a channel for cosmic energy to flow through the Earth, cleansing it and all that dwells upon it, raising all to a higher level of vibration. Carlos reminds us: “This process has already begun. Change is accelerating now and it will continue to accelerate.

If the people of the Earth can get to this 2012 date in good shape without having destroyed too much of the Earth, we will rise to a new, higher level. But to get there we must transform enormously powerful forces that seek to block the way.”

The date specified in the calendar Winter Solstice in the year 2012 does not mark the end of the world. Many outside people writing about the Mayan calendar sensationalize this date, but they do not know. The ones who know are the indigenous elders who are entrusted with keeping the tradition.

Carlos tells us: “The economy now is a fiction. The first five-year stretch of transition from August 1987 to August 1992 was the beginning of the destruction of the material world. We have progressed ten years deeper into the transition phase by now, and many of the so-called sources of financial stability are in fact hollow. The banks are weak. This is a delicate moment for them. They could crash globally, if we don’t pay attention Now, people are paying attention.”

The North and South Poles are both breaking up. The level of the water in the oceans is going to rise. But at the same time land in the ocean, especially near Cuba, is also going to rise. Carlos tells a story about the most recent Mayan New Year ceremonies in Guatemala. He said that one respected Mam elder, who lives all year in a solitary mountain cave, journeyed to Chichicastenango to speak with the people at the ceremony. The elder delivered a simple, direct message. He called for human beings to come together in support of life and light.

“Right now each person and group is going his or her own way. The elder of the mountains said there is hope if the people of the light can come together and unite in some way. We live in a world of polarity — day and night, man and woman, positive and negative. Light and darkness need each other. They are a balance.”

“Just now the dark side is very strong, and very clear about what they want. They have their vision and their priorities clearly held, and also their hierarchy. They are working in many ways so that we will be unable to connect with the spiral Fifth World in 2012.”

“On the light side everyone thinks they are the most important, that their own understandings, or their group’s understandings, are the key. There’s a diversity of cultures and opinions, so there is competition, diffusion, and no single focus.”

Carlos believes the dark side works to block unity through denial and materialism. It also works to destroy those who are working with the light to get the Earth to a higher level. They like the energy of the old, declining Fourth World, the materialism. They do not want it to change. They do not want unity. They want to stay at this level, and are afraid of the next level.

The dark power of the declining Fourth World cannot be destroyed or overpowered. It’s too strong and clear for that, and that is the wrong strategy. The dark can only be transformed when confronted with simplicity and open-heartedness. This is what leads to unity, a key concept for the World of the Fifth Sun.

Carlos said the emerging era of the Fifth Sun will call attention to a much-overlooked element. Whereas the four traditional elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water have dominated various epochs in the past, there will be a fifth element to reckon with in the time of the Fifth Sun — that element is ‘ETHER’.

The dictionary defines Ether as a “hypothetical substance supposed to occupy all space, postulated to account for the propagation of electromagnetic radiation through space.” Perhaps it could be defined as the “space between space”. I would suggest it could be manifest as the alignment of charged particles from our solar system (Sun), and our galaxy (Milky Way) surge. The Ether element represents spiritual energy.

“The element of the Fifth Sun is celestial. Within the context of Ether there can be a joining of the polarities. No more darkness or light in the people, but an uplifted unity. But right now the realm of darkness is not interested in this. They are organized to block it. They seek to unbalance the Earth and its environment so we will be unready for the alignment in 2012.”

“We need to work together for peace, and balance with the other side. We need to take care of the Earth that feeds and shelters us. We need to put our entire mind and heart into pursuing unity and unity now, to confront the other side and preserve life.”

“We are disturbed — we can’t play anymore. Our planet can be renewed or ravaged. Now is the time to awaken and take action. Everyone is needed. You are not here for no reason. Everyone who is here now has an important purpose. This is a hard but a special time. We have the opportunity for growth, but we must be ready for this moment in history.”

Carlos says: “The prophesied changes are going to happen, but our attitude and actions determine how harsh or mild they are. We need to act, to make changes, and to elect people to represent us who understand and who will take political action to respect the Earth.”

“Meditation and spiritual practice are good, but also action. It’s very important to be clear about who you are, and also about your relation to the Earth. Develop yourself according to your own tradition and the call of your heart. But remember to respect differences, and strive for unity. Eat wisely — a lot of food is corrupt in either subtle or gross ways. Pay attention to what you are taking into your body. Learn to preserve food, and to conserve energy. Learn some good breathing techniques, so you have mastery of your breath. Be clear. Follow a tradition with great roots. It is not important what tradition, your heart will tell you, but it must have great roots.”

“We live in a world of energy. An important task at this time is to learn to sense or see the energy of everyone and everything — people, plants, animals. This becomes increasingly important as we draw close to the World of the Fifth Sun, for it is associated with the element ‘ether’ — the realm where energy lives and weaves. Go to the sacred places of the Earth to pray for peace, and have respect for the Earth which gives us our food, clothing, and shelter. We need to reactivate the energy of these sacred places. That is our work.”

“One simple but effective prayer technique is to light white or baby-blue colored candles. Think of a moment in peace. Speak your intention to the flame and send the light of it on to the leaders who have the power to make war or peace.”

Carlos reminds us this is a crucially important moment for humanity and for Earth. Each person is important. 

He said the elders have opened the doors so that other races can come to the Mayan world to receive the tradition. “The Maya have long appreciated and respected that there are other colors, other races, and other spiritual systems. They know that the destiny of the Mayan world is related to the destiny of the whole world.”

“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.”

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Bad, Sad, Mad

I imagine President Obama isn’t feeling too well tonight.  Since I don’t think he’s delusional, he must know that the insane and protracted debacle that just accompanied the raising of the debt ceiling has ended with a really bad deal.  It pleases no one and may very well kick-start an economic decline that won’t stop until we hit bottom.  This man whom, I believe, genuinely wanted to help make America better – for everyone and everything – must know that he’s made a piss poor job of it, but I don’t think he fully understands how and why he and we got here.  But I’ve got the audacity to think I do understand, so here goes.

Things as they are now really started with the rise of Ronald Reagan and, simultaneously, the rise of Christian fundamentalism and the assassination of John Lennon, all of which occurred in 1980.  What was then called The Silent Majority was very displeased with the events of the 60s and 70s that ushered in a new era of social permissiveness.  They didn’t like what they saw as the success of the civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights movements.  They didn’t like uppity blacks and hippies and The Pill and the wholesale questioning of the existence of God.  They didn’t like the tough economic times of the 70s, or Jimmy Carter trying to rein them in, he with his sweater in a cold White House and the 55 mph speed limit and the energy crisis and his complete inability to get a whole bunch of American hostages out of Iran.

So, in the leadership of Ronald Reagan they saw a man who had seen the error of his own youthful Democrat, union-supporting, Hollywood-decadent ways and had been born again (as it were) in the sobering waters of Republican conservatism, traditional social and religious values, and unbridled free-market capitalism.  He made them feel comfortable and hopeful and much less afraid.

For their part, the Boomers – most in our 30s, a few in our 40s – were so demoralized by Lennon’s death and the end of his love-and-peace message that many of us allowed ourselves to be seduced by cocaine and unprecedented opportunities to make a lot of money, which seemed like a good idea, because it had turned out that love was not all we needed, and an ambitious younger generation (the Yuppies) were snapping at our heels like Pac Man.

Bill Clinton notwithstanding, things went on in this vein for a couple of decades, including an increasing lack of compassion for the poor, the under-employed, and the in any way vulnerable and needy on virtually everybody’s part.  The Silent Majority and Boomers may have been different in many ways, but they had come to share a love of money and success and feelings of safety.  They had kids and careers and comfort and they wanted to stay that way.  It was during these years that glamour was prized, and people shopped ‘til they dropped for things that were to die for.

Then 9/11 happened and America suddenly realized it was vulnerable in an unsafe world that was changing once again, filled with new kinds of revolutionaries, new kinds of heathens, more people who wanted a slice of the good times pie and we didn’t feel like sharing.  So we kept Bush-43 around for eight years, because he was butch and patriotic and God-fearing, and didn’t back away from a good fight or reckon with no new-fangled ideas.

Then along came Barack Hussein Obama, a clearly dangerous (liberal) black man (!) with a frightening foreign name who was young and handsome and talked real pretty about change and hope.  So the Reagan Democrats and Traditional Republicans and Super-Good Christians organically joined forces and morphed into a revitalized population of ├╝ber-conservatives (soon to be known as the Tea Party) and radical Christians who eschewed science, common decency and common sense, along with the poetry and parables of the Bible, and chose instead to take everything literally, from the ancient Bible to the 200-year-old Constitution, to the obvious liberal dangers of the new millennium.  They did not see, and still do not see, any reason for rethinking or updating or changing anything, because if they concede to change, the terrible “other” wins.

And when Barack Obama won in 2008 – thanks largely to a whole new generation of uppity blacks and deviant young people – the now not-so-silent majority/minority made it their mission to bring him down even before he could get on his feet.

For his part, President Obama gravely underestimated the toxic level of racism that would be added to an already-vile witch’s brew of philosophical and political opposition.  His chief goal – the one upon which hope and change were firmly tethered – was to make everyone in the Washington power structure play nicely together, understand and respect each other’s differing views, and from the epiphany that would result from this new rapprochement, they would work together to change America for the better.

Maybe it would have worked if Bush-43 hadn’t ratcheted up the debt and deficit, decimated government regulation and oversight of nearly everything, and put two wars on America’s American Express card.  But he did.  And Barack Obama inherited an indescribable mess.  He kept the American (and world) economy from falling over the proverbial edge of the proverbial cliff, but he didn’t get a lot of credit for that, because to most people (like me), economics is math and math is something we don’t understand.

Then the President took the initiative in changing some things he could change on his own, but he hasn’t gotten a lot of credit for that, because modest but meaningful changes are small news and the media didn’t cover it.  Lastly, the President simply would not abandon his “let’s all get along” prime directive, nor did he play hardball with the disparate members of his own party.  It may also be that negotiation just isn’t his strong suit.  In any case, he ended up presenting the country with really crappy versions of change initiatives we wanted, like universal health care and strong financial reform and making the rich & corporations pay up and, now, even raising the debt ceiling came with poorly thought out, never discussed, and damaging laws and protocols that may very well push us over that cliff after all.

The President turns 50 this week and I imagine that even for a president, that’s a rough milestone to reach.  It was a bitch for me.  But it was also the point at which I decided to stop caring about what other people thought of me and just be and accept myself as I am – and let the chips fall where they may.  With any luck, Mr. Obama will have the same impulse and let us know that if we re-elect him in 2012, he’ll be the Obama we voted for last time, rather than the largely ineffectual compromiser he’s been during his first term.  He’s only got one term left and he’s got nothing to lose.  I hope he’ll see it that way – before the rest of us lose everything.