Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Talking Across Borders ?

We face what I would call "cultural divides" in our views of much of reality nearly every day at least in our lives. Such divides may include things such as:

1.) Religion - in our lives - "Conservative Activist Christian" vs. "Liberal 'Accepting' Jewish/ Christian/ Agnostic/ Atheist/ Muslim (etc.)"

2.) Political - "Liberal/Radical" vs. "Conservative"

3.) Economic Perspective - "Business/Capitalist" vs. "Egalitarian/Socialist"

4.) White/Heterosexual/Upper-Middle Class vs. "Not" (People of Color/Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/ Non-Middle Class)

5.) Male vs. Female

for example.

Increasingly we are divided into sub-parts of groups or simply identifying ourselves in different ways such as: "Christian" or "Not" - whether that means "Non-Christian" or simply not identifying with a perspective on religion as it may be seen to affect far more than our religious preferences.

I have to think before I open my mouth in some circumstances. I often presume, for example, that people are "sensible" e.g. - are "Anti-Bush" in political outlook. Obviously, my own biases affect what I see as "normal". There are, of course, people who are intelligent and sensible and who believe in a conservative outlook that is highly alien to my political beliefs.

How do we talk - With - those who are different from ourselves in important ways rather than talking At or Around them? How can we respect others and ourselves and really hear the concerns and fears and interests of others when they are different from what we believe in?

It isn't easy - of course! My sense is that those of us "on the left", "feminist", etc. - have often failed to reach others who might share some of what we believe in. Why we've failed is interesting to try to look at. Clearly, others have at times played on the deep fears of others. My sense though is that we've often (realistically) been seen as elitist and insensitive to what concerns many people have.

In the U.S. - conservative Republicans - have often succeeded in dividing and conquering the political opposition. Democrats - are squeezed between being "to the left" - which is often marginalized by others or as being "like Republicans" - hence - why not pick the "real thing".

While we can complain about the Major Media and others, we, in the end, need to really reach others and make them see that feminism isn't about "hating men" and that anti-feminist outlooks have hurt and continue to hurt men, women and children.

Obviously, White people in the US who purport to be: "anti-racist" often have not really built up meaningful alliances with People of Color. One important area now in the US relates to how we relate to the soldiers and families of the soldiers who are in Iraq and elsewhere.

There aren't a lot of easy answers I see beyond "doing the work" and living our lives in honest, caring ways. Clearly we need to do better at understanding and accepting others whose issues are different from ours. We don't have simple unifying issues which remain important year after year - as environmentalists, feminists, gay/lesbian/bi/transgender activists, anti-racism focussed people etc. need to support each other and learn from each other.

Hopefully we'll increasingly find ways to work together as well as playing together and being happy and positive despite things that are scary and difficult for us.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Toleration ???

In Florida on vacation we pass pickup trucks with Confederate flags. We also see cars with license plates specially ordered - saying "Choose Life" .

Now, all of us can be just a little sensitive in this "different" environment~ I - a White Man, traveling in my mother-in-law's car with my family, all of whom are Black. Oh, but you don't understand! The bumper stickers aren't threatening me or the ones I love. They are affirming of the South!

It's "more" than simple affirmations when one attests to support of a system which brutally enslaved and killed millions of Africans and African-Americans. It would be hard for me to say that these people have no rights - to do what they feel, however I also recognize some of the anger and fear that their actions can bring - as I see my partner - reflecting on the racism she's experienced - noticing that someone had started a fire on their porch - attempting to drive them out of their Florida neighborhood perhaps 30 years ago - because "Negroes" weren't welcome in the White neighborhood - which could have killed them all. Today, she fears home invaders - always wants an alarm system on when we sleep at night in our home.

It's driving by the house that they lived in starting about 1971 - 3 rooms - in an area that is heavily segregated today as when back then - poor and ugly - where mother and daughter were shocked away from the beauty of a distant Chicago suburban area - living with mostly White neighbors to a world where they could only live on "the other side of the tracks".

I try to envison - having designer license plates which say: "Support a Women's Rights to Control Her Own Body" or "US Out of Iraq" or similar. We are so free to "choose" - when it isn't against the dominant political beliefs of those in control.

Florida has some incredible beauty and plenty of very nice people. It isn't home - where I and We feel safe and comfortable. It is not "worse" than where we live - as there is racism and other intolerance in our backyards also.

Thank You!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Retirement - Relief and Some Sadness

Friday, June 16th will be my last work day before I retire. I am very, very happy to have the opportunity to move forward and do much more of what I want to in my life. 31 years as a Federal employee is more than enough! My work has had interesting parts, but on the whole it's not the most fascinating thing to do with my time.

It will be sad to leave my co-workers. It's a little scary to feel like there is "no going back". I'm sure that this is the right decision for me and for my family. It is satisfying to move on in my life to new challenges as a househusband, volunteer and general explorer of life.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Savion Glover - an Amazing Artist

We saw Savion Glover give a most amazing Tap Dance performance in San Francisco this evening! He performed with a wonderful backup of piano, (upright) bass, drums and tenor/soprano/flute who were all talented individual and ensemble musicians playing jazz that was influenced by Pharoah Sanders, John Coltrane and many other wonderful musicians of the past 50 years.

Savion Glover is amazingly talented in several different ways! He is simply an amazing tap dancer. More impressive though is how he can blend rhythm into the melody of his band and take in both their melody and rhythm into a melodic and fluid form. He also has a sense of humor and can be both brash and restrained/humble in his performance.

Words can not describe what I experienced!


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Resistance to War - Honoring One's Conscience

In today's newspaper I read of an officer at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, WA, USA who is refusing to report for duty leading his group in Iraq shortly. He stated that it is his responsibility to refuse any order that is "illegal" and that the War in Iraq is an "illegal occupation" of another country.
It is anticipated that he will be convicted and sentenced in a military court to a lengthy jail sentence. He is speaking to supportive groups explaining why he is doing what he is doing.

I admire this man's actions very much! It is very, very hard to make a decision as a soldier to defy the military and civilian leadership of this country. To do so publicly is far harder still!

In 1969 just before I graduated from high school I first applied for conscientious objector status when I registered for the draft on my 18th birthday. 16 months later after two draft board appearances, and one denial by my State Appeals Board my application was approved by the State Appeals Board after a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that one's beliefs could be primarily "philosophical and spiritual and ..." rather than totally based upon a religious doctrine.

While I can respect others who serve and support the U.S. military forces, I am troubled by how we allow the military so much power, setting it up as a dominant economic force in many places (such as around Fort Lewis: ...Fort Lewis, the Army's major installation in the Pacific Northwest and home of America's Corps. ... Fort Lewis is the home of I Corps, 2d Cavalry Regement and Madigan Army Medical Center, as well as the Army's first two Stryker Brigades, the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Additionally, the post is home to several I Corps Major Subordinate Commands, units from Western Region Medical Command, Special Operations Command, Cadet Command, Fifth Army (AC/RC), and a number of other non-divisional support units and resident organizations. (end of quoted section).

Individually we can raise our children to Not be soldiers, though in the end it will be their choices. For many the military is a way out of economic or emotional problems in their homelife as teenagers or young adults.

For many who serve in Iraq and other war zones in particular (Vietnam in my day as a young adult), being in the military leads to a life of coping with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), mis-diagnosed physical and psychological problems and in general a most difficult life, assuming that they haven't suffered clear physical injuries or their life.

My late friend Gene was a conscientious objector in World War II. Many people feel that that was a "necessary war" due to the barbarism of the Nazis and the colonial designs of both the Germans and the Japanese. Looking at how the Germans were treated after World War I, it is easier, though not easy, to understand how a Fascist ideology could evolve.

Could World War II have been prevented at least with respect to Germany if Germany had not been so severely punished after World War I? This is an impossible question to answer.

It seems clear to me that we could do a lot more today to make war and terrorism less likely in the United States. We could look at our history: Iran (current boogieman) - we overthrough the popular government - installed the Shah and supported him as opposition grew into the 1970's and now have a fundamentalist government and many people who are opposed to us, Iraq - Saddam Hussein - was "our leader" to oppose the Iranians in the Iraq-Iran War - and lead our Middle East interests along with Israel until (surprise-surprise) he became "the enemy" when he "rudely" turned against our interests, Palestine-Israel - we support Israel against Palestinian (and Arab and Muslim) interests - supporting its expanding settlements on the West Bank, its dominance of the water which is needed for irrigation in the West Bank, its military power which far surpass the combined military forces in the rest of the Middle East put together, its long-term presence as a world nuclear force, Pakistan - breeding ground for much anti-US - activity + nuclear force - military dictatorship.

In the Middle East - in Palestine-Israel we should not be "supporting the terrorists" or indeed "supporting the Palestinian cause" . We don't have the choice of: "being with Israel or against Israel". We have various options.

The best types of options we have are to be a true mediator and supporter of long-term peace. We need to recognize what has been done to the Palestinians and what is being done to them today. We also need to recognize the fears that Israelis have of another Holocaust and how terrorism affects them. We need to recognize why Palestinians blow themselves up!

We need to help build a lasting peace where the Palestinians will have a viable state on the West Bank and in Gaza and the Israelis will have a lasting real peace for the first time.

This type of working towards peace would be a radical change for us in the U.S. We would not be looking at: "our interests" - which aren't the interests of most people in any case. We would be working towards peace.

Terrorists - for the most part look at "their enemies". The U.S. and Great Britain - are often the most visible targets - surprise - surprise - the Governments of these two countries are the strongest supporters in Iraq and Israel - of causes that a large percentage of Muslims and Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) feel strongly about in opposition.

We can't guarantee that there will not be wars in the world. We can however choose to work for peace and be a peaceful nation. We aren't that today and haven't been that for a long, long time.

I hope!



Tuesday, June 06, 2006

US - We're Not "Better" !

I am sad and angry that the Defense Department wishes to change military regulations so that more violations of international law would seemingly not apply to US military personnel in their treatment of prisoners under their control.

The lawlessness and "we know best" mindset shown so much today is scary and simply Wrong!

Our arrogance alienates many in the world and feeds the paranoia that keeps "The War on Terror" alive and booming.

We should be learning to live with and support others throughout the world. Trying to change foreign governments and tell others in Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, Asia, Central and South America etc. - how they should do things in so many areas is disrespectful and disgusting.

It would be nice if we could look at other countries as people who have good and bad sides as we do as well as sources of inspiration and ideas for how we can make our own country a better place to live in.

Though we do much good here, we have a long way to go ending homelessness, domestic violence, violence among many of our younger generation, and many many other problems.



Monday, June 05, 2006

Oppression(s) + Pain + Anger

As a child in the late 1950's and into the 1960's - being Jewish and "different" (no tv in our household, no guns including squirt guns allowed because they were "guns", living on hand-me-down clothes where others dressed in the latest fashions) felt like I was "being oppressed".

In retrospect we were White, middle class and I was and am male.

I'm not "oppressed" in the terminology I would use.

Areas where oppression can be most visible might include:
1. Being of Color (particularly Black or Latino),
2. Poor,
3. Gay/Lesbian/Transgender/Bisexual
4. Physically or Psychologically Impaired
5. Young or Elderly - in various circumstances,
6. Religion - in some circumstances - such as being Muslim today in the US, or being
7. Female
8. Being a survivor of: sexual or physical abuse (as a child or an adult) or other major trauma - such as having lost close relatives due to violence (particularly that one has witnessed)

Though it is a matter of semantics I think that "oppressions" are generally "one way". Where wealthy, mostly White Men - have their own segregated worlds not allowing others to enter it is different (and potentially oppressive) than a group of radical lesbians wanting to live in a "male free world". The lesbians aren't carrying privilige in excluding me from their lives.

Black people can be obnoxious and "wrong" and cruel and many other things in lashing out at White people, but generally they aren't being "racist" in my world vision. Where a wealthy Black Woman were to "oppress" a Poor White Man - her action would generally be: "classist" but not racist or sexist.

When and where these "oppressions" are quite real - may depend upon both circumstances and where one is in other potentially related areas.

A poor, Black, Female, who was sexually abused as a child


be seen as "more oppressed" than a wealthy White woman who seemingly was "normative" in other areas.

Oppressions are not "competitive". A wealthy White Woman might have been put down for being female or otherwise have faced major life struggles whether related or unrelated to being female.

Most problematic is when we don't try to understand and be emphatetic to others. Telling someone that "your oppression isn't so bad because ...." or whatever generally isn't helpful. I can't easily understand much about oppressions that I've not experienced at a deep feeling level through my own experience. Reading books doesn't generally give me that.

Whether or not we are oppressed - we may be in a lot of pain. I have been seriously depressed in the past. When I was hurting badly I couldn't really emotionally support anyone else much of the time and my abilities to "live" were limited.

Often we also don't recognize "how lucky we are". I didn't appreciate some things when I was younger that I no longer have as a "getting older" man and simply person.

I can be Angry in many circumstances - feeling left out - of "Black Society" or "Black Culture" or "The World(s) of Women". Usually, it is important that I look within myself as to Why I'm hurting or Angry. Most of the time no one has done anything to me. In other circumstances occasionally I may have been treated rudely, but nothing more than that.

Thankfully - I'm happy now - and not feeling oppressed, in pain or angry!


Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Where Friends and Girls Meet" - Sic

"Where Friends and Girls Meet" - is on the awning of an aging Chinatown Bar in San Francisco.

The words always make me think of worlds where at least some of us men live in our isolated worlds apart from women. In some cases we are "The Leaders" and our Clubs are exclusive - not only for Men, but for Those of Us Ruling over us "Common Folk".

In other cases we are in our "little worlds" of sports or talking about women or bemoaning a mythical past where we felt (our) power as men.

Tis a pity that we often lack the intimacy that some women have with each other and that we frequently can't really "be friends" with Women often - as Women are with each Other.