H2O ManH2O Man's Journal
By all appearances, it was as dead as a door knob. A lot of cherry trees die young around here, especially if they have to compete with other soft- or hardwoods. They are jealous of sunlight, as old farmers say. This one had seemed pretty healthy until last summer. But now, all of the branches I can see look lifeless.
The tree must be about 40 feet tall, but it isnt very big around. Likely better to have my son use a bow saw to cut it up. Im running out of dead trees for him to chop or saw, to increase his already explosive punching-power in the ring. His favorite is black locus, because it is so hard; I like that it grows back as fast as he cuts it. It can grow from the spreading roots that connect a groove, or from the seeds found in the bean-pods.
As I slowly get closer, I see that something has knocked several of the bird-feeders to the ground. I assume its likely the deer that I see out here every morning, and most evenings. Even the humming bird feeders are on the ground. As I pick them up, and re-fill the feeders, Kelly goes to the ponds edge for a drink. Seconds later, I see him shaking his head violently: he has a mid-sized water snake.
I sit on the bench, and watch Kelly gather both halves of the snake, and carry them away as if they are a wonderful treasure. I have a speech to compose for Thursday evening, to a group that has been inviting me back since I spoke there two years ago. At that time, I spoke about the cultural contributions of the Irish immigrants in the northeast, during the 1800s and 1900s. On Thursday, Ill speak about 12,000 years of Indian history, in the same region.
As I sit and create an outline in my mind -- much needed, as I can babble on and on -- I watch one bird-feeder in particular. Among others, two woodpeckers keep landing, picking out food, and flying to the cherry tree. Over and over again. One of the two keeps placing the food into a hole on the side of the tree, that I cannot see clearly from where I am. However, as I look closely at the tree, I notice that several of the higher branches do have leaves.
Trees are one of the most interesting life-forms on earth, in my humble opinion. In more recent times, the field of green psychology has documented the benefits of human interaction with trees. I think this is a giggle, in part because all of our ancestors knew these things, and also because a few blockheads have attempted to insult/ belittle me by calling me a tree-hugger.
As I watch the woodpeckers carrying on their duties non-stop, I think about how trees have been used in mythology over time. Trees have also played, in various ways, parts of a number of ceremonies that human beings have participated in for a long, long time. I think that the image of the Acacias umbrella is implanted in some part of the collective human memory. Its interesting to me that most of the nicest farmers fields in our region will have one tree growing alone.
Clearly, thinking about trees as I watch the woodpeckers is distracting me from what I set out to do here. But thats okay. For whatever reason, I remember the old George Washington story, about chopping down the cherry tree as a youth. And that connects with the thought that Thursday is mighty close to the 4th of July.
While the US Constitution was greatly influenced by the political philosophy of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy), the Declaration of Independence has stronger roots in some of the then-current European influences. It was a powerful statement at the time, and it would inspire people around the globe in the centuries that followed. It is, by definition, an amazing call to revolution.
Maybe, in a very real sense, it has become similar to the cherry tree. While some of its opening lines are familiar to most citizens, I doubt that many people have actually read the document recently. The document is something held behind glass in a museum, and its meaning is dead -- or almost dead -- in our culture. Yet, every so often, we see a branch sprout -- a recent example being the beautiful Occupy movement.
The obscene commercialization of the 4th of July is so toxic, that it requires no in-depth discussion here. But the very idea of the 1% capitalizing on it, at a time when our society is becoming a feudal estate for them, should repulse everyone. Which is not to say that I am in any way opposed to picnics and celebrations .rather, I think these should include time to reflect on what the holiday is about.
That the men who declared the United States a free nation were imperfect should not sidetrack us. Rather, the intent of the expressed concepts should be applied to our current state of affairs. This includes focusing on our resources -- including those presented by later revolutionaries, with Martin Luther King, Jr., being the most significant. I say that not only because of my beliefs about the moral superiority of non-violence, but even more so, only a non-violent revolutionary movement has any chance of success.
Todays royalty has little, if any, hesitancy as far as using violence to protect their interests. The idea that any external or internal enemy will overthrow them is unrealistic. But nonviolence, while admittedly often slow in getting positive results, is the way to go. And thats what Ill be thinking about over the holiday weekend.
I am very happy that the rule of law was upheld by the US Supreme Court, in its decision on marriage equality. It is definitely a step in the right position. Progress towards social justice enriches the entire nation, and especially those who have had this most basic of human rights denied for far too long.
The dissenting opinions provide un-needed evidence of exactly what type of self-righteous thug would appoint themselves to be capable of deciding for adult human beings who they can or cannot love. They represent a strain of diseased thinking that, even if it cant be fully cured any time soon, can be marginalized so that the risks of it damaging healthy peoples lives -- or spreading unchecked -- will be a thing of the past. Thus, it is, of course, not the final step that we must take.
Malcolm X used to say that if you stick a knife nine inches into a persons back, the act of pulling it out six inches does not represent true progress. It is only after the knife is removed, and healing takes place, that there is actual progress.
This decision removes one of the knives our society has plunged into peoples backs. We still must work to heal the damage. And that includes a full awareness of the pockets of infection that still poison our society.
Today is a great day. Celebrate it!
For all roads to wisdom must first pass through the valleys of doubt.
-- Rubin Hurricane Carter; letter to H2O Man; 1974
A couple days back, I posted an essay about shame -- about how some folks attempt to use guilt to manipulate others choices in politics. We see far too much of that on this forum, both on an individual and group level. There is a third sibling of emotion that may be worth our consideration: doubt.
Obviously, doubt isnt limited to things political. Nor, for that matter, is it always an internal function .a person might doubt that Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton would win the general election. But, for sake of conversation, lets focus on the internal aspects of doubt.
The human brain is hard-wired in such a way, that doubt is an experience common to almost everyone. The exception would be the psychopath, a reality that should assure those who tend to suffer from self-doubt that they are okay. We tend to doubt ourselves in three general areas: the past, the present, and the future.
Did I do the right thing? Am I making the right choice? And, which of these is the best option for me to take tomorrow?
Yesterday, my Little Sister visited me. She was accompanied by her twin sons, who just turned five. (She was, for a time, my sister-in-law; however, we were extraordinarily close, even before she met my brother.) She had rescued an aggressive, ill-tempered rooster the day before, that her neighbors left when they moved. It had attacked her husband in the morning, and they didnt want it around the boys. So, of course, I took it.
As we watched the boys exploring the pond, we talked about life. Some events in her recent experience have seemed less-than-perfect. She said that she sometimes questions if her earlier life was wasted. If she should have done this, or not done that. The type of self-doubt that we all feel, from time to time. The types of things that, while standing inside the subjectivity of the picture frame, one needs to discuss with some trusted person who has the objectivity that comes from being outside of that frame. And is this not exactly what a big brother is for?
We were near my lodge at the time. She used to do sweats, years ago, and said that she really should start doing them again. I asked why? To deal with some of lifes frustrations and hardships. Right: the ceremony (or, ceremonies) there are not limited to those who are perfect. They are for human beings. And to show us that all that we have done, and all we have endured and survived, has brought us to the exact point we are at now. And that is exactly what we require, in order to prepare us for what we are today, and what we can be tomorrow. And there aint no doubt about that.
The worst type of doubt that any of us deal with -- and most of us will, to some extent, at some time(s) -- is questioning if we have value? Is our life worth-while? Do we have worth? These are among the deepest and darkest of those valleys of which Rubin spoke.
For those who experience this type of doubt, the answer is yes. You matter. You are a worthy, individual spark of the universal energy force. By definition, you have unique value.
Any one who has attempted to convince you otherwise is lying. It may have been your parents, a teacher, an ex-lover, a boss at work, a person on television, or even yourself. But its a lie. For, as Rubin wrote a few lines later, in that same letter from the near total darkness of solitary confinement: Everything under the sun is exactly as it should be .or it wouldnt be.
When one realizes that -- truly grasps it in their brain and heart -- then they can deal with today. They can even venture into the wild west of DU:GD, during presidential primary season, and be confident enough to simply state their opinion, express their values, and refrain from getting caught up in the foolish arguing that is all too common here.
Peace to all of you here today. And wish this old man luck: Im preparing to go back on tour with public speaking. This afternoon, Ill be speaking to mental health professionals about avoiding burn out. Next week, Ill be speaking in a nearby city about the Indian history of central New York State. Its a start.
Today marks the anniversary of the beginning of a US military campaign, know as The Battle of the Little Bighorn. The violent conflict took place on June 25-26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory.
Those two days in American history are still important today. They provide lessons in several important areas: the USs relationship with, and treatment of, Native American nations; the horrors of war; the identifying of one person as public enemy #1, and the creation of a legend to scare the public; and who are, or should be, actually respected as heroes in our cultures history.
There are a number of outstanding books on this tragic event. The two that I most recommend are: A Terrible Glory, by James Donovan (Back Bay Books; 2008); and Crazy Horse and Custer, by Stephen Ambrose (Meridian; 1975). There are a dozen others that are of high quality, but these two are, in my opinion, the most essential for understanding what happened, and why.
We cannot grow when we are in shame, and we cant use shame to change ourselves or others. -- Brene Brown
One of the human dynamics which has no meaningful place in discussions about the 2016 Democratic presidential primary contest is shame. Yet, almost every single day, we can find several OP/threads that imply those who think a certain way, or have different values, are not only wrong, but are betraying the party/ nation. Indeed, we see attempts to assign guilt and shame for sincerely held political beliefs.
There is not a monopoly on this. Far too much of it can be attributed to the supporters of the two top Democratic candidates. And, at its very best, it is convincing evidence that the person who attempts to assign such guilt has so shallow a position, that they are without anything meaningful to support their position.
Guilt and shame are, as Erich Fromm taught, associated with separation from the group. These emotions should rightfully belong to those who commit offenses -- usually violent -- against other individuals or groups ..the very people who, like George W. Bush, lack the capacity to experience them. Its not the type of emotion that should be inflicted upon a toddler who soils his pants; a student who fails an important test at school; or an adult who loves another adult of the same sex.
Its been abused in our society for far too long. It gets abused by too many adults interacting with children, and on the larger scale, by organized religion -- highlighted by those times a judgmental religious belief has been written into law in this country. It is the stuff of intolerance. And, as Gandhi taught, intolerance betrays a want of faith in ones cause.
There are community members who are making solid cases for the candidate they support. Its silly to point fingers and say, Youre wrong to support him/her, because a vote for him/her is a vote for a republican. Thats simply not true: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both Democrats, with enough history to rationally compare the two. The Democratic Party -- and this forum -- includes a wide range of people. There is zero benefit accrued by attempting to make someone feel they arent part of it.
It would be too easy to assign blame on trolls, political agents, and other paid employees. It would also be inaccurate. Most of the people who are stirring the pot are good people. They are sincere in their efforts to voice their opinion. They get carried away, not because they are bad, but because not only does American culture appear t be saturated in guilt (in one way or another), but presidential primaries on DU:GD have not traditionally been pillow fights. Its easy to have hostility rise quickly, to reach the level achieved in the last argument, when confronting an old opponent.
There are also numerous calm, rational contributors to the discussions. They dont always get attention. But they are there. Its funny, speaking of attempts to make people feel disconnected to the larger group .we often see someone say, Yeah, but DU doesnt reflect the real world. Or, say that no one could be seriously influenced, let alone have their mind changed, just by conversing here on DU. Baloney. There are men and women here who have influenced my thinking a great deal. In some cases, to change my opinion. But, more often, they add to my knowledge and understanding of various topics. I know others who feel the same way. If you havent learned -- and grown -- from experience here, it is more a statement about you. Because there is certainly a large reservoir of knowledge and personal experience to be found among this community.
[A] Strength vs. Power: What is Behind Them
National Geographic: What is the greatest power?
Tadodaho Leon Shenandoah: I myself have no power. Its the people behind me who have the power. Real power comes from the Creator. Its in His hands. But if youre asking about strength, not power, than I can say that the greatest strength is gentleness.
Sometimes when I read a number of OP/threads on DU:GD, I imagine this forum as a model of the human brain. Various forum members make contributions that I apply to various sections of that brain, including from the most evolved layers that distinguish our species from all of our relatives on earth. Others contribute thoughts or feelings that I attribute to the various other sections, right down to the bulb of our brains stem.
When that joyous season we call the presidential primaries come around, it is if they waking brain and the sleeping brain (highly technical terms, I know) are both turned on and highly active, both simultaneously and at the same time (one descriptive term for each level). The tensions between the two are charged by the various electrical impulses that energize the forum/brain.
Often, one section of the community will say, But DU does not represent the United States electorate. I say, Thank goodness! Could you imagine if we were condemned to spend time inside a republican party brain? Yikes! Far more pleasurable to be here.
Even in this DU brain, we note that some segments, or sub-systems, are convinced that they are the real form of high consciousness, and thus attempt to silence what they view as annoying thoughts that keep popping up. Thus, we see that a lot of the primary debates tend to be less about the individual candidate, and more about the individual(s) behind them. And thats good, for we should know who supports what candidate, and why.
In fact, when we are deciding upon who will be president, we should consider who is behind their campaigns, and why.
Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman: Its hard for people from one culture to really understand another. Theres a site in West Virginia, where I have been asked to rebury 664 remains. But they are held in an Ohio museum. The people in Ohio asked me why I want to rebury people in West Virginia. And here I was wondering why they want to dig them up?
Im not sure everything can be explained. Some things you either understand, or you just dont. Maybe the goal should be to teach respect for other people, even if you dont fully understand them.
When I read something on DU:GD, no matter if I agree or disagree with it, I tend to try to assign it to some reference point -- or, file -- in my brain. Frequently, Im able to do that with some degree of accuracy. I know some people here, and am familiar enough with certain topics, that I am comfortable in doing that. I assume that I know what they are really saying. The problem in doing that -- both here and in real life -- is that sometimes Im wrong. Thats part of being human, of course; the only people who honestly believe they approach every person and topic with a completely open mind are those incapable of being fully honest with themselves.
No matter if I am fully correct, totally incorrect, or somewhere in that wide range found in between, I have the constant option of having respect for the other person .if not his or her opinion or actions. That, of course, can be difficult. Sometimes, very difficult -- for example, there are some issues that I think are really clear-cut, and that strike an emotional reaction. Usually, these are issues in which a persons opinion is closely related to actions that cause some type of injury to others. These can range from people who attempt to justify violence -- from adults who hit kids, to those who advocate war -- to those who seek financial profit from engaging in the destruction of the living environment. Fracking, for example, poisons the water that sustains life on earth.
Yet there are many areas where disagreements are not so clearly defined, where there is not only one correct answer, or where there really isnt a wrong answer. Thus, because other forum members have had different life-experiences than me, they are going to process some of the same information as me in a very different way. They have different files or reference points built into their gray matter. We all do, and thats a good thing.
Recently, while discussing an area where I have disagreement -- strong disagreement -- with a small group of people who live in my area, my younger son reminded me of something. He said that I have to remember that most people did not grow up with mentors such as Leon Shenandoah, Paul Waterman, or Rubin Carter. Much less all three. So the chances of them viewing the issues in the same way, were rather small. And that even if I was convinced that I was 100% correct, I needed to listen closely to those other people. That I might even learn something.
There are three good boxing cards on television tonight. The best fight, at least on paper, is the Broner vs Porter bout.
In the afternoon-evening, I'll be hanging out with Marvis Frazier and Larry Holmes. There is a good chance that they'll be here tonight, to watch the fights. That said, if any of you are interested, come on over!
God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. -- Aeschylus
As the shock wears off, and the horror begins to settle in, it is human nature to try to make sense of the brutal murder of nine human beings in a church setting. We can see evidence of this on the television news, or on this forum. People express their views of guns, racism, if this was a hate crime and/or terrorism, the concept of evil, other heinous murderers, and issues of mental illness. These are all valid issue to consider; discussing them can be helpful in coming to terms with this latest tragedy.
There are layers in our society that are dealing with this awful pain. My first concern, of course, is for the family members who lost a loved one. Then, like the ripples on a pond, going outward, the friends, neighbors, community members, and associates stretching across the country. And I do worry about this country -- the decay that we are witnessing, and how mindless violence so often targets Good People -- that my generation is handing down to the next.
I know the pain that this incident causes for so many people across this great land.
Even now, eight months after an off-duty law enforcement officer shot and seriously wounded my cousin, and killed his son, it is common for my cousin to tell me that he keeps reviewing the incident, and trying to make sense of it. He got a package of legal documents in the mail, which always serves to upset him; I drove down, and took them with me, to add to the growing file. I read through them yesterday morning, and there is nothing there that we have to respond to.
Its difficult for me to sit down: the day before, I was in the lead as my dog Kelly and I took an early morning walk out to the pond; a tree that broke off in the nights storm blocked our path, and as I prepared to climb over it, Kelly dashed up behind me, and jumped off my back, over the tree. While that was an amazing example of canine athleticism, it left me as limp as a damp rag, hanging across the trees trunk.
So I stood and looked out a window. There was a light rain coming down, though not enough to discourage a humming bird from drinking at some of the Rosa rugosa rubras (hedge roses). Few things in the Natural World fascinate me more than humming birds. In my minds eye, this wonderful creature was carrying on its duties, in between Aeschyluss drops.
The next thing my eyes focused upon surprised me: a does head stuck out from the hedge roses. She was about eight feet away from my window. For the past several years, although my dogs bark at literally anything else -- or, sometimes, nothing at all -- they pay little if any attention to the deer around here. She tilted her beautiful head, listened for a moment, and then began trimming my roses for me.
There is violence in the Natural World, and at times, it can seem cruel. But there is no evil. I have been in physical pain since Kelly flattened me, for example, but he meant my old bones no harm. A small-to-medium snapping turtle has taken up residence in my pond, and I will have to move it, as I am not in favor of it de-populating the schools of fish. (It has quickly learned to approach me when I feed the fish, and I wouldnt mind if it only consumed fish food. But as much respect as I have for snapping turtles, I would prefer it live elsewhere. I am, at this point, too old to go in the pond to catch it -- they are much more difficult to handle in the water, especially if the dig into the mud -- and so Ive brought my fishing net out. The turtle knows how to avoid it, thus far!)
I do believe that there is evil, though I do not subscribe to the belief if a demon with a red tail, horns, and a pitch-fork. I think it is an entirely human dynamic. I think it often involves groups of people -- though not necessarily at what I consider a conscious level. It can be found in the behaviors of an individual from that group. For example, I consider Dick Cheney to be evil; I do not consider his level of consciousness to be significantly higher than that of a snapping turtle -- and I am not attempting to be humorous in saying that. I view both as organic machines, though obviously, Cheneys brain has a few more layers of gray matter.
Somewhere in that gray matter, human beings can hold the potential to do inhumane things. A sub-group gets associated with others who commit what, on the surface, appear to be similar crimes, in terms of utter brutality. Hence, we read some sincere people refer to this latest thug as being the same as Adam Lanza. While there are similarities, which may even include relationships with parents and family members, Lanza had much more evident signs of a serious and persistent axis 1 mental illness. Likewise, this fellow has been compared to Charles Manson; while both professed interest in sparking a race war, and had raging inferiority complexes, there arent many other significant similarities. And this turd is also being compared to Tim McVeigh; again, while both are correctly identified as terrorists, there are not other significant similarities.
What does overlap in all these instances -- including the hundreds and thousands of other, less well-known case like my cousins -- is that a bitter, angry man rode the energies of hatred -- his own, and his followers -- and committed violent crimes that killed and maimed innocent people.
There seems to be a lot of hatred in the United States these days. Too much, in fact. By no coincident, the levels of violence seem to rise at the same pace and level. I try not to hate. I do believe in forgiveness. Yet, being human, it is very hard for me to forgive the swine that shot my cousin and his son. Im okay with my not being there, so long as I do not hate him. For, as my Good Friend, the Hurricane that transformed into Dr. Rubin Carter told me, If you hate, you are a murderer.
I take voting very seriously. I have voted in virtually every election since reaching voting age. Ive also invested time and effort in voting registration drives over the years, primarily targeting two populations: those in low-income neighborhoods, and young adults. Voter registration is important, but to reach its full potential, it should be one part of a program that includes voter education, and voter participation.
Over the decades, I have also been a volunteer in dozens of campaigns. In more recent years, Ive run numerous local and regional political campaigns. I do not charge so much as a penny for my efforts, nor accepted gas money, etc. I am involved in political campaigns for the same reason that I have been involved in social movements during these same years: I believe in what I do. It is a matter of conscience.
Voting is a right, and a responsibility. It is not a privilege. Those who think they have a right to deny others their right to vote have an unethical sense of entitlement. Those who insist that everyone has an obligation to vote exactly as they do has a sense of privilege. Those who attempt to make others feel guilty about how they vote, or insult others for doing so, are foolish. Everyone has the right to vote as their conscience tells them to.
Im not sure who I will vote for in the Democratic presidential primary. Theres plenty of time for me to decide. But even in that -- a primary, not a general election -- Ill vote according to who I believe is the best candidate. None of the announced Democratic candidates is perfect. They each have strengths and weaknesses. I will continue to evaluate each one of them.
What I wont do is allow other people to decide for me. Those who make a strong case for a particular candidate may influence my thinking, to some extent. And Ill ignore those who channel hatred, hurl insults, and/or attempt to instill a sense of collective guilt by way of mis-using sociological terms. For it would not be fair to judge any candidate, based upon the toxicity and ignorance of some of their followers.
In August of 2006, while attending an extended-family function, I was seated next to a retired FBI investigator. In an attempt to make small talk, I asked him if he thought that John Mark Karr, a strange character being featured on all the news, had actually murdered JonBenet Ramsey? After he stopped laughing, he explained to me why he believed Karr had nothing to do with the crime.
He said that as a rule, when the media gives such extensive coverage to a case such as this, it means that something else that is far more important nationally escapes notice. This isnt to suggest that violent crimes against children is unimportant; rather, he explained, the media is appealing to the publics uncanny ability to be distracted by what shocks or outrages them.
While I recognize that everyone has the right to view -- and judge -- this for themselves, it has made me question the reasons certain news stories are given such a high profile in the media. In a sense, I view the coverage of Rachel Dolezal in this light. This is not to suggest that issues of race are not extremely important in our society. They are. And they always have been. Our society has difficulty in discussing them in an open manner. Hence, while the topic of police violence against black citizens is very important, and deserves our attention, we benefit from hearing what organizations such as the NAACP has to say.
Yet, that is distinct from the issue of the confusion, or even dishonesty, of how Ms. Dolezal -- who has a connection with the NAACP --identifies herself. Indeed, there is a long and curious history of people in America who purposely, for a variety of reasons, attempt to identify themselves as something other than what they are.
It is something that has taken place for different historical reasons. In his powerful autobiography, Malcolm X spoke of the attempts by segments of the black community to appear white. Interestingly, around the same time that his former friend Muhammad Alis first biography -- Black Is Beautiful -- was published, a growing segment of the white population began to claim an Indian ancestor; Cherokee, Mohawk, and Sioux were the most popular tribes to claim a distant association with.
In 1961, an important book, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, was published. It detailed the authors experiences passing as a black man in America. Yet, unlike Dolezal, Griffin always understood who he really was.
While progress has been made in race relations, this country has yet to come to terms with many of the realities of racism in modern times. In some of her activities, Dolezal was no doubt sincere in her efforts to deal with racism. Yet, there are some curious aspects to her approach. These appear to be related to some underlying dynamics in her family of origin. And they include a semi-tragic sense of not liking herself as she actually is.
Some media analysts are asking if this is much the same as with the transgender population. I think that this confuses a biological issue with a cultural one. However, in Dolezals case, there could be a genetic predisposition towards depression, which could have played a role in her choice to identify herself with a group she considered superior to her own. This is, of course, merely speculation upon my part.
What isnt speculation is that the nation had been focused on the issues involving police violence being directed towards black people, and that the Dolezal issue has distracted people from that. Rather than more reports about incidents such as the brute who assaulted the 15-year old girl from the swimming pool party, the media is currently saturated with the Dolezal case. I dont think its a coincidence, and I know that its a shame.
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