You Won’t Like This

Las Vegas.

It usually takes me several days to process dramatic and truly damaging events that permeate our shared public consciousness. Las Vegas is such an event. It has made such a deep impact on America that I cannot even speak of it in the past tense, as it will linger and fester in our souls for a long time. I don’t even have to qualify it. Simply the name of the city is enough. And this will probably be the case for a long time. Unless the arms race of massive death creates another tortured soul with a plan.

Heroes is not necessarily the only word I would use to describe the many whose acts of courage and compassion are rightfully honored and revered. So many, in all disasters are called heroes. But in this, as in those, heroes is an incomplete concept. For me, it is not enough to simply say they are heroes. I need to hear why they are heroes, either big or small, either saving lives or soothing scared children.

Heroes do what they do, they run towards not away, because they love their neighbor, out of compassion and empathy. Because they intuitively revere and love life and people, who all deserve to be saved. Tragedy destroys the boundaries between people and carries suffering down the path to hope. The clarity of our shared pain shows us we are one, individual yet part of something greater, something that lives deep inside us and manifests when we need it. This is the divinity and beauty of heroism, not merely a selfless deed.

Now the authorities are looking for motive. Desperately. The motive is simple, as it is for all mass killers. They are in pain and choose to assuage that pain through heinous murder. No matter their state of being they all make a choice. Whether suffering through political anger, mental disorder’s damaged thinking or aggrieved despair, the pain is the same and the choice to act with violence is the same, to make others suffer as they do. Having known severe pain I cannot hate them. But why do we make so many more of them than anywhere else?

These killers act out because American culture permits us to resolve conflict and pain with violence. Not only is it permitted it is the preferred means. Immorality as social norm. But one cannot legislate morality. Conservatives know this but are so heavy-handed and self-serving they cannot serve that truth in a way that serves society. Liberals want to help save people but sell themselves short out of fear. They cannot maintain outrage because more tragedy is always around the corner to overwhelm them. And the twain shall never meet.

Everybody knows subconsciously that the American culture’s affair with guns makes the gun violence dynamic here different than the rest of the world. We cannot be another Australia no matter how much we legislate gun sensible laws. Law can only scratch the surface. Sensible gun safety legislation will help, but not enough. There must be more.

Many say we can’t stop invisible lone wolves from acting, from committing mass murder. That it’s impossible to ferret them out. They use this as an excuse to never try stopping them. The gun makers tell us the solution is more guns. Plenty of us believe this to be true. And a majority of the country does not trust the law to solve anything. In this case, they may be quite right. But I see these people as cowards, throwing up their hands in insincere despair. Selling death for profit.

To my mind, there is a good solution here, perhaps the best solution. Instead of trying to stop these evil killers when they are fully grown and engaged, we should change the way we raise our children, especially boys and especially white boys. Call it sexism/genderism and racism but the statistics bear it out. White men make up a large majority of mass murderers.

The way to stop us from accepting gun violence as a solution to social problems is to stop teaching our children this myth, this soul-crushing lie that violence is the way to go, the way to make everything right. The circle of violence can only be broken by Americans acting in concert to stop telling our boys to “be a man” and then equating that manhood with violence. I feel strongly that this “be a man” syndrome is sinful. The Christ does not ask us to turn the other cheek for nothing.

The glorification of violence is outdated at best. The fight or flight autonomic reaction existed for a creature with few reasoning skills, creatures without language as a tool of peace. There is a reason it is buried deep in our brains. It is no longer a viable means of avoiding pain or resolving conflict. As thinking beings, we can overcome our instant calls to violence. This is not easy. But as humans, we can call on the power of mind over matter. It works.

We must begin the hard work of creating fewer and fewer men with unbearable pain, those who feel horribly wronged but who hide it well, those subjected to abuse who process violence as normal, and even those who are barely aware of what they are doing. Of course, there are anomalies. There are women who act out in this way but as much as prehistoric women were rarely called upon to fight for existence, modern women are rarely acculturated to violence. This, I feel, is part of why they make up a small percentage of mass murderers. Yet another anomaly, in the instance of the sins of psychopaths these souls may never be inclined to abandon violence.

As said, it is imperative that we contribute to the solution the right way, by telling our children that violence is never acceptable. We must still learn the ways of violence as a defense against an existential threat. Complete passivity is naive. But the best way is to show our sons and daughters that violence is not the way is by our actions, modeling peaceful negotiation and mediation as the preferred method of conflict resolution, that through human interaction we can ease our pain.

The best way is better than the right way. And the example we set is the best means of successfully moving our pain into hope, as befits sentient beings. The Sanskrit word for weapon is also the word for tool. We can, as the Christ intimated, beat our swords into plowshares. We can use our hearts, souls, and minds to change society, to join many of us together as one without needing a disaster to unite us. We would no longer need to battle in the halls of Congress. We wouldn’t have to fight so much at the taverns, cafes and dinner tables of America. We could change.

An addendum

You won’t like this.

This will be seen as and called racism and it probably is. But I must say my piece. The situation in the black and much of the Latino communities, as I observe it, is that the relative lack of mass murderers from these communities is due to the fact that their suffering involving gun violence is intimate, up close and personal. It is directed at the individual, the person right there in front of you. Violence here is not an anomaly, it is omnipresent. One need not meticulously plan a bloodbath of the anonymous. Here the pools of blood will be at their feet, and the plan was formed quickly, specific to the grievance. So when those in the public eye conflate murder in these POC communities with mass murder they are terribly wrong. Though the solutions to the violence are similar the essence of the problem is different.

Mea Culpa. Please forgive me if I am wrong about this. I cannot know for certain but I witness. I fully accept a charge of racism for these comments and the mantle of racist. I speak what I feel.

You won’t like this either.

A word about prayers, including candlelight vigils and moments of silence. Prayer is a good thing. Praying for the peaceful repose of the lost souls and healing grace for their friends and families is a good thing. Candlelight vigils and shrines and moments of silence are good things. But they are all also feel good actions. They allow us to feel as though we have acted, we have done something good, something to help. We can do this and then go home and not take any further action, thinking we have done our part. In this, I do not judge. I only bear witness. Think on it yourself.

As powerful as is prayer, for the departed, we must also pray for the strength to do the hard work of changing the nation’s zeitgeist. It will take several generations but we must change the way we do this business. Praising those we call heroes and changing our laws and offering prayers are all good things but they can only save a fraction of the lives we need to.

These things are right things to do but they are not the best things to do. It is not easy to find and choose the best thing over the right thing. Doing the right thing we are so tempted to be satisfied and go home. I am convinced that, for America, the best path to hope out of pain is accepting our own pain and finding our own hope. This will give us the confidence to teach our children well. I believe we all know in our hearts that this path is true.

Let us start on this path together in love.

 

I Kept Threatening To Do This

It’s time for the true identity of Will Servant to be revealed. It’s a pretty flimsily disguised nom de plume to begin with. A lot of you already know me anyway.

My name is Ric Studer and I’m coming out of the anonymity closet to announce my candidacy for School Board in my home town District 742, in the St. Cloud MN area. Several current board members whose terms are ending have chosen not to run. I have been feeling I should run for this important community service for some time and there is need for good candidates to step forward. I’m not normally one to toot my own horn but I believe I have the skill set and character to represent our community well.

Although I am politically a progressive it is clear to me that School Board membership must be a non partisan position. It is my goal to be a voice of reason based on common sense and humility. I will advocate for adequate funding to assure that every teacher and student, including adults, in the district gets all the tools they need to succeed. But I will also look for areas where we can reform and conserve in order to spend each dollar wisely and to the benefit and best interest of the local taxpayer.

There are new ways of approaching education that serve all stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, students and the taxpayers who support them and we must consider them before doing the same old same old because it’s easy and has always been done that way. At the same time we can’t just throw out the baby with the bath water. Many time tested methods and programs should continue to be used to serve the district and it’s community. We will be wise to fully explore there new ways of looking at education, and the forward thinking they represent.

Capital expenditures, currently in the form of replacement and renovation of aging structures, has been a major local issue for several years and the district has struggled to make an effective case for adopting their recommendations, even after extensive research into all the alternatives. The unfortunate disconnects between the Board and community can be bridged through hard work by all parties. I’m sure of it.

Trust in the board, by community leaders and citizens alike must be restored and that can only be done by reaching out into the community and having honest conversations with area residents from all economic, ethnic, racial, political, underrepresented minority backgrounds. Every voice must be heard and every decision transparent. This is the only way to conduct business in the 21st century and the only way the Board can regain the trust and support of the people.

St. Cloud area schools have also reflected the major social issues of the community, as religious tensions have found their way into our schools. As a quality learning environment is imperative if we are to give our students a place to excel, it behooves us to do everything in our power to resolve the religious and ethnic differences that have poured over into the school district from clouded and muddy pools that have sprung up in the community.

Although the conflicts have, to my mind, primarily arisen from the activities of small groups of activists. Their voices are loud and the fear they generate is real. It infects many in the community. Once again, honest, open and respectful conversations are the key to reducing the tensions that impair student’s ability to thrive. I am certain that through this effort the good hearted and self respecting people of the district can find the common ground that will nourish us all.

As we aspire to a new educational philosophy our efforts must can only be directed inward. While researching and discussing the direction of district development and allocation of resources from a new perspective, we must reach outward as well. We must go to the students themselves, in their environment, and meet them where they are, learning for ourselves by discovering what they know and want to know, their life experiences and how they learn.

We must also use this approach to work toward solutions of our social challenges, engaging in meaningful conversations with both the hurt and the hurtful to better create the unity so desperately needed, not only in our schools, but in our communities. We have to humble ourselves, coming together in good faith to listen to everyone’s concerns and working as one  forge a path toward what we all ultimately want, a school system that provides the best possible learning experience for the most possible students.

Everyone says that the single most important thing to them is the kids.  If we really believe that we need to set aside our egos and desires and surrender to our children, who are more precious than gold and and most worthy of our love and nurture. They will show us the way if we have ears to hears and eyes to see.

I ask for your vote and support in my journey toward excellence in service, both public and private, as I learn and grow through giving.

 

Some Thoughts on our Political Process

I received so many calls and emails about caucuses on Super Tuesday that it drove me loopy. I know why I got them and I was still pissed off. I really think the idea of carpet bombing likely attendees with GOTV/ persuasion calls and emails is an outdated strategy that has a reverse effect from what it was designed for. These calls are unsolicited and thus perceived as cold sales calls. People don’t like their lives interrupted.

The problem is the bean counters determined you could reach more voters more cheaply by phone than through the mail. Which is true. And you can’t guarantee people will read the mail whereas you can when you reach them by phone. But psychologically speaking, because of the very fact that the person receiving the mail has the choice to read it, it is a less threatening and irritating means of communicating. Because of this I feel, although the number of folks receiving mail is lower, the numbers that get the message are higher. I also feel that if government is the sender of a caucus notification mailer more people would read it upon reception than if it were sent by the candidates. Along with the information about date, time and place of caucuses, candidates could present introductions and persuasive arguments for government to include in the mailer, so that the voter has additional choice in educating themselves.

We must start treating the voter as an owner of government instead of a customer, a real person of value to society, instead of a number on a tally sheet. Enough of his rant and on to another.

Attending your caucus or voting in your primary is the first step in fulfilling your constitutional DUTY to elect those who represent YOU in determining how YOUR taxes are spent and what YOU can and cannot do as YOU interact with society. There is a direct correlation between your vote and your budget and your liberty.

It seems some of the very same people that insist our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, don’t quite understand what that really means. So many people, including the mainstream media, use the term “our democracy” as short hand for “our government”. This is only partially true. Our government is a Democratic Republic.

Sometimes people forget that we are a republic. I think it’s assumed we know that, since we elect representatives. Thats what a republic is, government by representation. This is the “of the people” part. Our government its made up OF the people we elect.

And yes, we are a democracy, in the sense that our government is elected “by the people”. That’s what democracy means, a government chosen BY the people, usually through free elections.

And the part that is most under attack is the FOR the people part. Our government is supposed to and was designed to work “for the people” and not for corporations or banks or defense contractors. Their interests don’t always line up with the people’s interests. But it sure seems that government works for them instead of us.

So how have these entities taken over. Even though there aren’t a lot of people that run them they have used the thing they have an abundance of that most of the people don’t have. They have an abundance of money. Their money gives them a huge advantage over us. They corrupt the “of the people” by “buying” their hand picked candidates. Largely through the media they have made it very expensive to run for office. The average citizen, without large amounts of donated money, can’t afford to run for anything but small local offices. The people with the money find someone who is attractive and well known and connected and gives them the money they need to run a winning campaign. We all know that nothing is free. For their money those donors get special favors from their “bought and sold” representative.

Having stolen our “of the people” they next work on the “by the people”. First they get their bought and sold representatives to pass laws making it hard for certain people to vote at all. Of course these voters are on to the moneybags and their plan to take over our government. This is why the would be overlords attempt to get their paid off legislators to take way those smart voter’s vote.

Less obvious but maybe more effective is how they discourage people from voting. First they use their money and the elected officials in their pocket to create fear among the people and encourage greed. Then they use the fear and greed to get folks to accept them as their saviors, as the only ones who can protect them and their money. These people will then walk through walls to vote for them.

Next they use a function of the American way of life to discourage people from voting at all. They know that they have their core group of frightened followers who will do anything they say. The fewer people that vote the more electoral power their core has and the fewer people they need to persuade and the more money per vote they can devote to that persuasion. And getting people to eschew voting is relatively easy.

Americans have a finely tuned, well oiled, throroughly developed propensity to assign both responsibility and blame to others. When the corporations and banks, the army of the plutocracy, can convince people that government is to blame for their miserable lives, that all politicians are lazy and crooked and that there is no difference between the parties, plenty of people will just throw up their hands and say their vote doesn’t count. They feel justified in not voting. Their feelings that they have no say in what happens to them are substantiated.

Our government is, by design, participatory. Only by participating do we TRULY respect, honor, and act in accordance with the constitution. If we don’t attend our party caucuses, or vote in primary elections we are giving away our chance to have a say in what government we have.  Do you really think that under 15% of the people, and often much less than that, should determine who will even vie for public office. It just makes it easier for the dominators to dominate. We aren’t going to ever get out from under the yoke of oppression by rolling up and giving up because we think our constitutional duty is meaningless.

That is a bald faced lie.

 

Weekly Reader

Due to the high volume of imaginary requests I have decided to start a weekly event. Evidently doing this will increase the volume of clicks on my blog, which of course we all know is the real reason for blogging. This I have discovered after several years of randomly putting symbols to my thoughts. The true goal of the 21st century, tech savvy blogger is to have their existence justified through the measure of how many people listen to them. I may be jaded but sometimes it seems to me that this is more important than whether or not one writes something meaningful. Naturally, jaded as I am, my definition of meaningful is most likely more narrow than average.

I’m certain this flaw in my modern day bonafides is due to my advancing years and ossifying brain. Anyhow, I am taking the advice of the good people at WordPress, who are professionals and should know best, and creating a weekly event here at TAICBR. After several minutes of deliberation I found what I feel is the obvious choice for a successful foray into the world of consistent blogging (My God, what have I done).

The name of my new venture is to be called “Weekly Reader” and will appear weekly on Saturday. This event will occur once a week on Saturdays, which will be weekly. I feel the best day to write it would be on Saturday because today is Saturday and that way I could consult my blog were I forget to remember which day of the week my Saturday weekly column would be written. I chose to write weekly because if I hadn’t chosen to write weekly I would have had to change the name of the weekly event to something other than “Weekly Reader” which would have been quite a lot more work than I had imagined when I first hatched the idea of a weekly event I could blog every Saturday. So weekly and Saturday it is.

“Weekly Reader” will be centered around the concept that every Saturday, I will write a weekly blog post examining any number of a variety of topics I could potentially write about for my weekly Saturday event. No stone will be left unturned as I scour the universe for titillating and excruciatingly quasi-viral subjects to consider. Every week I will examine a new and more interesting than last week’s list of scintillating issues that I may or may not spend an inordinate amount of time on, determining whether or not I should continue to peruse them for consideration. My eventual goal is to eventually have a list of wonderful things I might eventually try out so that I might eventually hold more and more wonderful events, undoubtedly weekly and on Saturday.

I’m certain I will be able to generate a tremendous amount of traffic for the blog, as I know how much people like to be kept in constant suspense but also be able to be instantly gratified in the same moment. I feel I am up to this arduous task, as I have been known to be fully capable of speaking out of both sides of my mouth, successfully, for many years. Over the last several decades we have become more and more used to people saying more and more while saying less and less. This is not easy. One has to be able to discern what exactly is more and more and then determine just exactly how to turn that over into less and less, seamlessly, like those knit monkeys people make out of work socks.

Well folks, my main goal for 2016 is to make my blog more succinct and shorter to boot, and, not to mention, precise as well, although I did mention it. So I’ll sign off by begging you all to check out my blog right here on this page, except you should come next Saturday because it’s only here weekly on Saturdays, for another edition of “Weekly Reader” which will now appear right here weekly on Saturdays. I would have been sued by the original “Weekly Reader” but I’m not sure they are in business anymore and if they are don’t go telling, okay?

Love you guys!!!

 

Prompted to Promptly Respond to the Daily Prompt

Now we are getting into areas I have yet to explore with this blog. Today’s Blogging101 assignment is for us to respond to a blogging prompt. I was unaware that WordPress posts daily prompts. Evidently prompts are a type of jump starter for bloggers suffering from a bit of bloggers block, or perhaps they are simply an information nugget to chew on over a busy day’s stuff.

I like the idea of responding to a prompt, and understand why WordPress provides this type of service for would be Pulitzer winners to prime the pump. What is mystifying to this semi-luddite is the concept of a “ping back”. Evidently a ping back is a kind of feedback loop where you like somebody’s post so much that you write a post that links to that post, which word then gets back to the originator of the post that you liked their post so much that you wrote a post that links to their post. Ostensibly this is done to get them to like one of your posts and write a post linking to your post, which word then gets back to you that somebody liked your post so much that they wrote a post that linked to your post.

At least I think so.

I understand the whole networking, blogging community, promotional aspect of blogging, yet this is where I falter as a blogger. I shouldn’t admit this but I could care less about anyone else’s blog. This does not come from a place of ego (yes it does) or lack of empathy (this part is true). It comes from the place of I barely have time to brush my teeth daily, given all the busy work I have given myself to do each day. I tend to load myself up just to prevent me from acting out. Frankly it’s dangerous for me to have idle time on my hands, which having the time to blog sort of implies.

Aye, there’s the rub.

So as is often the case, the value of taking this course is turning out to be that, by participating, I am answering my own questions. My primary question entering this exercise was why can’t I publish posts with more regularity. Now I know why. If I have enough time to write a blog post I have enough time to get myself into trouble. Ergo, if I don’t write in my blog I am using my time judiciously. However, if I do, I am inviting danger.

Oh, BTW, here is the link I am supposed to include in my post to do a ping back to the original prompt of the day, which of course has nothing to do with what I am writing about. Or does it?

Reason to Believe

What is my reason to believe? I don’t have a reason to believe. I don’t need one and neither do you. Belief in something, God, the constitution, yourself, whatever, is a cornerstone of existence and TBH if you need a reason to believe in something then perhaps you think you need to believe in it rather than know you need to. You’ll know when you need to believe in something. and it will just happen smoothly in the course of you being you. Thinking you need a reason to believe in something seems to me to be a function of someone telling you you should believe in that something. Then you need a reason to believe, because the believing is not natural to you. You need to be convinced.

Mind you this is Will talking and not anyone in authority. It’s just me trying to do the assignment. I don’t need a reason to do the assignment either. I just want to.

Frankly, Springsteen’s lyric is like so many other song lyrics, something that sounds like it means something important, but when you take a closer look at it isn’t nearly as profound as it might seem.

Obviously, when you come home from a hard day’s work you need a reason to believe, a reason to keep going day to day, perhaps in joy perhaps in drudgery. But that reason need not and should not be conscious. It should be clear and apparent, so apparent that it is not subject to conscious thought. If “The Boss” hadn’t made you aware of that need for a reason through his song, you’d probably never think of it by yourself, unless you were a philosopher, which few of us are. But, in the knowing, it certainly is meaningful to us, and that’s the beauty of artistry.

One of the great skills of writers is that they are able to bring to the surface realities that lie in our subconscious, just underneath the surface of consciousness. They seem so familiar. They endear us to the artist because “it’s like she knows what I am thinking”, “she understands me”. That is because they connect us with feelings we truly have but aren’t consciously aware of. So naturally they seem familiar and they seem to originate there, in the artists words. But they do not. They originate in you, in your feelings, in your heart, mind, and soul. You just don’t associate them with yourself.

Pretty good trick eh? Actually, when an artist surrenders to truth telling, and stirs up those thoughts and feelings of beauty lying just underneath the surface of our consciousness, it is a good thing, a very good thing. It awakens us to a reality we live with every day but think we have never met. This is the value of artistry to society. It helps us to see inside ourselves to find truths about ourselves and life, and love, and the world around us, which we have always known, but have misplaced or forgotten.

So when we say that this song or that painting or this magazine article caused us to look at this or that thing in a new way, what we are really saying is that they reminded us of something we had forgotten, something deep inside that reminds us of our unique and powerful humanity.

Artists reconnect us with ourselves. That is why it is so satisfying when we find one we connect with, one that speaks to us. It’s just one way the universe deceives us into thinking that fulfillment lives outside of us. It doesn’t. Fulfillment always comes from within. Sometimes, though, it’s best if we maintain the illusion. Being responsible for our own joy can be too much for some of us to deal with.

Next time you find an artist who speaks to you, look for how you are really speaking to yourself. What you find may “ping back” to your own happiness.

Be a part of the change (Diapers that is!)

For all my 3 readers a little caveat. I don’t often use this blog as a shameless shill for cool and meaningful events. But this one is special.

Operation Baby New Year, a diaper and baby wipe drive in the St. Cloud MN metro area, has gone viral locally and we want you to be part of it. Our goal is to raise 100,000 diapers by New Years Eve. We want to welcome in Baby New Year with a gift of diapers for the needy families served by five major social service organizations here in Lake Woebegon country.

There is a tremendous need for diapers for needy families, not only at this festive season but year round. Babies have no political biases or religious dogma. They carry no grudges and as we all know one of their three major activities involves diapers.

Like our Facebook page and spread the word nationwide. If you aren’t able to logistically get diapers to Central Minnesota and want to help, make out a check to “Friends of Whitney Dog Park” and send it to Operation Baby New Year, 718 15th St. SE St. Cloud MN 56304.

Visit our website http://operationbabynewyear.com for more info and to help us drive clicks. You’ll be glad you did.

It makes you feel so happy to donate a nappy (or a box).