Sunday, November 30, 2014

What If She Had Emmett Till in Mind? (#BlackLivesMatter)

(Image Source: Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugs 12-year-old Devonte Hart during a demonstration in Portland, Ore. calling for police reform after the Ferguson grand jury decision on Nov. 25, 2014.)

I want to share an interaction I had with my mom the other day -- one of my few non-racist, non-bigoted family members. This is such a perfect example of what I wish more people, of all ethnicities, would try to be more aware of. My mom is white, 70 and lives in the Deep South.

Perspective is everything.

She made friends with a middle-aged black gentlemen a couple of years ago, and no matter where they run into one another, they hug. She ran into him a few days ago and they hugged as usual. She never thinks twice about it.

She said the other day there was a black woman there who saw them hug and "if looks could kill, I would have been dead."

I asked how old the woman was. "Older, probably close to my age."

I said, "What if she had Emmett Till in mind when she saw you two hugging? She is of an age to remember that horrific violence."

Mom had never heard of Emmett Till, which surprised me. But then I asked a few people -- white people -- my age and older, people I thought for sure would know the name Emmett Till, and they had never heard the name either.

This is a perfect example of history affecting current behavior -- widespread, collective behavior -- yet far too many people are unaware of it.

(Please keep in mind that the last recorded lynching of a black man by the KKK was in 1981 -- the year I graduated from high school. Not 1881 -- 1981. That is how recent the blatant, dehumanizing violence was done publicly. It is still systemic...racism continues to be present in our institutions, which is why white people -- even poor white people -- have an advantage over people of color still. Look at the details of legal and justice statistics to see it in action. If anyone doubts this, I can spend time gathering the facts for you.)

Back to Emmett Till. In 1955, he was 14, a young black boy living in Mississippi. Someone said he flirted with a white woman. A group of local white men took Till away to a barn, where they beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound (32 kg) cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire.

That story was repeated probably hundreds of times in the last century.

What if the black woman looking at my mom, a white woman hugging a black man, had an instinctive, conditioned reaction to the act: She feared for his safety, ESPECIALLY in the Deep South?

African-Americans as a community often parent differently than many white parents. We experience daily life differently based on many factors -- skin color is one key factor. In spite of White America's cries of horrible parenting in black communities, it is cultural for AA parents to be much more strict -- because the lives of their children literally depend upon it. Of course, it doesn't mean the kids always listen -- which is the case with ALL children, especially teens.

There are things passed down through generations, just as is the case for all cultures. For the African-American community, it is fairly common behavior for AA moms to downplay the success of their kids, especially their sons. "Oh, he is a mess. Don't pay any attention to him," even when he's done something very worthy of praise.

Do you know why this may be the case? Many of these moms don't even know where it comes from, other than seeing the older generation doing it. (I highly recommend Joy DeGruy's theory and book based on the same: Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome)

During slave times, parents were terrified of their children being noticed -- even for something positive -- because it increased the likelihood they'd be sold and taken away from them.

If their kids acted up, even as young children, the potential for beating was tremendous -- by any white person, because they felt entitled to do so to any child who wasn't white.

Parents of children brown skin have to have "the talk" with their kids, especially boys: Don't walk too fast, don't walk too slow, keep your hands out of your pockets so they don't think you have a gun...if you're pulled over keep your hands in sight at all times, no sudden movements, yes sir/yes ma'am (yes, white parents often do the same concerning law enforcement but there is no such thing as driving or walking while white).

They are afraid for the lives of their loved ones, in ways that go beyond the typical worries we all experience. There is a historical precedent for these fears and subsequent behaviors that no one stops to consider when talking about the behavior of "those people."

There has been no space for this multigenerational trauma to heal. And we need MUCH more education in this country of Kardashian and Duck Dynasty watchers. The historical context of what is happening matters.
We see the trauma manifesting in different forms right now with the various incidents, the kind of incidents many of you are tired of seeing in the news -- Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, the latest being Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old AA boy with a toy gun shot in Cleveland within 1.5 to 2 seconds of the police car pulling up to him.

Racism may or may not be part of the scenarios on the part of police officers in the near daily deaths occurring; racism in the sense of law enforcement having a higher level of fear when confronted with a black man. However, how the deaths are treated (systemic, in the justice system) and the reaction of a significant portion of White America is racist. Young black men feel their lives do not matter which, by the way, often feeds a lot of the black-on-black violence some of you are itching to bring up as you read this. Forget about poverty and housing and other injustices; the fact that many AA citizens feel they are not valued as a human being because of the color of their skin often manifests in how they even treat one another.

Racism is alive and well in the United States -- IN ALL AGE GROUPS. You're fooling yourself and may be adding to the danger by denying it or wishing everyone was colorblind. Diversity is good...appreciating our cultural differences is healthy, using them to destroy, dehumanize and hate isn't.

Lives are literally at stake every minute, in ways that are preventable, so I feel a fierce urgency of now to speak up and do my best to educate. I feel qualified to do so, to a limited degree, because I've been around racist behavior (not only views, but behavior) my whole life. I know it when I see it. It doesn't mean the individuals are evil. Archie Bunker wasn't evil -- he was afraid. I want to try to do my part towards healing this, even with one person in this world.

If you're tired of listening to or watching all the talk about racism, imagine LIVING IT. I can't. As a white person living in the United States, I can't imagine living it.


~ Dena

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ms. Emma Watson

Emma Watson, of Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) fame, is stepping into her new role as Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women most brilliantly. She helped to launch the HeForShe gender equality campaign on September 20, 2014, at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Today, the spotlight of both mainstream and social media is shining brightly on Ms. Watson as a result of her thought-provoking speech in which she called on both men and women to make changes.

The full video is presented below, along with a transcript of the speech. 

Today we are launching a campaign called HeForShe. I am reaching out to you because we need your help. We want to end gender inequality, and to do this we need everyone involved. This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN. We want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change. We don't just want to talk about it, we want to try to make sure it is tangible. 

I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women six months ago. The more I've spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.

For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.

I started questioning gender-based assumptions a long time ago. When I was 8, I was confused at being called bossy because I wanted to direct the plays we'd put on for our parents. But the boys were not. When at 14, I started to be sexualized by certain elements of media; when at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved sports because they didn't want to appear muscly; when at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings, I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. 

My recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive even.

Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?

I am from Britain, and I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. 

But, sadly, I can say that there is not one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality.

These rights I consider to be human rights, but I am one of the lucky ones. My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn't love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn't assume that I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influences were the gender equality ambassadors who made me who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists changing the world today. We need more of those. 

And if you still hate the word, it is not the word that is important. It's the idea and ambition behind it. Because not all women have received the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been. 

In 1997, Hillary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women's rights. Sadly, many of the things she wanted to change are still true today. What stood out to me the most was that less than 30% of the audience were male. How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?

Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation.

Gender equality is your issue, too. Because, to date, I've seen my father's role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother's. I've seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man. In fact, in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary artery disease. I've seen men made fragile and insecure by the sordid sense of what constitutes male success.

Men don't have the benefits of equality either. We don't often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are, and that when they are free things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don't have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won't feel compelled to be submissive. If men don't have to control, women won't have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. 

It is time that we all perceived gender on a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. 

If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about. It is about freedom.

I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human, too. Reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.

You might be thinking, who is this Harry Potter girl and what is she doing speaking at the UN? It's a really good question. I've been asking myself the same thing. All I know is that I care about this problem and want to make it better. Having seen what I've seen and given the chance, I feel it is my responsibility to say something. 

Statesman Edmund Burke said, "All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing."

In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt, I told myself firmly, if not me, who? If not now, when?

If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you, I hope those words will be helpful because the reality is that if we do nothing, it will take 75 years -- or for me to be nearly 100 -- before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children, and at current rates it won't be until 2086 before all rural African girls have a secondary education.

If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists I spoke of earlier. For this, I applaud you. We are struggling for a uniting word, but the good news is that we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. 

I am inviting you to step forward to be seen and to ask yourself: If not me, who? If not now, when?

Thank you very, very much.

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Six Degrees of Compassion: US Law Enforcement

1.  We need to demilitarize our police departments and provide training and an environment for them within the communities to, once again, become peace officers.

2.  All need to wear video cameras, for their protection as well as the citizens.

3.  The use of lethal force is out of control. Officers desperately need more training in non-lethal measures.

4.  Racism and various forms of bigotry need to be dealt with in an honest way, in safe environments, rather than seething beneath the surface, erupting in deadly ways. It needs to be acknowledged as being part of our systems, infecting all institutions. It's everywhere.

5.  How about dealing with the over-weaponization of citizens so the police don't feel they're constantly in mortal danger...even when they aren't? Follow the money trail. The NRA and weapon manufacturers benefit from this battle on the streets of the US.

6.  How about a simple first step of encouraging officers to remember that the citizens they are policing are fellow human beings? Sometimes officers are faced with people actively engaged in violent crimes, but most often they aren't...they prejudge for many reasons and the results are deadly, given the current environment and mindset of the system of law enforcement.

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hey, White People with White Kids...

(For more information about the above image, click here)

UPDATED: 8/24/14

(Adapted from a Facebook post. I'm a white female, by the way.)

Is the title of this blog inflammatory? I don't think so. I believe true change comes from within and thus racism must be acknowledged and addressed by white people, by whom and for whom the vast majority of our systems and institutions were created, providing an advantage -- or at the very least not having a disadvantage -- based on the color of one's skin. This includes the growing numbers of white Americans living in poverty.

I'm especially talking to those of you predisposed to see young men like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown as thugs. (I doubt you're even aware of the many other young black people killed nearly weekly, unarmed and committing no crime whatsoever, because the shooter felt threatened due to the color of their skin or made deadly assumptions about them.)

Neither of those young men had a police record or "rap sheet," in spite of what is floating around the cesspool that is often the internet.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Trayvon was committing a crime at the time of Zimmerman stalking and then ultimately shooting him. None.

Michael may or may not have committed a crime just before the encounter with Officer Darren Wilson.

Let's say he did. And let's say he absolutely unnecessarily and even thuggishly shoved that store clerk, for no good reason whatsoever. Let's say he behaved horribly, even though there has been no definitive connection between the incident at the store and his death at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.

What if it were your child?

I know some of you from youth...and I know some of you shoplifted and committed petty crimes. Maybe some of your kids have done the same, at that same age. Doesn't make it right...I'm not defending any criminality. Just pointing out that a lot of things are done by people at that age that they're not proud of; they may or may not have gotten caught and suffered the consequences. Some of you didn't get caught, but you did the crime nevertheless.

But let's say your child, even a large male child, just committed the crime of stealing something from the corner store, not armed.

All you know and all you care about is that your child is lying in the middle of a fairly quiet street for hours. Dead. Shot AT LEAST SIX TIMES. You are forced to stay outside the police tape line, and don't see anyone attempting to resuscitate your child or even take his pulse.

What if this occurred in an environment in which local law enforcement has been known, for decades, to target and harass people who look like your son? So there is the added layer of a generational history of anger and mistrust and fear involved, built in to your personal tragedy.

Given the details, or lack thereof, and the sequence of events of how law enforcement has handled this shooting, wouldn't you feel you're losing your mind?

The outside events swirling around the death of your child don't matter. People are protesting and a small faction of criminals are being opportunistic, wreaking havoc by looting and stealing and behaving like horrible human beings even though they are NOT representative of the people in your community nor a reflection of your child.  (Click here to learn, as I have recently, about the straw man of "outside agitators).

That all matters not.

Your child is dead, at someone else's hands. And you don't know precisely how or why, and you're not getting answers.

The investigation is FUBAR. All efforts seem geared toward portraying your child as a white thug or distracting from your child altogether, and you know there are millions of people saying that because your child may have stolen something from the corner store, he's a thug. He's nothing else...he's simply a thug now, of no value.

Your child is like most kids: not an angel, not a devil. A human being. In this social media age, there may be images of them flashing the middle finger or vines using profanity or singing offensive lyrics or any number of things -- many of which, I might add, I see adults doing as well. It's interesting how the media chooses the images and stories which least represent your child and try to take away their humanity...and then strangers believe it and pile on. Even worse, they use pictures that aren't even of your child to try to dehumanize him. All of these horrible, horrible words and lies and even mistaken images are now on the Internet, forever. 

The officer who shot your son -- there is no question who shot your child -- wasn't even identified in the media for nearly a week. It appears the blue line was put into place quickly, deflecting to cast all blame on your child.

What if people were raising money to support the person who shot your child, without all the details having been revealed?

You would want attention given to this because you don't trust the authorities. I know I would scream to the high heavens, wanting answers, and justice. Wouldn't you?

Chances are if this happened to your white child, strangers who heard about the event wouldn't respond by demonizing your boy, and simultaneously demonizing all white people. (Chances are if this horrible travesty happened to your white child it wouldn't have garnered a lot media attention, because it's not a pattern in this country. The excessive force cases that I've seen, which involve white teens and young adults, are fairly expeditiously processed and the officers or private citizens charged and brought to trial. But if such an event happens to any child and justice doesn't seem to be served, I would hope we would all rise up, trying to put ourselves in the place of the parents and the community.)

How would you feel? Can you even attempt to have compassion and empathize?

I can't imagine...and thank God I can't. Thankfully I don't have the daily worry that because of the color of my child's skin she may be seen as a threat and a target. There are so many things we parents worry about already. What a relief to not have THAT particular worry. What a privilege. No one should have such a worry.

But that is not the reality of non-white parents. Or white parents with children who don't have white skin.

I've nearly lost my mind by witnessing these tragedies for decades and observing the absolutely hateful, vile, ignorant, dangerous responses to such events.

It's a deadly disease, racism, and we all need to acknowledge it, and work to prevent it and heal it. You can act like it isn't your problem, that it's all about "those people," but you really can't shield yourself from it. It's's systemic, it's institutionalized. For the sake of all you hold dear, please don't add to this disease and spread it. You never know how it may infect or affect someone you love, leading them to inflict harm upon other human beings.

What if it were your child?

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Humanity's Deepest Wound

In light of the most recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, please think about and consider this. When a crime is in the news, so often this what is thought about those involved:

Hispanic: Illegal   (the entire culture)
Arab: Terrorist   (the entire culture)
Black: Thug, gang   (the entire culture)
White: Mental Illness, troubled, lacking support  (the individual)

Nearly weekly we hear of the killing of young black people, unarmed, often at the hands of law enforcement.

I realize we "other" fellow humans and see them as less than for a multitude of reasons beyond their behavior: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status. Certainly white, heterosexual, Christian men can be discriminated against, systemically and institutionally, because of their economic status, for example.

Yet it is simply a fact that being white, or even perceived as white, makes a difference. I know many bristle at this because they also feel slighted or abused in some way in our society. And even though there are always exceptions, it is simply a fact that the default privilege and preference in our institutions and systems is still for white people (especially white, straight, Christian men)...and non-white persons are treated, sometimes overtly, often subtly, as less than in some way. This may be the deepest wound humanity has yet to heal, imho.

I don't want anyone treated as less than. I want everyone lifted up, to be recognized as worthy. We're all connected, and we're all in this together.

The following is a perfect example of the pervasive prejudice which I'm able to point out when I hear it.

Whenever there is an event, like the travesty in Ferguson, Missouri, I hear: 

"I don't know why they have to loot?" (I also heard a similar comment after Obama was elected: "I just hope they don't all get crazy and start rioting now." Okie dokie then.)

Who is they? ALL black people? ALL of the black people in that community, in this case Ferguson?

There are criminals and douchebags in all segments of society. The vast majority of citizens protesting in Ferguson are trying to STOP the crimes and vandalism. I've posted examples of how citizens are going around painting over graffiti, etc. Yet when many people hear about "looting" when the crowds involved are primarily black people, they cast their judgment on all black people, or certainly the black people in the community in question.

We've seen riots in the US and other countries, especially since the recession, in which a lot of white people, especially young men, are rioting and vandalizing. WTO protests were a great example of when we saw many young white faces in confrontation with police and rioting. Sports events are a common cause of riots!

I didn't hear anyone say, "Why do they have to loot?" Because "they" didn't have a label or prejudgment against them.

The entire white population was not judged based on the actions of a few; the entire local white population was not judged based on the actions of the white people rioting. 

Check yourselves.

There are so many wonderful articles and commentaries floating around these intertubes right now, with a few links for recommended reading below.

Here is an excerpt from the article - "A Mother's White Privilege":

"To admit white privilege is to admit a stake, however small, in ongoing injustice. It’s to see a world different than your previous perception. Acknowledging that your own group enjoys social and economic benefits of systemic racism is frightening and uncomfortable. It leads to hard questions of conscience may of us aren’t prepared to face. There is substantial anger: at oneself, at the systems of oppression, and mostly at the bearer of bad news, a convenient target of displacement. But think on this." 

Why White Moms Need to Care About Murdered Black Children

11 Things White People Need to Stop Saying to Black People

To Be White and Reckon with the Death of Michael Brown

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Monday, July 14, 2014

In the Words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin...

I learned of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin last year, when I was introduced to the term "noosphere," a concept used to denote the energetic sphere of human thought. 

If this name is not familiar to you, perhaps the quote shown in the above image is familiar:

“We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.”

I've loved that quote for years, but it was only this morning that I discovered it was one of the many pearls of wisdom attributed to de Chardin.

De Chardin was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist, and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. He conceived the idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving) and developed upon Vladimir Vernadsky's concept of noosphere.

I've curated some of my favorite quotes and paired them with graphics to form this homage to Pierre de Chardin. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed compiling this post.

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

We Are Not Whiners or Victims, You Are GASLIGHTERS

UPDATE 1/27/16:
Yesterday Donald Trump announced that he will not be attending the next Republican Presidential Candidate debate because Megyn Kelly will be a moderator. The fall-out from this is fascinating. What I've observed is that, while Trump has behaved as an adolescent during his entire campaign, using twitter as his personal insult generator, whenever anyone responds in kind -- including the Fox News Channel -- he somehow comes out looking like the adult in the room. He is very, very thin-skinned, and any criticism is met with a full-on verbal assault by Trump. When the criticism comes even remotely in the form of Trump's brand of nastiness and snark, he somehow responds in a way that magically comes across as though he's taking the high road and need not engage such silliness.

It dawned on me just now that in so many ways Trump is the epitome of the group behavior many of today's right-wing conservatives have exhibited over the last eight years. I used to refer to them as Tea Party conservatives, but I suppose the best way to describe them now is Trump followers.

Trump and his followers are cloaked in their feelings of outrage and victimization. It frustrates me that so many white, heterosexual, conservative Christians don't seem to grasp that they have been the majority (and still are right now) in this country forever, and that our systems and institutions reflect that (history books have always taught "white" history, hence the need to shine a spotlight on neglected history: AA, Latino, etc.; until fairly recently you primarily saw only white, straight people on TV shows, in magazines, etc). 

I don't think Trump or his followers will ever be able to step back and look at the bigger picture to see how other groups have TRULY been marginalized and TRULY oppressed and exploited and continue to be in many ways. Instead, they see themselves as victims and that there is a war on their way of life. These "others" -- non-white, non-Christian, non-heterosexual --  who are simply trying to be part of the mainstream and NOT in the margins any longer are perceived as waging war against white, heterosexual, conservative Christians. 

(Even though in truth Trump supporters are not marginalized in the United States, they FEEL marginalized, and I suppose that's what really matters. Just as legitimately marginalized groups have created their own media and institutions because they were not welcome in mainstream society, if Trump and his followers were to create their own media channel, for example, that's fine. So long as they don't spend all their energy bashing and trying to tear down everyone else in their fear of "the other" and instead celebrate their white, heterosexual, conservative Christian culture, I think that's fine. Sad and unnecessary, but fine.)

This twisted, inverted, distorted victim role and denial which Trump and his followers embrace so passionately reminded me of something I write about frequently:  Gaslighting.

I think THAT is the diagnosis I was searching for to describe the behavior of Trump and his followers, so I'm sharing this post from 2014 which speaks to the phenomenon of gaslighting.  

I'll end this update section by sharing a recent Facebook post to show that this phenomenon has only intensified over the years. 

US Citizen #1: "I love that Trump and others are finally openly saying we need more white-only and Christian-only immigrants. Muslims and blacks and Hispanics -- no. They get too much attention and special treatment and handouts and that's why this country is going to hell. Screw all this PC shit. When white people have our values catered to, then America will be great again."

US Citizen #2: "When white people have our values catered to....dude, listen to yourself. That means you believe being white is superior. A lot of white people believe that, so you're not alone. But, you DO realize that is the definition of white supremacy and what fuels racism, right?"

US Citizen #1: "There you go again, being racist! I can't stand you race baiters, calling people like me racist. You're the ones being bigots against me and you don't even see it. Hypocrites."

That is SERIOUSLY the national conversation that has been going on for a while now.

*head explodes*

* * * * * * * 

PLEASE NOTE: I fully realize that any critique I share regarding others' behavior can be perceived as precisely what I'm criticizing: Lumping groups of together people in presumptuous ways. That's a rather common refrain now, that liberals are intolerant because we criticize those with racist, bigoted, narrow-minded and even bullying behavior. (These views and behaviors can be found amongst people of all belief systems, political and otherwise, but I do believe it is most embedded and apparent in today's right-wing conservative movement, in the US and abroad.)

While I definitely try to be careful not to say that every Republican or conservative is a Tea Partier or racist, etc. -- because I do not believe that's true -- I stand by my perception that today's Republican Party is chock full of extremists mirroring the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world. 
Conservatives who are not extremists and do not hold the extreme social conservative views which seek to rewrite history and deflect responsibility and are harmful to so many need to speak up more to dispel this growing national perception.

I share my views here because I feel it's important for people to be aware of the behavior known as "gaslighting," and because self-awareness and self-compassion are necessary in order to counteract gaslighting behavior which can be so very destructive.  

* * * * *

I've always longed to have honest discussions with people who, at least on the surface, seem to hold a rather apparent racist, bigoted worldview and support policies which perpetuate systemic inequality and cultural "othering."

It can only begin with acknowledging that, to some degree, we all have biases and prejudice, as very few people today are comfortable being honest about their racist views and behavior. (I do know people who were very honest about their racism prior to President Obama's election; they now deny it...likely because Rush Limbaugh et. al. have encouraged them to deny, deny, deny and to deflect, deflect, deflect.)

I usually get stuck right off the bat in trying to initiate a real discussion when I'm met with comments like these:  "I'm not racist" (even when I know this is patently untrue based on knowing this individual for decades), "You're the only one who is bringing up race," "Just because I don't like Obama doesn't mean I'm racist" (even when Obama nor politics have been mentioned at all) and, the proverbial, "Your side (liberals) are the real racists. You want to hold people down and make them victims."

I never delved into the mindset behind the last comment -- "You want to hold people down and make them victims" -- until recently, trying to better understand that point of view by reading various articles, all written by conservative Republicans, which espouse this opinion about group victimhood. 

After reading several posts, I realized something very important. Their consensus opinion is that any group of people, at least up until this point in time viewed as a minority group -- non-white people, non-Christians, women, LGBT, immigrants, any homeless persons and others living in poverty, etc -- should not be afforded any special attention or consideration. We know today's Tea Party-type conservatives (who are the face of the Republican Party at this time, fair or not) loathe any and all social safety net programs (other than Social Security and Medicaid, which they don't seem to realize ARE a social program administered by the federal government), equal opportunity programs, etc. They say it's because it perpetuates victimhood and thus "keeps people down." They say liberals intentionally try to keep people down to manipulate them and, of course, to get their vote.

On the surface, their views about victimhood may make sense. I agree that perpetuating victimhood isn't a healthy, positive thing at all.

Yet it's maddening when, for example, white, male,
wealthy 1%ers  wallow in feigned victimhood, while simultaneously condemning groups of people who have historically held little power and sway in this country as whiners when we raise our voices.

Here the thing, and I'll speak for myself as a woman, which is one of the groups their message is aimed at:

It is NOT about seeing oneself as a victim, even when that label may apply in every way, shape and form. Standing up and speaking out and demanding change -- something that TERRIFIES many of today's conservatives and Republicans -- is about standing in the truth that WE ARE ALL OF EQUAL WORTH as human beings. We each deserve EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES, recognizing the outcomes will be different due to many factors. But when the system doesn't provide equal opportunities and systemically is set up for certain groups of people to excel and others to fail and suffer -- for certain groups of people to be viewed as intrinsically better than and others less than -- that must change.  (Of course there are always exceptions, and sometimes white, male, Christian, heterosexual men can be discriminated against, but that is definitely the exception, not the rule.)

Speaking out about that, including speaking out on others' behalf, is NOT seeing or presenting oneself or anyone else as a weak, powerless victim. On the contrary, it's OWNING OUR POWER and innate sense of value and worth. Speaking out and even voting with that in mind is not victimhood.

TODAY'S REPUBLICAN PARTY -- leadership, public figures, pundits -- IS FULL OF GASLIGHTERS. (Edit to add: Now, in 2016, this is being seen in the Democratic Party as well, though not nearly as much as in the GOP. Gaslighting is contagious.)

Gaslighters. They. Are. Gaslighters. Read about it. It is a very real phenomenon.

This type of behavior, including in the political sphere -- the politics of gaslighting, deflecting,  dehumanization and "othering" and calling anyone who speaks to the systemic, institutionalized inequality whiners or worse -- affects everyone.

For the group of people who have experienced the most power and privilege in the United States (yes, white, heterosexual, Christians...especially men...have undeniably wielded the most power throughout this country's history) to condemn marginalized groups, who have recently been much more visible and vocal, as being whiners and waging war on "conservative values" is a fascinating thing to behold. For these same people to twist what is happening and place themselves in the role of victim and whiner and have no awareness that they are doing this is a study in some sort of collective psychosis.

I happen to believe that many of these people, especially those in leadership positions or those with a public platform, are fully aware of what they're doing.


Don't let anyone gaslight you. Not spouses, boyfriends, not girlfriends, not family members, not employers or co-workers, not politicians, not religious leaders, not media. No one.

Don't let anyone make you doubt your own experience, your own story and your own truth.

Call them out. Tell them you won't tolerate their gaslighting. Introduce them to the term. You matter in this world. I matter in this world. Don't let anyone make you doubt this by twisting and manipulating our stories for their own agenda, one usually fueled by their own fear and need to dominate and control.

To deny the stories and the history of entire groups of people and longstanding institutions and systems of inequality is large-scale gaslighting.

I believe that standing in your own truth is one of the purest forms of self-compassion. Be aware, be mindful, be introspective, then STAND STRONG in your knowing. 

~ Dena

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Most Eloquent Eulogy, A Most Powerful Reminder

Image by Molly Rice

When I read the entire text of a eulogy given at a slain child's funeral this morning, I naturally wanted to share it, knowing that others would find it touching as well. However, the media source or website from which we share can often taint how the words and messages are received. Knowing this, I've chosen to share the text from the eulogy here, from a more neutral space, hoping that readers will take the message being imparted -- at the request of the family -- to heart. It is a message of our interconnectedness and Interbeing. I have no doubt there are families on the other side of this ongoing tragedy and struggle who echo the same sentiments regarding their children and their culture.  (Note the edit at the end of this post.)

Not being a religious person myself (though I am a person of faith), I admit that I tend to cringe when specific identifying religious terms are used in a message. I fear they create a sense of "othering"...creating a divide between those of that specific path and all "others." I'm working through that by trying to shift my perspective: Rather than reflexively viewing any chosen path as a means of division, I choose to appreciate the innate goodness and wisdom I believe are contained at the core of each path. I have always believed that the common fundamental teaching of all paths is that we are all connected, what we do to one we do to all.

If you follow a specific religious path and are unfamiliar with others and thus resist them, or if you are like me and cringe when religion is involved in a story, I ask you to please join me in trying to have an open mind as you read and release any resistance. Please allow yourself to hear to the powerful message contained within this solemn offering.  Note that emphasis placed on the text below is mine.  ~ Dena

We Need One Another

Today we are burying a child. To bury a child is unnatural; parents are not supposed to march in a funeral procession for their children; grandparents are not supposed to shed tears over their grandchild’s grave. It’s supposed to be the opposite. When we bury our deceased elderly, we cry over the lives they had lived – over the many memories they’ve left behind. When we bury a child, we cry over the lives they haven’t lived. Today we are burying a wedding; we’re burying the first breath of a new born child. Today we are burying an entire Shabbat table that will never come into being. And so let’s remember every second that we are burying today a child.

Today we are burying a child who could have been any one of ours and therefore he is one of ours – all of us. We aren’t burying a “settler”; we aren’t burying a soldier who fell in the never ending struggle for this land of ours. This is not the funeral of a particular population sub-group or “sector”; it isn’t one particular group that is grieving this loss. We need one another on this day. We need one another. We don’t need anger; we don’t need yet another division among us; we don’t need a competition over whose rage is holier or whose hate is purer. Rage is not holy. Hate can never be pure. I can certainly understand all those demanding revenge; how could I not understand when I share those same sentiments – when each and every one of us feels this way.

But today, at this funeral, in the presence of this family, we need love. We need to speak in one language. We need to rediscover the paths that connect all of us. If in fact we seek to punish our enemies, there is no greater punishment than for them to behold this sight and to see that nothing can divide us. If we want to take revenge on these murderers, and we find them and punish them, the true revenge will be the ability to transcend the differences among us and to embrace one another, despite all of our shortcomings and the disagreements among us. If indeed we want to sanctify Gil-ad’s memory, we need to choose what to sanctify: the hostility towards the other or the love for each other – that which divides us, or that which binds us; the suspicion or the trust among ourselves.

Children don’t write wills, so we must therefore write Gil-ad’s will. If the family and those assembled here permit me, I would submit that we begin the writing of this will with the words of the Holy Ari:

I hereby take upon myself the commandment of loving thy neighbor as thyself and I hereby love each and every child of Israel as my own soul and my own being.

May Gil-ad’s memory be a blessing.




Excerpt:  "The visit was organized by Tag Meir, a coalition of forty organizations including the Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel (ICCI). Buses were available to transport people who wanted to express their condolences.

Rabbi Ron Kronish, the director of the ICCI and steering committee member of Tag Meir, told The Huffington Post, "We went to pay a condolence visit to this Palestinian family whose son was brutally murdered as an act of religious obligation and humanistic solidarity. Our visit was warmly received by our Palestinian neighbors who were visibly moved by our empathetic act of good will."

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

My One, Personal Absolute Truth

Watching the video by Matthew Vines (see below) regarding The Bible and homosexuality prompted this blog post. I share in order to document my own views and beliefs in a comprehensive way, more than I have ever done before, which is helpful for me in my ongoing quest to know myself as fully as possible. I also share in case my journey is of value to anyone else, and for insight into the foundation of my work.  

I recognize and appreciate great wisdom in religions and sacred texts, and respect that they can be a source of truth for others. I, however, do not view them as the ultimate, absolute truth or The Word in their totality given the various interpretations, translations, etc. Even if the Bible -- or any sacred text -- DID clearly condemn same-sex loving relationships, I wouldn't care. It would not form my opinion about the matter. (For those who don't know me personally, I most certainly advocate for equality -- all equality -- including marriage equality.)

The only Absolute Truth that resonates with me, personally, is this:

We are all interconnected; what is done to one is done to all.

It's not something I can prove, but it is what I choose to believe. Maybe that's what "truth" is:  A belief or concept or personal knowing based on experience, even if it can't be proven to others, which is so powerful that it becomes a personal truth? It feels right intuitively, intellectually, and based on my life experience thus far, including powerful experiences in my youth. I don't feel this belief and way of being causes any harm, to anyone or anything. (Note that quantum physics has placed this discussion at the fore from a scientific perspective.)

To me, this interconnectedness is the core message or teaching of all prophets, so I choose to see and appreciate that commonality rather than debate any scripture or religious path. An acknowledgment of our Interbeing and faith in the same can lead to profound love and a reverence for life.

Why can't that one message be the basis of how we interact, and also be the basis - though, granted, not the totality -- of one's religious faith?

Those drawn to various religions can still be guided by their chosen prophet and sacred text and embrace that as their truth, one which brings them comfort, strength, connection and other positive experiences. (Edit to add:  I use the word "chosen" prophet, as I feel it is a choice to follow a specific religious path, or not; I respect that many people feel they were chosen to follow a path, rather than the other way around, and I don't intend my use of the word "choice" repeatedly to be offensive in any way.)

The one seemingly simple, straightforward universal truth or reality of our interconnectedness and Interbeing doesn't negate nor diminish any religious path in my opinion.

When one's chosen religious path nurtures a GENUINE feeling of harmony, and an appreciation and love of other people...all people, including those of other faiths and belief systems, as well as agnostics and atheists...rather than separation and disconnection and feelings of superiority, isn't that a very good thing?

When someone's choice not to embrace a religious path nurtures, for them, a genuine feeling of unity, appreciation, respect and love of Humanity...without a sense of superiority...isn't that a very good thing?

I think so. And I would love to see more of this particular manifestation of GOOD.

As I see it, no book is a comprehensive handbook with CLEAR instructions for every situation, for every time period, for every culture, for every human being; if there were, surely it would contain step-by-step instructions for parenthood (haven't all parents wished there were a manual with clear, practical instructions for every situation, for every child, not subject to misinterpretation?).

There is guidance to be found in many writings, including sacred writings, though it's often subjective based on our individual experience and culture. It's still up to us to put any wisdom we glean into practice each day.

Therefore, in my most humble opinion, we need to cultivate and explore our inner wisdom and develop stronger intuition in order to do that. If religious sacred text and a reverence for the same is how someone gets develops a stronger connection to their inner wisdom and intuition, and strengthens and deepens relationships (physical and metaphysical), I think that's wonderful -- even admirable -- so long as the heart and discernment are engaged in a meaningful way.

I do realize a declaration to follow a chosen religion, prophet and scripture is how many believe they will be saved in the afterlife, and thus they worry about loved ones, or perhaps even strangers, not joining them. I don't know what to say about that other than we all believe different things about life and afterlife. No one really knows for sure how this all works and with the ability to prove to all others, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what they believe regarding how this all works.

We can choose to believe, with a fervor and loyalty and reverence and indeed a strong sense of knowing, but we don't really know...not for everyone else. I do feel strongly that when we know ourselves, and I mean truly Know Who We Are at each phase of our journey, we can recognize that something is true for us; conversely, when we really know ourselves, we recognize when something is not true for us or doesn't resonate in a deep, meaningful way. I've never understood how anyone can say that the truths they believe -- intangible, metaphysical, spiritual truths -- are true for others, especially when our own individual truths/beliefs/knowings often shift throughout our lives and also given our current limitations in awareness. What we can "see" and prove has evolved throughout the course of Humanity's history. Our awareness evolves.

I personally believe there is more integrity and wisdom in the asking of questions, accepting humility in the face of Being Human and all that entails, than in the intransigent, unyielding, authoritative voices of those who profess to know THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH.

Having never been religious though do consider myself spiritual, I've been told by a few people close to me that my views about religion are offensive, in that I don't accept any one sacred text as The Absolute Truth. I've never intended that to mean that I feel those who do embrace one path and one sacred text as their truth are "less than" in any way; it's simply that I don't fully understand it, because it's not something that has ever felt right for me. (That said, no doubt I have made snarky or even hurtful comments at some point in my life when I have perceived religious persons or groups as being hypocritical and causing harm as a result of their beliefs.) What I have a problem with is when religion is imposed upon others, or when it is used to imply or overtly say that anyone who doesn't believe the same is inferior or less than in some way. That is a subtle form of harm and "othering" -- a feeling of disconnection and isolation as a result of feeling judged as inferior in some way -- though we also know the tragic examples of religion being manipulated in horrible ways to inflict overt harm and destruction throughout our history.

Is anything I wrote above offensive to anyone, religious or otherwise? Granted, I realize some who are extremely devout may take pity on me, feeling I am lacking as a human being in some way or that I am lost. In truth, I don't feel lost…no more than anyone else, if they're being honest with themselves. I tend to feel we're all lost and broken to various degrees. For the most part as I look back on my life, I do feel rather whole and integrated concerning my spirituality, always striving to remain open and mindful, learning as I walk this path of Being Human. I have, however, most definitely experienced cycles of a dark night of the soul and a crisis of faith.

When I use the word faith I mean faith in humanity, faith in myself and, most importantly, faith in our shared connection to a transcendent, cohesive force beyond our current realm of comprehension; a force or energy that, as yet, cannot be described or explained. While my faith in Humanity and myself may waiver, my belief in a transcendent force I interchangeably call God or Spirit never has. I cannot prove the existence of how I perceive this energy that I shall call Spirit or God, and that is precisely why I say I have faith in its existence. I don't ridicule or condemn anyone who doesn't share that belief. It is my personal choice to have faith, and I respect the choice of others to not believe, because the existence of Spirit cannot (as yet) be proven in an absolute way.

Rather than tout a knowing of an Absolute Truth, it's more accurate to say that I believe in the Absolute Truth of our interconnectedness, with a "higher" unseen energy residing within us and all around us, providing the glue for our interconnectedness. (Both Tinker Bell ["Clap if you believe!"] and Star Wars ["May the force be with you"] just came to

Alternately, some may condemn my way of seeing things and of being in this world, or doubt my faith and spirituality and individual journey. That has only happened once in my life, fairly recently. I found the questioning and lack of respect for my own faith much more hurtful than someone pitying or even condemning me. Considering that religious persons may have felt judged and questioned and condemned by me in the past, I can empathize with that hurt. That was never my intention, and even though I put a lot of effort into being mindful of my intentions and how conveying them may be perceived, I can't control how others interpret what I say or do. But the thought that I may have caused others that particular pain makes me pause and is another reason for writing this, to offer an apology.

Finally, with all that said, I now have a question:

Is a belief that all life is connected -- our Interbeing -- a fringe belief or do you also embrace this belief, regardless of your religious or spiritual faith or lack thereof?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and feelings about what I have written, so please feel free to comment. Thanks for reading.

~ Dena

EDIT TO ADD:  I would love to collaborate with the faith communities in my work at Our Good If anyone reading is interested in collaboration, please contact me.  :)

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more meaningful, compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.