Saturday, December 11, 2010

Violation Cubed

The latest Wiki leak about the Pope taking an active part in blocking the investigation of the clergy in Ireland reveals a tragedy of immense proportions. I have personally experienced the profound effects of being sexually abused. Professionally I deal with this on a daily basis. It would take me hundreds of pages to begin to detail the devastating impact that sexual abuse has on victims. Depending on the age of the victim the act can cause physical damage but that is not the norm. The most prevalent outcome for a victim is a deeply felt sense of defect and shame. On the surface it takes the normal and natural maturational process of the victim's sexuality expression off the table. My purpose here is not to give a treatise on the causes and effects of sexual abuse. I guess I just want the vast majority of you to realize how fortunate you are that you don't know what I'm talking about or how profoundly it influences a victim's life.

Here's a brief example that I'm hoping will give you a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg of these negative effects. For most of us driving a car is a marvelous experience. We have at our disposal a marvelous vehicle that can take us wherever we want to go. When we are in this vehicle knowingly or unknowingly we experience an amazing sense of power and control. We can propel ourselves at wonderfully high speeds. And we can do this with a miniscule amount of effort. We have power steering and power brakes. Some of us now have GPS's that can talk to us and guide us to unknown places. We can listen to whatever music we like. We can even round out the experience with food, drink, the company of others, or our cell phones. We are the kings in our castle and the masters of our universe. That's all a normal and natural part of life in the Western industrialized countries. The environment that I have just described results in the individual knowingly or unknowingly experiencing a sense of freedom, power, capacity, and enjoyment.
Unfortunately some of us have the misfortune to one day be propelling ourselves in our castles when another vehicle smashes into us without our having any ability to stop it. Those of us who are lucky enough to survive the crash and heal our physical wounds quite frequently can't regain that sense of power, control, and safety that they once had prior to the accident. This posttraumatic stress results in anxiety about driving, flashbacks of the accident, and intense anxiety just upon seeing brake lights. These are but a few of the potential negative consequences of such a traumatic event that we are powerless to stop or control. A driver in such a horrific accident frequently can never regain that unblemished driving experience that they would have had if the accident had never taken place.

Now let's get a bit more specific about sexual abuse and the Pope. Just imagine if you had just found out that your sister's husband (or your family priest) has been sexually abusing your six-year-old son for the past three years. Take a moment to feel your guts as you read the last sentence. Notice all the sensations that get aroused with just the thought of it. You then learn that your sister (your Bishop) has known about the abuse and never told you. You then find out that your sister (or Bishop) has actually helped facilitate the abuse to take place. Now comes the icing on the cake. Whatever emotion, whatever fantasized course of action you'd like to take at that moment gets totally annihilated when you go to your father (the Pope) and you tell him about everything that has taken place and he prohibits you from taking any action or even from speaking about it. In fact your father even takes actions to protect your brother-in-law from any prosecution or negative consequences for his actions. Once again I would ask you to close your eyes and look into your guts to see what you might feel under such circumstances.

I am not here trying to single out the Catholic Church. At this point in my life I can easily consider that many other religious leaders would act in the same way. The pervasive decline in a sense of integrity, decency, or morality in our society lends itself not only to the commission of such acts but also the relative complacency of the population in general. Within the Hindu philosophy and religion it is believed that approximately every 10,000 years the universe reverts back to its primordial source only to be created once again. You can think of it as the ultimate recycling program. The older I get more I believe we are ready for a good flush.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thank You Bernie

If you missed today's 8 hour speech by Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont you missed a wonderful moment for decency, integrity, and truth. Senator Sanders in a very straight forward, unadulterated way, laid out the facts of what is going on in our country. Please check out the video sources on the net to hear him in action.

I wonder how our country would be different if we had real news being reported on the major networks and the average American had access to this news. The Vietnam War didn't end because the multinational corporations gave up their selfish interests or because our politicians thought it would be a good idea to end it. The war ended because of: the release of the Pentagon Papers, a vocal populace that had access to the reality of what was going on there, and there was a draft that forced people to go there.

A few more like Senator Sanders just might give people an opportunity to realize how to vote in their own best interests.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thank You Nanci

I have no idea what will become of today's events at the Democratic caucus and Nanci Pelosi's decision to not call for a vote on the President's "compromise tax proposal". But for just a brief moment something happened within our government that is just the right thing to do. It's so refreshing to see someone other than a screaming conservative or Tea Party member take a position and keep it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Running Out Of Time

Sometime during the last Presidential campaign Michelle Obama made the political "mistake" of speaking the truth when she stated that for the first time she was proud to be an American. On election night I felt a sense of pride in being an American that I hadn't felt in a very long time. That sense of pride is now gone. All successful leaders inspire their troops to be and do better. They get results that might have been viewed as impossible or highly unlikely by allowing people to have a vision that goes beyond their norm.

Mr. President, you are a most eloquent orator but you are no leader. As a 64 year old white male I know that I have no idea what it's like to be a Black man in our racist society. For all I know you face the possibility of death every day and I deeply respect and admire your bravery to put yourself in this position. But as my president and leader you have failed me and the greater good.

If your "landmark healthcare legislation" is anywhere close to being something of real significance you have failed to educate me about it. I am a healthcare provider and every day I deal with the rape of my patients by their insurance plans. Every provider knows that health insurance companies are in the business of not paying claims. I am so very fortunate to be able to afford my insurance premiums. Blue Cross has just informed me that my premium will go up $40 a month in January. I'm now paying $770 a month for an individual policy that is far from a Cadillac plan. Your abandoning the public option without a real fight or not getting us cheaper medication from Canada is just the tip of the iceberg of the causes that you don't have the will, desire, or guts to fight for.

World War II was preceded by European leaders capitulating and appeasing Hitler's evil intentions. Our media is now focusing on bullying in schools and on the net. Every male in the universe knows that one does not stop a bully with appeasement. There are now very powerful forces in our country that have taken over the media and political process to the point where it is obvious that their intention is to bleed most Americans dry. Most Americans now know more about Lindsey Lohan's drug use than how they have been repeatedly duped into voting against their own self interest. The transfer of wealth in America now rivals third world countries.

There is no justification for the unemployment rate to be near 10% and we add to the national debt by giving super rich people tax breaks. There is no justification for Wall Street to be getting bonuses so large that I don't know how many zeros to put after the numbers. There is no justification for a relatively small percentage of the population holding the rest of us hostage to their fundamentalist beliefs.

I have lived in Afghanistan. The Afghan people are no threat to me or my country. What you spend every day to kill these people could do so much real good back home. Osama bin Laden is winning his fight because while he sits somewhere in the world he watches you bankrupt our country with massive military expenditures. He doesn't need to attack. Dick Chaney made Halliburton and his other friends billions of dollars. You are doing the same.

How is it that you have the will and testosterone to bomb villagers and extend a war that you cannot win but don't have the ability to get on TV and merely state that you are ready to fight the real threats to our well being. I have far more to fear from lobbyists and multinational corporations than the Taliban. My children's quality of life will be far more destroyed by your passivity and pursuit of the illusion of "bipartisanship" than it will by terrorists.

Great leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. took a stand. They didn't say one thing in public and then agree to the opposite in private with their adversaries. They were willing to put their lives on the line for what they believed in. You politicians seek to gain political capital by praising the troops for their bravery but don't have the guts to speak the truth. I wonder how many wars we'd have if all wars were fought by the politicians and their children. You campaigned on ending don't ask don't tell. But not once have you actually done any arm twisting to get it done. You speak of global warming and the need for green jobs and yet have said nothing about this year's conference going on right now in Mexico. You are indeed failing my children on this front as well. I could go on with many other examples but there is no need to belabor the point.

Nero supposedly played the fiddle as Rome burned. I have nothing against you playing basketball. What I'd like to see is you on national television stating exactly what you stand for and what you are going to fight for. Show us where the line in the sand is. Get on national TV every day if necessary and lead. All I see you doing is paying for the rich to get better seats to watch the rest of us die a slow death.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Thorns of My Dilemma

The Obama administration would like us to believe that we have to reelect Democratic incumbents because their opponents represent unacceptably horrible alternatives. I must admit that I agree about the prospect of witches, Nazi re-enactors, people who apologize to BP Oil, and the rest who would continue the process of the further deterioration of the middle class as being totally unacceptable. However this is where my dilemma arises. President Obama would like us to believe that he represents "the good guys". Sadly I am no longer sure that this is true.
For the first two years of his administration president Obama has bent himself into a pretzel trying to reach what he would like us to believe is bipartisan support. But I'm no longer certain that this is in fact the true agenda. When one is confronted by two individuals who are doing a masterful good cop/bad cop is easy to be seduced by the drama. The idea is to somehow suspend reality and begin to believe that the good cop truly understands and is working towards our own best interests. During the campaign Obama did a really good good cop. However his performance postelection will not win him any Academy Awards. When faced with crucial opportunities to take a stand he was nowhere to be heard or seen. The Democratic Party would like us to believe that for the first time in recorded history they were able to pass truly significant health-care reform. However, the bill mandates that approximately 33,000,000 people have to go out and purchase health insurance without putting any limitations on the cost. If anybody out there is listening I would like to volunteer to be the next business with a government mandate that 33 million people have to purchase my product. When faced with the opportunity of passing a drug re-importation bill that would have meant real savings that amendment went down without any real fight. As a man with Jewish heritage I have been enraged and embarrassed by Joe Lieberman. But I must admit in this context I appreciate his honesty. He doesn't mind showing people that he's a whore. A few years ago he was vehemently in favor of the extension of Medicare benefits. Last year he single-handedly defeated the public option. Once again the president was nowhere to be found. I could go on with many other similar issues such as don't ask don't tell, the closing of Gitmo, and many other flagrant abuses of the Constitution.
The Obama administration would like us to believe that they are the ones fighting for the common man. It is very difficult to believe this in the face of the reality that the very people that caused our economic collapse are in charge of his economic policies. It is very difficult to believe this in the face of Wall Street again getting ready to dispense record-setting bonuses while over 9.5% of the population is unemployed and so many households are facing foreclosure. Is it possible that the "good cop" has gotten us exactly what he and the big business interests behind him really wanted all along?
It is my belief that Obama won the election not just because he was an eloquent speaker or that for the first time in recent memory he looked like a man who looked forward to having sex with his own wife. I believe that he won because of an amazing confluence of incredibly negative factors. The American people were beginning to wake up to the reality of the devastation of the Bush administration and the Republican Party was asking us to have an illiterate hockey mom be one heartbeat away from the presidency. Obama was able to energize our youth and also seniors like myself who had become jaded over the years.
As a human being and also a psychologist I have learned that people don't change because it's a good idea. More often than not people change when they can no longer tolerate their pain. It has been demonstrated that if you put a frog in a pot of warm water it will allow itself to be cooked to death. It is beginning to appear to me that the reelection of the status quo will really keep us frogs on top of a stove with a mild to moderate flame. Perhaps it would be better to allow the opposition to have their way. On the surface it would appear like a tragedy. But beneath the surface it would turn the flame way up and perhaps more frogs would then be motivated to jump out of the water before their demise.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Great Day

When we first arrived in Hanoi my son and I were at first struck by the never ending stream of traffic. There are about 6.5 million people living in Hanoi and also about 1.5 million motorcycles. What makes it fun is that most streets don’t have stop lights. We later learned that some tourists were so intimidated by this that they hired taxis to take them across the street. If you should ever find yourself in Hanoi the secret to crossing the street is to just walk across without stopping. If you do this all the drivers will simply go around you. If you stop they won’t expect that and it could get very interesting.
When my son was 18 I bought a motorcycle in order to spend some time with him. It worked perfectly as instead of having to schedule an appointment to see him he would ask me to go for a ride. So in the presence of all these bikes and chaos we knew we had to rent cycles and head out to the countryside.
I must admit that the first morning we set out on our bikes we were a bit nervous. We knew that we’d get lost as none of the signs were in English. After about 20 minutes of driving this nervousness turned into a whole lot of fun. I quickly learned that if instead of trying to drive/steer my bike I just “went with the force” I was able to drive wonderfully fast in a sea of anything on wheels that you could imagine.
Our destination was the Perfume Pagoda. In order to get there we road for about 3 hours and then hired a boat. This boat was like a large row boat. The motor was a Vietnamese woman who rowed with her feet. About an hour later she dropped us off at a dock and we learned that we would now have to climb about 400 steps to get to the pagoda. About half we up we came upon an elderly blind woman who was begging. This woman had a monkey. My son loves monkeys so we stopped and he played with it for awhile. The monkey was quite fascinated with my son’s tattoos. He tried to pick them and eat them. Before we left I decided to pet the monkey myself. Well this monkey immediately jumped on my shoulder and did an excellent job of looking for tics or lice. After petting the monkey for awhile it was time to leave. This is not at all what the monkey had in mind. It immediately wrapped its arms and legs around me, started screaming, and wouldn’t let me leave. I wish that I had this effect on human women. It was extremely adorable. Finally I extricated myself from my new girlfriend and we continued up the mountain. When we got to the top we found ourselves at the top of a large flight of stairs. The Perfume Pagoda is in a cave. So much to my non-delight we had to go down the stairs. The interior of the cave was not extraordinarily special. However as we were leaving the cave a marvelous image was there waiting for us. So that’s how this shot came into being.
Before I close I want to emphasize that I found Vietnam to be a place of exquisite beauty. But what really blew me away was the absence of anger towards Americans among the Vietnamese. I went looking for this anger and I couldn’t find it. We have much to learn about their ability to forgive.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Pump

Last Thursday morning I was is a place named Franz Joseph Glacier on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. As I was packing to leave I turned on my TV and was delighted to see Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer playing the last hole of the par 3 tournement at the Masters. As they walked up the fairway it was obvious that the years had taken their toll on them all. Yet all 3 had managed to play respectable shots. I found myself tearing up as I watched them together for perhaps the last time. As a young teenager my passion was for golf. I used to putt imitating Palmer's unique knock kneed stance. I might even have be seen flicking a cigarette with the same pinanche that Palmer had. I wasn't sure why I became emotional at this site. I have found that as I age I'm becomming more emotional about such things.

As Palmer got set to putt on what had to be at least a 65 footer he was surrounded by the same kind of crowd as he was in the 60's and 70's. He stroked the ball with authority and the crowd hushed as it started to appear that we were about to witness yet another truly magical moment. I have no idea what etherial GPS was guiding that sphere but somehow that putt found the bottom of the hole! I'm sure I alarmed a few of my neighbors with the sounds that came out of me at that moment. It was so wonderful to see Arnie when he began to realize that it just might go in. And before the sound of that sphere hitting the bottom of the cup could be heard there was Arnie pumping that right fist one more time.

My whole being swells when I experience myself in the presence of excellence of any sort. The tears were streaming down my face when I saw that pump (as they are as I write this now). Thank you Arnie for that moment. At my age I don't know if I have any fist pumps left in my tank but it sure is great to see that it's possible.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Have You No Shame?

During the early 1950's Senator Eugene McCarthy conducted a series of inquiries under the pretext of rooting out communism from our society. These congressional hearings were some of the most reprehensible moments in our history. As the hearings progressed Senator McCarthy gained ever increasing power that he wielded to ruin many careers. Then one day he was confronted by a lawyer named Joseph Welch. In a very famous encounter with McCarthy, Mr. Welch was able to end McCarthy's reign by confronting him with these words, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last have you left no sense of decency?" I doubt that in our current cultural context such words would have any effect but I sure wish that some one in a position of power within the Republican Party would have the guts and integrity to take such a stand.

I can remember growing up and watching either David Susskind or William F. Buckley, Jr. on PBS. Susskind was cool because he smoked and had sexy people on his show. Buckley was also cool because he was an intellectual and was able to articulate positions in an eloquent and reasoned manner. As I watched his tongue I was also stimulated to think and respond to what was normally a differing opinion presented in very fine fashion. I may not have agreed with many of his conservative views but I clearly could respect his style and opinion.

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and I'm sorry to say way too many more, appeal to the lowest common denominator. They prey on ignorance, fear, racism, and the blind trust that too many of us put in them. I'm sure that the tea bag movement has within its ranks many who are truly concerned about our country. Sadly they appear to have no awareness that they serve as cannon fodder for those that manipulate them for their own selfish ends.

During the last presidential campaign we learned that Barack Obama was both a Muslim and not really an American citizen. This has further degenerated into portraying him both as a Socialist and Hitler. Yet the Republican party remains not only silent about the absurdity of these assertions they actively encourage them. To which I reply with what many think Welch said, Have you no shame?

When during the State of the Union address Joe Wilson shouted out "You lie" there was no condemnation from the Republican leaders. Now we have another Mensa member from Texas yelling out "Baby Killer" to Bart Stupak. I wonder how far down the food chain of civility and respect we have to slide before integrity and decency will again have some meaning? Who needs to be killed by some poor schlemiel before we get a wake up call?

Monday, January 18, 2010

As My Heart Breaks

I've been consciously trying to avoid watching too much of the devastation in Haiti as every time I do I start to cry. Today I saw a clip of our soldiers giving water to kids that haven't eaten in days. The kids said a thank you that was absolutely believable. I am so struck by: 1) The contrast of these kids getting water and our kids who are so dissatisfied unless they have an iPhone with unlimited texting. and 2) How much of a better use of our might and money giving out water is than killing people in Afghanistan.
I'm watching the predictions that the Democrats might lose the senate race in Massachusetts. I must confess to a sense of gratitude about this. I hope she does lose. Not because I'm in favor of the Neanderthal that is running against her. But rather I hope it serves as a wake up call to the Obama administration. My very sad experience is that Obama has been only slightly better than "Bush light". He is indeed prettier and far more intelligent. He even knows how to speak the language. But in matters of real substance the Republican status quo prevails. There are now more Blackwater types in Afghanistan than in the Bush years. Wall Street firms have continued the same practices that brought about our devastation. Only now we're paying the bill while they get massive bonuses. The health care legislation is a bad joke that gives the major insurers 30 to 40 million more policies and forces people to buy them. The "financial reform" legislation is so watered down it is an insult. Democrats make really bad Republicans so I don't blame the people of Massachusetts for electing a real Republican. Obama promised us "transparency" in government. He promised us that the health care debate would be televised. While none of this happened it is becoming far more flagrant that it is the large corporations that are running the country.
I wonder what it will take to get the American people out of their comatose state. I still don't understand why people will vote against their own selfish best interests and exactly what it will take for us to stop the gross inequities in our system. It has been demonstrated that frogs will allow themselves to be cooked to death if the water is gradually heated around them. I wonder how bad it will have to get before us frogs begin to revolt.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Gaia Housecleaning

I've just spent the last 8 days in Costa Rica. It is gorgeous and the people are quite friendly. They have a wonderful sense of humor and love to laugh. I will never cease to be amazed and reminded how much joy I experience in underdeveloped countries. Much of Costa Rica is geared towards eco-tourism. As I've gone through the rain and tropical forests my guides have pointed out the extraordinary ways that nature has of protecting itself. For example some trees have grown sharp edges to prevent animals from climbing them. Others grow poisonous leaves at the bottom to protect their foliage.

Our arrogance in the world causes us to think that we are somehow above the innate intelligence in the universe. We repeatedly make short sighted decisions without regard for the consequences. Global warming along with wasting so many natural resources are the obvious examples. Within every eco-system whenever an imbalance occurs, as for example, when one predator's population becomes too large and threatens the balance, another predator enters the scene and soon re-establishes the balance that is needed for long term survival. On a micro level the coming emergence of China and India may be the new predators that will put the United States back into a position of of one of the countries of the planet rather than the bully. I'm now starting to wonder about the macro level. The eco system of the earth will soon become threatened by over population and pollution. Our arrogance and ignorance causes us to think that it is only the "enlightened" among us that are concerned about "the solution". I'm starting to think that there are probably forces that we cannot even imagine that are already gearing up to take care of "the problem". For those of us who don't believe in life after death this might be a good time to begin thinking about getting a few extra charge cards and begin to max them out. For every one else, it might be a good idea to keep your spiritual passports up to date as we might soon be going on a trip.