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Birthday or Not, Bob Dylan is Timeless

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Yesterday Robert Allen Zimmerman stepped into his eighth decade of life.  Seems to me that writing anything about Dylan is almost an insult… as the man’s complexity and mystery defies any verbal description that might be adequate . Throughout his career he has played the roles of bona-fide shapeshifter, wordsmith, imp, and reluctant icon.  In spite of journalists’ attempts to pigeonhole him, categorize him, unintentionally foist labels and attributes upon him, he – like no one else graced with celebrity – has proven the master at outrunning everyone through sheer wit, and has notably avoided the same tragic demise as his peer John Lennon. His voice was no less influential than John’s (perhaps to his chagrin) and in spite of his power, learned how to slink into the shadows and become invisible. This is no accident. He’s basically a glorious version of the Road Runner. Sometimes the Wile E. Coyote he escapes is the parasitic journalist, sometimes it’s the “fans” who try to take a piece of his soul without asking.

Beyond the dexterity with which he has always dealt with the media, he is a Poet of the highest order, a consummate songwriter and lyricist, and is the owner of a singing voice which comforted many and seemed to capture, uncannily, the expansive American frontier, the peace movement, the civil rights movement and the genesis of the blues all at the same time.  Who else can do that? If he doesn’t want to fly straight onto our radar, he won’t. He’ll fly below, he’ll play mental jiu-jitsu and he’ll defy any and all attempts others make to own him; all while being seared into the consciousness of the American songbook.

Just as the most powerful moments often halt one into speechlessness, an homage to Bob Dylan in words seems almost silly. The man is beyond description and protects who he is indefatigably and with – not a shroud – but a veritable fortress of mystery.  Bob Dylan is equal parts genius, poet, rebel and sage.  Commemorate the day by stretching your personal catalogue beyond “Like a Rolling Stone” or  “Blowin’ in the Wind”. My personal favourites are “My Back Pages”, “Ballad in Plain D”, “Desolation Row”, “It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding” and “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.”  Great songwriters don’t (or can’t) just write five masterpieces, which makes it a task to whittle down to single digits. Someone once asked Bob Dylan about his songwriting process and he quickly explained, “Oh, I don’t write the songs, I just tune into them.”  Beyond the songs he believes already existed, treat yourself to some beach reading or swim into the laser-like mind of a very right-brained and esoteric artist here.

Happy Birthday Bob!!

“I didn’t come out of a cereal box. ”
Bob Dylan
“The worth of things can’t be measured by what they cost but by what they cost you to get it, that if anything costs you your faith or your family, then the price is too high, and that there are some things that will never wear out.”
Bob Dylan (Chronicles: Volume One)
“People disagreeing everywhere you look makes you wanna stop and read a book. ”
Bob Dylan
“You can never be wise and be in love at the same time.”
Bob Dylan
“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
Bob Dylan
“People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.”
Bob Dylan
“I think women rule the world and that no man has ever done anything that a woman either hasn’t allowed him to do or encouraged him to do.”
Bob Dylan
“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
Bob Dylan
“Play it fuckin’ loud!”
Bob Dylan
“A poem is a naked person… Some people say that I am a poet.”
Bob Dylan

Passages of Great Men: Martin Luther King Jr.

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Martin Luther King Jr., social activist and proponent of non-violence was the victim of violence which became a prelude to even more violence. It is ironic and unfortunate that Martin Luther King’s death on April 4th, 1968 brought riots and destruction throughout the US.  A man who fought so tirelessly for understanding and non-violence should have been allowed a memory untainted by riots, and blessed with peace; yet while he never condoned violence or riots, he sought to understand from where it sprang as he taught that “riots are the language of the unheard.”

But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is what MLK did for the downtrodden and unheard: gave them a voice.  It is often said that the measure of a truly spiritually-minded person is not in the good works they do, but in how vigorously they seek out and fight against evil (not only in others, but also in themselves.)  Unfortunately, the more we speak and express, the higher the likelihood and risk that someone will disagree with us, criticize, take offense, or worst-case scenario, develop a deep-seated hatred or envy for that which we stand.  To be sure, the only safe way to never have detractors is to never speak.  Cowards have few enemies, but there is much to be admired in a man who will stop at nothing to fight injustice; even when it means sacrificing his own.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. was building up momentum and planting seeds of hope to vitalize the civil rights movement, darkness followed to try to extinguish his message, the name of his assassin not worth mentioning.  He was aware of numerous death threats and did not expect to live.   To inspire and imbue a people with a feeling of peaceful justice, hope and significance after an absurdly long history of humiliation and degradation is a tragically heroic life fully-lived, albeit cut unjustly short.

Favorite MLK quotes below:

“No. No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

“Men for years have been talking about war and peace.  But now, no longer can they just talk about it.  It’s no longer the choice between violence and non-violence in this world.  It’s non-violence or non-existence.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Reminds me of a saying from an ancient sage who said:  “It’s not how much you love someone when you love them that matters, but how much you love them when you hate them.”

“There is nothing in all the world greater than freedom.  It is worth paying for; it is worth going to jail for.  I would rather die in abject poverty with my convictions than live in inordinate riches with the lack of self-respect.”

He died the next day.  Interestingly, Abe Lincoln, John Lennon and Martin Luther King Jr., all either prophesied their deaths or subconsciously knew they were going to die shortly beforehand having either spoken or dreamt about it.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I’m  not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God’s will; and he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain.  And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land.  I may not get there with you, but I want you to know, tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction.  I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.  This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

“We must rapidly begin to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

“Through our scientific genius, we have made this world a neighbourhood; now through our moral and spiritual development, we must make of it a brotherhood.  In a real sense we must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools.”

“I believe that the day will come when all God’s children from bass black to treble white will be significant on the constitution’s keyboard.”  (San Francisco, 1956)

“These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression; and out of the wombs of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born.  The shirtless and the barefoot people of the land are raising up like never before.”

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality & freedom for their spirits.  I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.”

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. “

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. “

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Are We Human or Are We Puppet?…I mean, Dancer

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This not-so-new song, “Human” by the Killers which is loved by so many has anthem written all over it. Even if you have no idea what the words mean it sounds like some type of provocative nose thumbing at some type of establishment, somewhere.  The line “Are we human or are we dancer?” was inspired by Hunter S. Thompson a former Rolling Stone contributor,  who wrote, “We’re raising a generation of dancers.” 

Doubtful he was referring to the preponderance of  young people with their glow sticks and MDMA at raves in the 90’s and the aftermath techno bleeding into the ’00’s.  More pointedly, the question was meant to provoke a response around how quickly we are becoming totally indifferent to injustices and programmed to act a certain way.

Here is one of many examples:  I defy anyone to observe people going to work in the morning and see if you can find an ounce of joy on faces.  Where is the joy and humanity on their faces?  The real question should not be, “Wonder if they’ve had their coffee this morning?” but “Are they doing this out of choice and if so why aren’t they happy about it.?”  To the objective extraterrestrial not familiar with our ways we might look like a bunch of miserable robots going to slaughter or our favourite aunt’s funeral.  In what capacity are we sublimating our humanity (our true desires, life purpose, and joy) to do what others expect of us?  What about those times when there is a woman crying on a street, someone getting mugged, or falling down in our path and people just keep walking, heads down pretending not to have seen.  We act as if we’re only spiralling in our own orbit and our own orbit has nothing to do with anyone else’s.  But it does. Our denial of our humanity and denial of connection is going to be our eventual ruin. 

How can there be no concern that humanity seems to be hibernating in a cave of indifference so much of the time?  Are we consciously choosing to shut down all systems and go on auto-pilot or is it happening surreptitiously without our awareness?  Anyone ever go under anesthesia before surgery?  Not so fun; there is that moment right before going under where you feel the eyelids getting heavy and you naturally fight in vain to keep them open.  The 9-5 grind, the save-slave-retire model have many on the robotic hamster wheel which is one type of anesthetic.  But what about the ipods, the OCD reactive emailing and email checking, the blackberries, the Facebook and Twitter?  No different than the anesthetic used before that knee surgery.  Is there truly any humanity in our use of these tools?  We’re behind these machines, right?  We’re operating them; so are we using them or are they using us?  Is there any humanity in hearing  iPods blasting into our ears and cocooning ourselves from the world so there is no way we  can hear the voice of that old woman a block away who is getting mugged?  Do we mind giving up those opportunities for meaningful conversation with a stranger?  Is there something humane in sitting children in front of TVs or computers so as not have to play with them after a long day at work or hire a babysitter?  It’s difficult to quantify the repercussions on our humanity (although we have already seen many, if only we could start to make the connections) when we are all fast asleep most of the time.  Below is a beautiful portrait revealing the effects of one very powerful anesthetic robbing us of humanity.

 

Yeah, this is totally normal.  Rather, what we’ve accepted as normal.  What happened to the times when kids would dance, play and create?  If someone wants to cut off their connection to the outside world as an adult, that is entirely their decision.  The fear is whether people are consciously deciding that for themselves or being anesthetized at every turn and sucked into a vortex of robotland.  Are we human or are we dancers? I don’t know about you, but I will hold onto my humanity with everything I’ve got.

Mondays

I see no reason why we can’t just do away with Mondays.  They are flat, dreaded by all and a symbol of everything we don’t want to do.  Mondays are the day we mourn the passing of the weekend and coax ourselves into the week ahead.  For most people, Monday’s don’t even count.  They are merely transitory days.  No one will really blame you if you aren’t pushing 150% productivity on a Monday – after all, you are experiencing a trauma akin to a cold water bath or that first moment you are expelled from the womb.  Sheer discomfort or apathy comes to greet us every Monday – neither of them pleasant and certainly not a winning combo.  Why must we accept the dreaded Monday as a part of our existence?  Who said we had to?  Much like the moment Richard Branson decided that flying in the skies need not be a horrible experience which consisted of overpriced fares, bleak selection of entertainment and disgusting food, he recognized the status quo and said, “Yeah, no thanks.  We shouldn’t have to suffer through this.” Who decreed that we must choose between playing Uno with the passenger next to us and watching Nova, the only channel available?  Why should I have to suffer through my gourmet peanut entree?  The whole point of being here is to continually evolve and create a better existence for everyone involved. 

That said, I propose we either do away with Mondays or find a way to somehow “re-brand” the day.   Imagine a marketing team in charge of the “weekday department” sitting around a board room table crafting a Power Point presentation on “A New Image for Monday.”

How can we give Monday’s pizazz and color?  The mere mention of “Friday” tripping off the tongue evokes a higher pitched voice full of expectation and promise.  How can we take away all of the undesirable qualities of Monday so that it is no longer the bane of the entire week?  Well, I have a few suggestions:

1)  Take the day off.  No more working on Mondays.  If you get any resistance just point at Ned falling asleep at his desk or the girls squealing in the kitchen over the weekend’s top stories.  Monday’s are clearly not productive days and therefore should be avoided. This is a no-brainer.  True, this will then make Tuesday the first day of the week, but Tuesday can more easily handle it as Friday is now a much closer reality. 

2) Plan exciting events in advance to fall on a Monday (this is no longer a day for dental appointments, mammograms or pap smears; eliminate virtually any thing that smells of “errands” or chores”). 

3)  If the productivity argument doesn’t work and you are forced to go to work on Mondays, come in to work an hour or two late.  The hours from 8am-10am on Monday morning are the two hours out of the entire week that people care the least about your presence.  You are not the only one who has been thrown into a tub of cold water.  Most people are sitting at their desks willing themselves to shift gears and send out that memo after their three double espressos.  Do yourself a favor and prance by their desk around 10am.  If anyone looks at you in askance, cheerfully change the subject and apologize for leaving the dishes in the sink over the weekend – you were in late last night trying to get a presentation out the door.  The benefits of this approach are two-fold: it deflects the attention from you and makes your co-worker feel like a slacker.

4)  All things celebratory should be rescheduled for Mondays.  Again, the weekend days will always stand on their own.  Happy hours, shopping trips, or the date with the new guy from the gym – generally anything spontaneous and fun goes on a Monday.  If you are the Betty Crocker type that likes to bring treats into the office on Friday – keep everyone off guard and bring them on Monday instead.  If you have kids, pull them out of school on Monday and take them to the new Pixar movie they wanted to go to.  There will be plenty of time to stimulate the economy when they are on holiday break – give the market a boost during the time it is least expected. 

5)  Keep things interesting by making Monday the official prank-playing day.  Use your imagination – have a few large  pizzas delivered for lunch.  When the pizza guy comes and no one recalls ordering pizza, they won’t have the energy to figure it out who called him or where it goes and will just pay him and be done with it.  

6)  Avoid obligations of any kind on Mondays.  If someone tries to rope you into yet another unnecessary meeting to decide when to have the meeting planning meeting, say “Sorry, Monday is the day I plan all of my outsource delegation.”  Most people won’t bother taking the time to translate what this really means (I don’t work on Mondays, I let other people do that.) and will give you a blank stare and walk away.

I have a similar vision for the months of November through February which I have strong convictions we should not have to suffer through either.  Rather than accepting the stress of the holiday seasons and abysmal weather as the status quo, be proactive and plan a time-share in a tropical locale with friends.  It needn’t be expensive – sometimes even one month is enough to make one cheerful about the holidays.  Look around you.  There are so many things that we accept as “Well, that’s just the way it is.”  which we can avoid and transform with a little creativity.  The only warning is, be prepared to make people jealous.  They will be upset that they have accepted being long-suffering while you’re kicking your heels together with exuberance re-imagining everything in  your path. 

I call this approach an “I don’t care, I don’t have to” approach or the “Create something better than crap” approach.  As with anything new and unfamiliar, people will generally be resistant and quick to ridicule but they will catch up soon enough. It all starts with Mondays or the dreaded months of November thru February – where it ends is up to you.  Some parting words and food for thought: When Richard Branson re-imagined what it meant to fly and wanted to call his airline “Virgin”, a survey of British people revealed that 90% said they would never be caught dead flying on an airline called “Virgin” as they found the allusion to be rude and inappropriate.  Eventually they saw the error of their thinking.  Imagine the same feeling of vindication when you have re-imagined Mondays and have rescued the masses from their own misery.  It may start with Mondays or November through February.  Where it ends is up to you.

Gratitude

Tomorrow we will be doing last minute preparations, laughing with family and gluttonizing over tryptophan-laced fowl and a host of other edibles that take us straight to the couch.  It is easy to be distracted by all of the self-indulgence of the day which is why today is a perfect time – pre-mayhem – to pause and reflect.

Cicero, the great Roman philosopher, statesman and humanist (among other things) said:

 “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” 

What does this mean?  Without gratitude – a true appreciation for the people around us who we love, experiences and blessings – there is no engine that fuels our desire to help each other and do good.  It is a state of being that staves off self-pity and the desire to receive for the self alone over sharing. 

For those who can’t find motivation to do good works for the sake of good alone, it appears to be a law of the universe that those who are grateful for the abundance around them receive more.  The reward system in the universe recognizes sincere gratitude.  Let’s say a nervous 17 year old brings flowers to his recent crush.  Barely batting an eye she extends her arm to the right and hands them to her mother asking her to put them in water.  Do you think this boy will give her flowers again?  No.  The circuitry of giving was not complete.  She could not receive them – and in many cases learning how to receive love and blessings is just as important if not more important than the giving.  Sometimes to receive can mean humbling ourselves and giving the other person who wants to help our honor and eliminating our Ego.  To receive requires acknowledgement, and genuine appreciation of what the other person is offering.  On a macrocosmic level, when we are sincerely attuned to and aware of all of the blessed situations (big and small) and people who cross our paths extending their love or perhaps a message we needed to hear, then the Universe responds in kind by bestowing more upon us.  It is as if the powers that be say, “This person gets it and is connected.  Give them more.” 

By the same token, if we approach life as the girl who throws the flowers in the vase we are sending a message to the universe that we don’t value what is being given to us.  So why should it be duplicated or augmented?  When we are humbled by every small fortune or opportunity that comes to us, we are in essence saying we don’t take any of life for granted, we don’t expect the rain to fall or our heart to beat in time or any of it ; and we recognize that everything that comes to us is a grace.  Therefore we feel compelled to complete the circuitry by graciously receiving.   When one has a deep gratitude it works like a jet propellor to inspire one to want to give in all directions so that others can experience the wonder of gratitude we are experiencing. 

There are times I am in an automatic state of awe and gratitude.  At other times I am made aware of someone else’s challenges, hardships or trauma and I am jolted awake.  Then I remember that we are not guaranteed the next beautiful sunrise, that the airplane wheels are not guaranteed to touch the landing strip, that we are not always guaranteed the opportunity to say it’s sorry before it’s too late, that we will always be able to hear the laugh of a baby, that we can see the majesty of the ocean, that our parents and children will stick around on our time-clock,  or that we will make it across to the other side of the street – safely and intact.  When one thinks about the thousands-fold blessings around us, it is impossible to not want to spread more of what we are receiving inasmuch as we are capable. 

This Thanksgiving, take a moment to pause and self-reflect thanking your ancestors who came before you and who toiled and struggled as you are standing on their shoulders now.  Let’s not make tomorrow about the food coma and sugar crashes, but about laughter and appreciation and the quiet moment following when we feel our beating pulse, look around and fully register what a miracle it is that we are all here breathing and standing on firm ground – and that we all have so much.

Opinions That Offend

Should freedom of speech have self-imposed boundaries?  Especially when airing opinions cause distance and sometimes alienation in relationships? I’ve been thinking recently about the consequences of posting on a public forum and unabashedly sharing such opinions.  As Abe Lincoln knew, some of them popular to some, but not all; some of them repellent or offensive to some, but not all.  An opinion is nothing more than a personal belief.  As such, it vexes me why stating one’s opinion could ever offend another person.  I suppose opinions run the whole gamut of casual musings to utter vehemency and benign remarks about a group or person to truly malicious ones.  For practical purposes, let’s say one is just stating a belief which this person clearly believes in to the nth degree.  Perhaps an opinion stated with such surity  seems like an insult to anyone who would disagree and have similar depth of belief in their opinion.  This is where we start treading into a dangerous briar patch though.   The only reason I can imagine someone being offended over someone else’s opinion would be that a) either he felt the person was stating their opinion as fact or b) he felt that his opinions, after invested in and developed as a result of years of experience and research, were actually facts.  This is where we get into trouble, intolerance and separation.  Suddenly, we are holding our ‘opinions’ aloft as the Gospel and by choosing to be offended by others, we are in essence saying that there is no room for them.  We have already found the Holy Grail of truth and any others who disagree are clearly “misguided” or “confused.” 

Anger and defiance over someone’s opinion (usually equally as strong), when it does not match with our own is nothing short of intolerance and arrogance.  How can we get to a place where we agree to disagree?  Whatever happened to those days of true and gallant civility? Why does disagreeing with a person have to call into question their very validity and perspective as an individual human being?  Do we really believe that only 5%, 10% or even 80% have a monopoly on all of the ‘correct’ opinions or beliefs.  Opinions are not facts; to blur this line and begin to impose them on others with fervor or to take offense at a statement of opposing belief is ludicrous. 

Let’s look at the definition of freedom up close:

freedom
1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint:
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc
4. ease or facility of movement or action: to enjoy the freedom of living in the country.
5. Philosophy. the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without; autonomy; self-determination.

What strikes me the most: an exemption from external control, interference or regulation; also, an absence or release from ties or obligations the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without; autonomy; self-determination.  Let’s apply this definition to speech and airing of one’s opinions.  In order to have true freedom of speech, one needs to feel free to air one’s beliefs and opinions without punishment or constraints from the outside.  This could be in the form of a withdrawal of friendship or love if you’re stating opinions that are not inalignment with theirs religiously, politically or morally.  To an extreme, one might also face constraints of a grave nature like a censored  internet if opinions and beliefs shared are not in alignment with the agenda of the governemental powers that be, physical threats or death.  As human beings, we like to pay lip service to freedom of speech and encourage people to do so, but after they speak we punish them in myriad ways if their beliefs are in disagreement with ours.  How can we make another person’s beliefs moot?  It is impossible.  Each individual soul has just as much right as anyone else to be on this planet.  We all have our individual lessons to learn and at different rates.  I do not believe that there are a select few who after much refinement, study or soul-searching have finally found all of the answers that have plagued man or even none of the answers.  We do have our experiences, our hearts and our beliefs – and no one can ever question or disparage those.  Punishment for expressing the ‘wrong’ opinions is oppression, pure and simple.  So the next time someone’s opinion pushes your button and you find yourself getting  self-righteous and defiant, let’s take a step back and pause, and remember that there is enough room for all opinions and beliefs without one cancelling another out.  Who knows, through exercising tolerance, we may even find ourselves loosening our grip on our own beliefs long enough to open our minds and hearts to truly listen and make room for others at the table.

Try As We Might to Forget War, Let’s Not Forget Our Veterans

Sometimes in the midst of all of our proselytizing and pacificism and regret over tragic wars, we forget those who have fought for social justice and freedom.  These are things we take for granted as we are wrapped warmly in our beds cocooned by the illusion of constant peace. Even the best-case scenario for veterans (they come back to us alive) is fraught with long-lasting and sometimes irreparable damage to their psyches. WWII sculp Loss of limbs or paralysis force them to go on disability when they would have rather worked.  For many whose mental constitutions were not impervious to the horrors of death, torture and suffering, they come back home but are never the same person again.  Although the human body is amazingly resilient in bouncing back, it is not always such a quick fix for the mind.  The psychological trauma that many young soldiers will go through is ten times more than any of us will ever have to experience in this life.  While at war’s culmination, society might rejoice with confetti parties and public kisses and go back to their lives, many soldiers don’t have that luxury.  Why do we cast them aside with such ingratitude? I don’t think it’s purposeful. It’s tantamount to not wanting to look into a mirror that is shows an ugly reflection. We don’t want to remember atrocities. That’s human. But our veterans are stuck with it. And it is easier for us to forget and go about our day. (‘I’m glad it’s not me that has to go’ or ‘I’m a pacificist so I’m going to sit in my ivory tower and spit on those who are protecting the things I take for granted’), forgetfulness? (self-absorption in our own lives), abandonment? (not investing enough in the vast resources that are necessary to rehabilitate and transition them back into society), judgment?(another crazy, homeless veteran). Abominable.

Veterans are another easy group to marginalize.  I believe that 99% of the time we forget or abandon people, it is because they are too difficult for us to look at.  The elderly are a constant reminder of the promise of death, the homeless are a constant reminder that any one of us could be on the street in a second if we make a wrong decision, with nowhere to go, the abused and battered remind us of the days we feel that we are not worth anything, least of all love.  The veterans, I suspect, are reminders of atrocities against of mankind and the lasting repercussions of fearful actions.  One need not be a warmonger to have a hunger in fighting against evil.

But I digress.

So it becomes much easier for us to cast all of those problems  that amount to enormous buzzkills aside.  We’ll deal with that later, or we won’t deal with that at all our thinking goes. Then everything will be rosy. 

That’s where we’re wrong.  The more we want to forget, the greater should be our resolve to focus our energies in that direction to heal and correct.  My grandfather was a Master Sgt. in General Patton’s 3rd Army.  I am only here typing this right now because he was one of the lucky ones who came back.  My cousins are here because their fathers survived Vietnam. Not all were so lucky.  My grandfather was stationed in Germany only six months after his marriage to my grandmother.  Few stories came from his mouth upon his return much to the chagrin of his children and grandchildren; but it was the best way for him to deal.  I do know that when my grandfather walked down the city streets while practicing as an attorney he would automatically check the 2nd and 3rd story windows of office buildings for snipers.  As much as he wanted to forget, there was always residual trauma. 

During the war he was taking soldiers through training practices driving tanks.  There was one boy in particular who was extremely nervous and skittish.  The slightest sound went off at the side of the road and he jerked the tank to the side in reaction.  My grandfather went back to the camp and told the Sergeant Major, “Do not let this man drive a tank.  He can’t handle it.”  Well, my grandfather’s advice was ignored and they decided to let him drive the tank.  He was killed on that mission.  These are the things that surely mess with the minds of a soldier. Killing our fellow man is not natural. 

Maybe this is naive, but why couldn’t we just take down Hitler and leave everyone else alone?? 

Countless stories of the same inhabit the psyches of those who do not have the luxury to forget when they come back onto American soil.

21 gun saluteWe can all put patriotic bumper stickers on our cars.  We can all vow to hug a veteran today and say thank you.  That’s not too tall of an order for one day out 365 days a year.  But then again, one day out of the year is not the problem.  The problem is the other 364. ** It would be much better if as a sincere thank you for the fact that we are living, walking down the street with no fear and participating in a safe, democratic society that we translated our gratitude into actionable steps in providing greater resources and care so that they don’t have to feel abandoned.  Let us demand better from ourselves.  Let’s not continue to let fighting for freedom and justice be a thankless job.  They took care of us and in millions of cases they are the very reason we are sitting here right now breathing and reading this article on an unmoderated internet.  They took care of us to the nth degree.  Let’s make the remaining 364 days of the year our turn to take care of them.

** Charity Navigator, a non-profit that posts online ratings of about 5,000 charities, added the veterans group to its database last month. Out of 71 charities listed, it was the only one to earn zero stars. It rated the charity low because more than 65% of its expenses went to fund raising. Most non-profits spend no more than 10% on fund raising, said Charity Navigator spokeswoman Sandra Miniutti.

The rating puts the veterans group in the bottom 2% of charities on the Web site, Miniutti said.

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund – http://www.fallenheroesfund.org/

Fisher House Veterans Charity – http://www.fisherhouse.org/