January 12, 2016 should have been a proud night for Americans. In presenting his final State of the Union address, President Obama was everything we could hope for in an American president. He was dignified, articulate, gracious, capable, well-prepared, intelligent, thoughtful, emotionally well-regulated, rational, wise and grounded. Additionally, he was socially appropriate, (and looked great, too), plus, he was linguistically elegant, poised, mature, reasonable and remarkably restrained when speaking of Congressional Republicans and current Presidential candidates. He said having different views should not, by definition, make us enemies, rather, in a free society, one expects and welcomes diversity of opinion, culture and background. His views for our country, and ultimately for the world, were optimistic and balanced. And he put his finger precisely on the problem we face as a nation: our political process or rather those who currently dominate it, is a mess. The Almighty Dollar and cultural elitism have inflated and leveraged hot button topics, and infused the rancorous political process with hate, increasing our dividedness.
This current batch of political combatants exhibit a zealous, unrestrained contempt for each other that barley stops short of snarling. It reminds me of National Geographic videos of marauding chimpanzees slaughtering rival troops. The battles on Capital Hill with their screeching and thumping, has descended to the level of primates in the wilds of Tanzania. If any of us think our American political campaign process is more erudite and sophisticated than that of many third world countries, take another look. Their hateful witches’ brew accompanied by its twin assumption — God-given ‘rightness’ have driven us to a precipice. Across the globe there are regressive, primeval, archaic belief systems competing for power on the world stage and the last thing we need is for our own politicians to regress to a matching level of un-socialized, uncivilized sloppy discourse.
This blog title, extrapolated from quotes by Rabbi Hillel, (110 BCE – 10 CE) a famous Jewish religious leader, serves as the foundation of the Judeo-Christian belief in ethical reciprocity, or the “Golden Rule.” (You remember “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Or some such…) Those words challenge us today to think about the cascading atrocities erupting across the globe and remind us that individually and collectively, we have a moral, ethical, human responsibility to one another. From the comfort of our homes, with the distance of miles and oceans, it’s all too easy to leave ‘it’ to the next guy. It is all too easy to relax in our easy chairs, sip coffee or wine, shake our heads and point our fingers and not think about the millions of refugees stumbling across countries looking for somewhere safe to live.
We grumble aloud, jump on our soap boxes, shout out easy, one-dimentional solutions and over-simplify enormously complex problems, boiling them down to a simple matter of right or wrong, do or don’t. After all, it’s way easier to over-simplify huge, big problems, like crime, violence, drugs, poverty, immigration or the Middle East than it is to take the time and energy to learn about and try to grasp the complexities. It takes years of study to appreciate the centuries-long history of oppression and conflict; to understand what motivates these fights over water and land, oil and power, freedom and slavery, tyranny and justice.
This year’s Republican Presidential Candidates are, to put it mildly, distasteful. As if ‘traditional’ conservative values isn’t off-putting enough, these folks have scooped up the most alienated, marginalized and narrow-minded citizens on our social continuum.
Pandering to these extremists has candidates clustering on the brink of disaster by preaching blatant racism, divisive regionalism, isolationism, and generalized war mongering. All this makes me long for the days of George H whose big campaign slogan was “watch my lips, no new taxes” or the days of George W who garbled the English language (“We cannot let terrorists hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile”) and could never seem to get ‘nuclear’ right.
For the first time, in my admittedly long life, the campaign trail is crowded with people competing for the title of: most outrageous, most offensive, most morally repugnant, most immature, most regressive, most extreme, most insulting and most uninformed. Although each candidate is unique, their collective rhetoric is stuffed with hatred disguised as religious fervor, generalized rejection of anyone who’s different and astounding illogicality. These candidates jump to conclusions, render pronouncements unsupported by rational thought, confuse feelings for facts and lack anything resembling a moral compass.
Have you heard about the coffee cup debacle? Apparently, there are some Christian devotees who are so delighted about their up and coming celebrations that they insist on having their holiday symbols plastered on every conceivable surface. Starbucks, I guess in an effort to be diverse, politically correct and avoid offending millions of non-Christian customers, decided to decorate their coffee cups this year simply with the color red. Sounds like a reasonable compromise, right? Wrong! It seems certain Christian leaders were offended because they wanted more than a plain red cup. More symbols, more decorations, more special recognition, more attention, more, more, more…
Perhaps they are so used to being the majority religion, they never stop to consider that other people have different religious practices and they may not relish Reindeer dancing across their coffee cups. It might interest them to know that there are some 4,200 religions in the world, that’s right folks not one, or five, but 4,200 and I’m sure a few little ones fell through the cracks on that last count. There are over fourteen classical world religions—those religions most often included in history of world religion surveys and studied in world religions classes are: Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism, Druidism, Wicca and some other Neo-pagan religions. Each of these religions has a different spiritual view, philosophy and flock of followers devoted to it.
Writing Seeing Double has been an adventure. Replete with double entendres, the novel explores the Middle East while pondering the realities and irrationalities of ‘Truth,’ as it is seen, defined and acted upon from various perspectives. From the moment Ari enters Elisabeth’s office, the parameters of the plot are anchored. As each character unfolds, additional layers of communal ‘Truth’ emerge. These ‘Truths’ weave their way through families, countries and terrorist groups, crossing borders, creating boundaries and declaring themselves ‘The Absolute’; the One and Only, Single, Solitary, Absolutely Perfect, Unquestionable ‘Truth.’ These ‘Truths’ stake out their turf, take over lands and demand total unwavering loyalty from their followers. Disloyalty is treason, and we all know what happens to traitors.
The problem with these unquestionable, demanding ‘Truths’ is that there are a lot of them and while in some ways they are unalterably contradictory, in other ways they are identical. Certain common themes apply to all of these ‘Truths,’ but because the theological power is attained through isolation, discrimination and elevation, their commonalities are distorted, rejected and denied. These ‘Truths,’ like the religions to which they are inextricably linked, are trans-generational, connected to the soil, traditions and embedded lifestyles. These ‘Truths’ are as simple and as complex as the religious beliefs from which they evolved.
You say you oppose abortion even in cases of rape, incest and even if the mother’s life is in danger. You say you are being compassionate and religiously pure. You think you are being good and faithful followers of God’s law because you value human life …but you’re wrong about that. You are in fact making a value judgement. You are determining that the life of a fetus the size of a cashew nut is more valuable than that of the mother, a mother who may be a 14 year old child or an impoverished mother of 4. In any event without fully seeing, perceiving or evaluating each of those situations you are making uninformed decisions that have the power to destroy the lives of thousands of women and those who love them.
Have you Right to Lifers ever paused to think about the act of rape? It’s ugly. It’s a horrible act that one human being inflicts on another. What would it be like to be raped, wounded, traumatized, terrified, injured, beaten, or bloodied by your parent, uncle, brother, or a stranger?
Reflecting on the Republican debate, I was astonished to realize how all those ‘right to life’ candidates care about ‘the value of human life’. “All life matters!” they declared! “I value life, even the life of unborn fetuses!” and so forth.
Isn’t it great that there are so many humane, caring candidates?
But, hang on a second, let me get something clear:
Do you care about the fetus just when it’s a fetus or throughout its life?
Is there a point in time when you ‘life lovers’ cease to care about those ‘valuable lives’ you’re insisting be born?
Do you care about them after they are born, abandoned and scooped up by under-funded foster care programs or after they are taken home to an impoverished, unloving home where they weren’t welcomed in the first place? Do you care if they scream from hunger or die from Failure to Thrive?
You may have noticed that poet extraordinaire, Usha Srinivasan, has made a guest appearance on our website. Her remarkable poem “Trump is a Chump” is the perfect accompaniment to our blog entitled The Ugly American on Steroids.
In both our discussions and writings, we discovered that we share many beliefs, ideas and feelings and that our work can be mutually enriching. Originally from India, Usha has graced us with her passionate poetry, which reveals her unique perspective along with the unhampered courage to speak her mind. We are grateful to call Usha a friend and appreciate her giving us permission to include some of her work on our site.
Look for her bio and more of her spectacular work, possibly accompanied by my own commentary. More exciting, challenging material is yet to come so keep checking back to see what we have in store for you!
Trump is a chump,
He is one more useless hump
on the back of the overloaded
thinks he’s splendid,
He says he loves Mexico,
even as he rants with his hash tags,
that Mexicans are the problem–
weighted down by his bigot bag–
he has a long line up
of places that give him ulcers–
It flames his propaganda–
He could easily loathe its panda,
He promises confrontation,
For the sins of the communist nation,
He promises trade imbalances will be gone
in the relation,
If he were president,
If he were president,
All will be right with the USA,
Number one will be USA,
Proud will be USA,
Back to its glory days,
Ruler of the Earth,
a new and shiny birth,
Iran on the hook,
A noose for every crook,
If he were president…
BUT the backlash O the backlash,
he’s drowning in the backlash,
NOW–watch him slowly backtrack–
Mexican food is to die for,
Mexican girls are curvaceous,
Mexican bulls are bodacious,
Mexican beaches are delicious
and Mexican writers are audacious–
Trump is a chump,
overplaying his favorite cards
he’ll be hoisted by his own petard.
By Usha Srinivasan
If you’ve watched or read anything about the hoard of candidates scrambling for the Republican Presidential nomination you may have noticed a particularly obnoxious, egocentric bully elbowing fellow running-mates off center stage. With nothing more than a big mouth, a bizarre comb-over and a monstrous accumulation of wealth, the man has catapulted himself into the limelight. The Donald, as he likes to be called, overflows with unsubstantiated, extremist opinions and an exceptionally nasty, no-holds barred assortment of pejorative, combative, denigrating statements he uses to punish anyone who questions his superiority and dares not to bow down before his supreme ‘majestic-ness. With inflammatory rhetoric designed to instigate red-state riots, this narcissist substitutes knee-jerk reactions for informed resolutions and hot air for reasonable solutions.
We’re stretching beyond the world of writing and narrating into another longtime love of mine: animals. We’ll be devoting some space, time and attention on each of our sites to help re-home cats, dogs and whatever abandoned creatures we encounter.
Please look for our “I need a home” corner and support our efforts to help homeless animals find new, loving forever homes. Thank you for helping and for spreading the word…