Monday, April 7, 2014

Why call this the "Great" Recession?

If the Great Depression is the basis for labelling an economic blip "Great," this Recession can't be classified as Great. For a fiscal conservative, it is clearly an example of Poor choices, Poor economic policies, and Poor oversight that have not been corrected -- the mitigating outcome that enabled the 1929 crash to ultimately be labelled the Great Depression. In fact, the only people who could call the outcome of this recession Great are the excessively rich; for them, these post-crash adjustments have indeed been Great.
Reaganomics politicians laughing about their "Trickle Down" trick
Perhaps I criticize too soon. Perhaps all of the corrections are yet unknown and it is too early to evaluate the final results of this economic downturn. Perhaps we're only in the throes of the shakeout, and the angels of our better sense are still tending the wounded so they haven't yet got to the point of whispering inspired corrections into the ears of those who have the power to improve the situation. Perhaps, like after the Great Depression, happy days will be here again and prosperity will again become as viable as the American Dream once was.

But it seems like there should be some movement by now toward curbing the excesses and controlling the lack of accountability. It seems like by now we should recognize that the root of our Recession was nurtured by dismantling of the FDR reform programs that had held the financial systems in check. It seems like by now we should be getting closer to our own "3 Rs" efforts.

But right now, it looks like Relief, Recovery, and Reform are being blocked by the very institutions that took charge and demanded change the last time this nation's financial well-being was threatened by greed and corruption. This time instead of relief, all we see is austerity. Instead of recovery, all we see is perpetuation. Instead of reform, all we see is collusion. There's no conservation at all going on in any quarter.
Billionaire calling "Raise the Minimum Wage" greed
The fault is surely in our language: we're using "conservative" wrong. After all, it is patently untrue that a "conservative" system would allow a "conservative" government to launch a costly long-term endeavor while reducing revenue.  A true conservative financial approach would always balance expenses with sufficient revenue. A financial plan that increases costs while reducing revenue could never be called conservative; at best, it could be called a recipe for bankruptcy. To continue now to advocate the same failed approach is neither conservative nor the way to save the republic; it's a course toward insanity.
Professor trying to explain deficit budget
Let's explain this more clearly to some legislators who apparently are not schooled in economic reality. It's not fiscally conservative to spend more than you have:
  • To squander a trillion-plus surplus on an unnecessary war is like an heir to a fortune blowing his inheritance on floozies and booze.
  • Running up trillions in debt while slashing income taxes on those most able to pay is more like an out of control gambler getting in too deep with the loan sharks than a fiscally astute conservative planning for a financially responsible future.
  • And certainly using taxpayer funds to bail out the very people who caused the financial crisis in the first place is a misplaced correction, forcing the taxpayers into a bankruptcy spiral while allowing the bankers to avert their own Chapter 11s -- and then award themselves bonuses for squeaking out of the failure they deserved.
Yet, this muddled chaotic insanity is exactly the effect of policies advocated by those who are still claiming to be "conservatives."

Maybe we should explain again from another angle. Conservatives are people who preserve what they have:
  • A conservative homeowner makes repairs to keep up the value and useability of the property.
  • A conservative landowner enriches the soil and nurtures the animals to produce healthy yields.
  • A conservative manager provides equitable compensation, benefits, and advancement opportunities so employees are satisfied to make the effort that improves products and expands the market.
Conservative practices are win-win-win for the individual, the environment, and the nation.

Now, let's look at the reality of the practices advocated by these faux-conservatives:
  • Necessary infrastructure repairs have been ignored until interstate bridges are falling down.
  • Land (and air and water, too) is being polluted with toxic fracking residues and tar sands spills.
  • Workers are being shorted on wages and their benefits cut so that the wage gap between a full time employee at minimum wage (that is: 40 hours for 52weeks @ $7.25) and CEO pay has reached at least 1667%. (Do the math: $25million in pay and bonuses for the CEO / $15080). Of course most minimum wage employees aren't scheduled for the full 40hours since then the corporation would have to pay them fulltime benefits and besides many aren't even receiving the federal minimum because tip workers and the disabled are legally exempted. But whatever the reality, it is inequitable by any standards
Seriously considered, these practices have NOTHING to do with fiscal conservatism. The only thing they are conserving is their own steady stream of personal wealth.

To properly name the reality, we have to conclude: "Greedy Corporatists" caused the "Cataclysmic" Recession and are distorting the aftermath with faux news and legalized bribery to further increase Income Inequity and the upsidedown tax structure.
Cat unable to comprehend the Faux-Conservative budget
The only possible reaction a true fiscal conservative could have to this insane reality is to rant (hence this post).

Monday, March 24, 2014

What are Baby Boomers waiting for?

Author PJ O'Rourke seems indeed to be exactly what he says is wrong with the Boomer generation -- stuck on himself as typical, that is:  being "hopelessly ordinary in matters of race, class, gender identification and which section of Playboy he turned to first when he was 16" as if the only Boomer worth noting is a hetero white male.

Excuse me, but I'm a Boomer of a totally different persuasion. I never forgot the lessons of Spaceship Earth or Kent State. I remember we made a difference and know we still can.
The world we live in is still our choice.
After struggling to responsibly push for reforming the bureaucratic corporatocracy to match those Sixties values, I quit and made a better life for myself. For more than a decade, I've watched the demise of so much that could have gone better had the status actually changed instead of all those frat boys reverting to the Fifties quo as the model to emulate.

Sadly, he's right: too many greedy white males (and their copycat female counterparts) still despair while living without enough "love, happiness, experience, sensation, thrills, praise, fame, adulation, inner peace, and, as it turns out, money," unwilling to take responsibility for today's "big, broad problems" and making "an excuse for everything" as if they aren't accountable for the mess of the world we are living. If they don't figure it out pretty soon, they're going to be in for an even ruder awakening than the bumps of inertial slide they've already set the world spinning along on.

Fortunately, PJ's not totally right: I've befriended enough like-minded Boomers to discover I'm not the only survivor who valued the Spaceship Earth mindset enough to live it. We acknowledge PJ is right in this, at least: "We've reached the age of accountability. The world is our fault."

The difference is: we're still struggling to be responsible and do the necessary things to make the outcome different. We know it's time for all of us to view the world as it really is:
We're not making excuses. We're looking for ways to improve the world we all share. We're searching for ways not to pin the blame on the foolish bureaucrats and short-sighted corporate minions but to help them see that choosing better ways right now could still make a difference. We can still establish equity as the cornerstone of governmental decisions; we can still honor the values of SpaceShip Earth and save our planet.

We can still come together and learn from past mistakes and make better choices that create the lives all our hearts yearn for.

There's more than enough "love, happiness, experience, sensation, thrills, praise, fame, adulation, inner peace, and, as it turns out, money" even to go around. We just have to stop the foolish divide and dominate mentality that keeps us struggling separately.

No one of us can save the planet on our own -- but we also cannot do it without every one. Only you -- with ever other only you -- is what makes the result.
Only you -- with ever other only you -- is what makes US different.
Together, we have the capacity for synergy.On we -- together -- can change life on Earth.

We've seen the Earth from space; we know we exist on a small blue ball in a vast open space. Instead of divisively ruing that "everything you were ever told is wrong" we could be working together to save that small blue dot of a planet. By husbanding its dwindling resources and applying our vast human capacity for innovation, we still can create the better world our younger selves dreamed was possible.

Instead of despairing, though, we have to come together and act.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Why not ask a perfectionist to do any yard work?

When I returned from Georgia after a week of 20s here, my locally-infamous Rube Goldberg watering system had decided to give up the ghost (even though I'd turned it off at the main).

So I bit the proverbial bullet and began a planned xeriscape revamping. The landscaper began by removing the grass last week. This afternoon, I went out to collect the Iris before the yard work begins next week. (Last year, I had two boxes of Iris and gave away half, but now the iris have multiplied again. In fact, I found more after this photo. Thank heavens I save all those boxes....)
Boxes of too many iris

While I was out in the yard, I noticed some roots protruding in the area below the kitchen window where they took some grass out. Oh, good, I thought, those nasty Ivy roots are exposed; time to get rid of them once and for all. (When I moved in, ivy had taken over my house and was invading the roof; it's been a continuous battle to keep the plants from reviving.) I pulled and pulled and cut and stuffed the yardwaste bin full. It was pretty satisfying, but that was only the minor ivy area. Nonetheless, I didn't go searching out more ivy roots -- and I didn't even take a picture. (In fact, I got the iris picture hours later.)

Instead, I liberated some of the brick edging:
overly-well-secured brick edging

For sure, those previous owners didn't want that brick to MOVE. You can't really tell from the picture, but the gray part is a BASE of concrete that the brick edging is set into, and it is BEHIND another edging of concrete curbing. The second base is about 6" deep. No way that stuff is coming out without a machine. And the bricks aren't likely to be easily liberated unless they happen to WANT to be freed -- I had a couple sections that came loose with just a shovel pry and once I shoved a section with my foot and it (to my surprise) gave way. But the rest is intended to be there for life. :( This is BAD because that is NOT the new edging location for my yard plan.

Anyway as I inspected the edging, I noticed... wait for it... more roots. Not ivy this time but back in the yard. Ah, I thought, the roots of a defunct tree. Yes, it was the ex-pear tree roots. (The pears were bad -- so inedible even the birds would eat them only on one side; mostly the pears just cluttered the yard and rotted -- in huge piles; it was a very prolific, useless tree. And it had as many roots.) I pulled. I pulled some more. It was a Hydra, a mythical beast, branching out away from the edging. Its tentacles reached out toward every corner of the yard. They crisscrossed and interlaced, but I persevered.
Root Hydra
This is the first hydra. As I worked at liberating its tentacles, I found more hydras. In the end, there were three fully formed hydras with many, many interlaced tentacles.

Hydra Tentacles
This is the area near the ex-pear tree location after my victory. On the other side of the brick edging, the hydra continues; there are two more hydras I have identified. And I didn't even look at the (also yard littering) ex-plum or (dying) ex-almond areas. Fortunately, it got dark. I came in and made a margarita-tini from Crystal Light and tequila. As a hydra fighter, I deserved this reward. After another, I felt maybe I could face the hydra tomorrow and cut it up to dispose of all the tentacles, but it may have to live there for a week because my bin was already full....

You are probably asking yourself, as I did several times while amputating hydra limbs, is this really necessary? You are probably concluding, as I did each time, NO. The dirt is going to be moved around and the edging dug out, any hydra tentacles that exist will be buried during the prepping for the new backyard plan (which hasn't even been formulated yet). And still, I pulled hydra limbs and traced hydra tentacles and dug up hydra intersections. I cut the hydra at the brick edging -- on BOTH sides because of course you can't pull the hydra tentacles out from under the overly-well-secured edging foundation.

This is not the task for a sane homeowner. Once you start, it is like an OCD compulsion. You think, this branch will end and that will be the finish. But the branch always intersects another, and you find an additional full hydra tempting you to pull some more. It is crazy-making. It is obsessive. It is ridiculous. And yet you think: just another pull and it will be the end. Trust me: the hydra never end. Do NOT do this in your yard.

When I dispose of the already-exposed hydra, I am going to try very hard to ignore the other protruding roots. Fortunately I had a skype yoga class to teach Sunday at 2, so prime hydra hunting time was effectively interrupted. Thank goodness. Doing my taxes (my other weekend task) has seemed almost preferrable -- but just as tenaciously neverending (what myth-maker estimates those recordkeeping and preparation times?). Or maybe there, too, I need to realize: perfection is NOT required.

Wish me luck -- or sanity....

Friday, December 13, 2013

How can you stop the polluters?

In a time when the world is increasingly aware of humanity's impact on the climate, who in their right mind would propose a new power plant that would increase, rather than alleviate, those concerns? The United States, and its leading environmentally conscious state, should be at the forefront of green energy technologies, not perpetuating a dying and increasingly-damaging fossil fuel industry.

At 10am Tuesday Dec.17, 2013, the Antelope Valley (CA) Air Quality Management District is holding a hearing on the proposed Palmdale Power Plant. As a resident of Lancaster, I am categorically opposed to this pollution-producing proposal.

I have asthma, and the windy conditions of Antelope Valley naturally stir up more than enough air pollution to affect my breathing. I certainly do NOT need an intentional source of 546 annual tons of pollutants diminishing the air quality at all times.

I have studied the "clean" fossil fuel reports, and there is simply no truth to these claims. Scientific studies by environmental experts both here and abroad have debunked these industry-sponsored papers.

In reality, "clean" claims for fossil fuels are the last gasp of a dying industry. So-called "clean" coal, fracked gas, and tar sands oil actually pollute far more, both in the environmental damage of the extraction, processing, and production and because of the the pollution of the air quality when consumed. So-called "clean" fossil fuels also cost more to produce than conventional fossil fuels, in terms of both actual extraction and necessary refinement processing. Neither extraordinary cost is one that people or the Earth itself should accept.

Nor do the costs to the community or its air quality portend well for the immediate Antelope Valley area or for the planet. Since the California Energy Commission already deplored the proposed Palmdale Hybrid Power Project in its 2010 final assessment, I cannot fathom why the revised Palmdale Power Plant, which precludes including a solar component, would even be considered. California and the Antelope Valley should just say NO to the Palmdale Power Plant.

If you are available at 10am Tuesday Dec.17, 2013, please attend the hearing at the Antelope Valley College Performing Arts Center. If not, you can send your statement opposing the proposed plant to bbanks@avaqmd.ca.gov. It is time we stand up for our homes, our health, and our planet's future.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Where in the world are our priorities?

Ever wonder why the US has so many ignorant citizens? Is it our priorities that are confused or do we just take whatever the media dishes up for us?

It seems unconscionable to dumb-down America's awareness of world events, but the December 9, 2013, issue of Time magazine does just that.


How can we expect public perception of reality to keep up with what's going on in the world when we cover up important current events. The US deserves to know what is important enough to the rest of the world to deserve Time's cover.

According to DailyKos, the fluff for news substitution has happened before. Doesn't that make you Wonder?

Media that is co-opted by its corporate owners sounds suspiciously like #6 on Laurence W. Britt's list of 14 early warning signs of fascism:
  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
  2. Disdain For Human Rights
  3. Identification of Enemies as a Unifying Cause
  4. Supremacy of the Military
  5. Rampant Sexism
  6. Controlled Mass Media
  7. Obsession With National Security
  8. Religion and Government Intertwined
  9. Corporate Power Protected
  10. Labor Power Suppressed
  11. Disdain For Intellectuals & and the Arts
  12. Obsession With Crime & Punishment
  13. Rampant Cronyism & Corruption
  14. Fraudulent Elections
America's pest problem is the current state of its media. Mind control is a terrible waste of national resources.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why don't we want kids to excel?

I'm mystified. In the course of a single school year, one classroom in an impoverished school had its students excel.
students learning together - Photo credit: www.islingtongiving.org.uk

But the regional education chief dismissed the innovative methods that inspired the results saying, “The teaching method makes little difference.”

Despite having no special resources, almost all the students in that one class achieved improved, even outstanding, results, yet -- or perhaps because they succeeded without -- he concluded they didn't need more support. “Intelligence comes from necessity,” he stated.

Now if THAT were true (that “Intelligence comes from necessity”), ALL students in impoverished areas would excel. But clearly that isn't the case.

What was different in this particular classroom wasn't laptops, high-speed Internet, and tutoring; in fact, they "had intermittent electricity, few computers, limited Internet, and sometimes not enough to eat." It wasn't specially selected, particularly bright kids, though they did have one special quality according to their teacher: "Potential."

And especially, they did have one overarching advantage: the way their teacher ran the classroom. Instead of teaching, Sergio Juárez Correa decided to inspire his students to want to learn. He asked them questions and let them discover the answers. He let the work in groups and talk about how to figure out the problems. He enabled them to think.

Wouldn't you think that when his students did well on their yearend tests, everyone would be impressed? Since his class not only passed but vastly improved during the year, wouldn't you think administrators would want other classes to have a chance to achieve similar results? Wouldn't you think it would behoove all educational providers to implement similar methods -- if only to prove that they weren't the driving factor?

But no one did. No one rushed to emulate the effective techniques in that one classroom. No one scrapped the industrial top-down rigid model of public education to encourage creativity, innovation, and student-driven thinking. No one argued how much more beneficial to us all it would be if the future became more than a repetition of the past.

Of course the problem is that student-centered education is messy and irregular. Its unpredictability makes it hard for administrators to control. It's more work for teachers. It's more challenging for the kids. It's less standardized, too unlike the testing system that it feeds.

But imagine the possibilities. Students would love to learn. They'd be inspired to do more and try more ideas out and think for themselves. Kids would come up with creative answers and explore new ideas and create better innovative results.

With our education system lagging behind in an accelerating world, parents and teachers who care need to step up their game. Encouragement and attention, two essentials to overcoming less than optimal institutions, go a long way to make up for lack of costly resources, but the key is to praise kids effectively.

In her book Mindset, Carol Dwerk advocates praise for process as the best way to encourage the best learning for everyone, but her research now shows this is especially important for girls. And paradoxically, Dwerk stresses the necessity of experiencing overcomeable failures along the way as essential stepping stones to both resilience and success.

It really doesn't take all that much effort or expensive resources to make a huge improvement in kids' success in schools -- just attention and encouragement and an environment where challenges take effort and creativity and thought. When little stumbles are rewarded as part of the process of achieving improvement and ultimately new challenges, there's no limit on the possibilities.

Really, every parent knows that or we'd have a world filled with non-walking, non-talking, non-functional teens. We start kids off with the right encouragement, so why are we abandoning the process that works and instead demanding conformity, rejecting struggle, and pressuring for perfection? Parents and teachers need to re-examine their motivations and stimulate kids' natural interest in exploring the unknown.

Loosing the genius of curiosity seems a small price to pay for a quantum leap payoff.

I wonder... what you think.
Photo credit: www.islingtongiving.org.uk

Monday, November 4, 2013

What can we learn from old folk tales?

Back in 1917, Marie L. Shedlock published a book on storytelling. One of the folk tales she retold was The Folly of Panic, which I've interpretively adapted here:

And it came to pass that the Lord of the Earth was incarnated as an Eagle, able to fly above the Earth and observe all its features and creatures and ensure that all was well in the domain below.

And the Earth was filled with creatures: There were Bears to the north, Elephants in the jungles, Camels crossing the deserts, and all across the prairies of the world, there were Hares.

Eagle and Hare - http://www.nomad-tanzania.com/blogs/chada-katavi/the-ealge-and-the-hare

One spring, a nervous little Hare, who was always afraid that something dreadful was going to happen, began to fret: "Suppose the Earth were to fall in, what would happen to me?"

She repeated this so often that it became her a mantra. "The Earth might fall in; what would happen to me?" She said it until at last she thought it really would happen.

One day, as she recited her mantra again, she heard a slight noise: a heavy fruit had fallen upon a rustling leaf. But the little Hare was so nervous she was ready to believe anything, and she gasped: "The Earth is falling in!"

She ran as fast as she could to warn the world. First she told those closest to her, and soon all the Hares knew the Earth was falling in. They shared their knowledge wide and far to all who would listen, and quickly the deer, the sheep, and the buffalo, all took up the cry.

In the North, the Bears became concerned for their homes, and in the jungles the Elephants began to grow uneasy, and even the Camels looked across their expanse of desert and worried it might be so. But the wise Eagle, flying above it all, looked down and wondered at the uproar. "There are no signs," he said, "of the Earth falling in. I must investigate."

The Eagle methodically tracked the rumors back to the little Hare and asked her, "What made you say that the Earth was falling in?"
Now, as you undoubtedly know, the tale ended with discovery that her panic was misplaced. The Eagle took the little Hare to see that it had merely been a fruit falling upon a leaf that set off her fear, and they were able to determine that the Earth was not falling in and to reassure the populace. But what if their findings had been different?

What if, upon examination, the Eagle had learned that it wasn't the weight of growing fruits but a noxious poison killing the fruits before their time that was threatening the Earth? What if the Eagle had learned that the Earth might not be caving in but rather dying? The outcome of THAT story would have been different. The Eagle would have been spurred not into reassurance but to a call to action.

The Eagle would have had to rally all the animals together to discover the source of the toxin and to create a magic potion to save their planet.

Updating the Folk Tale
 In today's world, scientists have already identified the toxins poisoning our air. CO2 and methane are damaging the atmosphere; current practices like burning coal and fracking gas and extracting tar sands are threatening the Earth. It's time indeed for someone as powerful as the Eagle to issue that call to action.

If you think that, like the Eagle, our President could bring all the populace together to recognize the dangers and make corrections before it is too late to save our planet, it's time to send out a noisy alert. It's up to people like us – not nervous Hares but informed and concerned citizens – to keep up the cry until it reverberates through the halls of Congress and throughout the world.

You can add your voice: Join Sierra Club or the League of Conservation Voters or 350.org any of the other groups raising the alert. Panic is certainly folly, but so is ignoring reality.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How do we stop wasting taxpayer funds?

If we as a nation wish to improve our system of governance, we can't just complain that the budget is overloaded with expenditures; we must get to the root of the problems, make reasoned assessments, and take corrective action. Uniformly slashing allocations across the spreadsheet neither addresses the problems nor corrects the underlying issues that cause the inappropriate expenses. As a society, it is up to us to choose which costly government expenditures violate our social values and to figure out ways to improve the choices we as a nation are making.
Taxpayers undoubtedly can agree that the best way to stop wasting our funds is to make sure that the expenditures actual pay for something productive. There have been two egregious and well-publicized recent cases of abuse of this standard: As projected by Standard & Poors, the recent House-forced 16-day government shutdown cost us more than $24 billion dollars. That shutdown itself was the finale of preceding acts perpetuated by a small faction of extremists in the House: prior to the shutdown fiasco, they had extorted the House to vote 42 times to repeal a law that had been approved by Congress, signed by the President, ratified by voters, and tested in the Supreme Court -- and that was known to have no chance of success in the Senate. That repetitive exercise in futility cost the American taxpayers an estimated* $61 million.

That's nearly $25 BILLION in absolute waste that taxpayers have been stuck with the tab for. Leaders of the House were fully aware that their obstructionist actions could not ultimately succeed. Using taxpayer funds to pay for political posturing is not only a waste of federal resources, its result is fraudulent misuse of budgeted funds. It is time for us taxpayers to put our collective foot down and tell House leaders: no more actions that intentionally result in the absolute waste our tax dollars or we'll charge you personally with the fraudulent use of our funds.

The House extremists who fometed these wasteful legislative tactics are the loudest voices protesting wasteful government spending, yet they insensibly foisted far more waste on American taxpayers than all the "entitlement" cuts they have clamoured for could recover. Whether this is calculated sedition or simply incompetence, the result is squander of resources that could have been applied to far more productive and societally helpful purposes. Such behavior must stop immediately, or taxpayers will have the right and obligation to demand a special investigation into House members' waste, fraud, and abuse of federal funds and the legislative functions they are pledged to carry out.

It is appropriate, necessary, and honorable for taxpayers to insist independent auditors assess the damages and federal prosecutors pursue charges against the perpetrators and co-conspirators.

I wonder... what you think.
* CBS News calculated that the first 33 votes to repeal health care reform took up approximately 80 hours of floor time from the House, or roughly two weeks. The Congressional Research Service said it costs $24 million to run the House for a week. Based on these figures, the efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare" in the House of Representatives have cost taxpayers approximately $1.45 million per vote. So far there have been 42 attempts, so that cost amounts to $60.9 million.
Image credit: AARP

Thursday, October 17, 2013

After the Brinksmanship, what next?

First we need perspective:


It's true: The USA isn't the center of the universe. Our universe isn't even the center of the galaxy, and there are so many other far distant points we didn't even know existed beyond the darkness.

The vast distances and innumerable other possibilities humbles the existence of our world and makes me wonder why we few beings on one tiny planet cannot find it in our hearts to work together to care for what we have. Our Earth is a fragile ball in a huge empty space; our world is the only thing enabling our lives to exist let alone thrive. We need sanity in our approach to the Earth.

We can see the Earth far more clearly today than any time in the history of humankind. We know how small our planet is; we know how thin our atmosphere is layered around its surface; we know our oceans flow together; we see our limited land masses. And yet we abuse its air and water and damage our lands as if it doesn't matter to us all. We need to husband our resources more carefully so that the Earth can continue to support us all.

Even more than preserving our planet, we have the unique ability to help one another. In all the far reaches of space, we have no one else to turn to. We alone, from our perspective, have the knowledge, tools, and technology to improve our lives and the lives of countless others on our planet. Yet we can't even honor those in proximity with the concern and support they need to triumph over their struggles.

Where there is hunger, we could fill bellies with healthy nutrition. Where there is suffering, we have the ability to soothe the struggles and build the capacity for better living. Where there is war, we have the capacity to enact truce and enable peace. Where there is ignorance, we have the knowledge to educate and share learning that can further the wisdom of the Earth's people. We need to join together to empower humanity to further individual potential and enable our global community to reach beyond today's imagination to create the future we all yearn to live.

But first, we have to learn from our mistakes and stop repeating failed historic choices:
  • We have to see that depriving those who need our assistance to rise above poverty is shortsighted and foolish: it deprives not only them but in the end everyone of their capacity to help improve our nation's productivity and success.
  • We have to see that choices are complex and personal and that making decisions for others keeps them dependent and unable to take their own right actions: limiting anyone's ability to choose wisely for their future also limits the betterment of humankind. 
  • We must realize that momentary additions to the bottomline today subtract from the richness of possibility in the years ahead whereas investment now in improving potential will yield rewards for generations to come.
  • We need to help each other to become all they are capable of being so that we can all become capable of becoming more than we are now.

What's next requires us to see the bigger picture and act from that perspective of humility and sanity. We need to see our possibilities in the context of the larger whole. We need to realize that exclusionary practices prevent us from working productively together to improve today and create a better tomorrow for all humanity. What's next is change.

Trying to preserve what history has tried over and over without success will only yield more poverty, more destruction, more conflict, more suffering. The only way to improve the results is to do not more of the same faster but totally different. What's next is new possibility only if we learn from our mistakes and choose a better path, together.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What time is it for America?

When government agents are subverted by external entities to act in ways that endanger the proper function of government and force hardship on a nation's population, their traitorous acts should be exposed, and shocked citizens should demand corrective action.  It's time for the investigative journalists to report their findings.

When so-called leaders in the House of Representatives no longer fulfill their responsibilities to the citizens of this nation but vote for bills that imperil America both in the eyes of the world and in the international financial markets, it's time for the American people to recognize this danger threatening our way of life.  Most critically, shutdown votes obstruct the proper function of a government by and for the People. Putting over-zealous political partisanship before realistic cooperative negotiation raises corporate executives' profiteering above their constituents' lives and livelihoods.

Watching others try to bail out the hole at the other end will only sink the ship

In any other nation, we would deplore the tactics being blatantly displayed in the halls of Congress. It's time to deplore them here and now and stop enabling domestic terrorists from disabling our country's infrastructure and ability to function. Even The Wall Street Journal recently referred to House Republicans as "kamikazes" bent on their own destruction, and Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly has called their tactics an example of “fanaticism.” This uncompromising extremism is not the way to responsibly run a democracy.

It's time to call the acts of these irresponsible government agents what they are: domestic terrorism. The perpetrators are traitors to the American way of life. Their calls for deregulation and privatization of government functions are tactics bent on disabling the Constitutional and legal supports that kept our nation thriving after the last greedy disruption of reasonable constraints during the Great Depression.

It's time to remember that fiscally conservative choices balance spending with income -- to realize that our problem is not what is being appropriately spent on domestic programs but rather on the lack of income from taxes paid by those most rewarded by the government's current policies and contracts. It's time to remember that taxes are our fair contribution to keep the nation running; only when everyone contributes their fair share can we live in a society that supports our values of health, productivity, equity, and the common welfare. Defunding affordable healthcare, defaulting on already-approved government expenses, and demeaning what amounts to a majority of the country's citizens is not a responsible way to run the nation or to maintain the commonwealth of our nation or the common wealth its people.

Programs that serve the needs of our population like the SNAP food stamp program and affordable healthcare are essential to create a productive populace. Paying equitable wages for a day's work is the only way to ensure that the nation's population can afford to purchase the goods and services we produce. Deregulating pensions, compromising Social Security, and undervaluing the amount necessary to earn a living wage will only exacerbate the needs of those living on the edge of destitution, increasing demand for the very programs being dismantled by unscrupulous proposals. Demeaning the populace and diminishing their livelihood is not any way to improve the economy or revive our flagging industries. This nation was not designed to resurrect feudalism.

American democracy has been hacked. That’s a computer word as you know, which refers to somebody taking over the operating system of a computer and making it do things that the owner of the computer doesn’t want it to do.  Its operating system has been taken over by special interests by using big money and lobbyists and taking advantage of a very sick political culture that has grown worse very rapidly in the last couple of decades.
~ Former Vice President Al Gore, in the keynote address at the Center for Effective Government Management.

Most grievous of all is the sad fact that too many of the people negatively affected by the acts of their so-called representatives are oblivious to the effects that will come. They rely on bogus "reports," misdirecting euphemisms, and oft-repeated fictitious "facts" to hang on to the idea that their lives will be improved when their Representatives vote. Our media outlets have substituted persuasive posturing for investigative reporting; personality and entertainment have replaced substantive news; popular opinion now outweighs scientific demonstration of inconvenient fact. It's time to stop allowing misinformation to be disseminated without correction, and to speak out for American values like peace, justice, and equality whenever we witness violence or bullying, bigotry or hatred, prejudice or inequity of any sort.

In our parents' lifetimes, history has witnessed too many cases (in Hitler's Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopoulos' Greece, Pinochet's Chile, Suharto's Indonesia) where persuasive minorities lulled too many people into acceptance of inappropriate choices. We cannot allow our nation to be sucked into the snare of unscrupulous propagandists or our heritage will be subverted into the same tawdry infamy. Really: It's time to stop domestic terrorists from destroying the American way of life.

In the end, it's not the lies of the domestic terrorists that will defeat our way of life but the silence of those who see the danger but do not act. Reality will only sink through the illusion of invulnerability when enough of us complain that abusive legislative choices are hurting our nation literally as well as in the eyes of the world. It's time for We the People to put our collective foot down and stop this childish abuse of power.

Congressional officials who obstruct the government's ability to serve its citizens, who refuse to fund programs that provide sustenance to its neediest citizens, who undermine the rights of groups of citizens, who remove the protections of the Constitution and subject anyone to torture are violating the principles on which America has thrived. It's time for Americans to stop abetting this retrogressive domestic terrorism and work instead to create a future that expands our infinite potential.

You are the lynchpin that can stop the self-destructive implosion from occurring. Contact your Congressional representatives today in DC or through their local offices. Tell them it is time to think of America first rather than to continue to obey the wishes of the richly funded lobbyists who bend their ears, to think of the needs of our people rather than just their own strangely increasing personal portfolios, to think of the future rather than short-term corporate profit-taking, to remember that it is We the People for whom the nation functions -- and by whom it succeeds, innovates, and progresses into more of all we are capable of becoming.

It's time for us all to remember: We the People are America.
I wonder... what you think.
* Photo credit: AuroraMeyer.com

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why should you care?

The growing frustration of seeing reality in an increasingly surreal America often makes me wonder whether there is any point to taking a stand against the overwhelmingly  over-the-edge extremist fantasy world around me. But as David Phillips points out in this inspiring essay, being able to care and to vocally and visibly support the right things is a privilege -- and a task worth committing to.
The Earth -- with Save? Decision box
As he says, "One must live in hope. Not the sort of hope that involves simply wishing for the best, but an active hope. The kind that moves your feet and lifts your voice. A hope that demands to be seen and heard."

I've increasingly felt that urge to stand up for my values, to speak out for my beliefs, to hope -- and work -- for a sustainable future of peace, cooperation, unity, equality and prosperity for ALL. If everyone who feels that way could just join together in the effort to live our vision, the result could be more than even we can imagine.

We are the Dream, personified. It is up to us to fullfill the vision -- to transform it from a Dream of potential and hope into a Reality of substance, empowerment, and fruition.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What will Exxon think of Next?

First some Labor Day diversion to keep you entertained and distracted from the huge dinosaurs of truth.

You've labored hard for your own piece of America. Now, Exxon is laboring -- or was that lobbying? -- to pay you back with interest in your own backyard. Coming soon to YOUR neighborhood: tar sands pipelines and fracked water (the kind laced with "natural" methane gas).

Exxon is going for global, one tight fossil fuel spill at a time.

Meanwhile, if you prefer a not so humorous look at the global situation, Tar Sands Action - Southern California shared this video of thousands of Ecuadorians taking to the streets to call upon their government to protect Yasuní-ITT, the most biodiverse rainforest on the planet, from oil drilling.

Ecuadorian police at the Yasuni-ITT Protest against oil drilling

As Melany Gail Mjolsness commented, "dont hate the police, actually dont hate anyone! that just adds to the problem! It was good for once to see no violence, no water cannons, no clubbing, no pepper spray ! They just stood there. Many looked pretty nervous, no doubt! It is the people in power, who are to be given our greatest compassion as they are so ill in their hearts and minds they cant seem to see the right way to live!"

Sadly, Melany is right. It is the so-called national leaders across the globe and the greedy corporate profiteers who are out of touch with the Earth and humanity. Just as Labor had to raise visibility (and again does) to be recognized and treated right, we who care for the Earth and its people must rise in visibility and make our point over and over until the truth of Earth-consciousness and compassion for all humanity becomes the worldwide way of living. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Can YOU help a Visionary Entrepreneur-wannabe?

Hi there! This is a request for a special FAVOR:  YOU can help a struggling entrepreneur! (That would be ME, Kae Bender, Visionary Entrepreneur-wannabe.)
I recently entered an online business building contest called the Next Great Visionary Business Contest. But I'm sort of at an impasse:

I have a great vision -- how all of us who see the need to change the system can come together to transform the world into one of unity, peace, and prosperity for all. What I don't quite yet have is an already-operating business -- or any names on a mailing list.

Unfortunately for me, that email list is what is called for in this next step of the contest. It requires me to get a LOT of people to look at my vision and vote for me -- by August 31st!  :}

This is where YOU can help: Could you look at my vision, vote for me, and pass on this request to YOUR mailing list?

To vote (@  http://ngvb.co/?aid=62) no later than August 31, 2013:
  1. You register with an Email address and make up a password (I recommend using VOTE -- it's only for the Contest).
  2. Use this link to access my page: http://ngvb.co/?aid=62 -- or key in 62 in the Visionary ID field on the search page.
  3. You can open the .pdf and read my vision (sorry, there is NO way to display it directly).
  4. VOTE for my vision by clicking the VOTE FOR THIS VISIONARY button below the pen and paper image.
  5. You can also write a Facebook comment on how inspiring my vision is and ask your FB friends to vote for me too.
  6. If you like my vision and vote for me, my thank you message will give you an opportunity to directly send me your email so I can send you a FREE Ebook with more details on how we can be change agents for a world of Peace and Prosperity for all.
  7. Send this request on to all the wonderful people in YOUR email list or Facebook page or Twitter followers who will be likewise inspired.

You'll have my undying appreciation!  And maybe all the people we inspire can go on and work together to fix the world.

That's certainly a vision we can all aspire to!!  Thanks! Kae

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Who should know?

Checks and balances can only occur when the public is aware of information about policies and choices our government is supporting. Only when a citizen with direct knowledge of abuses is brave enough to come forward and challenge inappropriate government choices can We the People make choices on what are true American values.

To punish excessively for the very act of disclosure of inappropriate actions belies America's values and diminishes the checks that enable the balance of power.
Don't Silence Whislteblowers
Silence is NOT an appropriate option: Imagine a government with nothing to hide....
To ensure valid checks and balances, the government must support whistleblowing rather than imprison defenders of the true values of the American public.

If an independent government review agency could serve the public directly and support such disclosures, "leaks" to the media would not be required to get the information out to the people for their decision-making at the ballot box. Without such a system, the only alternative is continuing international abuses; this diminishes the stature of the US in the world and makes a mockery of our posturing for democracy and human values.

Bradley Manning should serve not as a caution to others concerned about government excesses but as an indicator that we need to rethink government secrecy and open all our affairs to public scrutiny. Covert ops are the ones that cause unrest and disrespect in the world; World War and Cold War policing policies are outdated. It is not just the right but the duty of citizens to call for corrections to a system running roughshod and violating human rights.

America is not the arbiter of world policy nor acting in a requested role as the World Police; rather, our nation is one member of the global community. To remain a respected and effective part of that international body, the US must cease to militarily interfere unilaterally in the affairs of sovereign nations. To serve as a leader in the dialogue for peace, the US should contribute to the public dialogue and persuade improvements to human rights, not violate the rights of others.

Americans don't support torture and terrorism, and our military should learn to practice what it preaches. Lengthy punishment for Bradley Manning sends the wrong message to both the citizens of our nation and the world. You can join the petition to commute his sentence.
I wonder... what you think.
Original photo: www.accountancyage.com

Monday, August 12, 2013

Have you seen the Earth breathe?

The "heartbeat of the Earth" is a phrase I often use to help my students attune their breath to a natural rhythm, and this visual captures the essence of that concept with amazing accuracy.


Our "Breathing Earth" is a mesmerizing interactive map that shows one year of seasonal transformations on Earth in two seconds. This view of NASA Visible Earth images was created by John Nelson and originally posted on the UXBlog, where you can see more images.

Imagine how connected we would be if we could all attune to the heartbeat of the Earth and feel the unity of our planet.

I have a vision of all us change agents attuning and guiding others as change mentors to create a planet of peace and prosperity. If you resonate with that vision, please see my longer statement for the Next Great Visionary Business contest and vote for me while you're there!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What are change agents and change mentors up against?

Change is hard because the societal system is set up to maintain the status quo. Those in power not only resist change and make change hard, they set up society to make change unthinkable.

I've researched change extensively and am in fact starting a support group for individuals and leaders looking to work toward change at the evolving edge. Learn more details about my vision and get a longer explanation.
We must BE the Change
Meanwhile, here's an introductory summary:

Since the 60s, feminists and other radicals have encountered resistance to the societal changes they envision. A friend responded to my FB post about recent misogynist behavior saying, "This is a very big problem in my country, because we have a divided school system that doesn't allow very much support for children from uneducated families." She went on to say:
In my belief it is a hard thing to educate the politicians to give us equality. The easiest will be to educate our children along these lines, so they - in a natural way - will understand on from the beginning, that there is no difference in man and woman. We are equal from birth. Who is educating children? Normally the woman, the mother, the teacher! So it is in our hands to change the world.
While she's right on both counts, she's also overly optimistic to think mothers' awareness could spark change spontaneously. Rather, it will require those of us who are consciously working to improve the situation to become more active role models and guides for these potentially-influential women.

The Influence of Mothers

Starting with children can indeed be very influential. But changing their perceptions isn't really as easy as saying women, who see the world's problems, can educate their children better to improve societal imbalance. Yes, mothers have HUGE influence on the next generation, both girls and boys. However they, like all people, are SO enmeshed in the societal indoctrination that EVEN IF they are aware things need to change, they often don't realize that what they are doing reinforces the problem rather than working toward a solution.

Influencing Politicians

It is even harder to educate politicians because they are remote from reality, positioned as the people in power at the top of the pyramid, influenced only by those powerful enough to be at a level that gets their attention. To disturb the status quo threatens their whole hierarchical structure.

A rational debate will never sway politicians from trying to protect their "rights" -- that is the laws and rules of society that they have set forth to maintain the current power structure. The only way to approach inspiring them to change requires an emotional appeal. A new perspective begins only when your appeal reaches to the core values held in the heart and your target people can start to actually feel the pain of those they ignore, neglect, and abuse. (Even then, the change implemented is often only a surface adjustment or even mere placebo effect, reassuring the protesters that they were heard and making cosmetic accommodations while leaving the underlying infrastructure untouched.)

As long as politicians remain above the fray, they can dehumanize those they legislate against and see them as a category rather than a person. This is why stories presented in person by real individuals affected by the laws or rules are powerful change agents.

Influencing Marginalized People

ALL marginalized groups (women, minorities, the poor, the aging, children) are equally embedded in the current system to which all in society have been trained since birth. Parents teach children to obey; institutions (church, schools) prepare children for the expectations of society; the community reinforces the way things are, every word and action demonstrating the rules of the group: the games kids play establish the rules; punishments "fit the crime"; tv shows provide role models; music sets a guiding rhythm; the talk on the streets and in the news keeps informing public opinion; even the language itself subtly sets the stage. The whole socializing schema is set to keep society in line with the current power structure.

Creating an Environment to Support Change

From this basis, change is a challenge. By the time girls are old enough to become mothers, they are part of the system. When the education process is limited or teaches by rote, thinking remains an undeveloped skill. By the time we are adults, new choices require conscious assimilation. This is neurologically MUCH more difficult that learning as a child (the difference is physiological), and change from old habitual living patterns takes both conscious awareness and more effort still. Generally, adults only embrace change when confronted by a big enough crisis to make continuing "as is" too painful to continue, and even then it is usually a struggle -- because on our own, we don't have a model for a different way of being and we have to make it up as we go; this is why support groups are beneficial.

Change Agents and Change Mentors Need Support Too

I've researched this all extensively and am in fact starting a support group for individuals and leaders looking to work toward change at the evolving edge. I'm currently in a contest to help me put my ideas out in the world. You can see my "manifesto" vision for it at http://ngvb.co/?aid=62 -- and if you sign up on the contest website, you can vote for my vision and it will get you a longer explanation that I am sending to interested supporters.
I wonder... what you think.
Photo Credit: edtechvision.org

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why are we still sacrificing canaries?


Back in the day of coal mining's heyday,  disasters in the mines were common. Dangerous gasses built up in the tunnels and an errant spark ignited fiery explosions, killing miners, destroying both the mine and the product itself, and necessitating large scale rescue and emergency response operations to mitigate the death and damage.

After a while, people recognized that the gasses that blew up were also toxic, but the miners weren't always affected by the fumes enough to notice before it was too late, so they began a practice of sending a caged canary into the mines with the workers. The small birds were more sensitive to the gasses, and when the canary stopped singing, the miners took note and were able to evacuate and purge the passageways before death and destruction resulted.
Caged Canary -- credit: gauchemanitoba.blogspot.com
Today coal, though the least-favored, most-polluting fossil fuel, is still mined, and co-occurrent gasses still accumulate, but canaries are no longer sacrificed; better technologies have been developed to monitor the air quality.

The practice of sacrifice for the greater good has been a human belief since the days of ancient demanding gods: mythology records that the volcano deity expected virgins for appeasement; weather gods demanded portions of the harvest. Over time, powerful earthly representatives of the gods took charge of the sacrifices: priests collected offerings and tithes to appease the wrathful gods; as time continued, lesser beings were turned over to divinely ruling monarchs in order to maintain the touchy equilibrium of truce in abutting kingdoms.

The sacrifice of canaries and virgins may be over, but the sacrifice of the many for the few is still prevalent. In fact, over the centuries it has been institutionalized into common fact. Hierarchy protects those at the top and axes the minions below to keep the status quo: bureaucracy calls the practice reduction in force; corporations "restructure" their operations; generals send platoons of soldiers into battle. Today, the masses of common laborers are the pawns of executives just as slaves were at the beck and call of the landed gentry of yore.

Times continue to change. The voting restrictions documented at America's founding have been whittled away, giving more power to those previously constrained by established rules. Societal mores evolved, extending protections of law more equitably to those previously without legal rights. Slaves were freed. Laborers organized and demanded better working conditions. Women were emancipated and joined the ranks employed outside the home. Students and underprivileged minorities agitated concessions from the political system. Worldwide, patterns shifted.

As equity became more achievable, the sacrifice concept lost its allure, disrupting the power structure. More and more competition threatened the traditional overlording controllers who scrambled to enact measures to re-establish their positional power. And so they established the theory of "trickle down economics".

Without sacrifice from the masses, the hierarchical power structure cannot exist. By purporting that anyone can rise through hard work, the system retains its structure while controlling access; the few rise while the rest struggle, and as the power is more firmly established at the top, the ante is upped by increasing disparities, requiring more sacrifices from minions while bolstering the attainment at the top. As long as the ranks of aspiring midlevel achievers fail to recognize the Ponzi scheme they are playing in and succumb to the allure of possible triumph, they perpetuate the system. And those who are fated by socio-economic, racial, ethnic, or educational underprivilege to serve as the underpinnings of the system are destined to not just perpetually fail but sacrifice more and more for the success at the top.

Prove it to yourself:  This is no fairytale theory. 

Today's wealthy elite manipulate in the background, funding the politicians to manage their "trickle" process. Those marginalized by gender, racial, ethnic, or religious categorization, the old, the disabled, the hungry, the poor, all are targetted daily for more sacrifice while the rich controllers are rewarded with inappropriate spoils. Women are prevented from controlling their own bodies; blacks can be killed for seeming to be threatening while their white assailants get out of jail free with "stand your ground" laws. Taxes are cut for the wealthy, and public lands are leased to their corporations for a pittance of their value to be exploited by unsustainable extraction processes that pollute the air, water, and land itself for generations to come.

Until we realize that "trickle down economics" is a trick of the wealthy to perpetuate their status and diminish the rest of the world's quo, we underlings of the system will continue to remain caged, abused, disposable, and unaware that in this system, we serve as the sacrificial canaries.
I wonder... what you think.
* Photo Credit: gauchemanitoba.blogspot.com

Monday, July 15, 2013

What is to become of US?

I keep hearing that Saturday's verdict means our world is no longer safe for young black men. But then, nor is it safe these days in America to be a woman or an immigrant or poor or gay or a senior on Social Security or... well, fill in your favorite marginalized group. As far as anyone can see these days, the world is a pretty hostile place for nearly everyone but the super rich and their paid-for legislators.

It's not the world I want to live in or the one I want my granddaughter to inherit.
It's time for everyone to support a Better World.
Yet, I do have to wonder at the mentality of the controlling establishment at this juncture because they are overplaying their hand pretty much on all fronts. Perhaps they intend it as a divide and dominate tactic but rather than prodding people back into self-preserving submission, I think they've gone too far and are stirring the forces of resistance into power.

It's time we realize we can't be complacent in our small corner of the world while we watch the dominoes of other marginalized groups disintegrate around us. It's time to come together, and to act.

Working together has synergy, and bringing so many "minorities" into conjunction can only result in a supermajority that can finally overpower the old paradigm. It may take a while for the disparate constituencies to realize the value of unity, but ultimately (and it will be only a short time from the point of view of evolution), that united effort is what will make the world a better place.
Sometimes when the fight begins, I think I'll let the dragons win. But then again, perhaps I won't. Because they're dragons. And I don't. ~ A.A. Milne
It's up to each and every one of us to imagine the compassionate world we want to live in, because that's the only way it will be possible. We can change the world only IFF we imagine a world of respect, compassion, and sanity, believe we can create it, and work to make it so.

The change is simple -- it just isn't easy. Of course I recognize that today's sad reality means that WORK is needed to create the world I -- and you and every sane individual -- yearn to live in. That is why I always stress that it begins with thought, requires heartfelt belief in the possibility of change, AND takes the effort and resources to work for the new reality.

If everyone who wants a different world retreats into self-protection instead, their energy for change is lost to the world. We make a better world only when we stop accepting someone else's definition of what is right and IMAGINE what we choose to make possible instead of the mess that is, BELIEVE with all our heart and will that we can succeed, and WORK to make it so.

In the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies
but the silence of our friends.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's time to sign ALL the petitions and join ALL of the marches and write ALL the letters to the editors and legislators and agency heads. It's time to Recall Congress and vote in true Representatives of the People. It's time to overturn the euphemious Citizens United and stop all the backers and SuperPACs and shady backroom dealers. It's time to rise up and reclaim America as its united citizens and return our nation to the stature we believe it deserves. It's time to become all we are capable of being and lead the world into an era peace, prosperity, and human rights for ALL. It's time to step forward and act.
I wonder... what you think.
Dragon photo: Fanpop.com; text: AA Milne

Friday, July 5, 2013

What's more shameful than the "N-word"?

Gee, Paula Deen used the "N-word" -- in a joke -- once up on a time. Yeah. Let me think: a white Georgia-bred 66 year old got fired for being a racist because under oath, she admitted to this error of judgement. Now, I'll admit, I haven't read the full testimony nor do I condone the use of that or any other pejorative label in any circumstance, but the whole overblown Paula Deen scandal is scapegoating a much larger, more prevalent, and far more troubling issue in America.

That Paula Deen was raised in a racist society cannot be disputed, and one thing brain scientists will explain if you don't know from your own personal experience is: what we learn during early development is seeded deep in the synapses of the brain, below the level of our day-to-day awareness. Sadly, not only was Paula Deen raised in a racist society; so are all Americans -- still, to this day. And even when we consciously want to overcome those childhood lessons (even Paula Deen has expressed remorse), the automind of habit -- especially in conditions of stress -- is much more powerful than rational thinking. It takes more than just momentary effort of will to undo the lessons of a lifetime. It takes constant practice and reinforcement of better behavior.
Children are colorblind until taught to be otherwise
Because we as a society have pretty ineffectually attempted to sweep the detritus of slavery -- and other ethnic disparaging -- under the rug of presentability, insidious racism remains rampant in America. The fallout of the Paula Deen testimony isn't its shameful fact, it's its public witchhunt fervor. Bad Paula: SHE said "the N-word". The thing is: racist words and other slurs pollute the air of every American community. When we hear denigrating terms, we witnesses may mildly deprecate with a weary headshake or dismiss the intent or -- more often -- simply disregard in silent complicity. People may squirm or look away, but no one ever talks about its offense. As Ta-Nehisi Coates reports in The Atlantic, "The ignorance is willful. We know what we want to know, and forget what discomfits us."

Let me be clear: I do indeed think Paula Deen in private still harbors the prejudices of her upbringing, just as a too-large portion of the entire United States does. The loud and zealous societal excoriation of Paula Deen isn't proof of a moral turnaround and it certainly isn't evidence of anyone stepping forward to atone for white privilege. People's reactions show no real movement toward resolution but merely a posturing of indignation, more for the slight of bring up the unmentionable in public rather than righteous repentence.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” 
~ John Wooden, American basketball coach

It's convenient to denounce Paula Deen, but if we're sincere, where are the protests against the "birthers" and other blatantly prejudiced Obama maligners, like Donald Trump. Where is the censure of legislators who perpetuate jerrymandered districting and voucher education into ghettos of failure. Where are the protests against the Roberts Court, which can admit racism exists yet strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before any mitigating replacement legislation is enacted. Where is the outcry against the torrent of hatred unleashed at the Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family. Why do we attack only one aging southern belle when there is a whole country steeped in white privilege and denial?

In a society with gender diversity and sexual diversity and racial and ethnic diversity, you make those kind of [demeaning] comments, you're failing at leadership. If we can make this point [to take personal responsibility to stand for human rights and not stay silent in the presence of abuse] to powerful men and women in our society, at all levels of institutional authority and power, it's going to change the paradigm of people's thinking.
~ Jackson Katz,  Ph.D, advocate of the Bystander Approach

Society condones the media's willful whitewash the truth. Racism hasn't gone away. Compared to other nations, our diversity is woefully underrepresented in positions of power and influence. America is only equitable, evenhanded, tolerant when convenient. Our practices are far more anchored in bias, partiality, and discrimination than in policies of conscientious, upright, ethical principles. We only talk equality and hope no one notices the disparity of our nation's pervasive reality.


As long as demographics divide the world into Black and White, as long as we force multi-ethnic children to claim one racial identity, as long as prejudice and stereotypes color our assumptions, the “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners" will never comfortably feast together at a table of thanksgiving. Rather, each group will continue to glorify inimical oral histories, and neither will willingly integrate in colorblind brotherhood. As James C. Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project says, "We may have knocked down the walls of our own apartheid, but we still stumble over the ruins of segregation."

We need not just to remember the "created equal" concept of our nation's founding; we need to embrace its ideal. We need to listen to the models who have led the way; Nelson Mandela said it well: "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." We need to honor not just memorized rules of equality but the inborn "better angels" of our own empathic hearts.

Until this nation commits to the "absolute equality of personal rights” promised in the Juneteeth declaration of emancipation by Union Gen. Gordon Granger, we are failing our citizens, our national spirit, and our potential. But it's not up to one Southern white woman to overcome the inbred teachings of her past; it's up to each and every American to tap into the heartfelt wisdom deep within -- where we know compassion, where we feel another's pain, where we hold the courage to live up to our inherent values.

We need to rethink the terms we use to refer to others -- not just the epithets we know we should avoid but the demographic labels that pigeonhole divisively. The world is never Black and White and as long as the former is associated with negatives while the latter is considered desireable, slapping such labels on parts of the population will only obstruct equality. We've all internalized the implications; the degradation isn't subtle just because it isn't worn on an armband.

We're all Americans now; the qualifiers only denigrate. If you can't make your point about a person without categorizing in a potentially hurtful way, you're probably trying to make the wrong point. We need to be building respect and enhancing the opportunities for growth in everyone. If we keep that awareness in mind as we form our comments and interact, the world may actually become that better place we each and every one of us yearn for.
MLK Quote: We live in mutuality because of the interrelated structure of reality.
We can't erase the past, but we can stop repeating it. Let's not keep teaching kids to hate those who are different. You can never improve yourself by diminishing someone else.