New Site. Same Me.

Howdy readers!  Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated.

After my grandma died last year, I took some time off the internet.  After the break I came back refreshed and ready for the world.  Little did I know that the 2016 presidential election would be the strangest of my life time thus far.  All of the political intrigue caught my attention in the crosshairs.  I’ve had a lot of thoughts about current politics and I found that my other blog was better defined for such commentary.  The Blessed In-Between is the new blog and I do hope you come visit.

 https://blessedinbetween.com/

This new blog is just more of a hodgepodge so that’s where I’ll be posting from now on.  Eventually I’ll delete this blog, but as they say, nothing ever leaves the internet.  I know, pretty scary.

Thanks so much to those of you who subscribed & commented!

God Bless!

Advertisements

Hoosiers: An American Classic for a Reason

hoosiers

There is much to love for everyone in the triumphant American classic, Hoosiers.   It contains elements of many things that are on the public mind these days like diversity, the meaning of work, prejudice, and what it means to “believe in yourself.”  There’s a lot of redemption, fortitude, and humble pride in this sports biopic that takes place in rural Indiana in 1951.  There’s refreshing honesty on what it takes to be a strong person in America and life itself.

Gene Hackman’s character Norman Dale is the new coach of boys’ basketball at the local high school. We gather from learning about him, that he’s  also a teacher, divorced, and had had some recent, possibly self-induced, tough circumstances.  His fresh start is met by the fresh mouthed Myra, a fellow teacher played by Barbara Hershey.  She comes off as a shrew from her first sentence.  They immediately clash which means as most movie clichés go, they eventually get involved.

Another cliché we encounter is the “small town people are dumb” idea, where at first the townspeople are portrayed as staid yet close minded, and wholesome in a way that might offend some city folks. This cliché does eventually lessen and we see something currently lacking in today’s Hollywood culture; diversity of thought.  A person freshly graduated from a liberal arts degree program may ignore a film like this at their peril.  Indeed most of the characters in this film are young white males who are unapologetically not facing an existential crisis about their “privilege.”

What we see depicted in the film instead is a demonstration of good old fashioned individuality combined with willfully choosing team work and hard work. Initially Hackman’s Coach is encountered by yet another unfriendly staff member in the school who attempts to undermine his authority.  Coach Dale gives the guy the what for and some whiney boys leave the team in protest.

Like other sports films, there are members of the basketball team who are happy to stay and try to work with the new coach. This includes a short player who in spite of teasing, has courage enough to play a game typically dominated by tall people. This underdog character, as well as the coach’s later dealings with townspeople, exhibit an ability to keep from being overtly judgmental towards one’s self or others.  They show it’s not necessary to be like other people or take them down either.

There is this lovely wide shot scene where Coach Dale visits the would-be star basketball player who is skipping class to avoid being persuaded to rejoin the team. We learn later why the boy is off the team, but it turns out the coach isn’t there for persuasion.  Amongst the open fields at the homemade Podunk basketball hoop, Hackman abruptly says to the kid “I don’t care if you play on the team or not” turns, and walks away.  The coach is in essence saying “this is bigger than you so get over yourself.”

This scene highlights the difference between believing in or trusting your innate morality vs. thinking you have to be a God or part of some deity regardless of how vague, in order to be worthy. Hackman’s character is there to do a job.  A job he probably would rather not do, but is doing regardless of whether he, his coworkers or his potential team members like it.  This is the essence of the American ethic and a true citizen of the West.  Someone who no matter how much flack they get stays true to working hard and believing in their sense of moral intrepidity.

This leads us to Dennis Hopper’s character of the town drunkard who happens to be the father to one of the ballplayers. Hopper it turns out is a basketball savant who has a preacher like accuracy of understanding the game.  He’s so accurate, the coach asks Hopper to be assistant coach.  Hopper though struggles greatly under the weight of what is essentially his own weakness.  After improving then failing a couple times he finally goes to a hospital to dry out.  The longer he put off his need to change, the harder it was to do so.  His courage finally came, but at a self-inflicted steeper price.

All people go through such a personal transformation, but many of us, don’t feel a need to talk about it all the time after it happens. Later in the film Hershey’s character finally warms up to the coach, and she asks him about a violent episode he experienced when he hit a player as a coach years prior.  He explains without self-pity or exaggerated responsibility that he’s still trying to understand what exactly came over him.  I think we’ve all been there.  Some psychoanalyze such an event and build a character around it, while others pick up and eventually, move on.

Eventually the wayward star player joins the team while confidence in the coach grows after he displays humility yet forgoes apologizing after losing some games. The star saves the coach’s job and the coach returns the favor by doing it.  Both the boy and the coach refused to cower to popular opinion, and in doing so they were able to work together and likely trust each other in a way that would have been grossly changed if group-think had been adhered to.

Right before the Regional Finals the coach makes a speech saying:

“Forget about the crowds, the size of the school, their fancy uniforms, and remember what got you here. Focus on the fundamentals that we’ve gone over time and time again.  Most important, don’t get caught up thinking about winning or losing this game.  If you put your effort and your concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can; I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.”

Do your best. Get over yourself.  Trust in the inner mechanism we have in our souls to not go too far for too long.  Work hard, quit complaining, think for yourself, don’t give up, and don’t be a jerk.  Movies like this display the kind of pioneering ethic this country was founded on.  Regular folks, also known as the dreaded bourgeoisie, don’t need to let so-called experts tell them how to think.  They utilize common knowledge that works per given situation but they don’t feel forced to adhere to such knowledge when the time is not right.  The coach at one point pretended to be a jerk to help the drunken dad, and at another time his actual jerkiness led to ruin.  Free choice isn’t always fun or easy.

Doing our best, as Hoosiers depicts, is only for the adventurous. Towards the end of the movie, a boy gets hurt and Hackman’s character eventually decides to pull him out of the game.  Coach Dale was free to keep the boy in, which was familiar and easier for a game win.  Taking the injured player out was more challenging but better for the player and the coaches moral conscious.  At that moment, the coach had to choose the unstoppable unknown and risk the game, his reputation, and the players shame.  No one was going to give him a better answer than the one in his own moral center.  Being a winner is about doing one’s best in the midst of fear, rather than robbing fear of its rightful place in our hearts.  Who needs to watch Halloween part XVII.  Just listen to your moral compass to have the adventure of a lifetime!

I won’t tell you who won at the finals or what happened to the coach. Instead I’ll tell you what happened to the most marginalized character in the film, the smallest player.  Amongst boos from the crowds our underdog did his best.  He didn’t get a moment of earthly glory because someone else made things easier for him.  He retained his confidence by daring to make his best effort.  That best effort or moment when we focus all of what we are into that second, minute, hour, or lifetime, and let ourselves live our choices, is when we are free.  Sometimes it means we win the game, other times it means we keep our souls for another day or moment.  From small towns to big cities, Hoosiers is a perfect reminder to embrace tenacity, exemplify freedom, and endure fear.  It’s never too late to simply, humbly, freely, do our best.

Life After the 12 Steps

You know I used to be a power blogger and now I have to do this weird thing where I think for a while, sometimes a month or 2 before posting something.  Is this some sign of maturity?  A sign of truly embracing personal autonomy?  Or maybe I just don’t have as much to say to random people anymore.  Each week isn’t spent marinating in listening to other peoples random thoughts and musings for hours.  Every week I generally keep my opinions about life, love, booze, politics, TV shows, or the state of the world to myself with the exception of the spouse, selected family members, and my closest friends.  And even then I have been saying a lot more “oh really” or “I don’t know” or “I don’t feel like talking about that.”  Mainly though I just don’t say much at all.  And honestly…it’s awesome!

Read this recently on the International Cultic Studies website:

Insight into this relationship may be gained from a comparison with the sponsorship of a new recruit by an established member of Alcoholics Anonymous, the charismatic-like group founded by Bill W.[45] Alcoholics Anonymous does not promote sexual relations between its members, but its system of sponsors acts to instruct the recruit in the messages and rituals of the group and reinforces dependency upon it. The sponsor, someone who struggles against alcoholism and, with the group’s support, remains sober, instructs the recruit in its practices and beliefs. In return, the sponsor’s own commitment to sobriety and the group is confirmed by the recruit’s repeated narrative of personal degradation while under the influence of alcohol and by the redemption and hope derived from joining the group. Over time, the recruit adopts its message and becomes dependent upon the group which, for its part, is reluctant to let the recruit leave.

Message adoption.  System of sponsors.  Instructs recruit in practices and beliefs.  Repeated narrative of personal degradation.  Redemption.  Hope.  Charismatic-like group.  Becomes dependent. Reluctant to leave.

Well no wonder I feel a bit more quiet these days.  After leaving a nearly 23 year long relationship with 12 step “Recovery” which is nothing more than a modern day cult (or cults) at long last I feel free in every way a person could be.  Some days are still challenging and it feels like my mind and my lifestyle are still deprograming but every single day I feel truly grateful and not just the type of gratitude one has when they’re made to feel guilty by another group member for being “selfish, self centered, and discontent.”

At this point I haven’t decided how in depth I wish to write on this blog or in another format on my time in AA and Al-Anon.  Over half my life is a long time to champion the 12 step cause; and having clear, unspoiled, truly sober understanding of this part of my life has been needed so I don’t come off around it as resentful, sick, or, quite frankly, alcoholic.  Because when people tell the truth about why they left 12 steps or why it didn’t work for them, or why they disagree with it, a slew of pronouncements about the character of the teller befall them, usually behind their backs.  Sometimes there are public pronouncements but only if the AMA has signed off on the same prescribed “medical” theory.

uniquelyunqualified

What I can say now with all clear-headedness is that after 23 years in 12 steps I never felt truly comfortable in it.  There was only a brief time of a few months, where I actually once in a while enjoyed a meeting.  It was after I got sick with chronic illness and I became bed bound for a year.  During that year meetings once a week was my only social life for a time.

Other than that meetings were generally something I endured because I thought I might die if I didn’t go to them.  That death would come if I didn’t get a sponsor, become a sponsor, work the 12 steps, and go to LOTS and LOTS of meetings.  Jails, institutions or DEATH.  If I didn’t do “A” I’d get “B”.  Talk about black and white thinking!

Being 18 years old when I first came into the program (upon reflection I realized one day how sinister that sounds…”The Program”) it seemed like a good philosophy to do some certain things so I could basically become a replica of a nice, normal, happy person.  That I could have a good life if I just did X and then shared X with everyone at the place where we often do X.  It was even good to share about X with others outside of meetings because after all everyone wants to be a replica of someone nice, happy, and normal.  Why wouldn’t a teen ascribe to such a philosophy?  Especially if already exposed to the doctrine of Self-Esteem (A.K.A the Pre and Post-Millennial’s Guide to Global Domination via New Age Oneness inspired by Mystery Babylon or the “If You Don’t Agree That All is God and You Are God Then You’ll Be Eliminated” Movement.)

It took learning about the real origins of AA and it’s predecessor The Oxford Group, along with studying AA’s own texts along with the texts of other 12 step groups, that got me questioning.  Sadly most folks have been duped into believing AA started out as a noble Christian fellowship that embraced values of autonomy, spirituality, and willful corporate poverty.  It was on closer inspection- from drug fiend Aldous Huxley’s writing for the Grapevine, to Sister Francis’ Joy Farm that the Wilson’s frequented, to the Swedenborgian apostate influence, to devotee and writer Ernest Kurtz noting “that Bill at times conflated spiritualism with spirituality, sometimes using the terms interchangeably”- that something began to seem fishy.

Having read and reread AA and Al-Anon literature I thought I knew what it really said.  But did I?

Speaking at a dinner given by John D. Rockefeller Jr. to introduce Alcoholics Anonymous to some of his friends, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick remarked:

I think that psychologically speaking there is a point of advantage in the approach that is being made in this movement that cannot be duplicated.  I suspect that if it is wisely handled-and it seems to be in wise and prudent hands-there are doors of opportunity ahead of this project that may surpass our capacities to imagine.” p. 574

Mr. Emerson as you may not know was a key player in happily attempting to destroy “fundamentalist Christianity” and Mr. J. Rockefeller (the same man that held that dinner for AA) financially helped Fosdick build a church and distribute 13,000 pamphlets of his sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”

Of course that’s one tiny example of a “say whaaat?” moment where I wondered just who the influential people were in early AA and what they stood for and how much such philosophies may have made it into the AA Big Book and other texts from various 12 step societies.  After looking into this aspect for a couple years I came to realize many of the allusions made in 12 step literature were strikingly against my own moral and religious convictions.

say-what

Then came the day I just finally stopped going.  It wasn’t an actual decision like “starting NOW I’m no longer a member.”  At some point before Christmas last year I just knew I couldn’t volunteer for the holiday phone lines because I could no longer proselytize the 12 step rhetoric to someone who may be vulnerable to what I saw as something potentially unhelpful.  Or at least something I knew I no longer believed in and was possibly dangerous for some if not all people, especially ones who may not even be alcoholic.

Then I looked into the origins of the modern day Alcoholism-as-disease movement including E. M. Jellinek’s (a man who never even graduated from college yet is referred to even now as a doctor) study of alcoholics and his theory adoption by Rockefeller funded research center(s) headed by AA luminaries.

One day I was ready of test AA’s theory about my own supposed disease.   After some thought it occurred to me that if I wanted… I could actually try a drink.  There was no invisible death threat anymore and if I did drink and become what all those years I was told I was (otherwise I wouldn’t have been in such rooms in the 1st place right?) then they were right and that was that.  So a few weeks later I told my spouse I may want to try a drink some day.  Weeks later I was ready and as we left the house for dinner I said “I’d like to try a little bit of beer.”  That night I had 2oz of a sour beer that had ginger and lime.  It was delicious and though I thought I hated the taste of beer, I knew I liked the taste of this.  So we split one more 2oz taster of beer.  And that was that.  No obsession, no drunken debauchery, and almost no fanfare.

Slowly over a period of almost 8 months I’ve worked my way up to having…a beer or glass of wine a few times a week.  Last week I had my 1st margarita ever (delicious) and a few weeks ago I actually celebrated Vodka day (thanks to a client telling me that day was Vodka day) with my 1st vodka tonic (also delicious).  Did I have a 2nd margarita or vodka tonic?  No.  Did I have a follow up beer?  No.  Is it hard to limit myself to one drink?  No.  Have I ever had more than one in a setting? Why yes.  Since March there have been 3 times I’ve had 3 drinks in one setting, always with friends and always over the course of 3-5 hours.  Do I sometimes wish most alcohol drinks had less alcohol in them so I could drink them all night? Yes.  Why?  Because some beers, wines, and mixed drinks are delicious!  But alas I’m the queen of pacing when I drink (I didn’t know this about myself until my wife pointed out I’m usually the one to finish a drink last) so I don’t drink as much as my mouth desires in terms of flavor satisfaction.  Why?  Because I don’t like feeling tipsy.  So no…I’m not an alcoholic.

When I broke the news to my therapist that I left 12 steps and drink regularly he said “I never thought you were an alcoholic in the first place.”  Though apparently he didn’t feel it was his place to “redefine my reality” it would have perhaps saved me some time to know he thought that.  Anyway he saw my leaving 12 steps behind as move in the right direction and a sign that I’m finally…being…as Shakespeare put it “to thine own self be true.”  For me though, being true to myself is secondary.

Being true to God is most important though I cannot guarantee I’m free of sin. However I am free of a set of principles based on hated of fundamentalists (black & white thinking is bad), embracing of spiritualism (The 12×12 was channeled by Bill W.), manipulation (we’ll love you until you love yourself…unless you disagree with us), and faulty science. I’m free of a movement that takes vulnerable people, especially young persons and convinces them they are diseased to the point of death and have no choice but to succumb to the principles previously mentioned.  And finally I’m free of an ever expanding cultural hoax that serves to create dependency on sponsors, recruiters, 12 step literature, and group-think.

Sometimes I wonder if my 23 years of discomfort in “recovery” was a blessing.  In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (6:12 KJV) he wrote:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

My restlessness and wrestling with 12 steps I feel now was based on my discomfort of the inherent lies and cult workings of a self-propelled movement that is a type or precursor for a type of universalist spirituality that is ultimately not of God and not good either.  But I take comfort in Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:37-39 KJV) where he said:

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our household at long last has moved on and away from any and all things 12 step related.  It’s been one of our greatest blessings.

Here is some food for thought about how cults operate.  Each of the eight points below has a part that reflects 12 step indoctrination at some level, at least in my experience.

Dr. Robert J. Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform

  1. Milieu Control.  This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.

  2. Mystical Manipulation.  There is manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority or spiritual advancement or some special gift or talent that will then allow the leader to reinterpret events, scripture, and experiences as he or she wishes. 
  3. Demand for Purity.  The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection.  The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here. 
  4. Confession.  Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group.  There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,” “attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders. 
  5. Sacred Science.  The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute.  Truth is not to be found outside the group.  The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism. 
  6. Loading the Language.  The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand.  This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking. 
  7. Doctrine over person.  Member’s personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group. 
  8. Dispensing of existence.  The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not.  This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group’s ideology.  If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the  members.  Thus, the outside world loses all credibility.  In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Brief on Broken Hearts

gmawall

When your heart is broken there isn’t much to say. Yet there can be an urge to get “it” out.  That something that aches inside, which words can never really describe, yet we attempt to do so anyway.  This old friend named Loss sits on my heart and no amount of tongue wagging will make this friendship any easier.  Images at a time like this are superior to speech so I look at the picture of my grandma at age 17 every day.  It’s working so far to have her original photograph near my bed above my dresser.  Because she is in her youth, framed by simple yet elegant silver plate, it’s easier to take her absence in the world a bit more slowly and softly.  Had I put in the same spot an 8×10 photo of her as I knew her; hair short and curled with her face softened from age, my experience of grieving her would have had sharper edges.  Instead my body and mind take in the hollow space she left more symbolically, a function that highlights her yet provides an indirect approach to grieving her.

The one thing I can’t get away from is the randomness of tears. Particularly and unbeknownst to me, any story that has anything to do with abortion just sets my eyes to water.  Though I’ve been personally pro-life for most of my life, I feel lately particularly protective and saddened for the discarded unborn.  Though I don’t logically feel a need to be political, my body seems to respond with an almost shocked bewilderment to the concept of medicalized pre-birth euthanasia.  How this ties into the loss of grandmother makes little sense to me.  She was a Catholic who followed in church belief on this issue, but it wasn’t anything we much discussed as the one time it came up, we agreed upon it.  The issue as a whole is one I thought I made relative peace with; I think it’s a horrible horrible thing but at the end of the day, if I had to vote on the matter, I would be afraid for women’s lives if it was made illegal.

Going to the coffee shop this morning I looked at the faces of children, teens, and adults. I thought to myself “what if this person was never born, or that person over there?”  The world, I realized, would be altered forever because the morning barista Amanda wasn’t there.  I wouldn’t know about her artist boyfriend and that she’s had a busy summer with family visits.  Sure another person could have stood where she stood this morning and perhaps I’d know about them too, but it is Amanda I know a bit about, and it is her face that cheers me up even when I’m tired and want a 2nd cup of coffee.  She is a life, a being, and without her here, how many people’s lives would be changed because of her absence?

This may sound like “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of reasoning and I suppose it is. My grandma’s soul and being, being off this earth plane, seems to have changed the way life itself feels.  It’s not just about missing her laugh, or the way she noticed penmanship, or the sweetness of her smile.  Her body became an empty vessel after she died and no one can say that such a thing can’t, on some sense level, be absolutely felt.  God made her exactly the way she was meant to be and He crafted not only her body and mind but her presence in this life.  It was like He carved out a beautiful living sculpture whose essence radiated out into the whole world whether others ever knew her or not.  It’s hard for me to believe He doesn’t do that with each and every life He creates (Psalm 139:13-16).

“For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always (John 12:8).” To say that a person shouldn’t be born because they will be poor, or deformed or inconvenient takes away the temporary nature of human living and the permanence such fleeting beingness has upon the world.  Abortion at the end of the day is simply an attempt at social engineering.  No one wants to see suffering or be the one to suffer.  But to me it is far more murderous (literally) to say someone is better off dead than disabled, poor, or even unwanted.  At what point to we draw the line and say that once a person outlives their perceived usefulness it’s time for them to go because they are a burden.  Do we send a young man to be euthanized if he becomes so disabled that he can’t walk?  Do we kill someone at age 85 when they go blind?  Do we murder the 6 year old who is autistic?  What about someone who is poor, blind, disabled, and autistic?  Does that person then have just one too many things stacked against their favor – so we should put them out of their misery?

What if my grandmother’s mother was raped? What if she was going to die if she gave birth to my grandma?  What if my great grandmother already had several kids and was trying to cultivate her career and had an abusive husband?  What if all those factors combined?  Yet, what if in spite of these truly dreadful circumstances my grandma was born anyway?  Her life would still be just as valuable as it was without such dire circumstances.  She would have been a blessing to the world all the same and her pre-birth circumstances wouldn’t have made her any less important to me or those that loved her.  And yes I know being born motherless or poor or disabled is a recipe for suffering.  But suffering is ultimately a condition of life.  We all must experience pain in various ways.  It is not up to the likes of you or me to decide which suffering is better or worse for someone else.  Only God knows what course of life is best for each person, not us.

To live life is to suffer many times a broken heart. This is a fallen world and no man made attempt at utopia will work, no matter how many people are euthanized before birth or after.  Every previous human person, movement or empire has failed miserably at trying to remake the world in their own philosophy.  Yet the attempts to “change the world” continue and probably always will until the day the Lord decides it’s time.  Perhaps it’s easier to see an abortion as an attempt to help make the world a “better” place rather than understand clearly and soberly that it’s really an attempt at creating a long term global or short term personal utopia that is never coming. There is no perfect life and no perfect world.  These are the facts.  Sometimes I find myself wishing, based upon my own utopian vision, that we could stop breaking our own hearts to realize that.

Missing my grandma is a painful thing.  But I’m glad I’m here for it.  And I think, though she would have hated to see me so sad, she wouldn’t have wanted me to not be here in order to avoid it.  She is worth the tears, and so am I, and so is everyone God creates.

Rainbow Lies

rainbow

I remember the first time I read about the possibility that the truth of the Matthew Sheppard case may not have been accurately depicted in the media. After reading an article reviewing author Stephen Jiminez’s book entitled “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Sheppard” I decided to read the book because I was curious.  The narrative of the Sheppard story was a powerful one that affected gay and bisexual people on a personal level.  The issue was one of safety for us and in certain ways, freedom.  Were we free to love, to hold hands, to simply be ourselves, particularly in smaller or religious communities?  In 1998 I had been out of the closet for seven years and had witnessed brutality towards people perceived to be gay.  I saw the bruises on the face of a teenage friend who had been tied up in his parent’s basement, beaten, and thrown out by his dad.  The Matthew Sheppard case seemed easily plausible to many of us then because of the reality of violence toward us.  Why at the time would anyone who was or supported gay and bisexual people doubt the narrative?

After reading Jiminez’s compelling work I thought long and hard about what was represented to the public via the media. Any person who thinks about media enough will concede that it is often used to stir up emotions and even manipulate public thought and discourse.  But most of us think were discerning enough to see through anything nefarious.  In fact many of us would say we watch/read the “good” or “accurate” channel or newspaper.  Some say NPR or Democracy Now is the real deal whilst others say Fox or Breitbart is true.  But really almost all news is some way is owned by someone who has an agenda.  Maybe the agenda is only to make money, but what exactly is sacrificed to bring in more revenue (btw I’m in no way anti-capitalist)?  Is it possible that since all news sources ultimately wish to stay in business, that at some point they have to go with whatever the most compelling sound bite sized narrative is so people will keep paying attention to them?  Is it possible that in this dance of terror as a twisted form of entertainment, that accuracy sometimes goes out the window?

At the end of the day even facts can be subjective due to interpretations based on previous experiences and expectations. That being said, it’s always helpful for thinking people to have whatever facts are available and not purposely obscured.  Even better is to present information in a way that lets people decide for themselves what is or isn’t true when it comes to events, crimes, and situations.  William Randolph Hearst knew that neutrality didn’t sell papers nor did truth in its purer forms.  Before we vilify him though we must remember that he sold those papers filled with yellow journalism because people like you and me most likely bought them.  It’s likely even then people knew they weren’t being told of many of the facts but they just didn’t want to know that they knew.  Is media really any different today and are we any less (allowing of being) fooled, regardless of news source?

Hearst was also rather smart in his technique of expanding his readership by way of combining some facts or some truth with the narratives that were being disseminated. Few people are likely to bother reading/watching/listening to something that is perceived with assurance as false.  Some part of the story has to have a percentage of reality or potential for reality in order to peak interest.  A carrot must at least look like a carrot before we’re willing to take a bite and mass media is no different.  If a story comes out and we know the situation is possible because of previous experiences or narratives we’ve been exposed to, then we are more likely to take a proverbial bite.  As a lady who’s spent time in a boat with a rod and reel, I’ve learned they don’t call it fishing for nothing.

“The Book of Matt” presented new information about the potentially previously misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented narrative about Matthew Sheppard’s murder. Do I know for sure if he was killed for being gay or killed for methamphetamine dealing?  No.  None of us ever will except for those involved.  But now I have a different perspective that challenged me to discern what I was initially told.  If the tables had been turned and the story was represented with big flashing lights, tears, and drama about drugs, and a campaign had been launched that changed not only opinion but laws, and in reality his death was really more about him being gay, I’d feel the same way.  I’d feel like I would have liked to know more about the facts than the fiction of the event.

Today is June 23rd 2016 and the latest narrative about gay people has to do with a mass shooting at a gay themed nightclub in Florida.  Almost 20 years later we’re seeing the same flashing lights, tears, and drama.  Only this time we have not only TV, papers, and radio, we have social media that serves as the great distractor and constant reminder that whatever we’re being told by the media is “true”.  I don’t know about this Love is Love campaign but I can say tragedy is tragedy.  And if indeed a shooting occurred and people died, then this tragedy is no laughing matter regardless of the murder’s motives or who was involved.

Since we live in a time where people can and do sometimes question mass media in particular, stories have come out disputing the narrative around the whole event from whether it actually happened at all to if the killer’s motivation was hatred of gays. Most of us know by now it is easy to find people willing to lie so that they may get attention or money.  We also know attempts to shape opinion by how a story is told and what facts are or are not included is possible if not probable in a great deal of major stories (WMD’s for example).  We’re really no different from folks during Hearst’s journalistic reign.  If it seems to have the possibility of truth with enough attention grabbing technique, we’ll bite.  I’d like to think that nowadays we’d think a bit more before we chew and digest what is told to us.  And some do with websites and blogs featuring their version of truth and facts that differ greatly from the popular narratives.  Yet these sources I believe are no better or worse than those they seek to differentiate themselves from, especially if their information is also presented in a sensational way.

Personally I question the gay hate narrative from this Florida event and so does my wife and a number of other people. But I don’t have to seek out mainstream or alternative internet sources or any other narratives.  All I have to do is go with experiences from the past which helps me to employ a healthy dose of skepticism to anything I see or hear from a screen.  In addition because we don’t pay attention to the news and don’t participate in social media (other than this blog) my wife and I are able to sometimes see a bigger picture that is not obscured by the “bread & circus” of it all.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21) Our treasure is where we spend our time and where our money goes.  If my attention is spent getting emotional by purposely exposing myself to half-truths presented sensationally then that says a lot about my values or what I treasure.  Satan is the father of lies.  It’s important to remember that, which is why I pray for the Lord’s protection from the snares of evil in all things.

One more thing I want to say is that those going around saying “love is love is love is love” don’t represent me or my wife. The only reason I even found out about this Florida story is because an older and very emotional woman came up to us in the parking lot of our local organic grocer and started crying and touching us and telling us how we needed to “watch out for each other.”  Though I love my neighbor, I don’t appreciate being targeted by anyone, regardless of how well meaning they are, because I’m in a same-sex relationship.  We don’t like being used to further some possible agenda that we don’t belong to even if we appear to.  I’ve been contacted by old friends concerned for us and a currently married to a man ex. girlfriend told me she put a 20+ year old photo of us on her facebook profile page as what I assume was a sign of support for the victims in the Florida case.  Even family has sent photos with rainbows as a show of solidarity.  Typically when a major news story happens I can look away but this time it became personal, and my sense is all the hype has many people upset who care about gay and bisexual people.

But what happened in that bar has nothing to do with my family. Love is not dancing in a nightclub, getting inebriated, cruising for sex, or loud music.  That all may be fun for a lot of people regardless of romantic orientation but it is not love.  Perhaps the saying should be “fun is fun is fun” because people don’t generally go to bars and clubs for love but for fun.  And fun is fine.  This is a free country and since it’s legal to drink, dance, and cruise, then by golly people can do that.  But those activities don’t represent a shred of our lives as a couple now or when we got together.  We have no “gay lifestyle.”  A lifestyle is the way you live by way of who you spend time with, where you go, what you do, and what you pay attention to.  I don’t appreciate anyone assuming to know, regardless of intentions or alliances, what our so-called style of living is.  Yes I’m married to a woman but that is not who I am or how I live and I certainly don’t define real love by being in a crowded bar regardless of who is there.  Bias goes both ways in terms of liberal and conservative.  It’s ugly regardless.  Bias may sell papers and make people cry, but it doesn’t mean whatever media represents the event as, is or was, true.

No one speaks for our sake. Not gay movements, nor those trying to ban guns, nor those who say their looking out for “people like us.”   My wife and I are not interested in any rainbow lies (whether or not they are for supposedly our sake).  If it could happen to Matthew Sheppard, then it could be happening now. Don’t believe the hype indeed.

Puppy Madness

If you’ve ever had a puppy you know they are irrepressibly fun. They are certainly more work & require constant training and effort. However a properly trained pup makes for greater ease later for both dog & guardian. Most important though is safety, and training dogs as early as possible to walk well, behave, and obey provides enduring protection throughout their lives.

As a dog sitter who takes on pups on an exclusive basis only, my job is to reinforce good training. Patience is key. A puppy can wear even the most loyal guardian down. Recently I said to a client “relax & allow your dog, and yourself to make mistakes.” This means sometimes…every so often…let the puppy have their puppy madness.

Miss Bay gave us a serious smile with her exuberant puppy self. Because we live in a quiet neighborhood with little traffic we got to let Miss Bay run around on her leash and have a crazy adventure…for about 5 minutes. The dog got a few minutes to be a pup and we got to enjoy it.

As you can see even our dog Angel let Miss Bay have her moment. Yes, training dogs isn’t easy, but when they get to have at it within the confines of loving obedience, life just doesn’t get much sweeter.

 

Apparently I Like Sipping Wine

For 16 years I did not touch a drop of alcohol.  When I did drink from the ages of 21-24 I drank like most young adults in the U.S. do, which is a lot.  Actually though after figuring it out with a friend, my drinking during that period was pretty mellow in comparison to most folks.  I got smashed somewhere between 5-10 times (smashed meaning drinking to the point of throwing up).  Quite frankly I hated & still hate throwing up so when an ex got me to try pot, I took to it like a dog to a bone until I retired my ways at 24.  Once weed came into the picture I hardly drank and when I drank I never focused on tasting the beverage.  The point when drinking until I found pot was to party.  The point of drinking after I found pot was to fill in if I ran out.

My high school drinking was also rather sub par in comparison to my peers and really, does anyone before 18 drink alcohol for the taste of it?  Did I sneak it sometimes?  Did I get drunk?  Yes to both questions, but I guess getting drunk twice & drinking about once a month from 16-18 years old is not very much.  Who knew?!

From 18 to 21 years and then age 24 to 2 months ago I didn’t touch any alcohol or  illegal (or now legal marijuana) substances.  I still won’t touch pot (or hard alcohol or drugs) with an 80 ft. pole but that’s another story.  Most of my adult life I’ve been sober.  Not just dry, but in recovery sober.  To be honest I always thought I would be, and today I’m so grateful to be out of recovery and know I’m not and never was an alcoholic.

There is a whole long story around how I came to be in and stay in AA and later Al-anon.  That will be a post for another time.  What I want to say today is that I have left behind a world that never truly felt genuine and for most of those 22 years I tried to make myself fit into a paradigm that never gave me any enduring joy, freedom, or serenity.  If alcohol panic is the means to spiritual enlightenment, then I’ll never get there.

Prior to trying drinking the wife & I came up with some rules.  First & foremost is that we pray before having a glass of wine or beer.  Someone recently thought that was odd when I told them, but we feel nothing should be hidden from the Lord.  Once I try to cover up (like Adam & Eve in the garden) anything I do, then it’s clear I ought not do it.  We also decided to pay attention to our behavior when drinking and committed to never get drunk.  There is a strong Biblical basis for this.

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. -Ephesians 5:18

The Bible discusses drinking, especially wine, quite a lot, in both the positive and negative.  There is debate between Christians about what the Word says regarding if believers should drink but it doesn’t appear to be an either/or issue.  What is not ok is drunkenness. And this makes sense because if I’m putting booze first, ultimately that’s idolatry.  In fact most of the times in the Bible where there is a lot of immorality going on, idol worship of various kinds is happening.  One could almost say idolatry & debauchery go together because when we’re not putting the Lord first, were swayed to follow foolish ways.

In a way this is what happened to me in 12 step recovery.  I put AA theology before Jesus Christ.

Over the last couple months our drinking has been tentative.  We’ve taken our explorations one by one asking for God’s protection along the way.  To my amazement not only am I able to stop at one drink, I prefer it!  It is not a joyful experience to feel buzzed.  My friend last week said “I like sipping wine rather than drinking it” and that is the perfect explanation for how I ingest it too.  It’s not a struggle to “keep from drinking too much” or something I have to think much about, though I do continue & will continue to pray about it.  One doesn’t go from brainwashed sober renegade to a lady who knows 2009 was a good year for wine in Chile without some scrutinizing of motives.

All that being said it has been very exciting to learn more about wine and craft beer.  It’s been fun to learn what I like (Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, sour ales, and semi dry ciders) and what I don’t (anything sweet or bitter).  At my first ever wine tasting at a lovely winery in Hillsboro I learned that I’m a natural at picking up subtle flavors in smelling and tasting wines and my palette could be of use in the wine business.  Wouldn’t that be a hoot to switch from a life of fear of drinking to working in a business that required my being able to make distinctions in tasting wine?!

How wonderful it has been to be set free and have choices.  Do I have to “control” my drinking?  Sure.  What in life don’t we attempt to control from eating to intimacy to having pets?  All the gifts God gives us requires us to think, evaluate, calibrate, and try to use the gifts to glorify Him.  But that’s what maturity is…having to make choices over and over again if and when we’ve gone too far and sinned.  Instead of eliminating something that is not in and of itself depraved, we bring our burdens to Jesus.

We have been blessed and protected in our wine adventures.  I have this great tee shirt that says “Jesus is enough.”  And truly He is!