In observance of the current election cycle I have taken some time to go back through my archives here, to review what I have felt and expressed in the past about politics. Thought I’d share them here, for what they are worth to the person wandering by.
We Carry On The Work Of Our Heroes
(Published January, 2002)
2001. It was a full year, landmarked for all by one day. On Christmas Day of that year I watched a rerun of one of the musical concert benefits for New York City. Names were read, pictures displayed, family and friends and co-workers spoke in remembrance of lost ones. There was grieving, and celebration, and through it all the tumbling, churning chaos of coming to terms with the unthinkable, the unbearable, the implacable.
One face will never leave me. He was ten years old, strong and healthy and clean and bright, flushed with the celebration of the event. He stood on stage in Madison Square Garden before a microphone, in the spotlight. The strong hand of a huge friend rested on his shoulder. When he spoke, he held up a picture, and he said, “This is my father. He’s a hero, and I love him.” When he spoke there was an instant when the terrible grief of his loss flashed across his face. Just an instant. A lightning bolt. When he took the hit, it broke my heart.
We all need heroes. And when they leave us, it’s a terrible thing. We remember their acts of selfless, loving, sacrificing devotion. We carry the seeds they planted, and we go on. But there’s a hard fact here. The acts of dead heroes are completed. From them we will have no more. Their deeds are done; their legacy given. What happens next?
In his poem “Out, Out”, Robert Frost describes what happens next for the rest of us:
“… And they, since they / Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.”
It’s true. We do. We go on, we turn to our own affairs. For many there will be a return to mundanity. The awe and glory will fade, the gained perspective will disappear with distance. Time will not carry them forward. They will fall backward into themselves, buried in the small matters of their own ego-business.
Some of us will go forward. The legacy bequeathed us on September 11, 2001 is engraved on our hearts. We will not leave it behind because we can’t. We will turn to our affairs, and for us those affairs have changed. Abraham Lincoln said it very clearly: “It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced…”
That is what happens next. New heroes step forward. They come forth as guardians, mentors, advocates, benefactors, allies. They stand firm, give time, extend love. Self-sacrifice embodies their being. They advance the unfinished work. They point the way. Most of us acknowledge and honor the help, guidance and inspiration given by such people to our own lives. Now we are acutely aware of their acts on our behalf. Now we are clear that it is our turn to advance their work.
The image of that 10 year-old boy who lost his father, his hero, is burned indelibly into my heart. There is a hand on that young man’s shoulder. It’s the hand of a hero, dedicated to the unfinished work.
A free press is charged with the privilege and grave responsibility to inform the people without the prejudice of malicious “spin” from any quarter. The privilege is granted; is the responsibility being met?
Prejudicial spin is overwhelmingly evident in the deeds of much of our media, and by their deeds we know them. We behold the raving minority, the bizarre, the horrible. It’s a snapshot view circumscribed and shaded with the agendas of unenlightened self-interest driven by politics, circulation and viewership share, and just plain laziness; a seemingly inexorable migration toward the cheap and easy attention-grabbing techniques of tabloid journalism.
The neo-media devolution from thinking mind (Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite) to talking head (reads well, looks good) to self-inflated screaming face (take your pick) and sensational antagonism is a movement from the sublime to the ridiculous, a fall from the grace and grandeur of traditional journalism into a stinking, self-made tar-pit of guaranteed extinction.
The principles of Journalism 101 are not presented first because they are easy. It’s because they are basic. They’re vital, hard-earned, proven facts with the weight of a successful history behind them. The best journalists in the world exist and thrive on this basic foundation. Who, what, when, where, how. Be careful of “why.” Report fact, not judgment, opinion or hearsay. Reportage first, last and always. Personal opinion is counter-productive, weakens the piece, limits your audience, obscures the facts with emotion. It’s a given that the reader/viewer will draw their own conclusions. Make sure your part is a simple, complete, concise delivery of the facts. Do that and you live up to the standards of integrity necessary to the continuing life of a free press. Fail, and you deprive yourself and everyone else of a vital, precious necessity; the unvarnished, unadorned truth.
There’s always been a target-rich environment for the serious investigative journalist willing to take the time to light a candle and keep it burning rather than blowing away the lights of others. The newsworthy item of the moment too often yields only a momentary worth. The legitimate story crying to be told in depth is lost in the rush to form the next 30-second sound bit, or the next miniscule capsule of column-inches.
We don’t see much of fact-based reportage, bracketed by sidebars of opinion where they belong. We get it all in one short burst; the fact, the fancy, the judgment and execution, the short and saccharine sweet of it… next!
If the attention span of Americans is no longer than that of their favorite channel, and their conclusions are formed and forged from the materials given them, what then would be the remedy to the partially informed instant opinion (i.e., ignorance), and where would it start? The answer is obvious. More information. Less opinion.
In other countries public opinion is formed no more and no less by the same means as our own; through the public media. That those opinions diverge so violently is a testament to the overwhelming presence of slanted reportage in media. When Spin is King the truth goes begging, and humanity throngs blindly down to war.
Information lends understanding. If we are to comprehend issues, all the facts are necessary to form our conclusions. Opinions are optional in this exercise, and often fog the view. But if we have the means to comprehend the full picture, then we can go one better – we can apprehend it; we can actually “get it”, can capture the fact and use it to form an informed opinion that finally has a root in reality rather than the emotional or political flavor-of-the-day.
I challenge all who are in the profession of journalism to search at length and depth and find and report only the facts, and strive to keep a complete and objective view of fact constantly and readily available to the public eye. Our ability to see clearly depends on you. Those of you who accomplish this will become the very best of us, and we will owe you a great debt.
If you want to earn your place in journalism, remember this: Fact is fact. Emotion is mere fancy. It’s your choice and constant challenge to represent one or the other. Your decisions will determine your integrity, your quality, and ultimately your professional life or death.
It’s simple to fall to the level of what we oppose. It requires constant vigilance and the occasionally embarrassing admission of misguided fervor. A biased emotional rant is cheap and easy. It gives the greatest effect for the least effort. In the streets or in the press, it damages everyone. And who gets damaged is surprising. Fire in anger and without thought and usually you shoot yourself in the foot. A toe count before the next salvo by anyone is always wise.
My Burger. My Way.
A growing syndrome is being acted out in America these days. It’s a sense of entitlement insisting that we have an inalienable right to have things our way, right now, guaranteed and unquestioned.
Is the fault in our stars or in ourselves? Are we at the mercy of events and powers greater than ourselves, unwilling and ever-angrier victims of fate, persons and processes that we can’t control? Or is the fault more personal and more painful?
American freedoms and diversity of belief have coexisted for nearly 250 years. A spirited discourse has resounded back and forth over issues of belief, policy, law. What is remarkable now is that beneath the discourse there is widespread anger, and despair. There’s a growing willingness to use “spin”, bellicose posturing, and blanket condemnation absent of fact, reason or constructive solutions.
In January, 2002 in The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver, WA I wrote: “…. The legacy bequeathed us on September 11, 2001 is engraved on our hearts. We will not leave it behind because we can’t. We go on, we turn to our own affairs. For some there will be a return to mundanity. The awe and glory will fade, the gained perspective will disappear with distance. Time will not carry them forward. They will fall backward into themselves, buried in the small matters of their own ego-business… Most of us will go forward.”
If I were in hindsight to change the wording of that article I would change only two words. I would exchange the places of the words “some” and “most”. The rest of it remains as true today as then.
In that article I predicted that new heroes would step forward, coming as guardians, mentors, advocates, benefactors, and allies to stand firm, give time, extend love, and advance the unfinished work. They have. They are where they have always been, quietly doing what needs to be done.
They are not lost. They are not the policy of the moment, they are not the transient media-flavor-of-the-day. They are friends, family, neighbors and comrades, taking care of one another and conducting themselves honorably. They advocate with reason, offer hope and constructive solutions, extend their compassion to others. In war they fight for the survival of their comrades and honor their personal commitment to serve when called, regardless of the policies that have placed them in harm’s way. If their trust is betrayed by their leadership they will speak out. But first they will protect and defend and serve others where they are, now. They are our true leaders.
If we find ourselves fallen backward into our own small ego-business, suffering from anger and despair, there is a way out. We can pick ourselves up. We can follow our true leaders.
The State of the Union is DarkAuthors note: This article proved prescient. Or it at least proved that if a person chooses to notice, investigate and verify what is going on, that person will at some time in the future appear to be prescient, even though the truth is they were only paying attention to the obvious rather than choosing to remain ignorant of it. It was written a year after the 2004 election cycle and before the worst of the cascade of events which occurred during the second term of the administration of George W. Bush.
The state of the Union is dark. I think of the German population slowly seduced by Hitler. People who didn’t have the time or memory or desire to see things as they developed, who didn’t have the guts to stand up. I think of the Roman republic, collapsed in 476 AD by vultures glutting themselves in the final hemorrhagic flow of an empire, the death by a thousand cuts which always starts with a single cut in which a few dip their beaks. And I think of the administration of George W. Bush, those lean and hungry grinning hounds taking America down.
The facts are in now. It’s a disturbing record far too long for this space. If you still employ a stock of culture war retorts and rationales as a response, spare me. The record is clear. Spin will still obscure the view of the gullible, the ignorant, the mindlessly trusting. But it will not change fact. America is down, and struggling.
I pity the Americans who have given their vote to this administration twice, but I do not sympathize with them. They are getting what they deserve. They voted for an illusion, a moral-values puppet-emperor parading unclothed save for a veneer of self-righteous piety. Now they are in debt and uncared for, at war and at risk, a blithe herd cozened into a valley of death.
I don’t think the political pendulum will swing back and save them this time. It’s over weighted. The momentum of a final overwhelming plague of leeches is carrying it through the walls built by the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, The Constitution.
My gut says it’s time to duck and cover. Iceland is melting, big oil is in power, Kyoto is just a city somewhere, New Orleans is awaiting the final, killing blow. Grandpa is taking his shoes off at the airport and subject to indefinite detention without benefit of habeas corpus. The marching, charging feet of religious zealots at home and abroad are calling down holy wars in the name of God, life and family values. Voters keep pork feeders in office for a pittance of bacon scraps while their too-oft re-elected representatives dine grandly on ham and ribs and chops. The once-thoughtful mind of the media has morphed beyond a talking head and is now a screaming face. A pitiful, anxious, self-conscious sneer adorns the face of our leader, a man fed and cared for by sycophants and suck-ups, a simpleton who reads poorly and has proven himself an easy victim of well-practiced liars and swindlers.
Time to go. Time to stockpile rice and beans and pedal-driven generator parts in a wilderness homestead. I’ve never felt this way before, even during Nixon’s tenure. That was horrifying, but people were fighting hard for America back then. Nixon was an amateur, a transparent fumbler. These guys today, they’re good. A lot of people don’t see a thing, don’t feel a thing. They just wonder as they go down: whose blood is that?
What is there here, now, in our very real world, that gives us hope? The desperation for hope—for our future, for the planet, for a “new paradigm” of humanity—is evident everywhere, engendered by an ever-widening feeling of imminent doom.
Hope grows as doom approaches; it is an axiom of humanity. Is that generalized feeling of approaching doom merely a feeling? It appears to be real. Our grasp at hope is attempted but not achieved by contemporary wisdom. The onrushing prospect of an end to things is everywhere proven by arguments striving mightily to prove the contrary, ever more urgent, ever more strident as more alarms go off and the soon-to-be-stricken fight for purchase on a slippery and steepening slope.
Will God destroy us as yet another errant culture and seed a new one with the righteous remnant of the old? Stated in the classical idiom, that appears to be the rest of the story. The holistic record of spiritual, social, cultural and political histories tell us it is so. As it was, so shall it ever be, and so amen. The fatalism is disturbing, the record unassailable, the conclusion unavoidable and perhaps foregone.
There is much thrashing about and gnashing of teeth as our pundits, our scholars, our priests and our political leaders consider the brink of our cataclysmic demise. It’s an approach marked by sudden flashes of awareness and interludes of dark denial. “New paradigms” are speculatively advanced even as the old paradigms advance upon us like a conquering army.
Will Homo sapiens be saved in the nick of time by the recent advent of homo superior? Creative, global processors are appearing on the human evolutionary timeline, exhibiting extraordinary capabilities. They examine current events and accurately predict the future. They see, and then they know.
They are the prophets of our generation, the seedling apostles planted in the decay of a culture veering into the Lucifer paradigm, the oldest fatal path since the beginning of self-will and choice.
It has nothing to do with religion or politics. It has to do with the basic principles bearing on individual human choices which collectively sum up to deliverance or damnation on every cosmic scale from the mote to the whole, from the individual to the universal collective.
If there is hope, it is not in the collective cultural sum of our individual choices to date, for which payment is soon coming due. Collection will not be postponed when we protest the debt, saying we did not choose this, that the choice was made by others in our stead or absence. Our complacency and accommodation, our rationales of unconcern and non-participation; in short, our self-focussed pursuit of selfish goals and dispensations at the cost of others will be bitter as wormwood to us as we fall to the double-edged sword of choice and karmic return.
There is salvation here, but it is not the salvation we want. It is the salvation we need. The new paradigm is here; it is the oldest paradigm there is: Choose.
If we remain too proud to humble ourselves before the rules of universal law revealed in the Koran, the Upanishads, the Sutras, the Bible and other sources of light; if we remain benighted with the ego-corruptions of their Truth which manifest as greed and self-interest, first in the person and then in the village, church and state – then darkness will come.
Our survival, individually and/or collectively, will be the result of a clear perception of an ancient, ever-present universal wisdom. When we are conscious and active daily participants serving others with the cooperative respect and concern of love, we will live. If we pursue or even only ignorantly allow selfishness, greed and personal power to rule, then we will fall as Lucifer from heaven, and for the same ancient reason.
No culture has ever resurrected itself from a path of errant choices. A merciless karmic sword has fallen on every one. Yet every culture has been delivered to a new opportunity in the process, a circular evolution back to the beginning, offering new life or recapitulated death with the oldest paradigm: Choose.
It is a verity of consciousness embedded in the atoms, the cells, the multi-cellular. It is in the root of every systemic organization in the Universe. It supports the impulse toward cooperative combination and complex symmetry; it recycles the singular and the asymmetric again and again until the separate atom, cell, system, organization and soul finds its home.
There is no cause for despair here. From the vast cosmic level right down to our individual, personal existence the solution is real, and present, and readily available. If we choose right, we live. If we choose wrong, we suffer and die again and again. In the coming times it will be as it has ever been. Love for others will deliver us from evil; abandonment of others in favor of our own personal appetites for hoarded luxuries beyond our needs will condemn us.
In our own time, as a culture, the sum of hell is achieved when “disposable income” is gained at brutal cost to others. The karmic principle unfailingly returns to the individual and the collective that which they produce. A belief in exclusive prosperity will conduct the believer not to prosperity, but to exclusion.
Salvation is personal. Choose.