Saturday, September 29, 2007

From a Tiny Tear to the End of America's Fascist State – How to extract yourself from the Web Corporate Greed.

Halloween, 1976 was special. I had made princess outfits for the girls, then two and three. They were excited by the promises of sweets to be plopped into their own little plastic pumpkins. Dawn, the oldest, dressed as a small version of Snow White, asked what she was to do when the pumpkin was too full. I told her I would take a pillow case. Pausing, she told me to take two. Dawn remains an optimist today.
Trick-or-Treating was always fun. The kids and costumes always made you smile. But that Halloween we had a special added feature. Mom, that was me, had made special Halloween literature to pass out with the Trick-or-Treat announcement. The kids had that down cold. They had passed out their first literature with their first anti-tax rally the April 15th before.
Our Presidential candidate was Roger MacBride.
Roger was a jolly candidate. The adopted grandson of Laura Ingalls Wilder, he was then often in Los Angeles working on the TV Series from the Little House Books. He had promised to have the National UnVictory Party right there in LA if we got him on the ballot in California. The Party was planned for the old Ambassador Hotel. We all went.
This piece of literature was brown and the front read, Caught in the Web of Higher Taxes and Inflation?” It went on to urge you to vote for Roger MacBride for President. I knew the pieces would be read. No competition and the recipients were curious, you could see that; mostly they were reading while still dropping candy into the upheld pumpkins. We did well in that precinct.
My kids were raised Libertarian. That meant that Victory Parties never were held because of the hope anyone had won, but because the campaign was finally over. Dawn and Ayn, Ayn was just 13 months younger than Dawn, were 11 and twelve before they realized that sometimes candidates won. That was a shock.
When she was 12 Dawn would insisted that 'her' candidate, Ed Clark, be included in First Lutheran Northridge's Mock Presidential Election. Ed did better there than anyplace else in the county, coming in with 20%. Dawn was always eloquent. She remains so today, but today she has moved Green with Market Attitude. Ayn is still Ayn, which means I named her correctly.
The kids knew how to fold, staple and mutilate literature, how to sort mail for bulk mailings, how to lay out newsletters, and the rudiments of boothing by the time they were eight and nine. They also could unerringly choose the right answers for what is today known as the World's Smallest Political Quiz on line. Then, we knew it as the Nolan Chart, for its originator, David Nolan, the founder of the Libertarian Party.
A stalwart Libertarian Activist, Ed Ogawa, made up the box with electronic components and switches to be used at the L.A. County Fair. It was used there, but its heaviest usage was between times at home.
Dish washing was occasionally punctuated by questions because of the Nolan Quiz and literature, as the kids got older.
“Mom, what is drug legalization?” “Mom, why do you want to get rid of people after they eat?”
“What?” Actually, I knew Libertarians who had stranger views than that. “It says we want to abolish the FED.” Oh. Explanations were always forthcoming. Had to be.
Raising children is always a challenge, especially when you persist in being different. But sometimes that political experience came in useful for real life, for instance, one day when Ayn was in 7th grade.
Ayn had a tiny glistening tear just beginning to roll down her cheek when I picked her up from school that day. The year was 1986. Ayn had been attending First Lutheran School, Northridge near our home in California since she was two years old, beginning at their pre-school, for four hours a day.
At that point she was just a few weeks from graduating into the 8th Grade, which was as far as First Lutheran went.
“Honey, what's wrong?” I has always been the kind of Mom who wanted to know about all ouchies so I could fix them. If possible.
Ayn sniffed, wiped her eye and began. “They are having the election for school officers for next year. I want to run for Secretary, but I can't.”
A campaign! One of my favorite things.
“But Honey, why can't you win?”
Ayn was and is a very intelligent girl. She received excellent grades, was diligent, hard working, responsible and full of lots of other virtues that qualified her for election to a position of responsibility. She also managed to come back in from playing still clean, no matter what she and her siblings had been up to. Ayn always looked just perfect. With long gold hair that hung in ringlets that Fra Filippo Lippi would have wanted to paint and her startling blue eyes and perfect skin she looked like a little angel. All that biological capital would be a real asset when running for office. My mind leaped ahead to the possibilities.
“Because I am not one of the IN GROUP.”
I paused, considering for a moment what to say to this outrageous assertion.
I had at that point been politically active for a long time. Starting when I had barely put down my copy of Barry Goldwater's “Conscience of a Conservative,” when I was eleven I had been on one continuous and unending campaign. The campaigns came in various kinds. I passed out literature for Goldwater, later for any candidate I thought stood for the principles of freedom, free markets, and civic rectitude. I had left the Republican Party, along with thousands of other people in 1971 because of the outrage of Nixon's Wage and Price Controls, announced on August 15th of that year. I found the LP a short while later and joined, reregistering Libertarian, while I was actually pregnant with Ayn.
Losing causes obviously did not faze me. An election that was winnable was impossibly intriguing.
Ayn thought she could not win because of a few erroneous ideas. She had accepted those ideas as true because the other kids did. I knew the four girls she was referring to. They were not stupid but neither were they particularly intelligent. One always seemed to need lots of extra tutoring. They were all blond, not ugly, and had no visible infirmities; their parents did spend a little more money on irrelevancies, like buying them far too many toys over the years. One, I recalled, had gotten no fewer than ten Cabbage Patch Dolls that she displayed to her less fortunate friends from school.
Like all cliques their 'in power' depended on ideas linked to 'things' that represented status and the assertion of same. Human social ordering is very changeable if you understand the underlying principles. Changing ideas is like changing your underwear. Easy if presented persuasively.
“Honey, you are going to run and you are going to smash the opposition.” Ayn looked up at me doubtfully. The election proved me right.
The girl Ayn ran against cried when she lost. Changing the usual practice school officials refused to announce the vote totals.
Ayn had run her campaign against the bullying presence of cliques with my help as her campaign manager. Fortuitously, this tiny clique had been very obnoxious for many years. Like I said, the kids had known each other from the time they had been in pre-school together. Voting for Ayn became an opportunity to give those in 'power' a slap down. That is irresistible to oppressed majorities.
I injected humor, picking a campaign graphic of the ugliest old woman you can possibly imagine.
Every day Ayn took a few campaign buttons to school using variations of this graphic and a joke and gave the buttons away. She reported that people were buying the buttons from each other.
Check. Attention was riveted on Ayn, the installer of a new school paradigm.
I had tried to persuade Ayn to run for School President but she had resisted the idea she could be elected to such a lofty office.
The whole election was very disturbing for the school administration; they changed the rules for elections immediately. Not that it would have mattered if I had wanted to do it again. More rules create more opportunities.
That election did persuade Ayn that she was not consigned to the nameless mass of betas. Ever after, through High School and college and today, Ayn is an alpha.
The lesson I was trying to illustrate was that ideas can change and when ideas change so does everything else, immediate circumstances and the prospects for the future.
Ideas hold lots of things in place over time. The idea that some small group of people are inherently destined to rule is just an idea a small group manged to sell to the majority. The more recent idea set wholesaled by Bush Co. and the corporations have lot to answer for. The assertion that they have some kind of special decoder ring and are therefore destined to rule are just as silly as Ayn's IN GROUP.
Change the ideas, you change the outcome. Naturally, making Bush Co., their friends and employers, cry because we eliminated their streams of income and power will be just a little more complicated but it can be done.
Project: Installing better ideas. Better ideas are those that let each of us hold our own power and build our own futures.
Doing that is not rocket science.
Centralizing all power and money through streams of income that delivered money into the hands of a bunch of people who act like cases of arrested moral development was a scheme that it took generations for them and their employees to work out. But changing it can be pretty quick.
You need to lose your illusions.
Those illusions are many; they all take you to the mind set that allows others to control you.
“Baffle them with your bullshit.” That is the strategy they have been using for longer than you can imagine.
Those who want to control you will always assume the robes of authority. Question ALL authority. That is how they sold so many trusting people on the idea that a nation founded on the idea that each of us have an absolute right to autonomy somehow ended up being subject to a government that acts like a monarchy.
Silly when you really think about it.
We can in fact change our ideas and so change the whole structure of how we organize ourselves. Doing so will cost less, leaving much more for the things we want to do for ourselves and our communities.
The tools are readily available and more are coming on line all the time.
Start looking for the alpha within. It is there, you just need to recognize it in yourself. Ask Ayn.
And this Halloween, do your own Trick-or-Treating for Ron Paul.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Finding Beauty in the Silence. With thanks to James Dean and Arthur on this anniversary.

Rob was surprised to hear that James Dean was not the angst-ridden youth he portrayed on the screen. Rob teaches meditation and that was the subject that brought up Jimmy. I was around five when Jimmy taught me to seek my inward Silence, letting all fear, sadness, uncertainty drain out as I reached into the silence behind the wind.

That is what my Dad had called it when he told me about finding it himself when he was eight. The auto accident in 1911 that killed his mother and father left him afraid of heights; he had been thrown from the car as it careened into a canyon.

Jimmy had listened to the story as we sat on the lawn one afternoon; My father had told me about hearing the Silence as he learned to climb the cliffs of Yosemite. Dad had learned from his father, who had been afraid of heights until he had been lost at 10,000 feet dangling on the torn girding of a balloon over San Francisco in 1909. Looking down, Arthur C., his uncle and adopted father, lost his fear, whipped away in the wind and wonder. That had helped Dad when he started climbing in Yosemite. I have picture of Dad when he was around nine, sitting with his feet dangling into nothingness on Overhanging Rock.

Jimmy understood.

Jimmy was the person who told me that the same Silence connected me to God.

Much later I realized that the Friends he talked about that day were Quakers. He had learned about the Silence in Meeting. Sometimes it takes a while for things to connect when you don't understand the terms. I was raised Congregationalist.

My conversations with Jimmy ranged over many subjects in the years I knew him. I remember each of those conversations. I remember the excitement of rolling the ideas around in my mind, tasting them, examining them from different angles. I stored them up, taking them out to examine frequently. Each brought with it trains of other new ideas, each leading inevitably and logically to others.

Over the years I learned that ideas lead you in new directions, to discover unexpected beauty in things you thought were completely ordinary.

Rob, who is also a Buddhist priest, was surprised to hear how Jimmy described the process of photosynthesis. “Trees breathe; They breathe in light – and breathe out life.” Jimmy had told me that on an earlier occasion. I had in that moment seen the connections between the breath I took and the tree that made some part of the air I breathed. Oh. The tree's life flowed into me.....amazing, connections knitting life in all directions.

Jimmy surprised everyone who really understood him, though as time passes I understand how few must have seen this side of him.

This September 30th Jimmy will have been dead 52 years. He was 24 the day his Porsche Spyder swerved to avoid a clunker on the road ahead in Central California so, if he had lived, he would now be a cantankerous 76. I know, if he had lived, he would still be excited about ideas and the world would be a different place. He had firm intentions in that direction.

Life brings many changes, not all of them ones that fill us with joy.

Tomorrow is the 27th, the tenth anniversary of another event that brought enlightenment and changed my life. That is the day when my oldest son, then 19, nearly died for the first time.

Arthur went 300 feet 20 feet in the air, thrown off his motorcycle. He landed on his face. No one at the hospital thought he would live; it was a near thing. Six months later he shot himself through the brain. He lived, the doctors did not expect that, either.

Looking back you always wonder what you could have done to change one moment in time, to give events a different course. Imperfect knowledge breeds imperfect outcomes and leads one to wonder about the nature of 'perfection.' All of life is temporary, imperfect; but what we learn is forever. Arthur is glad he is alive; so am I. Sometimes finding yourself takes you into unexpected places that bring amazing blessings.

When Arthur was small he learned to ride a skateboard; watching him was terrifying at first, but there was beauty and grace there as he glided over the pavement. I know he did not see that himself. He was looking for a different kind of perfection. I could see that as elation on his face when he came home.

After he shot himself he had to learn everything over again and it took years before he could walk unassisted. Those steps were slow and unsteady. But in each step there was strength and courage that deepened my respect. Others may see the handicap. I see the man who has found that same Silence internal that my father and Jimmy once helped me find. But I also remember my son, gliding down the street as if he flowed on air.

Memories endure in the Silence; a reservoir of joy and love that never fades. Even if that were all that life is, it is enough.