Monday, November 5, 2018

Third World Passivity

Nepal is a Himalayan nation with a rich spiritual heritage. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha, and glorious temples with real gold roofs adorn the landscape. Nonetheless, people live in abject poverty and the consensus among my acquaintances is that corruption is the name of the game.

One new friend remarked that she used to believe in foreign aid but no more because the money does not get to the people. Government officials get richer and let the people suffer. Of course, this is not unique to Nepal. On virtually every continent greed trumps human kindness when power brokers have their way.

Yet, there is something unique to the Western world, despite its prodigious flaws. People seem less resigned to fate and more proactive in demanding a better quality of life.

This was strikingly apparent yesterday at a large "puja" (a ceremony of a spiritual/religious nature). I and 3,000 Nepalese Buddhists, along with a sprinkling of westerners, were streaming out of the grounds where the event had taken place. We had to pass through a badly paved lane sandwiched between buildings to reach the main road. A shopkeeper on this small causeway suddenly turned on his hose and decided to wash the patch of concrete in front of his store, an area that was choked with human beings.

Luckily I was not at the head of the herd, but just far back enough to see what was going on in front of me. Small children and their parents were getting splattered with water as the filth of the street rose in tandem with the spray. The Nepalis said nothing and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small Nepali boy spinning in confusion at the watery assault.

Then, out of this chaos came the voice of a blonde American woman who was also being doused. She shouted, "Stop! You are getting us all dirty! Note the pronoun US. Not ME. The man with the house was mildly daunted and shifted the direction of his hose to the side of the street.

Later on, an insight dawned on me. The Nepali folks just bore the insult and said nothing. The woman with the mane of blond hair took action, demanding that the watery injustice stop. This was not a case of "the ugly American" but rather someone who stood up to a wrong in an attempt to correct it.

When people remain silent, when they are afraid to protest, they get run over. How fitting that this observation happens on the eve of the critical midterm elections in the US. May my fellow countrymen of conscience rise up to right the wrongs being inflicted on our country.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Rubberband Connection

How many rubber bands are in circulation around the globe?

A common item found worldwide, the lowly rubberband is an overlooked, underestimated luxury item. Like all things, its origins come from Mother Earth. Whether born of a rubber tree or the synthetic type formed from crude oil, the ingredients must be mined, manufactured into rubber bands of all sizes and thicknesses, and distributed to the marketplace, whether it be a Walmart or a roadside vendor with a pushcart.

Their uses are multitudinous, among them being an item that holds the hair pulled back and firmly in place. Herein lies the nexus of my pondering mind.

A Californian with a thriving inner-hippy persona, my locks are always wild and free no matter what the occasion. However, upon arriving in Nepal for a task that requires outdoor activity, I found that the dirty, dusty and humid environment made my hair frizz into a halo resembling an elderly lion's mane. Then, prodigious sweat pouring from my pores dampened the hair into a matted mess. By the end of the first day here, my appearance was suggestive of a crazed woman who had been cast out.

Not choosing to be a case of mistaken identity, I combed my luggage for a rubber band to tame my hair into a bun, the kind of look that is the style of "mature" women in Nepal. Only one was to be found, binding together a packet of Wet Ones, truly a First World item for travelers.

The common rubber band, so often discarded without a thought, became a prized item. It was only then, with scarcity as the stimulus, did it dawn on me that these innocent little items, so taken for granted, are in fact a treasure to be treated with care, out of respect for Mother Earth and the human sweat and toil that brought them into being.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Little Girl by the Roadside

Do you often wonder why you do not act in a timely way to do something rewarding for self or others? Has hesitation or lack of conviction let an opportunity slip by?

A few days ago, I was in a car traveling over bumpy, dusty roads returning to Katmandu from a remote area of Nepal. It is a poor country, rural for the most part, and access to education or varied livelihoods is slim to none for the indigent.

In the distance, the figure of a small girl came into view, an apparition in a landscape with no dwellings or villages in sight. As the car neared, it became clear: she was holding four green-colored fruits for sale. She lifted her arms in a gesture of offering, beckoning the vehicle to stop, eyes aglow with a beguiling invitation to purchase the meager fare.

The two men in the front seat - a driver and a guide - were completely uninterested or unaware of her plight and the vehicle whizzed past as if she were a non-entity, a ghost, a nothing.

I wanted to stop and purchase all of her fruit, give her an extra donation, and allow her to rest instead of standing by the roadside amidst a whirling dust cloud kicked up by the car. I said, "Stop," but the two fellows were talking and didn't hear me.

And here is the moment of opportunity lost. Instead of loudly repeating my request, a hesitant inner voice decided it might annoy the driver, or he was too far past her and it would be inconvenient to back up. Thus, she was left behind.

I looked back to watch her arms lower. She simply stood, waiting, waiting, waiting, for the remote chance another car would come along with a more compassionate driver or passenger.

I will never forget the lovely smile, the eager eyes, the innocent, sweet look of a small child offering us sustenance in order that she might eat for the day. My heart hurts as the memory of her unsullied purity went unacknowledged.

If there is a lesson, it is this: ACT without hesitation or fear. From the smallest to the biggest of life's challenges, boldness and strength are required, lest an opportunity for the good passes us by.

Friday, September 7, 2018

When Snakes and Tigers Meet

The Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration," penned by an anonymous insider, proves only one thing. When you put snakes and tigers together, there will be a dance to the death. Who will be the first to deliver the fatal blow?

However, the snake-tiger metaphor works only when their natural characteristics are anthropomorphized. These critters in the wild studiously avoid each other, lest an invasion of personal space creates fear-based reactions of unfortunate proportions.

Truth be told, "Crazytown" a.k.a the White House, defies description, a dream-like creation. The Executive Branch once resembled a reality born of an ordinary gestalt but has rapidly become a nightmare of global proportion. If Shakespeare were alive today, he would be burning the midnight soy candle to spin a drama of larger-than-lies proportion.

This giant of drama took his cues from empirical observation. Obviously, what was true then remains true now. The King is Mad.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tears for Obama

President Barak Obama is rated the most popular president in American history, topping Bill Clinton and Ronald Regan. In a country built on the backs of slaves, where racism is still rampant, this is a remarkable fact.

One thing stands out, however. Obama is not the descendant of slaves. His father was a free man from Kenya, an educated one at that, and his mother a white woman from the mid-west. His ancestral load does not include an embedded sense of injustice, pain, and the horror of human cruelty that is the genetic load of black people born in America. Perhaps this enabled him to enjoy a particular brand of self-worth, freeing him to reach for the stars - and get there.

Then why the tears? A recent news clip showed the Obamas walking onto a stage the night he was elected president.  Barack was holding hands with Michelle, each flanked by the two "First Daughters."  Although he might have the panache of an international man, the family were undeniably black Americans, whose lineage came directly through slaves. This is not to say they bore the external signs of this tragic lineage. Quite the opposite. They stood tall, proud, and self-assured. Nonetheless, the fact that there they stood must have seemed a miracle.

That TV visual evoked sobs rising from my chest and tears flowing from my eyes. What goodness had allowed these remarkable people to stand on that stage, triumphant and humble and proud? What nightmare has now hurled us 100 years backward after such a victory of the human spirit?

The past is gone but the future lies ahead. The cancer gripping out country must be defeated lest our democracy be deemed a failed experiment. We have to reclaim our goodness or else the prevailing winds will blow us away. It will require work but work we must.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Motivation is Everything!

 The common talk around town goes something like this:

"Why aren't the Democrats doing anything?"
"The Democrats have no message."
"Why don't the Democrats play dirty like the Republicans?"
"The Democrats need to be tougher."

And so on and so forth. Infinitesimal threads of karma birthed from the loins of infinity stretch out to arrive at this temporary juncture in the time-space continuum. Yet, it is beyond the scope of human intelligence and certainly my own mind to unravel the cosmic design that brings history to this point.

Origins aside, folks the likes of Ralph Reed and other neocons have had a grand plan to gradually overtake the system, vanquishing humanitarians who would work for equality and justice. As Alex Gibney, documentarian extraordinaire states, "...language is key to the militarized "take-no-prisoners" mindset of many movement conservatives. To them, politics is never about religion--or what's right or wrong--it's only about getting caught." And I might add, their politics are the means by which laws can be changed to line their coffers and enslave the majority.

While it is not in the purvue of this author to lay out the strategic longterm plans of the neocons, it has been their keen motivation over the last half century to erode the democratic system and replace it with an oligarchy. This finely honed goal, pursued with Biblical fervor, has out-maneuvered those whose views meander in a more benign direction. Not understanding the focused dedication of the neocons, the Democrats have stepped aside and in the process been stripped of their least for now.

The good news is that as the ship careens out of control, there is a fresh movement afoot to right the boat. This will take strong will, deep motivation, and righteous anger. We who would not act will taste the bitter fruit of inaction. There is a choice to be made. Pray to the all-that-is that we pull together and drive out the madness.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Post Traumatic Stress

Last night over a candlelight dinner with friends in a peaceful, upscale neighborhood, we reminisced about the day we met walking our 5-year-old girls into kindergarten on their first day of school. How sweet that over the years those little girls have grown into wonderful thirty-something women with grace, intelligence, and beauty. How heartening that they love to be with us, the parents, instead of seeing us a necessary chore. How special that our families have remained close and intact.

And then, of course, the conversation turned to the inhumane crisis as immigrant families from south of the border are torn apart when they reach "America," land of opportunity. How cruel this myth and even more devastating the reality.

Ten-twenty-thirty years from now we will have a population of thousands upon thousands of deeply traumatized children grown up to be adults with terrible scars. Like all dehumanized populations, many will thrive nonetheless, but the majority will live with nightmares of all varieties, coping as best they can with deeply inflicted wounds on the psyche. Families will also suffer the horrors thrust upon them as they experience the worst possible nightmare...losing their children at the hands of a fascistic police force called ICE.

Post-traumatic stress is a real and debilitating factor that makes this current state of affairs a toxic brew. Unless the evil doers -  45 and his minions - are stopped, we will have a failed experiment called the United States of America.

Third World Passivity

Nepal is a Himalayan nation with a rich spiritual heritage. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha, and glorious temples with real gold ro...