Keep Showing Up!

I turned 65 last August.

There’s something about suddenly becoming eligible for Medicare that’s like a smack up the side of the head.  It’s a turning point in which we find ourselves doing a life review; thinking and talking about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to go from here, the gods willing.

I’ve had a wonderful life up ‘til now, although it sometimes didn’t feel like it at the time.  I’ve been allowed to participate in a number of world-changing activities and events, whether that world was just a handful of friends, or my community, or my town, or my state, or, in a few instances, the real world-world.  I think that’s true, to varying degrees, of all of us.  Sometimes we’re leaders, sometimes followers, usually a bit of both, but always, there.

As for where I want to go from here, the only thing I know for sure is that I want to keep showing up, and to continue to be willing to participate and to push the envelope of my own comfort zone.

Whether you’re 65 like me, or 18 or 80, that’s the key to being able to look back on a good life that’s perhaps a bit richer than average.  Keep showing up.

If you have some spare time and don’t have your own particular place to show up and pitch in, I want to make a plug for one of the most rewarding places I’ve ever participated:  It’s apolitical, has a huge impact on the lives of children and families in your community, and can be done anywhere in the United States.  No special skills or experience required.

I’m talking about a program called “CASA”, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.  Throughout America (and the world, for that matter), each year we’re finding more and more children being taken out of their families and into the care of state as the result of abuse and neglect.  The System—the courts that oversee the process, and the children and family services agencies that become become responsible for the welfare of the taken children—is finding itself buried under the sheer number of cases it has to handle.  Children in the system are being lost, sometimes never to be heard from again.

Enter CASA:  CASA volunteers are trained in the child welfare laws of their state and community, familiarized with the official agencies that are the legal guardians of taken children, and introduced to the local facilities and individuals that provide the services necessary to improve the lives of the children in custody, the ultimate goal being to return the kids to a home that’s become a safe, supportive place to live and grow up.

After training, CASAs are appointed by the court to oversee the resolution of one individual case.  They go out into the field and meet the children, the parents or other adults who are raising the kids, and the community in which the kids live.  They don’t become social workers.  Rather, they act as the eyes and ears of the court in supervising the progress of the case.  They make regular reports and recommendations to the court, and those reports and recommendations are the basis on which the court makes its final disposition.

If you think CASA might be for you, whether as an Advocate or as a little cog in the CASA program, call your local CASA office and tell them you’re interested.  If your area doesn’t have a CASA program, get together with some like-minded friends and start one!  To find your local CASA office, or get more information about starting a CASA program in your community, visit http://www.casaforchildren.org.  I can’t think of a better place to show up and be willing.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Keep Showing Up!

Adoption – Outrage, Sadness, and Gratitude

This post removed on account of being pure crap.  These things happen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Adoption – Outrage, Sadness, and Gratitude

Birth Control, Choice, and Adoption

As its latest step in the not so slow suicide of the Republican party, the Tea Partiers have upped the ante in their attack on women’s health to include birth control, for crying out loud!  But that’s not what this post is about, except that it reminded me of a topic I’ve been pondering for a long, long time.

I’m one of those folks whose stance on abortion throws the anti-choice crowd into a tailspin, in that I’m generally opposed to abortion, but staunchly pro-choice.  In part because it’s one of those issues that’s none of the government’s business.  In part because I’m an abortion that didn’t happen; my birth mother chose to carry me to term after which I was adopted, and most of the time I’m pretty happy to be here.

That said, here’s my ponder:  I know there are many adoptions by wonderful, loving parents resulting in a kind of happily ever after scenario.  I also know that there are many adoptions by couples who I believe were unable to conceive because they had absolutely no business raising a child.  My parents fall into the latter category.  I’ve come to think of it as natural selection; my religious friends call it God’s will.

My parents were wonderful, exceptional human beings, but they had no more business raising a child than does a rhinoceros jumping off a cliff in the belief that it can fly.  Back in 1946, screening for adoption consisted of checking for acceptable living conditions and “nice” people. 

I hope that since then the process has expanded to include an intensive psychological examination.  

Just sayin’. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Back

That’s back to the keyboard, and back in Spain. 

If you’re reading this, you know that the Grumblebear has a new home.  There’s no particular reason for the move, other than I prefer the WordPress system over Blogger.  Anyway, welcome to the new place.

Lots happening in the world of politics over the last few months.  I’ve written nothing about it because every time I try to get my mind around it, my brain simply shuts down.  I can’t process what’s happening in American government.  Cognitive dissonance.

Maybe over here in Spain, I’ll find the perspective I need.  For now, I feel as if I came over here to get away from the daily bombardment by the incredibly stupid things our President is doing and proposing. 

I never drank the Obama Kool-Aid, but I sincerely believed that, of all the candidates in the race, he at least had the best handle on what the problems of America were.  Next entry will talk a little about that.  For now, I need coffee.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Back

In Times Like These . . . .

I am totally fascinated by what ‘s happening in Egypt. 

It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in my lifetime, so far, and I can’t leave it alone.

The weather here is gorgeous, and I just have to be outside at least part of the day, but it’s not quite warm enough to take the laptop out onto the street, so I’ve been in and out, grabbing chunks of friendship outside and Egypt while in. 

I may do some off and on blogging as it unfolds.  In the meantime, watch it yourself here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on In Times Like These . . . .

You Just Can’t Make Stuff Like This Up

UPDATE: with the help of friend Marjory, I’ve managed to place Don Tennant within the local community and concluded that it’s 99.9% likely that the following is, in fact, a brilliant parody.

If the following is a parody, it’s absolutely brilliant! 

However, it being a Letter to the Editor in the News-Gazette, Champaign’s rabidly-right wing newspaper, I’m inclined to believe that it comes straight from the heart of Mr. Tennant. 

Out here in the flatlands where the corn grows tall and the mayor of Champaign gets his 15 minutes of national attention by questioning Obama’s citizenship on You Tube, the odds on its veracity are overwhelming.

From the Opinions page of The News-Gazette, Champaign, Illinois, January 2, 2011.

(click on image to enlarge – text below)

ngletter

 


FROM OUR READERS

Gay issue raises interesting question

As a Korean War combat veteran, Christian and grandfather of 14, I have some thoughts on the issue of homosexuals serving openly in the military.

Just who do those people think they are — these gays and lesbians — you know, the homosexuals of the Bible? Can readers believe that they have the gall, the audacity and the selfish desire to openly serve the country they honor and love by wanting to enlist in the U.S. military?

And, just think, they are demanding the privilege of serving during time of war.

What right or privilege do they think they have to possibly shed their blood, give up their lives or have their bodies torn apart by the weapons of war? Who do they think they are to want to protect their loved ones, friends and neighbors?

This should be an honor reserved only for right-thinking Christians and other straight-minded thinkers. It’s only our patriotic blood that deserves to be shed for our country.

Those people seem to think that they should have that privilege and honor. I’d rather lose the war than be protected by the likes of those disgusting sinners. Their blood is tainted and unworthy to be shed for our country. (Oh, but I do love the sinner, it’s just his/her sin.)

My Christian friends, we sure have to stick together on this one and make certain that our country is protected only by people like us who live by the words of love and wisdom set forth in our "Good Book." We sure don’t want to ask, and we sure don’t want them to tell us of their dirty little secret.

DON TENNANT Champaign

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

What I Know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Part I

I have it.  That’s the first thing I know about it.  Or more accurately, I live with it. 

And I’m constantly discovering a new way in which I’m suffering from it—like peeling layers from an onion.  But today, I know that suffering from it is strictly optional, and when my denial bubble pops on a new level of my PTSD dysfunction, I’ve got a process that works for letting go of it. 

How’s that for a string of psychobabble?  I mean every word of it.

PTSD is a strange, scary, subtle critter.
In a strange way, I’m quite lucky.  I’m an only child, and when I was three years old, I had a specific event that taught me with profound certainty that my parents not only were not safe, but were potentially dangerous despite their very best intentions.  From that moment, I was on my own.

I use the word “lucky” because I’m convinced that an overwhelming majority of Americans born after WWI, or maybe WWII at the very latest, live with and suffer from various degrees and permutations of PTSD, without the slightest clue why they feel that something’s missing or not quite right, no matter how good their lives are otherwise.  Their life-long trauma comes from the disparity between the cultural norms of the time and the reality they see around themselves in their everyday lives and relationships—forever begging the eternal question “Has the whole world gone crazy, or is it just me?”

My other double-edged advantage besides having a specific event that gave me a handle on thinking about the whole trauma thing came in the form of my parents themselves. 

Don’t get me wrong.  My parents were amazing people, but they were products of the times and culture in which they were formed.  Mom was from Gibson City/Paxton, Illinois, and Dad grew up in Griggsville.  The small town factor alone added at least one full generation to the gap between us.  Add to that  that they were 40 when I was born, and you have two generations between them and the parents of my peers, and three generations between my parents and me. 

We are all formed by the cultural norms or “common wisdom” of our childhood, and when your parents were formed in a reality that is not the normal one generation past, but three generations from the day’s reality, the answer to the “is it them or me?” question is a lot easier to see and believe.

In my lifetime, there has been no period of time when the distance between conventional wisdom and reality has been greater nor more traumatic for a forming human being than the formative years of the baby boomers and generation X.  If you don’t get what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

The world in which I was forming was a very progressive world compared to most of the rest of Springfield and 1940s-50s America.  My parents and their friends and associates were well educated, enlightened intellectuals who read and traveled and were pacifists and rejected materialism and classism and stood up for civil rights and civil liberties, and were unafraid of the unknown and unfamiliar—and yet, formed by the conventional wisdom of their childhoods, they carried all sorts of erroneous nonsense from their past in their innocent hearts:  from a long list of racial stereotypes applicable to all coloreds except their colored friends—and the same for homosexuals and Jews and to a lesser extent women—to another lengthy list of what constituted morality that, although most of them were various forms of atheists and agnostics, drew heavily on the conventional taboos of conventional Christian orthodoxy and dogma.  And don’t forget that these peaceniks, including one of the original founders of the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom, defended our involvement in Vietnam and the domino theory until mid-Nixon!  Their hypocrisy was obvious to my young mind, and it seriously pissed me off.

Most of my peers didn’t have even that little bit of affirmation at home to question authority and the tyranny of conventional wisdom to help them process the enormous gap that existed in the 1950s U.S. A. between the way it was spozed to be and reality!  Traumatic?  You bet your sweet ass!  Hippy?  Revolution?  Question authority? Visualize world peace (or whirled peas)?  Inevitable!  I think this is why the boomers are the first generation to really begin to get a handle on PTSD and begin to understand how it works and how to live with it comfortably, with a minimum of suffering.

Back to that suffering thing (and PTSD)
I sometimes get a kick out of responding to polls from Harris Online and ERewards.  Who doesn’t  enjoy telling a stranger what you think about the world?  Plus, they give you points which every once in a while can be exchanged for something worth having if somebody gave it to you for free.  Also every once in a while, the sponsor of that day’s poll will be a drug company with a new product. 

When that happens, the first set of questions after age and gender usually asks you what diseases you “suffer from,” and I always wish there were a place for me to explain that while I live with diabetes and ADD and a tendency toward hypertension and high cholesterol and depression and anxiety, I sure as hell don’t suffer from any of them.  This is the 21st Century, and these are all conditions with which a person with a little money and/or insurance can live quite comfortably.

Thanks to a new generation of research and picking away at the whole idea of PTSD, led by the boomers—many of whom themselves live with it, PTSD is also slowly but surely creeping its way onto the list of conditions one can live with quite comfortably and contentedly.

So just what is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of those psycho-medical terms that means exactly what it says.  It was first addressed by the modern medical community during WWI when allied soldiers were returning from the horrors of that war with a condition that came to be known as “shell shock.”  Today stress is the number one killer in American culture, and post-traumatic stress is a chronic stress that one experiences after an especially powerful or prolonged trauma which at the very least undermines one’s sense of safety, well being, and the ability to trust and/or control one’s own environment.

People with PTSD tend to be intense, hypervigilant, easily startled, perfectionistic, demanding, unforgiving, rigid, anxious, possess a low tolerance for ambiguity, etc., or they may demonstrate an exaggerated opposite of any or all of those characteristics.

They often have varying degrees of tendencies toward at least alcoholism/addiction, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity, and/or a variety of phobias and neuroses.  They live with a lurking fear that somewhere deep inside lives the truth that it’s really them against the world and they are somehow inadequate to that challenge.

More to come:
Part II, A Personal Journey About Healing
Part III, Taking the Whole Thing Macro

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on What I Know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Part I

Let’s Call Bullshit on the “War on Terror”

us-homeland-security-seal-plaque_m-747261 George W. Bush’s absurd “War on Terror” (WOT) is arguably the third or second (time will tell) largest scam ever pulled on the American people in the brief history of this wonderful and gigantic nation.  It’s time to put a stop to it.

Terror is a powerfully strong fear reaction to sudden, unexpected, life-threatening circumstances—an emotion, in other words.

Terror is what drove America’s wild over-reaction to to the bombing of the World Trade Center and led to the “Patriot Act” and the decimation of the Constitution and civil liberties and the balance of powers—and ultimately is playing a huge role in the falling apart of our System—financial and political.

Some guys from the Middle East stole some planes and provided the event.  America, led by cheerleaders from the already-on-the-verge right, provided the terror.  In Spades!

Khalil BendibHow fortunate that this occurred at a time when the previous excuse for the government to take all our tax dollars and give them  to the war profiteers, The Cold War, was seriously losing its punch.  And wasn’t it cool that good old Uncle Dick, was there to mentor his friend the President and take advantage of his simplistic world view and need to show Daddy, and to guide him into declaring war on an emotion! 

Better ‘n the Cold War on account of there’s no foreseeable end.  Ever!!!  And Cheney and his Warbux cronies declared free champagne and caviar in the Winners’ Circle Clubhouse, and the party’s still going strong.

Back in 2008, candidate Obama sent me a letter in response to my comments about retroactive telecom immunity and presidential abuse of power (he was my Senator) in which he explained that because of the superamazinggeewhiz importance of the WOT to our nation’s security and our children’s futures, we must be careful in reprimanding the excesses of [the obviously deranged] Mr. Bush, that we not tie the hands of a future [fabulously sane and upright Democratic] president—or something very much to that effect.

(That letter, incidentally is the reason I am careful to explain to friends that I did not vote for Obama in 2008.  It was only a matter of his name being next to the box the checking of which would be my best bet for voting No Effing Way McCain/Palin!)

And that’s the problem in a nutshell:  The President of the United States (and who knows how many members of Congress) believes that sending our young men and women to fight and kill and be killed in a foreign country is an effective way to fight an emotion!

If you want to “fight” terror, Mr. President, here’s how to do it:

  1. tsa_profiling Declare the WOT bogus and, as they say, walk the response to it all the way back.  That’s “all”, which means absolutely everything from “enemy combatants” because you say so, to the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA—and even governmental use of the word “homeland.” And “back”, which means gone, repealed, dismantled, erased from existence.
  2. Bring the troops home.  Now.  All of them.  Tell the Afghans and Pakistanis and Iraqis that if they’d like our non-military assistance in getting their acts together, we’ll be happy to sit down and explore ways that we can do that, but no assistance will involve the American military participation in combat or in aiding or assisting in combat.
  3. Open a national dialog on the subject of fear.  You’re a tremendous communicator.  It’s what you’re famous for, so do it.  For 65 years, the oligarchy that owns America (the people George Carlin referred to as our Owners) have used fear to reinforce their ownership and keep the money flowing from our hands into their pockets.  Let’s talk about that.  Let’s talk about how it happened and make an honest appraisal of where we are today as a result of that fear.  People fear what they don’t understand.  Let’s talk about it until we do understand.  And then let’s talk some more about what we can do to to set the country on a path to a real recovery—not just financial (although jobs would be a good place to start), but a recovery of national unity and spirit.
  4. Appoint a nonpartisan, professional-politician-free commission to examine the actions of the Bush administration and arm it with a special prosecutor to pursue prosecutions where applicable.  That particular past is one that we cannot afford to turn the page on.  Horrible crimes against humanity and against the US Constitution were committed in the name of “national security” and deregulation by the last administration (too many of which are being continued by yours) to simply turn the page and move on.  The Bush years presented America with an open wound which cannot be healed by the application of a Band-Aid.  It has infected the body politic and it will continue to fester under the surface until either it is excised in the light of day or its poisons take over our national bloodstream—unto death.
  5. Lead.  So far, your “economic recovery” has had very little to do with our economic recovery.  Wall Street is thriving(?).  Main Street, not so much.  Candidate Obama had some potentially very worthwhile ideas about turning things around:  a national jobs corps, investment in infrastructure, small business investment and support, reinventing mass transit, restoring real regulation to the financial industry,  investing heavily in education—mostly ideas that might have provided jobs and opportunities for real people.  Unfortunately, we’ll never know whether they would have worked or not, because when candidate Obama became President Obama, the first thing you did was sit down with the Republicans (who, in case you have forgotten, lost the 2008 election, big time) and present your proposals to them.  And when they said, “No, we wouldn’t like it if you did that.”, instead of taking names and kicking ass—going on TV and calling them out, saying “America, you elected me to fix this mess.  Here are the people who are now standing in the way of doing that.  Please replace them with people who are interested in fixing the mess we are in”, you responded to their “No” with an “Oh, OK.  What would you like me to do?”

A very incomplete list, to be sure, but I can’t help but believe that it would be a good start on getting our nation back on track.

Feel free to discuss, add your own items to the list, or argue against it in Comments.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Let’s Call Bullshit on the “War on Terror”

Let’s Privatize Social Security Now

sscards The libertarian right is all for privatizing Social Security and making it optional.  On the face of it, it’s an idea I could get behind in a big way. 

Of course, when talking about America and Social Security, you’ve got to begin by defining your terms. 

In the rest of the world “social security” (capitalized or not) refers to all government programs for the common welfare, from medical care to free public education, to unemployment insurance and retirement pension and all the way through to death benefits. 

In the United States, “Social Security” means the self- and employer-funded retirement fund that pays money for Grandma and Gramps to live on, and funds Medicare so they can have at least basic medical care as they age and need it more.

While privatizing using the American definition would undoubtedly please the libertarians no end, I can’t help but think that going with the world definition would send them into (quiet, restrained, lady- and gentleman-like) orgasms of delight. 

I say let’s make their wildest dreams come true and privatize the whole thing and make it all optional.

Let’s spin off not just Social Security/Medicare, but also health, education, and welfare into private, not-for-profit cooperatives, governed by a board of directors elected by and responsible to the membership at large and prohibited from making any speculative use of funds.  Then let’s make participation optional.

For the time being, the IRS will serve as the the collecting agency for the voluntary taxes paid by those who opt in.  We’ll see how that goes.  But that will be the only role of any Federal agency in the operation of the coop(s).

Rather than Congress dictating the budget and how the money is spent, those decisions will be made cooperatively, with Anything Really Important (including the “tax” rate) determined by a vote of the membership.

Lots of details to work out, but as I said, on the face of it, it looks damned good to me.

As for those who opt out?  Give them a check for what they’ve paid into Social Security to date, minus any benefits they’ve received.  Let them make their own decisions regarding providing for themselves and their families.  And to remove any punitive aspects from the decision making process, allow anyone outside a coop to buy (back) into it for the equivalent of  back taxes.  I’m sure that some libertarian entrepreneur will set up a private insurance company to protect against that eventuality. 

This plan achieves two very desirable goals:  1) It takes control of essential human services away from a Congress which over the last two years has demonstrated that it’s incapable even of tying its own shoes, and 2) It takes the money to run those services out of the U.S. Treasury, so that when our government ceases to function, there’s at least a chance that those services might continue.

Feel free to discuss.  I say we go for it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Let’s Privatize Social Security Now

Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

UPDATED BELOW

The American Civil War was about a whole lot more than slavery.  Civil_War

While the issue of slavery provided strong motivation for both the North and the South in the war of southern secession, at stake was what kind of nation the United States would be.

The northern industrialists wanted the entire “American” portion of the North American Continent to be one country in which Important Decisions were made for the whole country by one central (Federal) government composed of  representatives from each state. (Top Down)

The southern agriculturists wanted independence from America in order to form their own country in which Important Decisions would be made on the local (state) level, with a central  government whose authority required a unanimous agreement of all the autonomous Confederate(d) states.  (Bottom Up)

plantation-slaves Morally, the Good Guys won.  Slavery was a horrible institution which will forever be a blot on America’s history.  But from a practical point of view, it’s unfortunate that the winners weren’t also the guys who were advocating for a Confederacy. 

The story of America since that war—and particularly since WWII—has made it abundantly clear that the federal, top down, republic of Jefferson et al does not scale up well—certainly not to its current size, and most likely not even to the original thirteen states over time.

There are bunches o’ natural factors that determine the optimum number of people and the size of the geographic area that can be united behind a government empowered to make Important Decisions. In growing to fill all the available land mass, the USA has defiantly flown in the face of those natural laws, to the point where continuation in its present form is no longer sustainable.

As we watch America follow the same path of denial as the former Soviet Union, falling apart from the inside out, let’s remember that it’s within our power to stop it anytime we can amass the public will to do so.

It is within the power of the people to call a Constitutional Convention and start again from scratch.  It’s scary to contemplate, but it might be the only way to avert the bloodshed that’s otherwise inevitable. 

Are we adult enough yet as a culture to do that before the country falls apart completely?  Time will tell. 

For more information on the movement to call for Constitutional Convention, see http://www.callaconvention.org/, and read Lawrence Lessig’s “A Call for a Constitutional Convention” in Huffington Post.

UPDATE:  See also http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-lessig/neoprogressives_b_704715.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=090310&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureMore#, and although I’m no huge fan of the Coffee Party http://www.fixcongressfirst.org/blog/entry/coffee-party-national-convention/.  And finally, thanks to reader Bill Walker for providing this link in comments:  http://www.foavc.org

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments