Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Sermon [Hitting Bottom]

¡Hola! Everybody...
have a choice, believe it or not, in deciding which direction we will move as a race of beings. Right now, you’re choosing and acting...

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-=[ Hitting Bottom ]=-

We live in a very dangerous time, but it is similar to the danger of childbirth. We are looking at the birth of a new consciousness. The dangers we face are part of this birthing process.

As an individual who has come to terms with addiction, I have some familiarity with both “hitting bottom” and a measure of awakening. Addiction is a progressive disease. It’s quite possible to go on cruise control for years while managing the outwardly appearance of social acceptability. For a long time I was able to do this. People close to me overlooked or even encouraged my “eccentricities.” But as long as I maintained the illusion of a “normal” life, my disease progressed.

At the core of the addictive mindset lies an ego-based, desire-based living. It leaves us with a painful sense of separation from others, a nagging sense that something missing, an experience of limitation, fear, and desire. Experiencing ourselves as small, we engage in a flurry of activity to avoid the objects of our fear and obtain the objects of our craving.

This is the dance of problem-based living and, although widely perceived as normal, it fuels an endless drama of struggle. On a personal level, it can manifest as a general anxiety, or a body image problem. On a community level, it can sabotage something as seemingly simple as a internet political forum. Globally, it is expressed as war, as economic and environmental madness. This force has been given many names. Simply put, it is ego-based living, or as I call it, the Mini Me.

Most addicts have to lose a lot, or “hit bottom,” before they begin to wake up. My personal bottom was extreme. I lost my self-respect, loved ones, opportunities, jobs, my health, and even my freedom, before I was able to address what had been happening for years. The irony about hitting bottom is that it is actually the beginning of a healing process. My darkest day, the day I lost all hope, a day of almost unimaginable despair, was a beginning. I look back at that day as a revelation and celebrate it every year. As a recovering addict, today I understand painful endings as a healthy sign, part of a necessary step toward transformative change.

I believe this is what’s happening to humanity. We’re in the death throes of a mindset that can no longer sustain life. The battle today isn’t so much about “left” vs. “right,” but about abandoning a paradigm that has outlived its purpose. As we continue to exhaust every possibility of ego-based, separation-based, desire-based living, we have no real option but to wake up and take an evolutionary leap. Those who are able see this process are weighted with the responsibility to tend compassionately to the death of the old ways, and to serve as a midwife to the emergence of a new human being.

Some see declining purchasing power as “weakened consumer confidence,” which feeds into the collective anxiety of the Mini Me. Others, thinking outside of the old paradigm, see the same trend as an indication that we are growing out of our addictions. The most recent economic meltdown in 2009 was seen as a setback to the multinational conglomerates that caused it. However, looked at from another perspective, it could have very well been a victory for the start a sane society. At the very least, it exposed the fallacy of the “free market” as a solution for all of society’s ills.

Everything looks different when we drop the fear-based thinking and stop resisting death and rebirth.

Now (and here’s the crux), once the mindset is identified, we often want to pin it on a person or movement, and then comes the compulsion to eliminate them, in the false hope of ending our troubles. For example, in Russia, first the Czar and their associates were seen as the problem and they were eliminated. But after a few decades, a corruption of Communism was no better, and they were, in turn, also eliminated. Since 1991, the party has been gone from power but the Russian people are no better off under a capitalist system (and in many ways worse off).

My spiritual practice emphasizes tolerance and compassion, but I have to confess that the right, as personified by Bush, Palin, Limbaugh, and the rest, are a huge challenge for me. The temptation to cast them as the core of the problem is sometimes overwhelming. And let’s be real: the right today embodies to a large degree the old Mini Me paradigm I describe. Their foreign policy is defined and driven by separation, by an us-versus-them mentality. Their social policy decisions come from a hardcore fundamentalism rather than an open-minded inquiry. They have succeeded in polarizing this country to the point of entropy, in the process defining blind loyalty as patriotism, advocating for the erosion of civil liberties as a means to deal with dissent. The wealth gap between the powerful few and the majority has widened dramatically under their policies, which have been strong on “conservative,” but pathetic on “compassionate.” And, of course, there is the ideological and economically motivated global violence sold to a gullible populace through distortions and lies.

There’s a lot not to like about the right these days...

I see the right as symptomatic of the old ways of living. It is living motivated by a sense of lack and fear. I disagree with everything they stand for, so how can I find even a smidgen of tolerance or compassion for their way of thinking? For example, how do I reconcile the response of a suburban housewife, who will gladly cede liberty for the illusion of security? I could chalk neoconservative policies up to stupidity (“dumb twats”), selfishness, the pathological need for control, or the lust for power. And I’m sure the Cheney’s, the Bush’s and Palins of the world are guilty as charged.

But if someone, succumbing to the myth of scarcity, really believes there isn’t enough to go around then I could understand how someone would see it as responsible and even noble to horde as much as you can for you and yours, whomever you consider that to be. You have to have more than you need and protect those that “belong” from ever being left out.

You’ll do anything to others, including bomb their land, rape their women and children, and plunder their resources, to provide for those you see as “us.” The right has blinded itself from the consequences of their actions (“drill baby drill!”) and it is important to reveal what they’re doing. I think what they’re doing is wrong. They're thinking stands in contrast to everything I believe in. But if I make them into an enemy, and become an adversary to them, then I am doing the same as they are doing.

I am a grateful addict for many reasons, one being that I know we free ourselves from the grip of the Mini Me by seeing its roots in ourselves and in all of us. When we can finally see the roots of fear-based and separation-based living within, and we wake up from them, not only do we free ourselves, but we elect liberated leaders.



Saturday, January 30, 2010

And Still I'll Rise

¡Hola! Everybody...
Brrrrr... Baby, it’s cold outside! LOL

Saturdays I set aside for the arts. This one here is well-known. Whenever I read it evokes for me the liberal/ progressive agenda. I see it as a progressive anthem. (You can hear it set to contemporary House Music on My Facebook page):

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-=[ Still I Rise ]=-

Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset by gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like tear drops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted for educational purposes only. For online information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, visit the website at

Friday, January 29, 2010

The TGIF Sex Blog [Penis Size]

¡Hola! Everybody...
For those who have asked, I haven’t been writing as much because I am drained from work. This has been the longest stretch I’ve gone without blogging is some time. Speaking of length...

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-=[ Does Size Matter? ]=-

Yup! It’s that old recurring question regarding penis size. Men obsess over it, often anxiously wondering if they’re up to the task. My “junior” is what I would call average, though some women have commented on its girth. Suffice it to say that if you want 12” I can give it to you in installments of two. LOL!

Growing up, I had a friend, George. George was a math whiz -- fuckin’ math genius. The first time we all undressed in the lockers in middle school (6th grade) we all gasped and hid our Johnsons. Even at eleven years of age, George’s dick was huge! We used to crack jokes about his dick and call him Mandingo, caballo (horse), rompe matrix (womb breaker). Back then, he was really proud of his huge cock. As we grew older and started dating girls, however, we noticed that the girls would hardly ever date George a second time. Then, in our teens, girls would not fuck George. Some would just look at his cock and say, “Aw hell naw!” The more curious and adventurous girls would fuck him once and then go running bow-legged to their girlfriends talking about how George was a rompe matrix.

You all know how that goes…

Anyway, George would go to college and become a successful accountant. Eventually, he married and the hot topic at the wedding (at least amongst us -- his boyhood friends) was how the fuck that small girl accommodated George’s cock. LMAO! George would have none of my kidding around (to the delight of our friends and his consternation, I would make horse sounds when he would walk by me).

Which brings me to the age-old question: does size matter?

Now, I can give the “scientific” answer and say that four (4) inches should be enough. However, I know many women who would disagree with that statement. I do know that different women will give you different answers to this question. I tend to think along the lines of the Kama Sutra classification system. Now, I may not have the terms right, but essentially, the Kama Sutra states that there are three different sized vaginas. The rabbit (pencil sharpener), the doe/ deer (good and tight), and the mare (DANG! Is there an echo up in here?!!). There are corresponding classifications for penis size too, though I forget what they are. Therefore, according to the Kama Sutra, optimal penis size depends on proper matching. For example, if a man is a horse, he has no business sticking it into the rabbit. Similarly, a mosquito’s tweeter has no business inside a mare’s twat! LOL!

When a woman’s vagina is relaxed, the vaginal walls collapse into each other. The diameter is less than once inch and the length normally ranges from 3 to 4 inches. However, the size changes when you are ready for intercourse. At that time, the diameter of your love tunnel is not the same throughout.

The narrowest part will be the opening of vagina and wider as it goes deeper in to the vagina. Usually the front part of vagina has a size of one and a half inches. As we go deeper in to the vagina, the diameter is larger. The backend of the vagina usually has a diameter of 2 1/2 inches.

The length of vagina also changes. The front vagina wall has the length of two inches and the back end is three so the total is roughly 6 inches. However, the size will change after childbirth because of the extreme expansion of the vagina. Many women complain they feel loose and loss of the control of their bladder. It could be corrected by Kegel exercises or vaginal tightening surgery.

Okay, so you might be saying, “OMIGOD!! How could it fit?!!” However, your vaginal wall is very elastic so it can accommodate most sizes. It can stretch enormously in length and width. As stated before, normally muscles around the vagina are relaxed and collapse to each other. However, the inner vagina wall will expand so it is longer and wider. An average woman can easily handle a cock nine (9) inches long and two (2) inches wide.

So ladies, what say you? Does penis matter? Or is it the motion of the ocean? LOL



PS: any women desiring a good old-fashioned vaginal stretch please contact this writer. Remember: sex is good for you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Sermon [You're Alive]

¡Hola! Everybody...
Yes, I am a die-hard Jets fan. Yes, I am rooting for them today! It’s “ground and pound” Blue State against “Manning is Jaysus!” Red State. LOL

My Jets are being written off as a slight encumbrance to the Dolts’ inexorable march to the Superbowl. I’m just happy they made it this far. A win will make me very insufferable. LMAO!

* * *

-=[ Alive ]=-

“Change your words into truth and then change that truth into love… ”

-- Steveland Wonder, As

Ever thought of the fact that you are alive, right now? I mean really get into that? Soften your belly and relax your jaw. Feel (feel don’t think!) – feel your heart beating deep inside your body, and feel the rhythm of your heart as it radiates outward, pulsing in your hands, feet, and neck. Feeling your heart in this way, relax and open as in an offering to the world.

While you’re at it, take a moment and try to feel how you live your life – how you spend your moments. What did you do today or yesterday? What are your plans for tomorrow? Who do you love and do you love deeply?

The undeniable truth is that no matter what -- no matter how much money you have made, how many Coach bags you own -- one day you will become numb and your heart will stop, you will stop breathing, and all this will disappear. In some moment just like this one, your life will end.


Are you ready for death? Are you ready for the death of your children and your loved ones?

Many of us are celebrating today with picnics. A picnic with your loved ones. Fried chicken, cold drinks. A gentle breeze, the sun caressing your face. Suddenly your heart stops. A final plea -- fade to black…

Are you ready? I mean are you truly ready? Have you loved and lived fully and given your deepest gifts?

A life lived well is a life faced with an open heart -- every moment. You can be wide open, holding nothing back and you will receive in return without pushing away. The opening of your heart doesn’t come from an analysis of some kind, it doesn’t come from “loving” in the sense that we normally think of love. The opening of your heart comes from a deep felt sense. You are openness, inseparable from this entire moment. The one truth is that everything comes and goes. Everything must change.

Your child’s smile: precious but temporary and already dissolving.

Your lover’s tender embrace: already disentangling.

Life often resembles the ocean in that, try as we may, we can’t stop the waves -- they come and go, no matter how much we stomp and cry. While it is true that we can’t stop the waves, we can learn how to surf. Every moment is a miracle and already disappearing. Every experience is full and empty -- both.

A life lived merely for the sake of experience is a cheated life full of tension, insecurity, loneliness and a deep sense of being unfulfilled. Your Coach bag can’t fulfill you because at some point in time it will go. It will break or get lost or stolen, or worse, fall out of fashion. Your experience cannot fulfill you because as soon as it comes, it is already gone -- an illusion, just out of reach.

If we stop the grasping, life becomes free and full of light. Surrendering is opening. That’s how you open -- you surrender, opening full and bright, breathing deeply. Offering your heart of hearts, you are reborn in this moment. Believe me, when that time comes the only questions that will matter is whether you loved deeply and lived fully. But don’t wait, death gives us the permission to live freely and love openly this very moment.



Friday, January 22, 2010

The TGIF Sex Blog [Sex and Culture]

¡Hola! Everybody...
Yesterday was a bad day for democracy... Soon, our legislators will be wearing the logos of their corporate masters, much like athletes do.

However, today is Friday and that means we talk about sex...

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-=[ Cross-Cultural Sex Practices]=-

Until recently, you lived your whole life culturally isolated. Today, the world is a lot smaller -- technology allowing us access to information about different cultural practices. I am passionate about cultural studies and I’ve always been fascinated by the vast range cultural expression. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of human sexuality. While many people in the West still think sex in something you do in the dark and only in one sexual position, even a cursory glance at the history of sex gives us a different picture.

We often mistake our cultural as the norm or of a higher moral standing when, in fact, they aren't. Moreover, those who are most rigid in their thinking are those who would be most rigid in any cultural upbringing. So it follows that if homophobic American men were raised in a culture in which engaging in recipient anal sex was considered manly, these very same men would be competing about who could take it up the ass best. LOL! I’m not joking. Think about it: if you’re narrow-minded and intolerant in one cultural context, why wouldn’t you behave in the same way in another cultural context?

Whatever muthafuckas...

When I first started seriously studying sex, I was fascinated by the broad range of sexual expression. I came across many different accounts from many different cultures. For example, in one Papuan tribe, young men are made into “boy brides” as part of a coming of age ritual. When boys reach their pre-teen years, they are taken away from the general population to live separately with older men. During that time, the boys are made to play passive roles, sometimes even performing homosexual acts with their “husbands.” When the boys are deemed ready (i.e., to become men), they are reintegrated with their tribe and married to the daughters of their “husbands.” The homosexuality has no bearing on the boys’ sexual orientation, nor is there any stigma associated with it.

Ever since the first reports of lush tropical paradises of the flesh inhabited by beautiful people, the South Seas have stirred the sexual imagination of the West. While the fantasy distorts the genuine sexual practices of that part of the world, it is true that many of the sexual practices found in the Pacific and the Americas differed greatly from the Christian/ Judeo sexual mindset.

Sexual promiscuity, for example, was tolerated. Native women would swim out to the boats naked delighting early explorers. However, further study shows that this sort of uninhibited sexuality was part of a strategy to keep the white foreigners peaceful. Only women who had a reputation for sexual looseness were allowed to participate in this particular form of sexual diplomacy.

A Tahitian society traveled about the Polynesian islands as singers, dancers, athletes, and sexual exhibitionists. They were permitted promiscuous relationships wherever they went. Early Westerners failed to grasp that this group represented a religious institution and much of their sexual behavior had a religious justification; after all, the society was based on a Goddess of fertility.

The Polynesian Islands is the area par excellence of public copulation, erotic festivals, and sex expeditions. While sex practices unfortunately disappeared with the onslaught of Western colonialization, ceremonies involving sexual license had been commonplace. Naked dances occurred on Easter Island and the Marquesas, for example. At the close of feasts, Marquesans would hold public group-sex displays. The women taking part would take pride in the number of men they serviced. One anthropologist recalls a nice old lady who boasted about having made the entire crew of a whaling boat happy.

Most of Asia had their unique sexual customs. In a previous post on cunnilingus, I wrote about a tradition reportedly started by the Tang Dynasty empress Wu Hu. It is said that she required, by royal decree, that all government officials and visiting dignitaries publicly perform cunnilingus on her. In Mongolia, among the Mongour, certain “fake” marriages occur. If a daughter is offered to a guest (as ritual hospitality sex) and she gets pregnant, she is married to a belt, which must be left behind by the guest. The belt is simply symbolic of the man, who may never return. Similarly, in Mongolia, if a woman becomes pregnant outside of sex hospitality, she is formally married to a prayer rug.

I guess what I’m trying to convey in what is a short (and inadequate) piece, is that sexual expression varies greatly across the human condition. And before you start giggling, or wagging the morality stick, please remember that someone from another culture would deem your own sexual practices just as funny and just as immoral.



PS: Sex is good for you. Try it...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Playin' the King Card

¡Hola! Everybody...
The exploitation of King’s name, the distortion of his teachings by conservatives, is one of the uglier developments in contemporary American life. I agree with Michael Eric Dyson that “The Speech” should be put to rest for at least ten years...

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-=[ Misquoting the Dream ]=-

A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis.

-- Dr. King, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive, mainstream society viewed him mostly with fear and contempt. In response to King’s anti-war stance (as expressed in a 1967 speech), TIME magazine called King a “demagogue for Radio Hanoi.” Years later, Ronald Reagan the Great damned King as a near communist.

Today, however, a miracle has taken place in America: Dr. King was a conservative! By taking a snippet from one 1963 address Dr. King has been co-opted by the right as the most quoted opponent of affirmative action in America today.

While the transformation of King from communist to conservative is almost complete, it deserves an explanation.

It should come as no surprise that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have his words taken out of context. After all, King’s status today effectively ensures that writers, academics, pundits, and politicians will feel compelled to borrow King’s words to advance an agenda. What better political plum than claiming the ideological support of an iconic figure such as King? Nowhere is the tendency to “play the King card” more evident than in the claim by dozens of contemporary conservative writers, academics, pundits, and politicians that King’s basic goal was “color-blindness” and that he viewed such visual impairment as the road by which racism would best be addressed.

Typically, conservatives rely on one line from one speech. Of course it’s only the most famous line delivered by King, one of the few most folks have probably heard: the one from the 1963 March on Washington, the “I Have a Dream” speech in which he expressed the hope that one day persons “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” For conservatives, this is proof that King would oppose race-conscious policies such as affirmative action, since, after all, such efforts require an acknowledgment of race.

Conservatives of all colors and stripes have raised this line like a rallying cry in their war against “reverse discrimination.” Shelby Steele, for example, in The Content of Our Character (the title obviously used in order to evoke the famous King line) is harsh critique of affirmative action policies, claiming they have “done more harm than good” and implying that King would agree. Steele seeks to prove this not only with reference to the “Dream” speech, but also by recounting a 1964 presentation in which King implored black youth to get ahead: the implication being that King was an apostle of the myth of rugged individualism and hostile to special efforts to provide full opportunities for people of color.

In similar fashion, many other conservatives have misrepresented King. If you’ve been on the internet for any amount of time, I am sure you have run up against the now ubiquitous practice of the cutting-and-pasting of the Kool-Aid on King. See if you notice any of the following...

Clint Bolick, a leading critic of affirmative action, wrote in 1996 that King did not seek “special treatment” for blacks, and cites the “content of their character” remark as justification for his position. Tamar Jacoby wrote in 1998 that King’s “dream” was color-blindness. The Thernstroms, in the social science bible, America in Black and White, make the same claim. Paul Sniderman wrote, “the civil rights movement... took as its ideal a truly colorblind society, where, as Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, our children would be judged... ” by, yup, you guessed it, you know what.

Some have gone further and have advanced the notion that the modern civil rights movement’s support of affirmative action is a betrayal of King. Dinesh D'Souza, in his the End of Racism, states authoritatively that affirmative action is a “... repudiation of King’s vision, in that it involves a celebration and affirmation of group identity.” He makes the bold assertion that Black leaders are the antithesis of Martin Luther King's principles, which he defines as the ideology that “race should be ignored and we should be judged on our merits as persons.” Strangely, D'Souza calls for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, arguably the greatest legislative achievement of the movement King led.

Yet, despite the overwhelming noise by the right that Dr. King principally sought color-blindness and would have opposed affirmative action, even a cursory examination of his writings makes such a position extremely difficult to defend. King never said he believed that the best way to achieve the dream of racial and economic equality was to pretend racism had vanished. Nothing could be further from his principles. In fact, contrary to the popular modern fiction advanced by conservatives, King favored quotas, affirmative action, reparations, and race-based hiring as immediate relief from systemic racism. This is an unpleasant bit of history to those who have tried to turn him into a (safely dead) black conservative with which to bash liberals. But it was his actual views.

From the outset, King placed responsibility for the nation’s racial inequality squarely on whites. In an article written in 1956 and included in James Washington’s edited collection, Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., King wrote that whites had “rejected the very center of their own ethical professions... and so they rationalized” the conditions under which they had forced blacks to live. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963, King specifically criticized white ministers and white moderates, who he condemned for being “more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” and whom he said were perhaps more of a barrier to true freedom for blacks than the Klan. This is the letter in which he famously wrote that an unjust law was no law at all. In short, King was hardly color-blind. He was clear as to who the victims and who the chief perpetrators of racism were -- and he said so in clear and forceful language.

It is true that King called for universal programs of economic and educational opportunity for all the poor, regardless of race. However, he also saw the need for programs targeted at the victims of American racial apartheid. King was even clearer on affirmative action. In a 1963 article in Newsweek (published the very month of the “I Have a Dream” speech), King suggested it might be necessary to have something similar to “discrimination in reverse” as a form of national atonement for the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

The most direct articulation of his views on the subject is found in 1963, in his Why We Can't Wait, in which King noted:

“Whenever this issue of compensatory or preferential treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask for nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man enters the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some incredible feat in order to catch up.”

In a 1965 Playboy interview, King spelled out what that something special might entail, and it was far more substantive than affirmative action. In fact, King stated his support for an aid package for black America for $50 billion.

I am not saying that King's thoughts about this issue should be the determining factor on how people should feel about affirmative action or other race-conscious efforts. How they feel and think about the legacy and abiding problem of discrimination is up to them. No one should assume that simply because Dr. King appears to have supported such efforts that this necessarily makes King, and those who support affirmative action today, correct.

I am trying to point out how so many feel the need to link their views to King in an attempt to dismantle or disparage such programs. I find it the height of dishonesty and hypocrisy to claim the mantle of King's moral authority. Regardless of the debate over the effectiveness or legitimacy of affirmative action, it is only fair and just to insist that we present King’s views honestly and completely and not attempt to use his words for purposes he would have found unacceptable.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Sermon [Imperfectly Perfect]

¡Hola! Everybody...
Catastrophes kill, social policies decimate...

* * *

-=[ Standing on the Verge ]=-

Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better... and the catastrophe towards which the world is headed -- the ecological, social, demographic, or general breakdown of civilization -- will be unavoidable.

-- Vaclav Havel, joint session of the U.S. Congress, 1990

Truly, we don’t really live in the world, we live in the conversation we have about the world. Only we limit the shape and tenor of this conversation -- it is completely malleable. The world may or may not be a changeable place, but we have complete power over the conversation we engage about it. This is where genuine change happens, where health, safety, and love come about. This is the wellspring of compassion and forgiveness. This is where the future lives, where possibility and reality converge.

We live at a pivotal time in human history. On the one hand, we’re caught in a global thrall of an ego-centered paradigm, or what I call the Mini Me. The mini me is a state of mind marked by a painful sense of separation from others, a sense of lack, and an overwhelming experience of limitation, fear, and desire. We engage in all manner of activity in order to numb ourselves. We rush to consume in order to avoid our feelings. This is the trance of problem-based living, and though regarded as normal, it fuels a never-ending struggle. It seeps through the cracks of our armor and manifests itself as disease, conflict, and failure. From a global/ collective perspective, the Mini Me is expressed as war and economic and environmental madness.

This is no hell and damnation rant. Certainly there has been greater cruelty, inequality, and imperialism in our history, but up until now, it has always been localized to a tyrant here, a despot there. Hitler and Stalin may have yearned for global dominance and caused much destruction and suffering as a consequence, but ultimately their insanity was isolated. Today the cancer has become systemic rather than local. The dominant neoliberal paradigm of today affects everyone, everywhere.

We are all in this together, for better or worse.

On the other hand, there is an opposing, countervailing “emerging paradigm,” or force. We’re on the cusp of a major evolutionary quantum leap. If you look closely, there’s a movement afoot, a small movement, but a movement nonetheless. The head of a new human being is being pushed through, and its first faint cries can be heard. Yes, it is a dangerous time, but childbirth is dangerous and we are experiencing the birth of a new consciousness on earth. These dangers are part of the birthing process. We are riding the crest of a wave whose consequences are unimaginable, and which contains the only true basis for optimism for our planet and its inhabitants. On this edge we can already sense the possibility of a quality of life that has been seldom been dreamed of. But as with all evolutionary leaps, there is an inherent danger. If we fail to take advantage of this opportunity, we will become the first species to make ourselves extinct.

As I look with a broken heart at the consequences reverberating in Haiti today (and Katrina before), I realize that natural disasters kill, but social policies act as fate. Today, as in the past, poverty, corruption, apathy are doing more to kill than any earthquake or natural disaster ever could. Haiti should stand as a reminder that the threat to our world’s stability comes from a collective expression of greed, most sharply embodied by global corporations, which put the bottom line before integrity, profits before people.

Those opposing the current paradigm are quite possibly outnumbered or at least much less powerful, but we are increasingly motivated to act for social change. Will we see life as we know it mutilated beyond repair by corporate greed and fundamentalists bent on proving themselves right and the (made up) enemy-of-the-month wrong? Or have we finally arrived at the dawn of a collective shift into sanity? Here’s the kicker: there’s nothing to be gained twiddling your thumbs awaiting the ending of this Bond movie gone mad. The final pages of this script are still being written, and you and I have been handed the job of writing the last act...



Saturday, January 16, 2010

Virtual Tours [Central Park, pt. I]

¡Hola! Everybody...
As promised the first of what I hope will be a series of virtual tours of the city of my birth... Check out the video slide show I prepared. Some photos are mine, while the bulk were collected over the years from various sources (music by Ray Barretto from a composition by Hector Martignon).

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-=[ The Park, pt. I ]=-

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.

-- Henry David Thoreau

It is said that New York City is a city of marked contrasts -- of inherent contradictions -- and this is quite true. Rich are jostled along with poor, great filth exists alongside some of the most sublime achievements of humankind. Contradictions are everywhere: old and new, good and evil, ugliness and transcendent beauty. Nowhere is this contrast exemplified more than in one of the greatest works of art known called Central Park.

You could spend several years’ worth of vacations and still not fully explore the wonders of Central Park, or “The Park” (as it is called by New Yorkers). There’s no other way of putting it except to say that Central Park is huge. It sits on some of the most expensive real estate in the known universe, measuring two and a half miles long by a half-mile wide. The Park covers 843 acres of land and includes over 60 miles of pathway. The tour I have prepared here won’t have you walk that much (LOL), it covers about one to one-and-a-half miles of the lower half of The Park and is best enjoyed as the rest of New York should be enjoyed: at a leisurely pace.

Central Park holds much meaning for me personally; as I’m sure it does for many native New Yorkers. From “The Fountain” (The Bethesda Terrace), where thousands of Puerto Ricans and others would meet on spring and summer Sundays in the 70s to play music, dance, and party, to the Carousel (the site of many of my first dates), The Park is the receptacle for many precious memories.

For me the best way to experience the park is from south to north. This tour begins at Columbus Circle, where Eighth Ave. (which becomes Central Park West) and Broadway intersect. Before entering The Park, take a look at the Christopher Columbus monument at the center of the circle, as well as the large gold-topped statue at the park’s entrance (dedicated to the USS Maine). You might also want to check out the Columbus Circle Mall across the street from the park. Make sure to bring the big bucks, baby, as there are some high end shops located here. There's also a great Jazz club there with a breath-taking view of the park.

There are several paths that enter the park here, and the one I want you to take is the one directly to the left of the Maine Monument. This path goes downhill in the direction of the park’s old carriage road, and is often filled with bicyclists and joggers. It’s now usually called ring road or West Drive. Cross this road, but do so with caution, yielding to bicyclists, joggers, and skaters where necessary.

Once you’ve crossed the road head north (left) on the path alongside the ring road. Here you will pass over a couple of lovely stone bridges on your way to Sheep Meadow. Stop somewhere here, find a nice spot to sit, and read about the creation of the park. I won’t get into the history of the park here, except to say that it’s one of the great projects ever -- one of the wonders of the world. The park was conceived, designed, and built by Olmstead and Vaux. Every tree, every boulder, every blade of grass was intended in a conscious way. You can get info from various sources (click here for a good resources on Central park).

You’ll know you’ve reached Sheep Meadow when you get to the chain-link fence. And yes, at one time there were sheep in Central Park. On a a sunny day, you'll find sun worshipers taking in the sun's rays. Across the West Drive is the now defunct Tavern on the Green, created when the sheep were exiled to the equally miraculous Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The Tavern, in turn, was created to get rid of another restaurant, the Casino, when it became notorious as the hangout of New York’s playboy mayor of the 1920s, “Gentleman” Jimmy Walker. If you are in need a of good story, Google Jimmy walker. As mayor, Walker kept late hours and "loose" women (despite being married). For a brief glimpse, consider that during his first two years in office, he spent 143 days in Palm Springs, Palm Beach, Bermuda and Europe. Criticized for giving himself a pay raise from $25,000 to $40,000, Walker quipped, “Why, that’s cheap. Think what it would cost if I worked full time.”

If you ever visit Central Park, you’ll probably not see Tavern on the Green, as it has gone out of business, its beautiful d├ęcor now being auctioned off (you can put in a bid online). I ate at the Tavern a few times (that I can remember) and once, in the 1970s, I was asked to leave when my date, a lovely young lady who become too drunk, insisted on “singing opera” while standing atop our dining table. Sadly, she knew neither opera nor the rudiments of singing, but in her defense, she had exquisite bone structure and a most beautifully well-shaped arse.

Cross back to sheep meadow and walk along its southern side, outside the fence (the fence being on your left). As you reach the top of the hill, you’ll note a number of boulders on both sides of the path. These are in fact “glacial erratics,” left here during the last Ice Age. Continue walking east on the path, past the edge of Sheep Meadow, until you reach the ring road -- here also called the East Drive. Keeping the ring road on your right, turn left and continue to the statue of Christopher Columbus, which will be on your left. This is the beginning of the Mall. The Mall was designed to contrast the random, winding paths of lower Central Park. It's a very orderly, well-organized section.

The Columbus statue was originally built to celebrate his quadricentennial, and was widely panned by art critics at the time partly because some felt celebrating Italians wasn’t deemed too cool. LOL At least that's the way I see it. Walk around the flower garden to the statue of William Shakespeare that stands opposite it. The statue, at the southern end of the Mall, which is now called the Literary or Poet’s Walk, was one of its first and was sponsored by the great New York Shakespearian actor, Edwin Booth and his brothers Junius and John Wilkes (yes, that Wilkes Booth)... Continue walking north on the Mall and you’ll pass statues of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns, and then you’ll come upon an obscure American poet, Greene Helleck, of whom I know nothing. LOL

Further up the Mall, you come upon a broad staircase leading down to Bethesda Terrace. Before you go down, take some time to look at the intricate carvings on the pedestals flanking the staircase -- look for the witch on her broomstick on the west side of the pedestal on your left. The use of Halloween symbols was recent when this part of the park (referred to then as the heart of Central Park) was built. Catholics and other Christian sects of the time, demonstrating that religious intolerance is nothing new, condemned it. LOL

Head down the stairs to the heart of the terrace and you’re greeted by Emma Stebbin’s statue, The Angel of the Waters. Growing up, we used to call it “The Fountain,” as in “Meet you at The Fountain on Sunday!” everyone knowing which fountain. On some Sundays, the Fountain would get so crowded with Puerto Ricans that it would take you literally 45 minutes to circle it. The big thing about the Fountain was that musicians from all over the city would congregate there and jam. You would find ensembles made up of 10-15 percussionists, 6-7 trombonists, trumpet players, flutists -- all manner of musicians from many different cultures mixing together creating a hybrid music.

Oftentimes, well-known salsa musicians would make appearances, take some of the ideas germinated in those sessions, and incorporate it into their music. The site was also the place where some great percussionists -- known and unknown -- would meet and challenge each other to musical duels that reverberated throughout the park. I would often joke that Central Park on a Sunday looked and sounded like a Tarzan episode. LOL!

Why Sunday?

I don’t know, but I do know that one of the most popular music radio shows among Latino/as at the time, “Latin Roots,” played for four hours every Sunday afternoon. The host, Nuyorican poet and activist (now journalist), Felipe Luciano, would play Latino/a music from all over the world and often featured interviews with artists otherwise never featured on radio or television anywhere else. You would walk through The Park on a Sunday and everyone would have their boom boxes tuned on to the “Roots” program.

It was a truly amazing... At that time, the musical phenomenon known as “salsa” was barely known outside of the Latino/a community. Eventually, it would break out into an international phenomenon with even Japanese youth clamoring for the music and actually dancing the unique steps of salsa music. However, salsa was more than a musical genre; it was a kind of urban folklore that caught fire in all the barrios throughout Latin America. To yell out “Salsa!” at that time was the equivalent of saying “Right On!” It was an identity marker, a way of life.

I’ve been trying to locate images of the Fountain from that era, but I haven’t had much success. It’s a little-known, but important slice of New York City History.

Okay... next tour, I’ll finish up this tour of lower Central Park.



Friday, January 15, 2010

The TGIF Sex Blog [Sex Quiz]

¡Hola! Everybody...
Today? A ::POP:: Quiz (pun intended!).

So you say you know your shit, right.? You’re sexually liberated, “been there, done that,” and my sex blogs are kindergarten bullshit, huh?

OKAY! I bet you some anal sex, y’all a bunch of wanna-be sexual ignoramuses!

* * *

-=[ The Sexual Trivia Challenge ]=-

Repression is a poor substitute for morality...

How much do you really fuckin know?!! Are you just an ignorant breeder who never ventured past the once-a-week-grunt-and-groan-missionary-fuck? Or are you a sexpert? Let’s find out. Put your money where your ass is! LOL! Some of the following are common facts, while others are more difficult. No CHEATING!!

[Answers at the end]

1. The average length of the unerect flaccid penis is:

  • 2.5 inches
  • 4 inches
  • 5.5 inches

2. The circumference of the erect penis is approximately:

  • 2.5 Inches
  • 4 inches
  • 5.5 inches

3. How many calories are there in a teaspoon of semen?

  • 5 calories
  • 50 calories
  • None

4. How many calories are burned during intercourse?

  • 50 calories
  • 100 calories
  • 300 calories

5. Of the 400 to 600 million sperm that are present in a single ejaculation, how many will reach the site of fertilization in the fallopian tubes?

  • 300
  • 3,000
  • 3,000,000

6. Which country has developed an oral contraceptive for men?

  • The United States
  • India
  • China

7. “Passion purpura” is the medical term for:

  • A fungal infection similar to “jock itch” that is spread by sexual contact.
  • The red abrasions on wrists or ankles caused by bondage practices.
  • A hickey

8. Phenylethylamine, a chemical produced by the brain and responsible for the ecstatic highs of love and sexual attraction, can be found in which food?

  • Passion fruit
  • Oysters
  • Chocolate

9. Tincture of belladonna (meaning “fair lady”) was used by Italian renaissance women to make themselves more sexually attractive and to enhance what part of the body?

  • Eyes
  • Lips
  • Breasts

10. The word “gymnasium” has its origin in the Greek term gymnos, which means:

  • Whorehouse
  • Women’s birthing place
  • Naked

11. Another name for the French kiss during the nineteenth century was:

  • Maraichinage
  • Soul kiss
  • Meal of tongues

12. What was the cost of the first issue of Playboy magazine, published in 1953?

  • $.30
  • $.50
  • $1.00

13. During the reign of Pope Pius V in early sixteenth-century Europe, prostitutes were called:

  • Nuns
  • Sisters of venery
  • She-devils

14. What were Gregory Pincus and John Rock inventors of?

  • Tampons
  • Silicone breast implants
  • Oral contraceptives

15. Donatian Alphonse Francois was more familiarly known as:

  • Casanova
  • Marquis de Sade
  • Rudolph Valentino

16. King Louis XV of France helped populate the settlement of New Orleans by:

  • Holding a lottery for single marriageable females
  • Paying 3,000 francs to each female who sailed to America
  • Sending all the prostitutes and criminals interned at La Saltpetriere Women’s Prison

17. What do engaged couples in the rural Philippines sometimes exchange?

  • Locks of hair
  • Soiled clothes
  • Ornately carved mirrors to be hung in the boudoir on their wedding night

18. Worldwide, the most common form of marriage is:

  • Polygyny (a male with multiple wives)
  • Monogamy
  • Polyandry (a female with multiple husbands)

19. Which country has a sub-culture that has no word for adultery in its vocabulary, where the practice is socially acceptable?

  • Brazil
  • New Guinea
  • India

20. Which country has an extremely sexually repressive sub-culture where the sexes are segregated throughout their lives, and intercourse, when it rarely occurs, is brief, perfunctionary, and for the sole purpose of procreation?

  • Ireland
  • Greenland
  • France

21. People of the Amazonian Mundurucu tribe refer to intercourse as:

  • “Eating penises”
  • “Churning the cream”
  • “Fertilizing the crops”

22. Poachers are paid handsomely by Chinese black marketers for what item?

  • Rhinoceros horn
  • ‘Black bear gall bladders
  • Buffalo testicles

23. Who was the first president to be born in a hospitable?

  • Millard Fillmore
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Jimmy Carter

24. An Arab husband who is absent from home for long periods may require his wife to protect her honor and fidelity by:

  • Locking her in the house and giving the key to his mother
  • Hiring a live-in chaperon to police her virtue
  • Infibulating (fastening) her genitals

25. A phylogynist is:

  • A therapist who specializes in the treatment of female sexual psychosocial disorders
  • A person that loves women
  • A person that has a fetish for women’s undergarments

26. An Englishman accused of “knicker picking” has done what?

  • Stolen women’s panties
  • Pinched a female’s buttock
  • Had sex with an underage female

27. Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker, born joined at the chest in 1843, married the Yates sisters of North Carolina and fathered how many children?

  • None
  • 2
  • 22

28. Which state has the highest birthrate?

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Utah

29. What year did condom commercials first appear on television?

  • 1984
  • 1987
  • 1990

30. What per cent of U.S. babies are born to single or unmarried mothers?

  • 15 per cent
  • 19 per cent
  • 25 per cent

31. What percent of U.S. babies are born by cesarean section?

  • 10 per cent
  • 25 per cent
  • 25 per cent

32. Globally, what is the most prevalent mode of transmission of the AIDS virus?

  • Heterosexual intercourse
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Homosexual intercourse

33. Which country legally permits homosexual or same sex marriage?

  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Madagascar

34. Which has 60 percent of AIDS cases worldwide?

  • The United States
  • Africa
  • India

35. Before divorcing, American couples are typically married:

  • 3 years
  • 7 years
  • 10 years

36. Who were the 1960s “Plaster Casters”?

  • Moral vigilantes who vandalized adult bookstores by throwing bibles encased in plaster through the windows
  • Plaster reliefs made by naked participants of a “love-in”
  • Rock groupies who cast their idols’ penises in plaster

* * *

Answers to the Sex Trivia Challenge

How Did You Score?

0-9 correct: DANG! You should be ashamed of yourself and should seriously consider seeking some kind of treatment.

10-18 Correct: A little better! But you’re probably a repressed individual nonetheless.

19-27 correct: Not bad! If you scored more than 50 per cent correct, you did better than the 1,974 adults who took the 1989 Kinsey Institute test of basic sexual knowledge.

28-36 correct: SEXPERT! Now we know what you do with your spare time, you fucking sicko!

1. 4 inches

2. 4 inches

3. 5 calories (and the reason why “spitters are quitters!”)

4. 100 calories

5. 300 sperm

6. China: They have developed an oral contraceptive using Gossypol, a derivative of cottonseed oil, which is thought to be effective metabolic spermicide

7. A Hickey

8. Chocolate

9. Eyes: Tincture of belladonna was used as an eye drop to dilate the pupil, making the eyes darker and supposedly creating an attractive contrast to light skin.

10. Naked

11. Maraichinage is named for the Maraichins of Brittany, France, who customarily exchanged prolonged deep tongue kisses.

12. $.50

13. Nuns: This pope actually referred to a brothel as a “nunnery.”

14. Oral contraceptives

15. Marquis de Sade

16. King Louis XV shipped prostitutes and criminals from his women’s prison to New Orleans

17. B. soiled clothes that carry the scent of a loved one and can be sniffed when the wearer is absent (my female readers are encouraged to send me their slightly worn knickers)

18. Polygyny (a male with multiple wives)

19. India: The Toda society has no word for adultery in its vocabulary and extramarital lovers are permitted.

20. Ireland: the inhabitants of Inis Beag, off the Irish coast, are ignorant of even basic sexual physiology, and female orgasm is virtually unknown.

21. “Eating penises”

22. Rhinoceros horn, and B. Black bear gall bladder (If you guessed both, take an extra point)

23. Jimmy Carter: born 1924 at Wise Sanitarium in Plains, GA

24. Infibulating (suturing) her genitals. Sew that ma’fucca up!

25. A lover of women

26. Stolen women’s panties

27. 22 Those Yates were a horny pair! The Engs have a biography which is a fascinating read.

28. Alaska, and C. Utah (take an extra point if you guessed both)

29. 1987: Television station KRON of San Francisco aired the first condom commercial on January 16 of that year.

30. 25 per cent

31. 25 per cent

32. Heterosexual intercourse

33. Denmark: From 1989 to 1995, 700 legal same-sex marriages were performed.

34. Africa

35. 7 years

36. Rock groupies who made plaster molds of their idols’ penises.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Relationship Thursdays [Loving Consciously]

¡Hola! Everybody...
Yeah, where are all the neocons (and their black and brown co-dependents) now? Listening to hateful responses to the Haiti catastrophe on the right (thank you Rush Limpballs and Pat Robertson), I have to wonder if they have any capacity for shame...

* * *

-=[ Conscious Loving ]=-

That which you are seeking already exists within you.

Today, a little fairytale, with a little twist...

I love tales of fantasy. One of the ways I sold my son on the pleasures of reading was to read with him Tolkien's "Hobbit," and the Ring Trilogy.

Fantastical stories can help to make our muddled world that much clearer: good and evil are often clearly defined; worlds can be created that question the way ours works.

Anyway, a few years ago I read an excellent book on love and relationships called "Mindful Loving," and the author, Henry Grayson, uses a King Arthur story to articulate unconditional, or "spiritual," love.

Sir Gawain, one of the Knights of the Round Table makes the sacrifice of marrying Ragnell -- a horrifyingly ugly woman -- in order to get information that will save King Arthur's life. On the wedding day, instead of celebration, there is a sense of mourning because King Arthur's “nene lindo,” the gallant knight Sir Gawain, is due to marry a grotesque hag.

The wedding night arrives and Sir Gawain waits in bed while Ragnell prepares herself for their first night together. Finally, Ragnell lies beside Gawain and says, “You have kept your promise and much more. All I ask of you is one kiss.”

[This is the part where everybody should go “ewwwwwww”]

Gawain, being that kind of person, leans over and kisses her, closing his eyes. When he opens them, he discovers he’s lying next to a beautiful woman! Startled, he jumps from the bed and kills her!

I’m kidding! That’s not how the story goes!

::clears throat::

Startled, he jumps from the bed and asks, “Who are you? And where is my wife? What kind of brujeria is this?” (Yes, Sir Gawain was a Nuyorican and switched language codes when excited.)

Ragnell looked Gawain in the eyes and said, “Gawain, I am your wife, Ragnell. It is time I tell you my story.”

Ragnell then tells Gawain el bochinche of how her evil stepbrother, Sir Gromer, was hatin' on her cause of her beauty and her not really feeling his authority and not following his commands. Because Gromer was such a hater, he went to his mother -- herself an evil bruja -- and turned her into one coyote-ugly looking biatche.

Ragnell paused and then told Gawain that there is a second part to this curse that she must share with him (don't you hate it when lovers pick to fess up in bed?). “Since you have treated me with love and not pity,” Ragnell said, “I am allowed to give you a choice. I can be a beautiful woman by day, so that all will admire me and consider you a lucky man, but then I would become ugly Ragnell by night, when we're fucking (oooops!) -- I mean -- lying together. Or else I could be ugly Ragnell by day only to become the beautiful woman you see before you at night. Which do you prefer?”

Without hesitation, Gawain answers her, “This should not be my choice but yours. You must choose for yourself. I will accept either decision as long as it's your will.”

With this response, the curse was lifted forever, and Ragnell could now be beautiful both day and night (but she still had bad breath -- kidding!).

The point of the story (aside from the fact that if I had been Sir Gawain, Ragnell would still be cursed) was that Sir Gawain's love was not concerned with personal needs; he saw beyond them and was concerned only with his partner's happiness and well-being. His ability to love unconditionally was what healed both of them and brought them both real joy.

Grayson says that this story captures the meaning of what he calls “empowering love,” the ability to love unconditionally. I agree that this kind of love should form the basis of a “spiritually-centered” marriage or relationship -- relationships not based on purely ego-driven needs.

I think we have lost the ability to view love as something from within, as opposed to outside, of us. In the same way, we have lost the ability to feel God (what I perceive as “pure love”) as something within us. Many think of God as the flat-earth Sky god far removed from our lives here on Earth.

When we think of love (or God) as separate from us, we unconsciously create an unquenchable thirst to seek love outside of ourselves. And believe me, this is what we are all searching for -- we wish to experince our selves as loved -- and yet we often deny it and push love away. Ironically, this keeps us in a state of seeking love.

Is this not the main motivation for our relationships? A quest to “find” love, secure it, and in the process ensure our happiness?

But how do we avoid the temptation of the narrow perspective of the ego and instead create a relationship based on unconditional love? I think some of the problems begin when we “fall in love.” But I won't get into that right now!



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Responding to Racism

¡Hola! Everybody...
Procrastination and a lot of work: that’s been the story for me in this young year. However, (LOL) I have to say, I’m working it all out.

I was going to do something on the hypocrisy of the republican “outrage” at what they deem as racist, but my muse had other plans...

* * *

-=[ Coming Home ]=-

That’s the risk you take if you change: that people you've been involved with won't like the new you.

-- Lisa Alther (1944 -) American author

I will say only this (for now) about the most recent and ugly episode of republican race baiting: republicans have no moral compass when it comes to this issue -- no leg to stand on. I would love for republicans and conservatives to attempt a meaningful national dialog on race-relations, but it will never happen because they’ve been on the wrong side of that argument since shortly after the Civil War. More on this crap some other day...

I am often asked why I write on race and racism and why I never write about solutions to the “race problem.” I would say that everything I do and write about is solution-centered. After all, the first step to any healing process is the acknowledgment of the disease. The careful reader would observe that my writing is all about solutions. The following is an attempt to address that inquiry in a specific way. I hope it hits its mark...

One day, when I was very young, my mother caught me littering on the city block where we lived. We lived in the ghetto, there was litter everywhere, and my mother's anger annoyed me. Always the precocious one, I challenged her, pointing out that there was garbage everywhere, the implication being that my little transgression didn’t make much of a difference. And then she told me something I have never forgotten. She said, “That’s the reason! The reason why it’s so dirty is because everybody thinks like that!” And with that, she made me pick up the gum wrapper I had discarded.

I don’t know why that made such an impression on me -- I was all of maybe five-seven years-old. But it did. It struck me as so true; I was able to see both the cause of the problem, its consequence, and its solution. Since that day, I do not litter. And I live in one of the dirtiest of the great cities. I often walk around with wrappers and assorted garbage in my pockets or my backpack.

Equally influential was my mother’s impeccably clean house. We were poor, we lived in rundown tenements, but the apartments we lived in were always clean and were so well decorated visitors would often remark on the beauty of our living space. I guess I could say my mother taught and led by example. My mother’s admonition made sense when I would come home from school and experience on a daily basis the contrast between the decrepit hallways and the cleanliness and serenity of our apartments.

I say all this to make an important point. We often think of racism as something external, or about black people, or people of color -- them. We usually think of social action as something “out there,” outside of our personal lives, apart from the way we live and relate to others and our environment. But if our ecology has taught us anything, it has taught us that there are no walls that separate “us” from “them.” If we adopt a broader perspective, we learn that even something as seemingly unimportant as dropping a gum wrapper has larger consequences when we multiply that action exponentially. My mother was right: that stupid little gum wrapper does matter, and it matters now more than ever. Something as simple as using a reusable cloth bag instead of opting for the plastic supermarket kind would make a huge difference if we all considered it.

I am not proposing that this simple action, taken collectively, would solve our global problems. I am saying that it would have a significant impact. Or to borrow a phrase, “think globally, act locally.”

I grew up in a household that was the center for activism. Our living room was the site of meetings for rent strikes and teach-ins. My parents were organizers before the term was coined. I would come home and some of my teachers would be right there in our living room debating my father on the political issues of the day, or getting involved. It was what I knew growing up. Eventually, when I became a parent, I was concerned with passing on those same progressive values to my son. I wanted him to care about the gum wrapper, to care about others, to respect diversity, and see governance as a solution, not a problem. I wanted him to see civic engagement as a responsibility because in their own way, that’s what my parents taught me.

When I was married, we lived in a culturally diverse community. Anthropologists studying the subway line closest to my home, surmised there are over 200 different cultures represented along the trail of that elevated subway line (the no. 7 Flushing line). My son’s birthday parties included Muslims, Hindus, children of parents from all parts of Latin America, Asians from KoreaChina, Irish, Buddhists, Catholics, and Jews. I would look at that and smile, knowing it was good. and

One day my son suddenly asked me why the husband of one of my relatives referred to African Americans as niggers. I had somewhat reluctantly sent him down south to visit family as part of his summer vacation on year. As he told me this I could plainly see he was conflicted and he was also afraid that if he told me, I wouldn’t allow him to visit my family. He was taught that it was wrong and there was a part of his little seven-year-old conscience that was bothering him.

More than anything, we harm our children when we teach them to hate mindlessly. I felt anger at the predicament the adults in my family put my son in. He was even encouraged not to say anything to me, causing him psychic pain. I used the occasion to talk about race with my son. It became an opportunity to point out the poison, how to study it, and most importantly, how avoid its infection. We need to talk about race and racism in our homes, folks.

As in my mother’s example, change begins in the home. I quickly realized I could never purge the racism and sexism that saturated my son's world. Sure, as a parent, it was my duty to protect him from the influence of a bigot, but children don’t need to be protected from racism. They see it all the time. What they need are the critical thinking tools necessary for recognizing, analyzing, and creatively responding to the many different manifestations of racism. Television, a prime vehicle for racist stereotypes, became an opportunity to deconstruct the embedded messages. Buffy the Vampire Slayer became an opportunity to discuss the creation of gender roles and how they are negotiated. Commercials pushing pills for everything from depression to erectile dysfunction became fodder for comedic teachable moments. “What is anal leakage,” I would ask my son and we would laugh. Soon, he began to pick up the habit of looking behind the curtain on his own, even while enjoying a TV show or film.

I tried, as best I could, to create a living environment that reflected the contributions of a wide range of cultures. I introduced him to the art of questioning, and in that way he was able to learn how to protect himself psychologically. Before long, my son would be pointing out the embedded racism in cop shows, the objectification of women in beauty pageants, and he and I would have fun doing it. I also tried to encourage my son to be part of the process of creating our living environment. My goal wasn’t to create “political correctness,” but to create a living space that acknowledged and celebrated the diversity of the people and cultures that make the very fabric of our society. I like to think that it made a difference, but I can't even say I was or am a good father. It certainly made a difference for me, as I learned from my son as much or more than he learned from me.

I am an activist by profession, but you don’t have to be an activist to be a force for change. As a professional, I can tell you that I measure “victories” by small increments. We live in a historical period hostile toward progressive values and change. Real change begins here, in your heart. It begins in the way you live your life and the actions you take when you think no one is looking (which is also a good working definition of spirituality).

That’s how it starts. It starts perhaps by not littering, or by simple, seemingly small acts that mean something over time. If you’re not doing this, then I am afraid you are part of the problem not the solution. Actions, words, ideas matter and if you are not doing anything, you're saying all this hate is OK... You can’t be neutral on a moving train.




[un]Common Sense