Friday, April 30, 2010

Sex Blog [The Squeaky Vagina Syndrome]

¡Hola! Everybody...
Spring has sprung and it’s time to put up this very important public service announcement...

* * *

-=[ The Curious Case of the Squeaky Vaginas ]=-

The most perverse form of sexual deviancy is abstinence.

I love Spring!

True, I become less focused, more prone to indulgence, and all other forms of “ho’ hopping,” but this time of year, with its symbolism of rebirth and beginnings, holds so much attraction for me. It doesn’t hurt that I was born during the spring season, with my birthday falling on June 6th (hint: please don’t buy gifts, but anonymous, edgy sex is always welcome! – females need only apply, thank you).

This brings me to my topic today, namely sexual abstinence and its consequences. But before I get there, I must digress just a little. As much as I love to complain about winter, there is something to be said about living in a temperate zone and the changing of the seasons. You see, as hedonistic as I’m prone to be in warm and hot weather, I probably would not last in a tropical zone, where I would most likely try to literally fuck my brains out. Shit, all there has to be here is a hint of warm weather and the women come out in full force, showcasing their “assets” after a long hard winter.

Sheeesh! Youse guys are mean!

Whatever… things have gotten so hectic and the clothing so scarce these days, that I can swear I can almost smell the shaving cream as scantily clad wenches pass me by, the hint of a grin on their smug and pretty faces. Yeah, you know how to hurt a guy. And yes I’m single, but you know how that goes: I could be starving to death and not one maiden would pay me any mind -- more than likely women would step over, or around, my body on their way to work without giving more than a cursory look. Of course, let me get a girlfriend and they’ll be all over me like the proverbial white on rice! Shoot, I should revert to wearing a wedding ring, that always works.

Okay, to our topic today: sexual abstinence and its consequences. First, I have to give some props to the ladies in that have kept to the resolve not to give in to the erotic impulse (at great cost, of course). Well, at least that’s what women like to say, you never know the real deal, but I’ve observed the women I know taking a more assertive stance on the sex issue and I applaud you all for that (yeah, right).

I think we’ve all heard by now of the seven-year government study that showed that teens who pledge abstinence (or who take abstinence only sex courses) not only get the same amount of STDs as other teens, but are six times more likely to engage in oral sex, and the boys are four times more likely to get anal action.

Dang! I guess, depending from what perspective one looks at it, this is either a great argument for or against abstinence-only sex education. I mean, I wish the Christian zealots championing such programs would’ve been more effective when I was in school! I wasn’t getting any anal action from the girls while in high school.

Great idea, by the way: tell teens not to fuck! LMAO! I will tell you this, while I was in my 20s I dated a young lady who claimed to be a virgin and she was really ok with oral sex and eventually anal sex. She wanted to keep her “hymen intact” for her wedding night, she would beam. I stayed with her for a lonnnnng time...

On another note, there is an unintended consequence for adult women practicing sexual abstinence: a huge spike in a little known disease that affects only adult women, vaginal arthritis. Yes, you read correctly: vaginal arthritis. This is a degenerative affliction in which women’s’ genitalia atrophy from consistent lack of proper use.

Dr. Hughes Jour-Daeddy, lead investigator for a top government research arm says, “It’s unfortunate, but one of the consequences of prolonged sexual abstinence for adult women is that they lose vital functioning around their vaginal area which has led to what could be a very embarrassing symptom: vaginas that squeak.”

Another authority in the field, Dr. Yah EsTah-Oosa, a researcher from Taiwan, explains, “It’s the age-old truism: if you don’t use it, you lose it.” She explains further, “The reason why vaginal ssqueaking has become more prevalent today, is that women mistake the use erotic toys as an adequate substitute for penile penetration when in fact, our research shows that masturbation actually exacerbates the squeaking” (emphasis added).

Fuck! Squeaking vaginas?!!

But, come to think of it, I’ve actually heard vaginas squeak, but I thought I was suffering from auditory hallucinations. The other day, a woman was hurrying by me and she was squeaking like the proverbial screen door and when I stared at her, she tried to affect an indignant look, trying to place the blame on my shoes, but my shoes don’t squeak, thank you very much.

A good friend called me the other day despondent over her squeaking. She was a little embarrassed at first, but since she knows I keep up to date on cutting edge medical findings on human sexuality, she confided: “It’s gotten to the point where it’s becoming unmanageable,” she told me between sobs. “Just the other day, a group of high school kids followed me half way down the block calling me ‘Squeaky’!”

Another friend related her tragedy: her new boyfriend left her because he was totally turned off by the sound her legs made when he attempted to spread-eagle her, “He said I sounded like a rusty gate!” she cried. I just didn’t have any words of consolation for her.

Well, boys and girls, I guess the moral of the story (if there’s any moral to be had here at all) is that perhaps God is getting even with us for denying and repressing something that is part of our essence, part of our human legacy: being sexual creatures.

Ladies: Please do all of us a favor and make an appointment for sex... soon!



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Police State

¡Hola! Everybody...
The following is anecdotal and due to time limitations, I cannot document the points I am making. However, as someone who regularly holds community justice workshops teaching youth of color how to “protect” themselves in the event of a “police confrontation,” I can tell you that my experiences are more common than many of you believe. I post this because I fear the irrational wave of anti-immigrant sentiment (really: racism) and laws such as the draconian Arizona Immigration Law will make what is de facto (in practice) racial profiling, de jure (“the law”).

* * *

-=[ The Five-0 ]=-

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. -- Benjamin Franklin

More than 40 years later, I can still remember the incident as if it happened yesterday. It was my first contact with a NYC police officer. A few of us were headed home after being let out of school, waiting for the “M” train on the elevated Wyckoff & Myrtle platform. It was a rainy, drizzly early spring day. My friends and I were all “A” students -- the talented tenth -- at the (even then) notorious Bushwick High School. We were just standing around cracking jokes on one another (playing the dozens), talking about girls -- the usual fare of masculine adolescence. We weren’t being loud, weren’t breaking any laws. We were, well, breathing while Latino (we were all of Puerto Rican descent).

As we stood there joking, a police officer approached us and demanded to know what we were doing. I had never had any bad experiences with the police; maybe it was because I looked white. My friends would always tease me that I often got a free pass. This time, however, everyone immediately became quiet and the tension was palpable.

I informed the officer that were all going home, that we had just left school. I wasn’t being confrontational, just merely stating a fact as I would if I had commented on the weather. He then asked for ID, or our “program cards.” I remember he was rude and abrupt.

We all showed him our school IDs and then he looked at me and said, “Get the fuck off this platform.”

We were all taken aback since we had to be on the platform in order to catch out train home. When we didn’t react, he looked straight at me but said to everyone, “Didn’t you hear what I said you little spics. Get the FUCK off this platform.” Now, the “spic” part was uncalled for, I felt. In a nice way, I informed the officer that we were all headed home and we had to take the train. Up to that point, I wasn’t arguing with him, I was trying to reason, even though he had used profanity and a racial slur. We were standing by the stairs leading down to the street.

“If you don’t get the fuck off of this platform now you little prick, I will kick your spic ass down those stairs.”

That’s when I became argumentative. I stated that we all had a right to stand on the platform and that we hadn’t done anything wrong to provoke him. I asked him by what authority could he speak to us in that manner and violate our basic rights.

I’ll never forget his response. He said, in a low, threatening growl, “If you don’t get off this station by the time I count to three, I will kick you down those stairs.”

I stood there, staring at him defiantly, determined not to move. My friends told me, “C’mon, Eddie, let’s go, don’t get into any trouble, man, it’s not worth it.” I said I wasn’t moving.

The police officer counted:



And I don’t know why, perhaps it was the look of pure hatred in the man’s face, but I decided to move right before he counted to three. I turned around and started walking down the steps, when I felt his foot slam into my back. I don’t know how I did it, maybe it was instinct, but somehow, as my body began its propulsion head first down the metal stairs, I reached out and grabbed on to the only thing available -- the officer's foot.

And in that way we tumbled down those long, cement-and-metal stairs, tangled in a ball, for I was holding on to dear life. After what seemed like an eternity, we landed and I immediately noted the unnatural position of the officer’s leg and his banshee howls of pain. At that very moment, taking in everything, I realized I was fucked...

and I ran.

After, my friends told me that the police officer rounded them up and tried to get them to tell him who I was. To their credit never ratted on me. For over two years, I was unable to take the train to school; I had to walk to school (a 45-minute walk each way) rain, cold, snow, or shine.

I was a 14-year-old honors student who never did anything wrong and my life could’ve have easily been destroyed by that one chance encounter.

Growing up, experience wasn’t outside the norm. My close friend, Michael, had his dick almost shot off by a police officer. I'll never forget: It was a Friday night, one of our acquaintances was running from the police, passed by us, and when we heard gunshots, we all ran. Michael was shot and the bullet passed through his thigh and into his penis. When we picked him up, we saw the blood flowing from his groin area. He was lucky, the main “dick vein” (as Michael explained it) wasn't destroyed, and the doctors were able to stitch it all back together again. He did have the ugliest dick I ever saw. We used to kid him and call his penis the Frankenstein Dick.

My friend Shadow, one of the blackest Puerto Ricans I ever met (hence the nickname), was a Golden Gloves champion with a promising boxing career. He was going to box for the Air Force after high school. He was “accidentally” shot dead in the flower of his youth by a stray police bullet. Another stray police bullet left a friend paralyzed at 17 -- for life. And those were only the most egregious infractions. I can’t even begin to tell of all the little infractions, the little humiliations, at the hands of the police. I can’t even begin to enumerate the countless times parents, grandmothers even, were rounded up like common criminals during drug “sweeps” -- periodic lockdowns of whole city blocks in which the police ran roughshod, with total disregard for all basic human rights.

This is not to say all police are brutal or even corrupt. I am, however, trying to offer the insight that the relationship between communities of color and the police are strained at best. Oftentimes, structural racism is expressed through the vehicle of law enforcement. It isn’t that there are a few bad apples; the true issue is that the barrel itself is rotten.

Today, when I hold workshops teaching children how to protect themselves from those who are supposed to protect us, I hear the same stories. So, when I hear that redneck states are fighting to make this legal, I am not surprised, for I know the drill. However, it doesn’t mean that I am not outraged.

You should be too.

-- Eddie

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Race, Conservatives, and Arizona

¡Hola! Everybody...
As my friend Will commented regarding the Arizona Nazi Immigration Law, “It’s time to quit with the nuance -- I don’t give a rat’s ass about how many political-angels can dance on the head of a pin. Wrong is wrong. This is wrong. Either fight it, or become part of the larger problem of racism in America.” I couldn’t say it better myself.

* * *

-=[ Rage Politics ]=-

From Wallace to Newt to Arizona

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock somewhere, by now you probably know Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, recently enacted an immigration law written by a known white supremacist sympathizer with financial support from anti-immigrant organizations and think tanks such as the Pioneer Foundation -- a “think tank” supporting the modern eugenics movement dedicated to proving the superiority of the white race. The law essentially criminalizes being brown, giving law enforcement officers the right to ask for “your papers” if they have “reasonable suspicion” that you’re an illegal immigrant. In any other country, this is called apartheid. Unless you’re in deep denial or a total racist, we all know who will be most impacted by this law.

Meanwhile, in Disney Land... Jan Brewer really stepped in it (H/T FireDogLake):

A spreading call for an economic boycott of Arizona after its adoption of a tough immigration law that opponents consider racially discriminatory worried business leaders on Monday and angered the governor.

Several immigrant advocates and civil rights groups, joined by members of the San Francisco government, said the state should pay economic consequences for the new law, which gives the police broad power to detain people they reasonably suspect are illegal immigrants and arrest them on state charges if they do not have legal status.

Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed the bill on Friday, calling it an important step toward public safety that would help control immigration and give the police a tool to root out criminals.

She criticized opponents for not offering more solutions to problems related to illegal immigration and called the idea of a boycott “disappointing and unfortunate” at a time when the state is reeling from the recession and suffering from border-related crime that “continues to harm our economy and stifle trade.”

Translation? At a time of recession, how dare people not financially support our racist xenophobic laws!

If you think I am overreaching by likening Law SB 1070 to apartheid or “Nazism,” think again. Here’s Rachel Maddow digging into the political and racial motivation of this law:

For more in-depth reporting on the connection between white supremacy groups and the Arizona immigration law click here .

Please consider boycotting Arizona and joining a growing number of Americans from across the land who oppose Arizona’s racist immigration law. Click here to go to a list of Arizona-based corporations.

-- Eddie

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Aren't You Outraged?

¡Hola! Everybody...
No foreplay today.

* * *

-=[ Moral Outrage ]=-

On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered near her home. Her neighbors were fully aware of the struggle between Genovese and her attacker, which lasted nearly thirty minutes in length, yet were unresponsive (later research disclosed that the actual events of that night were misreported). The failure of the neighbors to come to her aid is now known as the bystander effect. It refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the numbers of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in crisis. When an emergency situation occurs, observers are more likely to take action if there are few or no other witnesses. It’s as if in a large crowd, everyone is expecting someone else to do something, so no one acts.

I’m no hero -- by no stretch of the imagination. In fact, I am as far removed from “hero” as is possible. I do have a problem, however. For the life of me, I cannot stay quiet in the face of injustice. If I see something that’s just plain wrong, I can’t let it go, I can’t stay quiet. I have to act. Throughout my life, I have paid a steep price for that character defect.

But, no, I am no hero...

For me, real heroes are spiritual warriors who are alive with moral outrage and who enter the gladiatorial arena to wrestle with the mystery of evil in its many different disguises. Fierce men and women, rich in wise judgment, who still have thunder and lightning in them. Not the middle-of-the-road fence sitters these people. Give me the “hot” Bill Moyers (or Rachel Maddow!) who takes chances, calls presidents liars, and breathes fire at secret wars and hidden government over any of the “cool” stenographers who report the news and lead discussions as long as the perspectives expressed won’t keep them from access to the very power they should be holding accountable.

One of the most troubling issues of today is the absence of moral outrage in the American public. The ongoing revelations of wars justified by fabricated lies, government-sanctioned torture on American soil and abroad, corporate malfeasance, arranged assassinations, the shredding of the Constitution, are greeted with an apathy that is utterly mind-numbing. It is as if the whole of the American populace is under the thrall of a collective bystander effect.

While we might have freedom of the (corporate-owned) press, I am continually astounded by how our media can report on the most egregious forms of political and corporate corruption but very little happens. We have a former vice president going on talk shows and bragging about how he ordered torture!

To be sure, the path of the warrior is full of conflict and contradictions. No individual with an awakened sense of moral reasoning can witness unnecessary suffering, disease, and injustice without feeling outraged and being compelled toward action. Desecration evokes a feeling from deep in the gut that forms into a judgment and grows into an impulse to act.

Godammit it, it’s wrong for governments to spend billions on weapons when tens of thousands are dying needlessly from disease and hunger!

Fuck! It’s wrong to pursue a demented progress at the cost of destroying our planet!

Godammit! It’s wrong to pass a law that criminalizes people of a certain skin color!

If our minds and hearts haven’t been anesthetized, we must be outraged by the injustices of the world and realize that if “you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” You have to have a mission in life, something sacred, larger than your petty needs. It is our responsibility to become protectors of this world, of the powerless, and healers of the broken.

These are challenging times for those aspiring to live with compassion and vigor. You have to gird your fucking loins and decide where to enter the struggle against unnecessary suffering, injustice, and poverty.

Suffering is a fact of the human condition. In the best of all possible worlds, there would still be disease, accident, tragedy, disappointment, loneliness, and death. And there is a certain form of wisdom required in order to accept the things we are powerless to change. But there is suffering and then there is what we add to it. There is another form of wisdom that allows us address the suffering that results from psychological, economic, and political structures that we can change. While I do not subscribe to violent “just wars,” there is a just war of the soul that is against unnecessary suffering, against the impulses of greed, the collective lack of empathy, against those systemic mechanisms that are clearly responsible for the desecration of the earth and the dehumanization of people.

But identifying the enemy is always a dangerous exercise. Self-righteousness can easily come to dominate our judgments. It’s easy to condemn pollution while we continue to use a gas-guzzler to go the corner store. In order to guard against self-righteousness, I have to remind myself constantly that I am part of the problem I am trying to solve. I embody many of the wrongs I must fight. For example, as a man, I have a tendency to view the world from a male-dominated perspective. As a straight man, I have to be vigilant of any bias I have regarding my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. The demons of greed, cruelty, and fear must be fought from within and without.

The collective bystander effect-- heart that has become hardened -- is both individual and systemic, both mine and my enemy’s. The moral outrage that sets me at odds with institutional embodiments of evil also sets me in conflict with my own greed and apathy. A person who does not know how to fight a just fight, first within and then with others, has no values worth defending, no ideals worth aspiring to, no awareness of the disease of which he might be healed.

And nobody -- at least nobody with some cojones -- worships the status quo.

We may not be heroes, but we all owe it to ourselves and to others to become warriors of the soul. And when we become warriors, we do so with the knowledge that the battle is never to be won intellectually or politically. There is no answer, no methodology, no way of understanding that eliminates the harm evil poses to the human spirit. We do not live in a world that satisfies our demand for moral explanations. But it also true that I, and few others, know what must be done, if not to reduce oppression, at least not add to it. Perhaps we cannot prevent being in a world where the rights of our fellow human beings aren’t violated. But we can reduce the number of those being violated and dehumanized.

If you’re not feeling outraged today, you have lost your very soul, or whatever it is that makes you human...

-- Eddie

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Sermon [Apartheid]

¡Hola! Everybody...
I recently
posted a summary of a pair of peer-reviewed studies finding that at the core of political conservatism is resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include: Fear and aggression; Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity; Uncertainty avoidance; Need for cognitive closure; Terror management.
Never the party to disappoint our worst expectations, the ultra-conservative Arizona
GOP-dominated legislature unleashed a law so reprehensible, so anti-American in nature, that it could justifiably be compared to the pogroms of Nazi Germany and South African apartheid. It prompted an online participant to joke that a new sign has appeared when you cross the border into Arizona reading, “Welcome to Arizona where being a prejudiced, racist imbecile isn't just a way of life. It's the law!”

* * *

-=[ Arizona Apartheid ]=-


-- Provision in Arizona Immigration Law,
SB 1070

I have heard all kinds of justifications for this law, all coming mostly from whites who just don’t give a fuck because they don’t see how this will affect their rights. Most supporters of the law, in fact, are basing their justifications on immigration myths. The usual, knee-jerk (bigoted), justifications range from the mild (“immigrants don’t bother to learn the language”). To the disgusting (immigrants are raping babies”). More insidiously, these defenders of racism frame immigration in terms of “illegal,” “drug cartels,” and “gangs.” Set aside the facts that immigrants learn the language, work hard under often deplorable conditions, commit crime at lesser rates than native borns (even whites), and actually contribute positively to the U.S. economy. The rednecks in Arizona spat on the facts and snuggled comfortably with what is the worst of our shared American tradition: bigotry.

The law’s intended consequences (to target people based on the color of their skin or assumed ethnicity) are easy enough to predict, but the new law will also have unintended detrimental effects on Arizona’s economy.

First, the law essentially legalizes racial profiling, an enforcement policy that has been shown to be ineffective. It specifically targets communities of color by requiring state and local government workers to determine if a person is illegally in the United States based on a “reasonable suspicion.”

Arizona governor Brewer’s “sartorial profiling” remarks notwithstanding (in which she suggested identifying illegal immigrants by their shoes -- I am not making this up), the law will result in racial profiling, as it does not prohibit police officers from relying on race or ethnicity in deciding who to investigate. Of course, not all Latino/as look alike. I am of Puerto Rican descent and I have light skin and blue eyes. Similarly, Mexico’s population has the full range of human phenotypic expression. If you don’t believe me, just watch Telemundo for a hot fuckin second. Moreover, what if I am in Arizona and I’m dating a white woman (as I have been known to do)?

What these goobers fail to understand is that the law undermines the Constitution and empowers local police with federal authority. This isn’t an immigrant issue, you blockheads -- it is a civil rights issue! Your civil rights. The measure does not require the local police to have a search warrant or even suspect that some illegal action has occurred.

What really takes the cake is that these bigots don’t even understand they’re shooting themselves in the foot. One of the unintended consequences of the law is that it will devastate state and local economies. The National Employment Law Project, for example, pointed out that smaller-scale anti-immigrant laws have cost individual localities millions of dollars. The Texas-based Perryman Group calculated that if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Arizona, the state would lose $26.4 billion in economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 140,324 jobs. The Immigration Policy Center noted that, “with Arizona facing a budget deficit of more than $3 billion, the new law will “further imperil the state’s economic future.”

Observed Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski, “We’re the laughing stock of the country because of these crazy laws.” Duh... You think?

Ironically, the law hasn’t been well received by the law enforcement community. The costs of arresting, detaining, processing, and transporting undocumented human beings out of Arizona will drain local government treasuries, prompting the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police to oppose the law. There were an estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona as of January 2009, making up 4 percent of the state’s population. If the federal government were to handle the entire undocumented population, the cost would be approximately $23,482 per person, based on a recent study by the Center for American Progress.

But let’s be sure here: this law isn't about reason or good social policy. Many of the defenders of this law and those reporting on it note that immigration is an "emotional" issue. Let's stop and reflect on these emotions for a moment, the heart of this law: pure, naked, fear and hatred. Fear of an America whose face is changing and race/ ethnicity-based hatred.



Saturday, April 24, 2010

Take a stroll...

¡Hola! Everybody...
Well, well, well... I was waiting for it to happen. Yesterday, Arizona’s governor signed SB 1070 into law, making it legal to racially profile in the state. It's a law written by a known white supremacist and enacted by a conservative administration. Essentially, you could be pulled over for no other reason than that you are brown-skinned or speak Spanish. As an American citizen of Latino/a descent, I feel Arizona does not deserve economic support from the rest of the country. Tourism is a huge industry in that state -- bringing in $18 billion last year. With the passage of SB 1070, I pledged not spend my dollars in a place where racial profiling is legal.

If immigrants were perceived as white and blond, you would not be reading this today. Arizona is the shame of our nation.

If you feel the same way, please consider signing the petition (click here).

* * *

Nows [XVI]

Note: A dear friend of the family -- a sister, I can say -- sent me a sheaf of papers of some writings I had left with her over 20 years ago. I used to carry legal pads with me back then, and write my poems and stories in longhand. In this pile of papers were some poems, snatches of an essay on the short story form, and fragments of an uncompleted short story. The following was one of the poems I found in the group.

Take a stroll outside of yourself tonight
and gaze over your shoulder.

You will see yourself
taller than yesterday,
smiling more,
and quieter
than in those early years.

Watch your hands
as they touch me

It all happened behind your back.

A smug comfort settled in
that says you need me less
but want me more.

Take a giant step back
and see yourself
as others do,
for you must someday
learn the delicate art
of viewing your reflection
in all those eyes
your beauty has moistened.

-- Eddie

Friday, April 23, 2010

The TGIF Sex Blog [Love Letter]

¡Hola! Everybody...
My phone isn’t working correctly. No innanets! ::sigh::

Allow me a moment of self-indulgence. I love letters. Do you?

-=[ A Letter to my Lover ]=-

Dearest Lover,

How would you live if you lived your life as an expression of your fearless deepest heart?

Inspired by your liberated love, you might become a mother, a teacher, or a writer. Perhaps you would invent a new healing modality or create music. You might become an earth mother on a farm, or an attorney. Love moves each person in a different way.

Forget the horoscope, if you want to know your true destiny, it is to be found in the way love moves you. When you don’t add fear to love’s power, your life unfolds unrestricted like a flower. Each day is a flowering of your gifts. At work, with your family and friends, alone -- each moment springs open from the core of your heart.

If you want to know how to allow your true destiny to unfold, be in this moment right now. Stop. Listen. Allow your breath to be full, strong, and tender, as if you were pressing love from deep inside of you into the softness of your lover. Relax your muscles, open your senses, and feel into the world around you, as if feeling into the soft, bright luminosity of a dream, breathing this light in and out. From deep in your heart and soft belly, offer love outward in the direction of the winds as far as you can open to feel. This is your true destiny and it unfolds freely when you live every moment open and shining as an offering of love.

However, if you add fear -- and many of us do -- then your life takes the shape of your dread. Anxiety about finances stunts the creativity of your career. Fear of abandonment strangles honesty with your lover. Your gut tenses because you don’t want really want to be where you are.

Fear, dearest, is the opposite of love.

Few men and women live their true destiny. Most follow that arc bent by fear. Your true destiny is lived only by giving everything and loving openly without waiting.

If you’re waiting to open fully, then your heart is aching as your life shrivels in the shape of your chosen sorrows. Your bedtime snuggles and rituals can lessen your pangs of unlived love for a while, but your heart’s pain slowly grows to the unbearable.

Sometimes a crisis cracks open your heart. Your business goes under, or a loved one becomes terminally ill. Stripped of what you most cherish, you are left open and unprotected. And sometimes a flower grows from that crack...

Inevitably, you come to face the one truth: Everything you acquire is eventually lost. Everybody you hold eventually dies. If you have been waiting to love without holding back, while your life -- everyone’s life -- passes, then you have bartered your true destiny for the false comfort of safety and quiet sorrow.

Your true destiny is lived by opening as love and offering your deepest gifts, this very moment, in this very life. How you do this -- as a mother of three, a teacher, or an artist -- is for you to discover as each moment unfolds as love.

If you have chosen a life shaped by the illusion of security, you can feel your true destiny in your heart, waiting to be lived, wanting to open as the offering of your life. As you open and offer your deepest gifts, your life can flower once again. As you slowly break through your heart’s dread, your sexual depth may open to your lover more fully. Your business may acquire a new innovation. Anything can happen once your heart unfolds and your moments open wide as love.

Your true destiny may seem less predictable than the imitation you have spent years constructing and holding in place. The choice is yours in every moment. You can choose to hold the shape of your fear as a consolation lifestyle. It only costs your life.



Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Glow of Botanica Candles

¡Hola! Everybody...
I think I have a solid chance for an “affordable” studio apartment very close to my job. I’ll know for sure in a week or so if it’s a go...

Occasionally I repost the following. It reminds me of the good things about my childhood...

* * *

-=[ Blackout Specials ]=-

Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that to go on living I have to tell stories, that stories are the one sure way I know to touch the heart and change the world.

-- Dorothy Allison

Come, gather closely, I am going to tell you a story – my story. Actually, it is only part of my story and this is no ordinary story but a story about story. So gather yourself, breathe softly… come listen, read…lean into this space, and be ready to receive the gift of story… an invitation…

It’s nighttime and the only glow in the room comes from the glass-encased candles bought from the corner “Botanica” -- storefront shops found in Puerto Rican neighborhoods that sell herbs and “magic.” Variously colored candle wax poured into long glass receptacles with images of the saints and the Virgin Mary inscribed on the glass and promising anything from good luck to financial success. Though it is dark and cold, we, my two sisters and I, sit in rapt attention before the figure of my father, who is in the process of telling us a story. Our mother is somewhere in the darkness preparing the “Blackout Specials” we have come to love so much. However, the real star tonight is the story. For it is the story we crave tonight. It is story time in the Rosario household and this is sacred space.

How many of us have experienced the relief and serenity after expressing our pain and sharing the burden of a sorrow with another? Life is too difficult, the day is too long, to carry our grief alone or keep our joys to ourselves. How many of us have spent long periods in solitary loneliness? Then, like anyone who has been alone and finally gets a chance to speak, we have so much to say to one another.

I come from a long line of storytellers (no smart remarks! LOL) and I believe firmly in the power of the story to change, to educate, to bring us to wholeness. I believe this because it is in the telling of the story that we find healing. It is the basic unit of human communication, this telling of stories. Since the dawn of time, we have gathered together to tell each other stories -- to share experiences, to ward off the darkness.

Tonight, my father is really into it and he’s telling us the story of “how the solar system was named.” He starts with Mercury, mentioning that it’s my planet, me being a Gemini, and tells the story of Mercury. He moves on to Venus and tells that story, and so on. They are his stories to be sure: part science, part classical Greek myth, sprinkled with Puerto Rican folklore, but it’s a great story and we laugh and giggle, and hold our breaths in anticipation.

There’s a television in the room, but it is turned off and no one cares, tonight is a “Blackout Special” called by our parents. In fact there are no lights on, all electricity has ceased to exist for us as we sit around the kitchen table, drinking the “Blackout Specials” (scoops of vanilla ice cream floating in orange soda). Tonight everything has been set aside. Beyond our the ramshackle tenement building we live in, modern life can be heard to be happening, but here at our humble kitchen table, we are into the story.

When we share our pain, fear, or the unmanageable aspects of our lives, we open up to the possibility of being more honest with ourselves. However, some people will tell only parts of their stories because they are looking only for validation. This is not the kind of sharing I am talking about. That kind of sharing is evident in the raunchy talk shows where fragmented people, suffering from lack of boundaries, go up in front of a national audience and humiliate themselves.

And we watch and pass judgment…

No, the kind of sharing I am speaking to happens within a truly respectful and spiritual meeting and includes our questions and the incomplete thoughts in our stories as well as the thoughts that are fully formed. The kind of sharing I am talking about is the kind when you tell on yourself for the purpose of creating positive change, not to stay stuck in pain.

“Blackout Specials” was where I first learned the importance of the story. It became a family tradition, one we passed down to our own children and hope will pass it on to theirs. My father was a consummate storyteller. He could gather all the children on our Lower East Side block on a mid-summer's day and have us sit fully engaged for what seemed like hours. As children, we loved those stories because as children we know intuitively that stories are who we are. It is the basic unit of our only human instinct: language. And as developing persons, we yearn story in the same way we yearn sustenance.

I remember when I first went back to school, in my late thirties, I was afraid of many things. Mostly I was afraid of making a fool of myself, and I felt out of place and awkward because I was much older than the other students. Because of this, I would not go to certain places at the university, one of them being the cafeteria. One day, as part of psych class assignment, I shared about this fear.

It so happens that one girl, who was overweight, was moved to share about her same fear of going to the cafeteria because she was afraid that people would look at her and judge her for being overweight. And as she shared, she began to cry. Then, one after another, other students began to share about their own fears. Others offered support and before we knew it, we became this story circle of sacred sharing. Eventually we all came to the same conclusions: that we were not alone in our fears (that it wasn't something that was “wrong” with us), and that if we looked closely at our fears, they were sometimes a wee bit funny and irrational at some level.

We all went to the cafeteria together and laughed about it.

That’s the kind of sharing I am talking about. Of course, some things need to be kept more private and shared only with those we trust deeply. Nevertheless, sharing is important because it is in the telling and the unburdening that we find true healing.

Eventually, we would call our own “Blackout Specials.” The only rules were that everyone had to tell a story and everyone had to respect each other’s story. When the speaker of the story had the floor, no one could interrupt. The story could be anything: a joke, a story of a found object, an event, whatever. The important part was that we had a way to share; that we could sit and listen to each other, in sacred space -- telling our stories to one another. The Blackout Specials make up some of the most memorable times of my youth. It is where I was allowed to sit in awe and wonder and learned that I too had a story. That my story was as important anyone else's story and that I had to tell that story somehow.

Since the dawn of time when our ancestors huddled around the fire to ward off the cold and darkness, we have told stories. Unfortunately, today the ones telling the stories -- the TV news and talk shows, Reality TV, the movies -- don't really give a fuck about respect or wholeness. We need to take back our stories and tell them to each other and pass them on to our children so that we will not lose this precious gift. As we talk, we unburden ourselves and learn from each other about closeness and vulnerability and what it means to be a human being.

Many years later, I’m walking down the street with my own son who was nine-years-old at the time. He too loved stories and when I would pick him up from school, we had a game we played. The game was that we had to tell the story of something new we learned that day. My son would run out of school and I will always remember the anticipation in his eyes as he would ask, “Well, Pops! What did you learn to day?!!” and I would share my story and he would share his.

In the year my father passed away, we requested that he lead a Blackout Special on Christmas Eve. My father was very sick at the time, but there we were, all the brothers and sisters with all his grandchildren, now all veterans of Blackout Specials themselves. We all took out turns, telling our stories. My son told the story of a scarf he and I found -- he created a history for that scarf. We each sat and listened in the warm glow of Botanica candles.

Then came my father, the legendary storyteller -- the creator of the Blackout Special himself -- in all his glory, in the rarest of forms telling the greatest story ever. It’s is a moment we all will never forget.

And the “story of the story”? It wasn’t until many years later, when we became old enough to understand, that we realized how “Blackout Specials” came to be. You see, it was a matter of necessity. We were poor and sometimes my parents had to decide which bill to pay and sometimes the electric bill would go unpaid so that they could buy groceries. So my parents, in order to lessen our sadness, came up with the idea of the “Blackout Special.” On top of everything else, this taught us the most valuable lesson of lighting the candle instead of cursing the darkness. My parents put the power of the story in my heart.

May you be able to tell your story always…

* * *

And so it is with us here in the blogosphere: we tell our stories. Our stories of love and heartbreak, of our wishes and hopes. We tell of our gardens, of our victories and defeats, and in that way, we connect somehow in this world going so quickly into madness. We have no time to tell our stories anymore so we come here and cast our lines and we weave a web of stories.

And we listen, read, and tell…



Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Conservative Mindset, pt. II

¡Hola! Everybody...
Every once in a while, the online/ offline mewling from the right compels me to post the following.

Edmund Burke promoted the worldview that informed modern conservatism: That people are essentially evil and need a strong controlling force to prevent them from acting out their evil nature (that is, unless you’re rich). Such a force, continued Burke, should (appropriately) come from those have inherited wealth or lawfully obtained wealth, religious, or political power. In addition, Burke believed that a permanent underclass with little power and a permanent power elite with great power would produce the greatest social good because it will ensure social stability. Conservatives want to conserve the status quo. Or as that fabulous racist, William J. Buckley, once implied: conservatives “sit athwart history.”

My observation is that no one is fully conservative or liberal. We tend to fluctuate according to different situations. However, conservatism comes from somewhere -- it is founded on a certain worldview encompassing notions of the origins of human nature. What follows is an attempt to peek behind the curtain.

* * *

-=[ The Conservative Mindset, pt. II ]=-

“Contempt is not a thing to be despised.”

-- Edmund Burke (1729–1797) “Father” of conservatism

In 2003, a group of researchers published a paper in a peer-reviewed journal (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003) that caused an immediate shit storm. Because some government grants were involved in funding the research, conservatives, who at the time controlled all branches of the US government, took an immediate and unfriendly “interest” in the paper. It would seem that they did not particularly care for the results of the research, and threats were made about preventing further “waste of government money” to fund research into the conservative mindset.

[Note: The papers are posted on the internet: click here and here to access PDF versions]

The study was “biased” against conservatives, they insisted! As usual, right-wingers went into their feces-flinging act, outraged that anyone would dare quantify the obvious and actually show they are an emotionally unstable group. ::grin::

Well, it’s not as if we didn’t suspect all along that something was wrong with the likes of Dick Cheney, Glenn Beck, Lush Rimbaugh, that Michelle Bachmann twat, Sarah Palin and the rest of the Flock of Fools.

The study, funded jointly by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institute of Health (NIH), examined a mindset that the authors were polite enough to refer to as political conservatism. What they were really studying were the right wing wackos who had taken over the GOP and in the process threatening to turn America into a third-rate fascist state (stuff like torture, shredding of the Constitution, spying on US citizens, etc.).

Sensing that their study might cause a slight discomfort among the more sensitive of our conservative brethren (really: they lit up like rabid chimps going ape on considerate neighbors) went to great lengths to reassure one and all that they weren’t calling right wingers a bunch of psychotic, destructive nuts. Obviously, they weren’t studying the right-wingers we see most often on the internets. Essentially, the researchers culled through 50 years of research literature on the psychology of conservatism and reported that at the core of political conservatism is resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

  • Fear and aggression
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Terror management

The authors wrote, “Our first assumption, too, is that conservative ideologies -- like virtually all other belief systems -- are adopted in part because they satisfy some psychological needs. This does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled.”

Still, that didn’t stop right-wingers from losing their minds and screaming for the scalps of the researchers. Right-wing radio hosts howled and frothed at the mouth, demanding an immediate investigation into the funding streams, and they were accused, with no regard to rhyme nor reason, of being anti-American and anti-Christian and probably for gay rights, killing babies, and gun control to boot.

OK, let’s try to forget Beck and Lush Rimbaugh for a moment. Sure, there are conservatives who aren’t sadistic amoral sociopaths. Shit, in real life, I know some. I even have conservative friends, although I did warn my sister not to marry my former brother-in-law.

On a serious note, what the researchers were looking at were what could be termed “political fundamentalists.” They tend to be reactionary, paranoid, authoritarian, intolerant, and contemptuous of rules that don’t suit them. While there are left-wing examples, the authors found that they generally gravitate toward fascism and call it conservatism, even though it’s usually better described as radical reactionaries. In any case, the researchers found that left-wingers are less likely to exhibit these traits.

The authors define the two core principles of conservatism as resistance to change, and acceptance of social inequality. Conservatives, they argue, cling tightly to a status quo (“traditional values”), real or imagined, and regard society as hierarchical. Not unsurprisingly, they tend to believe they have inherited and/or merited preferential positions in this hierarchy.

The authors address what they call the “conservative paradox” of radical reactionarism (e.g., Hitler, Mussolini) by pointing out that their calls for extreme inequality in the social order were superimposed with promises to lead the country back to an ideal past, one in which “traditional” values and morality reigned It occurs to me that our present-day right-wing reactionaries continuously evoke a traditional America that never existed: where everyone was a god-fearing generic protestant, people with accents lived in the poor part of town and never bothered folks except to mow their lawn, and women and blacks knew their place. The code for this is embedded in the current caterwauling from teabaggers who want to take their country back.

This goes with what I believe is a hallmark of the fundamentalist mindset: the ability to subsume a philosophy to suit personal needs. In Christianity and Islam, for example, you have religions that place high premiums on respect for fellow humans, peace, and personal integrity. Yet fundamentalists are frequently the most violent, dishonest, and intolerant people around. Furthermore, they often use their religion to rationalize their repulsive behavior. In conservatism, you see people who champion the Bill of Rights, “small government,” and a laissez faire approach to economics, while loudly cheering for a gross militarism and tax structures that have been shown to benefit only the richest five percent of the population.

This emotional and intellectual contradiction is how conservatives are able to condemn what they perceive as dishonest and immoral behavior on Obama’s part (i.e., “tax cheats”) while at the same time accepting that Bush lied his way into a needless and foolish war while declaring that he was “fighting a war on terrorism.” It’s how Republicans can damn Democrats as being fiscally irresponsible even while they ignored Bush’s disastrous conservative fiscal policies that drove the global economy to an economic collapse the likes of which has never been seen. One need only point out conservatives’ vilification of Obama for a deficit that he didn’t cause while ignoring Bush’s reckless tax cuts to see this paradox at work.

One of the more interesting issues in the paper is “The Theory of RWA ,” in which the authors consider the Authoritarian Personality. They state, “harsh parenting styles brought on by economic hardship led entire generations to repress hostility toward authority figures and to replace it with an exaggerated deference and idealization of authority and tendencies to blame society scapegoats and punish deviants.”

Angry, repressed, passive-aggressive, with an overwhelming desire to punish those who don’t conform.

Yup, sounds like our boys!

This may not stop people from growing up to be right-wingers. Many people can no more choose to be conservative than they can choose their sexual orientation. But hey, you can't say I didn't try.

Coming up next are treatments on black conservatives, and the genetic foundations of personality and political affiliations.


Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129(3), 339-375.

Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003 ). Exceptions that prove the rule -- using a theory of motivated social cognition to account for ideological incongruities and political anomalies: Reply to Greenberg and Jonas (2003). Psychological Bulletin, 129(3), 383-393.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Labor Struggles

¡Hola! Everybody…
I was watching Rachel Maddow's The Timothy McVeigh Tapes (about the Oklahoma City terrorist bombings) last night, and when they showed the children that were killed, maimed, and harmed, I just started crying...

Most war casualties are innocent women and children. I have a suggestion: form now on anyone proposing aggression as a way out of war should preface their rationale by first saying, “I propose to continue slaughtering innocent women and children because... ” It may not be as convincing as some patriotic bullshit slogan, but at least it's more honest.

* * *

-=[ The Ludlow Massacre ]=-

Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor. -- James Baldwin (1924–1987)

The history of Labor in the USA is one that is rarely ever discussed and until recently, you would be hard put to find any historical documentation on the history of Labor. There is a good reason for this: it’s not a very pretty history. For those of a conservative orientation who like to mouth clich├ęs about the “good ole days,” and taking their “country back,” well... they weren’t so good.

Not unless you consider child labor, or the lack of responsible overview in the workplace leading to disease and death, as good. One school teacher, Samuel Yellin, wanted to teach labor history to his high school students but was unable to find a textbook, so he wrote his own, American Labor Struggles. Until Howard Zinn and some others, this was the only book that documented the history of the US government’s and Big Business’ vile response to the Labor Movement.

One of the more heinous of episodes, now known as the Ludlow Massacre , reads like something out of the history of a fascist state -- which is what corporatization (rule by corporations) is, in fact. When I first read this as part of a deal I made with my then high school-aged son, I was shocked that such things, with all our lip service to individual freedom and fairness, happened in the United States:

On April 20, 1914, 20 innocent men, women, and children were killed in the Ludlow Massacre. For some time, coal miners in Colorado and other western states had been trying to join the UMWA for many years. They were bitterly opposed by the coal operators, led by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.

As a result, for their striking, the miners and their families had been evicted from their company-owned houses and had set up a tent colony on public property. The ensuing massacre was a carefully planned attack on the tent colony by Colorado militiamen, coal company guards, and thugs hired as private detectives and strikebreakers. They shot and burned to death 20 people, including a dozen women and small children. Later, investigations would reveal that the tents were intentionally set on fire. The miners had dug foxholes in the tents so the women and children could avoid the bullets that randomly were shot through the tent colony by company thugs. The women and children were found huddled together at the bottoms of their tents.

The Baldwin Felts Detective Agency had been brought in to suppress the Colorado miners. They brought with them an armored car mounted with a machine gun--the Death Special-- that roamed the area spraying bullets. The day of the massacre, the miners were celebrating Greek Easter. At 10:00 AM, the militia ringed the camp and began firing into the tents upon a signal from the commander, Lt. Karl E. Lindenfelter. Not one of the perpetrators of the slaughter were ever punished, but scores of miners and their leaders were arrested and black-balled from the coal industry.

A monument erected by the UMWA stands today in Ludlow, Colorado in remembrance of the brave and innocent souls who died for freedom and human dignity.

Today, people enjoy taking potshots at unions. Much of this is the result of a media controlled by the very forces that oppose unionization; some of it is the result of bonehead actions taken the union leaders themselves. However, the only thing standing between you (if you’re not a CEO) and complete servitude are unions, which is why Corporate Christianity abhors the Labor Movement.

I find it hard to write about individual improvement when there is so much disinformation and unreason going around the country today. To stay quiet during times of injustice is to be complicit in its crimes. Read about those that lived in Nazi Germany. Most of those people weren’t evil, they simply didn’t act. Perhaps like you, they had too much to do, they were too busy, going about the time-consuming activities of daily living to do anything. So they stood by silently while they came for the butcher, and then the teacher, and finally the neighbor. Eventually, there was no one around to help when injustice knocked on their door.

In the past, people have asked me to write about actions we can take to improve things. That comes later. Before we can act, we must become aware. I write in the hopes that even one person can gain some awareness. Mass movements of social change are founded in this notion of enlightening one mind at a time. History shows us, as Margaret Meade observed many years ago: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

I will leave you with the words of someone who was a lot better at this than I will ever hope to be:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” Edward R. Murrow said in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

Remember to give thanks to all those men, women, and children who sacrificed their lives in the workplace for their convictions, so that we could have better lives.



Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Sermon [The Argument, pt. I]

¡Hola! Everybody...
A good friend and I have been having an ongoing discussion that has lasted for years. We call it “The Argument.” What follows here isn’t the gist of The Argument. Parts of The Argument would piss you off, make you very uncomfortable, or otherwise challenge your basic assumptions about the meaning of reality, freedom , or free will. I will try to present The Argument next Sunday. For now, I’ll leave you with insights glommed from The Argument. LOL

* * *

-=[ Setting the Table ]=-

When people stop and withdraw from the everyday busy-ness of making a living, they realize they’ve been caught up in something that they not only don’t believe in but deem reprehensible.

Today’s world is no longer controlled by emperors, dictators, or even democratically elected governments. We live in a world controlled by multinational corporations. Most of us work for them, we certainly eat and drink what they produce, are exposed to their scientifically crafted and persuasive marketing strategies, and we live on a planet that provides the raw materials for their products and is the toilet bowl for their endless refuse.

Corporations have become much more powerful than the governments we depend on to regulate them. In fact, they pay for the mechanisms by which a government can afford to be elected. Most troubling, at least here in United States of Amnesia, corporations are legal fictions -- a warped superhuman with the same rights as the rest of us.

These corporate demi-gods -- whether Big Media, Big Finance, Big Corporations, or Big Armies -- are sociopathic entities. Even totalitarian governments start out with some measure of intention to serve the well-being of a population, but corporations have an essentially anti-human worldview. Corporations are primarily responsible to their shareholders. The margin of profit possesses a higher value than environmental integrity or social empowerment. Creating and satisfying short-term desire eclipses long-term sustainability and sanity. And they are so pervasive they colonize most of our culture.

The fruits of the earth, plants, animals, water, and even the human genome are all being patented and made into commercial products, including even drugs to create new feelings. This trend has increased to the point that some municipal drinking water systems contain alarming traces of anti-depressants. Nevertheless, there is a limit to how much one can possess and we are running out of anything new to patent and own.

Oppressive political regimes that exploit their people can be and have been rejected by social movements and revolutions, or by the intervention outside forces. The power of commercial interests presents a more insidious problem -- it is something entirely different. Corporate rule is more like the relationship between a drug dealer and an addict. The power of the corporations run on the immediate addictions of a population, without necessarily serving their basic, essentially human, well-being. This collective conditioning, what I see as a psychological enslavement, and the global economy it creates, works in large part because it thrives on our sense that something is missing, that something is wrong with your life and with you: It’s quite simple, you need to buy our product. Drink this soda to quench your thirst, take this pill to give you an erection, or stop your leg from shaking, this house, this car, fly to this great place for a vacation and you’ll feel better. Look at this happy couple smiling. They feel better. See?

The global economy as it is being sold to us would not work with an inherently contented people. You would have a hard time selling the latest gadget to people who feel connected to themselves and to one another; who feel whole, generous, grateful, and compassionate, and who know they have enough. This collective conditioning or psychological enslavement recreates itself; it will never make you content. It is meant to keep you stuck in the Wheel of Suffering -- the insanity of committing the same acts and expecting different results.

Next Sunday... The Argument




[un]Common Sense