pollychromatic

the world through rainbow eyes


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… and Hope and Charity

I feel very overwhelmed with this US presidential election year.

Usually politics concern me, but do not worry me. I watch and comment and get involved where it seems prudent or useful.

This year feels different. I see the hate speech and violence ramping up at Trump rallies. The machine that the GOP made using the Southern Strategy has been so successful that it created a vacancy that Trump stepped into seamlessly.

His charisma when people feel ill prepared, financially, to achieve and sustain basic life needs appeals to people. His charisma when people feel entirely Future Shocked also appeals to the masses.

I seem to be mostly surrounded by people who do not see the appeal of Donald Trump. Most of us have sat helpless and hopeless watching his effect grow.

Yesterday was Super Tuesday in my state of Georgia and I watched my state’s conservative Primary voters turn out to support Trump. My own feelings of hopelessness grew. I listened to Trump talking about ‘Making America Great Again’ and heard echoes of other similar historical promises made.

I woke up with my mind ruminating on this and spoke with a friend about it. How do we fix this? How can we fix a world where cutting one’s self off from others seems the safest solution, or the only viable solution.

The answer we finally came up with was charity. The world is broken, and the only way to go about fixing it is to directly apply ourselves.

People do not feel hopeless when there is hope. They do not feel helpless when they are helped or helping. They are not prone to the charismatic and empty promises of hatred that are simply an act of cutting one’s self off from compassion and empathy when they have been directly touched by compassion and empathy.

So the question of what to do is charity but the question of what charity is and how to do it remains.

Maimonides said acts of charity are:

  1. Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
  2. Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of charity with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
  3. Giving charity anonymously to a known recipient.
  4. Giving charity publicly to an unknown recipient.
  5. Giving charity before being asked.
  6. Giving charity after being asked.
  7. Giving willingly, but inadequately.
  8. Giving out of pity or sadness.

This seems like a reasonable accounting of the ways of doing charity. It even lists the ways that are imperfect, but still doing charity. Life is not perfect, and I am not perfect, so I can do this.

So I am going to dedicate myself to [at least] one act of charity a week. My friend agreed and we will hold each other accountable.

In this way I can help restore the world. No empty promises of making America great, but actual work toward humanity.

Join me?


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The Herd of Gazelles at the Bus Stop

Pi and Phi are 5 now. They attend Kindergarten (two different classes so they can both shine their stars individually as bright as possible). They both insisted that they are old enough to ride the bus to school, and because the bus is actually available to them now that they are in Kinder, I agreed. So they ride the bus to school every school day morning. 

I drop them off and watch them interact at the bus stop with the other kids. They’re the only Kinder kids in our little neighborhood, so mostly the big kids are leaving them alone and letting them run around like animals waiting for the bus. 

Run around they do, too. Every single day, they drop their packs in the bus shelter and then have races from one sign to the other. About 200 feet of a race they do over and over until the bus gets there. Squealing, rambunctious, and overall dorky. Phi runs with his hands clutched high to his sides, a bit like a T-Rex. A smile of pure happiness. His feet hit the ground with the strange, awkward, delicate gait so familiar to other parents who have children on the spectrum. Toes pointed down, still somewhat clompy somehow. Like an elephant doing ballet. So happy.

Pi’s arms are thrown back and her clomping hits whole foot down, her face also has the same smile. So happy. She is a gazelle. 

The other kids are mostly silent while Pi and Phi enact these daily races. Pi and Phi encircle them, run between them, around them, near them. You can see the other kids pull back, stare at them. I want to tell Pi and Phi to chill. Be cool. The kids are judging them. I keep my mouth shut. One kid does a mock tiptoe of Phi to his other friends, and they cover their mouths to smile behind their hands. They know better than to laugh where parents can see them. Phi doesn’t notice, just keeps running. Keeps being happy. 

I want to scream at these kids. You think it’s awesome that you can run better than him? Running is hard for him. He’s a different animal. You are gazelles, and he is an elephant. His squealing trumpet of glee comes from a differently shaped throat than your own. Is it such a point of pride that yours was shaped different? Do you work for hours to make your gazelle throat shape the sounds that all the other gazelles make? 

No he does not have grace. What he has, instead, is hard work. He has perseverance. Thank goodness that’s part of the package with Autism. The same thing that makes him line up puzzles for hours is what makes it possible for him to make words that others understand. He works past the point of wanting to stop. I am furiously proud of his words. 

I remember his testing, and them asking us for a list of his words. For a week we tried to put together even ten words that he said at the age of 18 months. Duck. Ball. … Umm.. Daddy? We struggled to find any words that he had actually said. Now, at age 5, his vocabulary is huge. He inherits the wide breadth of spoken word that his father and I use daily, and it shows. 

But the kids at the bus stop don’t see that he is a hard working elephant stuck in the land of the graceful gazelles. They see that he is not part of their herd. They close ranks. 

So he runs with Pi. Pi who doesn’t care, yet, about gazelles and elephants. All animals are different to her. She takes it in stride. 

I want the other kids at the bus stop to see what she sees. I want them to feel the pure joy that he feels. 

I’m proud of my mismatched animals, and so furious at the herd that closes them both out. I know that in their classes there are other mismatched animals, and they find them and befriend them. The herd at the bus stop is not their whole world of experience, but only a small window onto it. 

I also know that the herd at the bus stop is going to grow. That as they get bigger, it will become more and more evident how different they both are to the herds they encounter. Him for his everything, and her for her acceptance of these things and for her own differences. That the ruthlessness of peers will run their world for the next fifteen some odd years. There is not a thing I can do to change it. 

I know that they are going to spend their lives collecting their own herds of mismatched animals. I hope they do not spend too long trying to assimilate into herds that are not their own and do not accept them. I also feel sad for the limited scope of the herd of gazelles at the bus stop. They have not yet learned the value of the different animals. I hope they learn it someday. 


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I Don’t Matter

I’m going to go off record here for a second and say something sort of horrible.

We are not important, geopolitically.

We just aren’t. I’m not. You’re not. The people all over the world (46 different countries* by my last count) who are reading this aren’t important geopolitically.

What we are is important, individually.

See, there was this discussion I got involved in about will we or won’t we with Syria in regards to the US doing anything strategically. It doesn’t even matter what my position is. It really doesn’t. A million people, ten million, could march on Washington tomorrow… and it isn’t going to matter.

We aren’t in charge. Nobody asked me my position on Rwanda before Rwanda happened. Nobody cared about my peace protests before Gulf War 1 (I was young, I simply did not understand my place in geopolitics at the time).

I don’t matter. You don’t matter.

The people with money matter. They look at their money, and they look at the different power plays available. Do this, and what will be the net gain or net loss. Don’t do it, and what will be the net gain or net loss.
That’s it.

I have no illusion that it is otherwise.
The only difference I can make in the world is in being kind. In raising two kids to be stellar adults who are also kind. Hopefully. In making every day count and being compassionate and thoughtful in every interaction. In trying my hardest to make apologies where I need to, and doing better next time if I screwed up this time.

That’s all most of us can do.

Politics don’t change; the people with money are the ones who make the policy. The last time “the people” effectively spoke to those in charge? That was the Magna Carta. As much as I would love to say it was the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, those were both made by people with money and power.

That was pretty much the crowning achievement of all of us “little people” when it comes to geopolitics. Don’t feel bad, it was a doozy, but damn we’re due for a new one, or hey, I’d even go with reinstating that one. Then again, try not to let it get to your head, the rebellion that caused that one was led by the rich and powerful, too.

I’m not trying to get you down. I’m trying to remind you to turn your head to the things you can change.

It sounds small and meaningless. The armchair political quarterback position feels so much roomier and comfortable. I sit in it a lot myself, but it isn’t a position of power, and it isn’t a position in which I can change the world.

Change the world by being good. By actively not being bad. By stopping the bad that happens all around you. By saying sorry and helping people up when they get hurt in front of you. Not because you did it, but because somebody needs to say sorry, and it might as well be you.

Try to say kind words. Be good in deed. Be good.

It doesn’t sound big: be good. Sorry. It is, though. It really is. It eventually moves mountains. Change political options by changing your part of the world. Be good by not being bad, most especially.

 

 

* and can I just take a minute out to thank all of you from all of your different countries who stopped by to read my little tiny words? Thank you! Hey Estonia! Hi Åland Islands! Hello Hong Kong and Jamaica and the Republic of Korea and the United Arab Emirates and Ireland and Israel. Greetings France! Hello to all of you too numerous to list! It’s so nice that you took the minute or two to do that. Thanks!


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Utopia. Star Trek. SF Bay Area. Being a child of the 70’s.

I am a child of The Future. Don’t mistake that for me thinking that I’m somehow more advanced, or that I am misplaced in my generation. More that the surroundings and influences that were part of my formative years were those of people or things heavily invested in the ideas of a technologically, sociologically, and scientifically advanced “Future.”

I was born in the East San Francisco Bay Area to heavily geeky parents in the beginning parts of the 1970’s.  My mother worked in science and technology labs, and eventually in the computer industry. My father also was heavily into the computer industry.

I don’t really quite remember our first home computer. I can’t say we were necessarily the first adopters, but it feels like there has always been one around. My elementary school classes included lessons in Basic and Hello World is a touchstone for me in the classical sense.

Our converted garage held the local High School’s computer lab during the Summer. My brother and sister both have gone on to careers in the IT industry, having been in it early enough that it easily led to such for people with their talents and intellects.

We were also readers, gamers, fantasy and sci-fi lovers much as you’d expect.

Star Trek was watched faithfully in our home (it’s original airing having ended right about the time I was born, we were mostly watching syndicated broadcasts, though I do believe the original broadcasts were most likely watched by my family).

Next Generation was playing when I was in my very late teens and early 20’s.

This is me trying to work through some thoughts I’ve been having, you see. So, if you’re looking for a thread to follow, there isn’t one as of yet. Perhaps there never will be. It’s just some thought patterns.

What I know is that I was introduced to the idea of post-capitalism exceptionally early. Starfleet and it’s utopian future are even sort of part of my geographical cultural heritage, coming from the Bay Area as I do.

My thought processes are intricately tied to the idea of a space exploration, scientific and technological innovation and utopia.

Not really going anywhere with this as of yet, as I mentioned. Just sketching.


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Pale Blue Dot

“Since my first flight to the Russian space station Mir back 17 years ago, I’ve always maintained that the favorite pastime of astronauts is looking at the world out the window,” – astronaut Chris Hadfield

 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about space, and Earth, and babies, and the future.

When babies first look in a mirror, they don’t entirely know what they’re seeing. They know it’s a face, they know it’s a creature like them. After some time, they come to learn that it is their face and their body they see in the mirror. It’s a slow process, but it’s a process nearly every single baby ever will accomplish: learning to recognize self.
As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even simply start with the mirror. It starts the first time a baby can see their fist or foot flung outward from their trunk. In time, fairly quickly even, they learn that that is their foot, their hand, their body.

We must recognize self, and where that self ends, to move on to the next stage of development.

 

Listening to that quote from Hadfield up there had me thinking about that. Many different astronauts have spoken of the unique experience of seeing the world from space. Many.

They all speak eloquently and fervently of it. They speak with the passion of those who have clearly had a conversional experience. I challenge you to go back and read those quotes if you didn’t click on the link.

If you still refuse, I will give you one of the more direct:

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”

– Edgar Mitchell

and this one:

“A Chinese tale tells of some men sent to harm a young girl who, upon seeing her beauty, become her protectors rather than her violators. That’s how I felt seeing the Earth for the first time. I could not help but love and cherish her.”

Taylor Wang

 

They’re speaking of something here. Again, a conversional experience. Like all conversional experiences, you can only feel the edges of what they speak of. Perhaps you have your own conversional experience that you lay over it or next to it. Perhaps you have no place in your own experience to understand what they speak of.

It is not something I have experienced. I have not seen the world from space, except as a picture or video. As lovely and moving as that is, I have no illusion that it is anything but mist compared to the ocean of that full experience.

It makes me think, though. It makes me think of evolving. It makes me think of babies learning the process of recognizing themselves in the mirror.


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Brave New World

On November 4th 2008 I was just a bit over 2 weeks into recovery from the emergency c-section that had brought P and Pie slip-sliding into this world.
I was determined to vote, and left my wee babies for either the first time or one of the first times with my husband. I showered and dressed, excited to not be wearing house clothes that were mostly determined by their function and ease of use. I put on socks and shoes, brushed my hair, kissed my family and walked to the driveway to get in my little car.

I drove to the local polling precinct (a local Baptist church, as are most of the polling places surrounding me), prepared to stand in line for hours.

This was a pretty unnecessary mental preparation. There wasn’t much of a line, but the poll workers took one look at me and pulled me to the front of what meager line there was.

This is pretty embarrassing if you think about it. I had showered, for cripes sake. Clean clothes were on my body. I was not wearing yoga pants, and my shirt had not been marketed in any way as a nursing accessible shirt. I felt the very best I had felt post-natal. Yet, I  still looked so much like death warmed over that they carefully walked me to the registry, and to the voting stall. They gingerly held my hand as though I might fall down or start spitting pea soup at any minute.

Nevertheless, I found the strength to do my bit and even enjoyed a tiny afternoon out afterward.

The rest of the day is lost to memory for me. What I do remember, though, is watching the returns that night. Myself and my husband watched as the votes were counted and history was made. Our babies slept peacefully through the process.

When the election was called and it became apparent that our 44th President would be Barack Obama my heart swelled. I did not have any incredible great hopes or expectations tied to that feeling. I voted for him because I thought his was the best and most credible plan. I considered his personal history and life record and thought that they embodied something worthwhile for the Oval Office.

That wasn’t what the heart swelling was about, though. It was about the fact that we had managed to elect a black guy. Not just any black guy, though, a black guy with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. During a time when a name like that should have basically been the end of any political career.

I didn’t think that racism was over or that xenophobia was now a thing of the past rather than a force that was alive, well and still kicking the shit out of a lot of people.

What I did think was that the odds had just gotten pushed into a slightly better arrangement. That was worth a bit of heart swelling. So swell my heart did. I held my children and my heart swelled and I kissed their heads and whispered into their ears that they were alive and here when something amazing happened.

This time around, my heart was slower to swell. I wanted the outcome that happened, sure, but what happened had already happened.

Halfway into the night, though, I had a realization.

The newborn infants that I had whispered into the ears of four years previously were gone. In their place were two rambunctious four year olds. In four years when this happened again, those preschoolers that I knew would be gone. In their place would be two eight year olds. Instead of sleeping while this happened they would likely be awake and present for most of it.

Not only that, but, and this is where my heart started to swell, the only President they had ever known would be about to be replaced. For the first eight years of their life the head of their country will have been President Barack Obama.
They will not be children of Johnson, Nixon and Ford as myself and my husband are. They are not the children of Carter, or Reagan, or Bush one or two. They are not the children of Clinton.

I don’t really entirely know what that means or will mean to them. It does feel more hopeful in this age when we are looking forward, though. The landscape and possibilities of humankind are changing at a drastic rate right now, at speeds that I can’t even quantify.

The invention of the silicon chip followed by the invention of the Internet has laid a new field down. Science and research are taking jumps that seemed to be previously mired in treacle. The political implications have already been earth shattering and somewhat unpredictable all around the world. We’re still trying to get our feet out from under us as to what the social landscape is in this new world.

To our children, though, this isn’t a new world. It’s just the world. There has always been internet. Phones were always flat things that one carried in their pocket. We’ve always had a map of the human genome. It’s always been possible to video chat with someone across the world. Barack Obama has always been President.

Will they someday look at the family’s new 3d printer the way my brother, sister and I looked at our family’s new microwave? Will it also be incorporated into their lives the way the microwave was incorporated into our lives? Will they print out models for school assignments? Will we use our phones to take a quick scan of their bodies instead of going to the doctor?

I do know, already, that their friends will be here, there and everywhere the way my friends are. Not because my friends migrated, but because the Internet makes it possible for me to befriend someone from New Zealand even though I never left the US.

Now, all that has little to do with our 44th President. His re-election made me consider that, though. The current hand wringing and grief over losing the election, typified by Bill O’Reilly saying on air that “the white establishment is now the minority” and “it’s not a traditional America anymore,” points out how tied to the past we were. The election went to the youth, to the minorities, and to the women who could no longer stand by while they lost all that their mothers and grandmothers had fought for.

That’s a really good thing. You can’t step forward when you’re satisfied with where you are standing. The white male establishment was, as a whole (though not necessarily in parts), satisfied with where they were standing in the US.

My children strive forward into a future that I do not know.

I sort of think that’s a good thing.


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Hey, Right-Wing America, think about this

Speaking of crazy times…

Barack Obama is still our President.

So, that happened.

Here’s something to think about, though: the Romney campaign was supremely wrong in their assessment of what would happen. They were completely taken off guard. There was serious amounts of information collected and they were unable to decode it for meaning.

Really stop and think about that when you’re considering whether the GOP is paving a path somewhere you want to go.

Sure, there are plenty of campaigns that fight hard and lose, and a great deal of campaigns still have more than one runner. No one would run if they thought they were going to lose, so most people that run think they have a shot at winning, and sure, a lot of them do.

In these modern times, with the polling, market data, campaign strategists, intense focus groups and statisticians, being taken off guard so completely like that on the actual day of the election is near impossible.

It’s not like they thought it was going to be a squeaker. They thought it was going to be a landslide for Romney.

The truth was completely opposite.

They did not win the popular vote and they did not win the electoral vote. The popular vote was closer, but still a very comfortable victory for Obama. The electoral vote was no contest. It was a slamming defeat of Romney.

Meanwhile, the information was so stunningly available that it was absolutely no surprise to everybody else when President Obama won a second term.

So.

Stop. Think again.

What does that mean?

You wanted a President of the United States who, together with people he hand picked for their ability to shoot straight with him and present him with the best information possible, could not decipher poll data. Could not understand gathered intelligence.

If you’ve been listening to the right-wing think tanks and their ideas on what works, derived from their own intense investigation of the data that all the other scientists, economists and statisticians disagree with, perhaps it’s time to consider that your data is bad. 

Maybe trickle down economics really just doesn’t work. We’ve been trying it for 30 years, after all. We have the lowest tax burden we’ve had for generations and it doesn’t seem to be actually making the much ballyhooed “job creators” create jobs.
Maybe jobs happen when a business has higher demand for their product than their current workforce can produce, and not when there is simply more profit (as there has been a greatly increasing profit in many business indexes for years now).  Maybe continuing to coalesce more and more profit to the top has simply created a larger bottom and a smaller top.

Maybe climate change is real.

Maybe reproductive rights really do help create a culture that is more successful overall.

Maybe civil rights for gay people really won’t in any way effect heterosexual marriage.

Maybe the acrimony and anger and fear and bitterness that you, you personally, have been dealt a harder hand than anyone else, and you, you personally, have played it more responsibly and more true while everyone else coasts along on your hard work and the hard work of the other responsible Americans is really more about your own feelings and less about reality.

Maybe, perhaps, it really could be that you’ve been functioning on bad information and you need to reassess.

Or you could just blame everyone else. Your call.