January 27, 2013

Conservatives Need Love Too, Lots of It

I've come to a conclusion about why Conservatives seem so darn heartless and antisocial. A conclusion based on my training in mental health counseling, myriad life experiences living in various locations, rural, urban, and suburban, among people of various races, cultures, religions, and socio-economic statuses. I've come to realize that staunch Republicans, and "Conservatives" in general are not necessarily cruel by nature or inherently small-minded. I realize that they don't necessarily really want to hurt other people via policies of fiscal inequity and social repression. It's that they simply are incapable of and/or unwilling to understand how much their policies hurt other people. They lack empathy.

*For the record, I am aware that there are a handful of conservatives that do not meet the broad and sweeping statements which I have to say here about conservatives in general. I've met one. In my entire life, I've met one. But I know there's more out there.

Perhaps they don't lack empathy for everyone. After all, many of them are loving spouses and parents and children. But they certainly seem to lack empathy for those who don't share very similar traits to themselves. The "single mother," the other-colored, the illegal immigrant, the woman seeking abortion, the LGBT population. Anyone who does not fit the (Caucasian 1950s?) conservative view of who is "good," who is "American," and who deserves to thrive, is therefore more difficult for the Conservative to identify with and empathize with. It's a fairly simplistic way of being in the world, really: "Don't look, think, talk, love, or feel like I do? You must be alien and unworthy of the energy it would take to empathize with you." This is how many of us humans think of people from other nations, people of other colors, and we certainly do it to other species on this planet. It seems almost a natural human trait to minimize the energies expended toward empathizing with those who don't resemble ourselves.
But we forget that just because we don't empathize doesn't mean that others don't feel. And when we do not take the time to empathize with others we end up on paths of behaviors that hurt others.

Empathy is the capacity to realistically imagine the feelings of another person and in turn come close to feeling what the other person is feeling. The first response I saw after Googling the word empathy is: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Consider this. If someone considered all that goes into parenting a child: the sacrifice, the worry, the sleepless nights, the financial bleeding....literally blood, sweat, tears and money.... if someone really thought about all they go through as a parent, in partnership with their spouse, could they possibly really conceive that a single mother living on 12,000 a year could possibly be living "high on the hog" on the government teat? If a person were capable of empathy, and practiced using empathy, is it even feasible that they would think that a single mother on welfare is living the "high life" at the expense of tax payers? No. Anyone with empathy understands that most single moms living below the poverty line are struggling to do the best they can for their kids given their circumstances.

Apparently, those with conservative social ideologies are either incapable of or are not practicing empathy in the case of their general opinions regarding single mothers. And our nation suffers for it. Because a child who struggles for food and clothing and education and the respect of their peers is expending far more energy on physical and mental survival than their peers who have full bellies, abundant resources, and the attention of two parents. Because conservatives do not exercise empathy, our nation as a whole must suffer as myriad children do not live up to their mental, physical and emotional potential because those children are struggling to meet needs that other children do not need to worry about. These children are struggling to meet those needs because social and fiscal conservatives force the children into taxing the resources of their brain and body that would otherwise go toward academics and athletics. The conservatives force those children to tax those resources by reducing or eliminating social safety nets which give those kids and their families a leg up with food stamps, health care, and educational resources.  And as those children are hindered by conservative policies, so is our nation, as myriad potential scientists, doctors, architects, engineers, teachers, etc. instead settle into jobs which get them by, earn incomes which do not benefit our nation with tax payments, struggle with the issues of economic, legal, and social disparity because conservatives didn't want to assist them grow up as healthy individuals fulfilling the potential which the wealth of this nation can provide. Am I making sense here?

And yet, social conservatives insist that any woman who is pregnant should see the pregnancy through. Even a single woman who realizes that she is not in a position to provide well for a child, who the conservatives eventually demonize for being a single mother but who they also would have demonized for having an abortion. They do not empathize with the pregnant woman who for varied potential reasons is struggling with the wrenching decision whether to bring her fetus to full term or to have an abortion. Maybe she just lost her job, maybe her husband just left her and she's an emotional wreck, maybe she was raped, maybe she has a mental or physical illness and realizes that she is not in a position to put her own full resources into parenting a child, maybe the child has a genetic illness which would likely compromise the child's well-being, mortality and/or the mortality of the mother. Conservatives would rather see the mother bear her child than abort it even in cases where the child's very existence on Earth would comprise a duration of suffering which makes the seconds of the abortion procedure look like a cakewalk.

The Conservatives' short sightedness and inability to empathize with the situations of others turns out to be a very selfish and narcissistic trait, doesn't it? Essentially they are saying, "I am either incapable of putting myself in your shoes or I simply choose not to, and you should do what I believe you should do because your own feelings, thoughts, and conclusions don't count, only mine do." They are saying, "my belief system is more important than yours." They essentially believe they are better than everyone else, that somehow they have been deemed with all knowledge of what is right and wrong in the world and they are here to make sure you live by those standards.

Conservatives withhold empathy from such a wide spectrum of groups of people, it's a wonder they have any friends at all. Is it possible that most Conservatives don't actually know any brown people, gay people, mentally ill people, hungry children, non-Christians, single moms, or elderly people? Or do they know them and just don't care about them? Do they choose to withhold empathy from the "other," or are they merely incapable of the delicious yet painful gift of having mirror neurons: empathy?

Do conservatives realize that their very definition has become synonymous with narcissism, short-sightedness, bullying, ignorance and selfishness? Yet they say that try so hard to be "good," that they are excused of bettering themselves because they are Christian. The dear hearts don't realize that the one thing they are missing is empathy. That the one thing that will save our nation is EMPATHY. That to treat others as you would yourself can be done, is done, and should be done no matter how much effort it takes for one to attempt to imagine another's circumstances. And the only way to treat others as you would want to be treated is to exert the energy to actually imagine what it is like to live in their shoes.

Empathy is something that can be learned. It is learned by witnessing and being the recipient of empathy. Once a child reaches a certain age it becomes more difficult for that child to learn empathy, but it is still possible. It is possible for our brains to flex into more empathetic machines until the day we die.

And so, my fellow liberals, if you do not like the direction that conservatives are trying to steer our towns, communities, society, and country toward, there is a way to help them see the light, to help them grow as humans and to help liberate their souls and our nation at the same time.... we must empathize with them. Not in our heads, but in action. We must listen to them speak of their challenges, hear them struggle to identify their own feelings, and we must feel and verbalize concerned empathy for them. This alone will reshape our nation and our world into a place where people really care for one another, a place where people walk the talk of the golden rule.

And let's face it, while Conservatives corner the market in non-empathy (Dick Cheney alone makes Ted Bundy look like Mother Theresa,) not all of us Liberals are flexing our capacity for kindness to the fullest. Below are some resources to develop your capacity for empathy. I personally guarantee that if you, (liberal, conservative, or other,) really try to learn and practice greater empathy toward yourself and others, you will sleep better at night, breathe a bit deeper, smile a bit bigger, laugh a bit heartier, and generally enjoy life more. You'll even have a degree of peace when you die that you wouldn't have had otherwise.

Dr. Dan Siegel talks about Empathy
A fellow blogger's musings on Empathy
The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education
Teaching Children Empathy (From Brigham Young University)
Teaching Empathy (From the Christian Science Monitor)
Why We Should Teach Empathy (An article in Forbes)
Teaching Empathy to Kids (From Parenting Science)
Teaching Tolerance resources for teachers (From Southern Poverty Law Center)
Teaching Empathy (From UtahState University)
Dan Goleman on three varieties of empathy

And for the times when we might feel that we are not being empathized with, we must remember....we can help others to empathize with us by telling them what we are feeling, stated in direct, concrete terms. "I am feeling lonely today." "I feel so excited that we're going to the show."
And if we want empathy from others, sometimes we need to ask. "I feel really sad and I wish you would recognize that." "I'm confused about what's happening and I need your help."
People need our help to empathize with us, especially when they're busy, overwhelmed, and just stressed in general. Empathy really is a two-way street.

January 11, 2013

rat a tat tat

School shootings. Gun violence. Gabby Giffords. Second Amendment. Video Games. Capitalism. Militia groups. President Obama. Mental Health. Lobbyists. 
What do all of the above words have in common? 
They are NOT the words that need to be spoken to solve the issue of violence in our society.
These are the words that need to be spoken to solve the issue of violence in our society....
anger managment, stress reduction, inclusiveness, zero-tolerance-for-bullying, kindness, education, emotional intelligence, community, acceptance.... got more? Please add to the list by commenting.

Here is how to fix the problem of violence in our society:

1) Mandate emotional intelligence/anger management/stress reduction techniques in all school curriculums for all students K through 12. 

2) Offer free training in emotional intelligence/anger management/stress reduction techniques to all members of the public via school districts, mental health agencies, community centers, etc. Perhaps even offer tax rebates to those who participate in such programs.

3) Encourage community. The problem is not guns or video games. The problem is that there are people in our society who have anger and/or other uncomfortable feelings and/or lack of feeling and/or lack of empathy. Those people need to be drawn in by anyone and everyone who notices their marginilization. Those people must be welcomed, loved, accepted for who they are - weird or not - and cared for. People who feel cared for and accepted typically do not seek to kill others. 

It is up to you and it is up to me to discourage any act of marginilization we might see in our community. If you see kids taunting or name calling other kids, call them out on it. Find out where they live and talk to their parents about it. Bullying behavior by children or adults must not be tolerated. It is not okay. Because bullying behavior can push people who already feel marginalized to the edge. If you see adults harrassing other adults call the police. It's called preventative policing. You may feel inured, desensitized and accepting of such behavior in your community but the truth is: it is never okay for people to harrass, insult, marginalize or abuse other people. 

It is up to you to change our society. It is not up to Congress, your mayor, your sherriff, your schools, or your preacher to change things. It is up to YOU. Be kind, accept the differences of others. Do not tolerate unkindness when you witness it. It is our job to protect each other. It is no one else's job.

September 10, 2011

Dear World, I'm sorry, from an American

On the day before the 10th anniversary of 9-11, I am thinking of all the people all over the world who have suffered extreme and sudden loss. The US does not have the market on suffering; in fact we've been blessed with far less suffering than most nations on the planet. While I honor the grief of those who directly suffered ten years ago, I myself grieve for the lives we took in our knee-jerk reaction to the events of 9-11-01.

March 13, 2011

Let's not all go down with the ship, now

Hey - TeaPartiers! (I muster a LOT of energy from refraining from that derogatory term, because I respect your desire to be treated with civility.)
I can totally respect your desire not to pay taxes for services that you don't want. But I do want those services. Here's a great idea! How about you don't pay any taxes, and therefore you do not receive any services of taxes. You can pay separately for EVERYTHING. Even your use of the roads can be paid with fees via EasyPass.
Every public service you use can be itemized and paid for in fees.

I think this is a great idea, because human societies that survive and thrive do so collectively. There are no great civilizations founded by a bunch of individuals who refuse to work together, who refuse to share. A collective effort has exponential rewards which we can see recorded in human history as well as the history of many other species. The ants, bees, birds, all herding animals, lion prides, schools of fish, flocks of birds.... they all know this. Why don't you? I don't have time to figure that out though and I do not want to be dragged down into your insistence of withdrawing from our society.

So how about you just organize efforts to officially withdraw from our society and pay fees when you want the services that society provides? This will certainly satisfy your strong desire to avoid sharing with others. If your kids go to our society's schools, if you need an ambulance, if you commit a crime and are relegated to our prisons - you can pay for it out of your own pocket! Wouldn't that be great? No more taxes, woohoo!

And then, the rest of us, the majority of us, can continue in the effort to better ourselves as individuals and families via the effort to better our society.

And maybe if that doesn't work maybe we could just give you Houston.

February 27, 2011

Beano won't cure this gas

Hello, Good evening, Hola, Hi.
I was curious to observe if the movie Gasland would win the Academy Award this evening for Best Documentary. It did not, though I feel positive that it's name was even mentioned in front of so many viewers. The issue of hydraulic fracturing as a means to get natural gas out of the ground is rapidly shaping up to be an issue of the gravest environmental and public health concern.

If you don't know about the controversial issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, I recommend that you borrow the movie Gasland and investigate some of the info on it's website.
I also recommend doing your own research. Keep in mind, there's a LOT of propaganda being put on the internet and on television commercials by the oil and gas industries to lead you to believe that hydraulic fracturing is safe. I encourage you to investigate the sources of any info you find that details fracking, so that you might better understand the biases of whomever might be sharing the information.

Over the past nine months, The New York Times reviewed more than 30,000 pages of documents obtained through open records requests of state and federal agencies and by visiting various regional offices that oversee drilling in Pennsylvania. Some of the documents were leaked by state or federal officials. Here, the most significant documents are made available with annotations from The Times.

As far as I'm concerned it comes down to this: humans have survived and thrived as a species without natural gas until the last century. If natural gas went away, we could continue to survive. But, if our water supply is tainted by toxic chemicals used to extract natural gas, we are screwed.

I was somewhat horrified to learn that one of my uncles believes that there's enough fresh water on the planet that we can afford to ruin the water shed of 15 million people which is the Delaware River Basin. He obviously does not understand the concept of a closed system, which our planet is. Those who have studied hydrology and the state of fresh water on our planet postulate that the wars of the future will be fought over water because it is an increasingly limited resource. We can not afford to render it unusable. Your grandchildren can not afford it.

There are so many reasons to be extremely concerned (read: frightened) about hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking.) I'm not going to go into them all here. But I do believe it's worthwhile to understand why many people believe it's not worth the risk to our water, and some other people believe the corporations should make the money from it despite environmental and public health ramifications.

I suppose that some people understand science better than others. Yet the people who don't understand science seem to think that they have enough information to make decisions that are scientifically based. I feel utterly exorcisted (head spinning 360 degrees repeatedly) when I hear people say the most absurd things relating to science. They speak sincerely as if scientifically established data were mere opinion! Within the last year I began to sincerely contemplate why anyone who knows nothing about science would begin speaking of it as if they had a PhD. Two words: Corporate interests.

I can't prove it (yet) but I am fairly certain that corporations have instigated the enmity between the political parties of modern America. As soon as I can prove it, I may need to go into hiding. The corporations want Republicans to mock TeaBaggers, the corporations want TeaBaggers to demonize Democrats, the corporations want Democrats to fight the Republicans tooth and nail. Because as long as we are fighting each other, we won't notice how they are raping our land, disregarding the wellbeing of our families, and taking all of our money.

I repeat: As long as we are blaming each other for the state of our country, as long as we are blaming "the government" for our problems [um... we are the government!], as long as we are engaged in vitriol and trying to take each other's political party down, we are distracted from noticing the utter rape and robbery which the corporations are perpetrating on American citizens.

Please don't get me wrong, I don't blame ALL corporations. I see that the fault for our country's unrest lies only with particular industries, the names of which I can not know for certain; it seems logical that a large burden of that responsibility would lie with the oil and gas industry. I also believe that certain public figures (who will remain unmentioned, though I suspect you have an idea who I might be referring to) have off shore bank accounts which regularly fill up with cash deposited by various corporate entities in exchange for the hate rhetoric that said public figures spew to us good folks, distracting us from the real demons (corporate interests that would just as soon see us dead and our children crippled before they compromise on making a profit.)

This is currently my opinion, I can not prove any of it. If I can prove it, I will. But let's face it, if I could prove it then I would probably end up assassinated.

I leave you with a few thoughts and opportunities to take action to protect us from the toxic effects of hydraulic fracturing.
First, if you find yourself hating on Democrats, Tea Partiers, Socialists, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives, etc., please take a pause from your hate and sincerely direct your attention to the corporations and the amount of money they are making because we are not paying attention to the way they are taking advantage of us - ALL of us- they even are fiscally pummeling those of you who love free market economics. Your love of the free market is not saving you from being financially and environmentally screwed.
Second, here's a joke to help keep things in perspective. After all, laughter is the best medicine. All I can tell you about the author is that I don't know who it is, but the joke was on a Facebook post, and the person who made the post did not know the author either.

"A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the Tea Partier and says, 'Watch out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.'" 

Haha, funny right? Yeah, if it weren't the truth it would be damn funny, wouldn't it?

If you are as concerned about the potential health effects, and the potential environmental destruction which hydraulic fracturing might render, here are some opportunities to tell your elected representatives that you want them to do something NOW:
1) Tell your representatives to support the FRAC Act. The FRAC Act consists of twin bills in the Senate (S 1215) and House (HR 2766) that remove the exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking and call for the disclosure and monitoring of the chemicals used in the process. Contacting your elected officials is critical to its passage. This link will allow you to enter your zip code and quickly and easily send a message to your House and Senate representatives.

2) Send a letter to President Obama. This link will provide you with text to include in the letter, if you choose to print, sign and mail it (which is usually the preferred method to ensure your voice is heard.) But this letter also provides a link to send the letter's content to the White House via email.

3) That's it for now. Thank you. Fracking is happening all around the country, and as I learned earlier today, it's being exported to South America, Australia, Europe, Africa, and is likely to come to a town near you or someone you love if it is not curtailed immediately.
Breathe. Unless you're near a Fracking well. Then, put on a hazmat suit including gasmask, and then breathe shallowly.

February 26, 2011

The Solutions

I just want to say that I know how to save the world. I know how to stop the social, fiscal, environmental, governmental, and altogether total destruction that we're heading toward. I'm serious.
If you happen to have the ear of world leaders, let them know they might want to give me a call.
In the meantime, read the writings of a really smart dude, Robert Reich.

Super Awwwwwwwww

I am realizing that a blog, much like a newborn anything, needs attention to stay alive and ultimately thrive. Much like any new parent in their right mind must think, I'm asking myself what I've gotten myself into. I'm asking myself what to feed the blog and what to keep it from so it will grow up healthy and strong. And there's something about the blog's mere existence that is a bit pacifying.

Even if no one is reading it, it is a chance to have my progeny seen by everyone in the world. I've never liked attention though, but as most people do, I definitely like approval. I just hope to get some comments here and there, let alone approval. I'm at that stage of blog development that any view is a developmental victory, and a comment.... if someone left a comment it would be a coup, much like a child saying "mama."

In the vein of the parent analogy, I want to share another pacifying site. Zooborns brings out the oxytocin even in the worst of us. I'm still figuring out this blog thing, so I'm going to take a moment to see if I can post one of their pictures here....

Hmmm, no dice. But I can insert the adorable cover of their book: ZooBornsI have no financial stake in Zooborns, I'm just trying to share some cuteness. Because this blog is a baby, and babies are supposed to be cute, right?