Time again to pick sides

I note that the rising tide of resentment against black athletes and there boycott of the games. Some think that a bunch of uppity prima donna black athletes are acting out and in response you will boycott the sports/leagues. I suggest, you may have missed the point.

You care for the police and the difficult job they have. You are not touched by the pain of these homicides by police officers of black people. So you shout out, where are the protests for Blue Lives Matter, these oppressed cops who are being treated so poorly, even killed in the line of duty.
But the officers the uproar is about are quite alive, dangerous and at best, poorly trained and at worst, racists. The point of all this is a large community wants this to stop. So you boycott the leagues because the athletes continue to honor victims and now demand justice. You will never get the point if you did not get it by now.

There is praise for the lost boy from hell who killed people in Kenosha because as Sean Hannity said, the boy is doing what the politicians and police were unwilling to do. Follow Hannity right to the gates of hell where civil war, fear and hate await you.

Very few adult liberals want violence committed against businesses or homes or cops. Very few of us want civil war, communist rule or the death of your suburban white communities. Most liberals are not antifa and we sure as shit are not KKK or Boogaloo Boys or any other white supremacists or Right wing hate group.
It is not now nor ever was fair that people are persecuted or prosecuted more aggressively because of their color, religion or sex. We have repeatedly offered up the evidence of discrimination, systemic racism and police brutality. You ignore it. You wave the flag at it. You denounce us as if we killed someone.

Well liberals are not going anywhere so I guess if you are planning on eliminating us pursuant to the trump/pence plan, get to it. Right-wing violence represents an increasing share of terrorist activity. Terrorist violence by right-wing extremists seems to have increased from 6% of attacks in 2010 to 35% by 2016, while left-wing terrorist violence during the same period dropped from 64% of attacks to just 12%. It further appears that right-wing violence quadrupled between 2016 and 2017. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes, “Although violent left-wing groups and individuals also present a threat, far-right-networks appear to be better armed and larger.” You got big momentum and big guns on your side.

Over 300 right wing hate groups are identified and active at this very moment, https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map/by-state

Trump and pence are urging you to view us as lethal enemies and destroyers of your communities and country. So rise up with your fellow whites. I know you are not racist but you have chosen your side and you have the guns and the president on your side. I do not think these “uppity blacks”, and “demon liberals” are going away. So you better get busy cause there are a lot of us.

What would Buddha do? Would Buddha kick your ass?

I seem to befuddle a number of you about how I self-identify as a Buddhist and a gangster (figuratively not literally). In fact, that is the tip of the yin yang universe I identify with. I also consider myself a warrior and a healer, a superficial intellect, a brilliantly poor student, and more. I have made peace with my inclinations and intentions which are almost always guided by principles of kindness/compassion and fairness.
 
I have no illusions about where I have been and where I am now. I do not practice Buddhism with an intention to become an enlightened being, escape suffering and find Nirvana. I practice Buddhism because I found it to be what I needed. I tested the practices especially meditation and I found them reliable and effective in alleviating the causes of my difficulties which are mostly self-inflicted and psychological. Sometimes it is also effective to bark and bite a motherfucker when triggered. May not be as socially acceptable but I can make it work for me.
 
Those friends closest to me report that I am generally more calm and patient since I began meditating. I am also older and less physically intimidating than I used to be. But I am sincere when you hear me say that I will fuck someone up.
 
The monks knew this about me when they allowed me to ordain and live among them. They had no illusions about my propensity for aggression and even violence. But to wrap myself in the saffron robes of a monk was like wrapping oneself in a reverse bomb suit used to protect a bomb removal expert. I found the robes contained the explosion within. It did not extinguish my ability to wage war but it surely ameliorated it. And although I am no longer living as a monk and I do not wear the robes, the effect was undeniably positive and enduring. It will take many more years before I will have as much experience in meditation as I do in martial arts. I can rely upon muscle memory when I draw my handgun. It takes far more effort to sit and eat mindfully.
I have an extensive vocabulary to convey hostility. The language of peace often leaves me speechless. I admit, love and peace do not need an extensive vocabulary.  But to be very clear, I am not without the tools of skillful speech. I safely navigated the inner-city for many years without being harmed or harming anyone. When I worked with street gangs, the kids responded well to the verbal deescalation techniques that I used. In fact they reacted far better than the myriad of mean drunks I have had to neutralize.
If you know me and are waiting for me to reside in a perpetual state of calm, then you are a believer in miracles, not conversions.  I have no plans to walk on water or levitate in this lifetime. What seems to be a safe bet is that I will keep practicing Buddhism, lawyering, fatherhood, 12 steps and bicycling.
“It is better to be a warrior tending to his garden than a gardener in a war.” Chinese proverb

History repeated. Justice denied.

I have here updated and edited a Wikipedia post on the following event. Like acts of genocide, like the Holocaust, we need to remember. Remember so as to honor victims and to effect cultural change in the policies and training of police work.
20 years ago, In the early morning of February 4, 1999, Amadu Diallo, a Haitian immigrant, was returning from a meal as he approached his apartment building. At about 12:40 a.m., police officers Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy, who were all in street clothes, entered the building vestibule that Amadu entered and testified that they loudly identified themselves as NYPD officers, and flashed their neck badges in the darkened hallway. The lightbulb was out and Diallo was backlit by the inside vestibule light, showing only a silhouette. Diallo then reached into his jacket and withdrew his wallet. The officers opened fire on Diallo, claiming that they believed he  had furtively gestured and was holding a gun. During the shooting, officer McMellon tripped backward off the front stairs, causing the other officers to believe he had been shot. The four officers continued until they had fired 41 shots with semi-automatic handguns. More than half the shots fired missed, but Diallo was hit 19 times.
An investigation found no weapon on or near Diallo; only his wallet. The internal affairs department ruled the officers had acted legally and within policy, based on what a reasonable police officer would have done in the same circumstances with the information they had.
On March 25, 1999, a Bronx grand jury indicted the four officers on charges of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment. On December 16, an appellate court ordered a change of venue to Albany, New York, based on pretrial publicity made a fair trial in New York City impossible. On February 25, 2000, a jury in Albany acquitted the officers of all charges. Officer Kenneth Boss had been previously involved in an incident where an unarmed black man, 22-year-old Patrick Bailey, died after Boss shot him on October 31, 1997. In 2012, Boss was the only remaining officer working for the NYPD. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly restored Boss’ ability to carry a firearm and he received a promotion to sergeant despite objections from Diallo’s mother and civil rights activists.

Years later in Arizona an officer was acquitted of second-degree murder charges, and officials released graphic video showing Daniel Shaver crawling on his hands and knees and begging for his life in the moments before he was shot and killed by police in January 2016.  Shaver died in one of at least 963 fatal police shootings in 2016, according to a Washington Post database.

The shooting of Laquan McDonald took place in Chicago IL on October 20, 2014,  when the 17-year-old African American was fatally shot by Officer Jason Van Dyke. McDonald was reported to have been behaving erratically while walking down the street, and holding a folding knife with a three-inch blade. Initial police reports described the incident such that Van Dyke was not charged in the shooting at that time.

When the police released a dash cam video of the shooting thirteen months later, on November 24, 2015, it showed McDonald had been walking away from the police when he was shot. Officer Van Dyke was charged with murder and was released on bail on November 30. On October 5, 2018, Van Dyke was found guilty at trial of second degree murder, and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a handgun. He received a light prison sentence.

 

As Sonny and Cher sing,

Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce
Boys keep chasing girls to get a kiss
The cars keep going faster all the time
Bums still cry, “Hey buddy, have you got a dime?”

And the beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

I grow weary of trying to stimulate the public into recognizing the deficiency of police training and policies and accountability. But cannot give up. Some shit is too important.

THE TUNNELS

I grew up near the shore of Lake Michigan. To visit the lake requires maneuvering over, or under the highway which runs between the lake and the city.

I am tripping. In my teen years I am usually just traveling in my head, going places I want to be, avoiding places I really am. I see the tunnel (sometimes called viaduct) up ahead. The tunnel goes under the Lake Shore Drive and out to the lake. As I enter the tunnel I hear the echo of my feet. It is that reverb you get only in a shower or in a tunnel. Listen to my whistle. It sounds so full it sounds orchestral. I hear the rhythms in my head. The beat comes echoing off my feet. You know the routine. I whistle while I work. I will walk this road so many times in my life. And I will always listen. The first time I came down one of these tunnels was when I was very young. The light fades and the temperature drops in the tunnel. The smells are more pungent. Sometimes I hold my nose so I don’t have to smell the urine. The kid in me gets excited at the notion of traveling through the dimness. The tunnel provides fullness to my sound, and anxiety to my fears.

One night, Pee Wee and I head to the Point, a lakefront park on the south side. Pee Wee was a founder and member of the Blackstone rangers. He was a short man, several years older than me, and he worked in produce at the local small grocery store. He liked wine and reefer. And he loved being a member of the Main 21. So called the board of 21 leaders that ruled this gang of tens of thousands of young men.

Anyway, we were walking out at the Point one evening. There weren’t too many white people out there at night but I didn’t worry as I was with friends. White people always left the lakefront when it got dark. Then the beach belonged to the black folks. The many conga drums picked up a beat. The radios played louder, the smell of reefer always swirling around here and there. This night Pee Wee showed me how well he could roll a joint even though he was staggering drunk.  We wandered around the lake front, people watching and getting our own buzz going which had started that evening off with some Richard’s Wild Irish Rose. For the uninitiated it is a wine whose bouquet is well regarded on skid rows everywhere.

The weather was perfect. Not too hot and not too cold.  We left the drummers on the south end, and we began to explore. All of the sudden Pee Wee tells me to “be cool.” There is urgency to his voice. He isn’t loud; in fact he is obviously trying to make sure only I hear him. I say, “What’s up?”

He again urges me to be cool and his voice is strained. He is worried. He tells me to just keep walking and head for the park exit. We move that way. I ask him to tell me why. He explains that he has been spotted by a group of Gangster Disciples, enemies of the Stones, and they are coming behind us. I see the tunnel come into view.  It is the way out. But it is where we are most vulnerable to a trap and attack. As we enter the tunnel the urgency of our footsteps reverberates. I start thinking about how  loud a gunshot is gonna sound in here. The tunnel is narrow and I know if they move on us in here we are through. But we can’t run. Gotta keep cool. I hear the voices draw closer. If we can make it to the end, there is usually a squad car parked on the other side this time of night. They are keeping an eye on the large number of young black men, most who reside in the tough communities located a short distance away.

In that tunnel, my feet sound loud and the beat erratic. The sound betrays that I am ill at ease.  I aged in that tunnel. When I came out of the other end I was surely an older person.

It wasn’t too much longer after that night than I found myself back up at the point at night w/Pee Wee again and JD, my girlfriend, and Pee Wee’s girlfriend.

We were walking around getting high and listening for the drums that were always there. As we approached the circle where the drummers were gathered, JD grabbed my arm and yelped. I turned and looked at her and I could see fear written in every line of her face, her eyes almost bulging and her mouth drawn so tight, almost cartoonishly. Then she told me that the large black guy approaching us was one of the guys that had raped her recently. I had hunted this faceless bastard before, but I had only had a vague description. He towered over us. He was at least 6’3″ and was dressed in an African shirt called a dashiki. He had a dashiki cap on his head too. I looked around and there were obviously some friends of his there, dressed in a similar manner. He came up to us. She was gripping my hand tightly. He began to talk to her and put his hand to her neckerchief and play with the ring holding it on. He commented on what a nice ring it was. I rolled her behind me with my wrist and got my body between them. He stared at me and I at him. I was trying to calculate how we could escape since he had size, numbers and evil on his side.

Black Hercules was there, dancing the way he always did to the drums. He was a magnificent bodied man who dressed as though he were entering or departing the jungle. He wore shorts and a leather vest without a shirt. His hair was like a mane, long, dark, stringy, curly. He rarely spoke and appeared to live on the streets. But he had muscles in places most people got no places. He was always smiling when he would see me, but I don’t remember him ever speaking. I never knew if his silence was the result of some mental defect or simply his demeanor. I wondered if he would recognize the danger to us and intervene if violence ensued. Then Pee Wee stepped in and introduced himself to this large man. Pee Wee had sensed the bad vibes. He nodded to the man, exchanged some greetings then told us it was time to leave. He told the large man “I’ll be seeing you around brother.”  It was a strange and ominous departure between the two. I didn’t want to leave because even though I was clearly at a disadvantage I wanted revenge. I wanted to knock the smirk off his face and make him feel Jan’s rage and fear.  But Pee Wee was insistent and corralled us.

Then the 4 of us began the long walk across the park to the tunnel. I was uncertain that Pee Wee’s presence would serve to deter anything. He was shorter than I and just wasn’t an imposing guy. But we entered the tunnel and left the bad man behind. We stopped at the first store on 55th and Pee Wee made a phone call. Then he told us he would see us later and goodbye.

Turns out he arranged a war party for the large man, courtesy of the Blackstone Rangers. Not sure of all that transpired after that as Pee Wee was AWOL from the hood for a while.  When he reappeared he told me he had been in jail for the attack on the man and his friends. Shortly thereafter Pee Wee offered me membership in the Black Stones. Tempting, but what little sanity I held on to in those days said “no” to the offer of membership in what was mostly, largely, almost exclusively a black gang.

Years later I would walk through a similar tunnel on the North side (Belmont Avenue) to visit the lakefront. Back then I was about 25 and doing street work with teens in the area. This night I was off duty and just walking around with a girlfriend who also worked with young people. We crossed under the road to walk along the lakefront, heedless of what was waiting. I had my resonant whistle going with a happy carefree song. It may have been Up, UP & Away by the 5th Dimension. It’s a great tunnel song. But no sooner had we left the tunnel and come out into the lamp lit night than we were told that Knuckles was freaking out and needed help. Knuckles was an older Puerto Rican gang member I knew, and he was losing control from PCP.

I always liked Knuckles. I spent most of my work hours interacting with gangs. He enjoyed his rep as an older gang member without any of the obligations of ganghood. He was usually high and lazy but he never disrespected what I was trying to do with the kids in the hood. It was his young wife Gail, who approached and told me he was hallucinating. She was distressed by what he was doing and saying. I asked if he was “dusted”, (as in angel dust/PCP, animal tranquilizer)? She said he had done some much earlier but not for hours. She doubted it was the cause of his behavior.

“Hey Knuckles man, what you doing?”  “Nothing” he said. “Why are u trippin’?”  “I’m fine man, except I had a hallucination. I imagined I had my little brother in my hands and I was beating him. I imagined that I was killing him. Beating him with my fists and kneeing him in his head. It seemed so real.”

“It’s the “dust” I told him. “It’s just your mind reeling from the high, one bad moment in an otherwise good day. You been out here partying with your wife and buddies and the shit is fucking with you.”

“No man, it isn’t the dust. That was hours ago.” his face would contort and his fists were clenching and unclenching. His eyes were wild.

“Hey dude, you are scaring me, I said.  I wish you wouldn’t act like that. Makes me nervous to stand here and you looking so crazed. Come back down please.”  Knuckles was much taller than me. He was a tall wiry guy with a goatee. He usually dressed in a sleeveless T. He was about 21. He had been in the gang a long time but inactive at present as he actually tried to be a married young man. He had kids and they meant something to him.

Knuckles looked up at me and turned his head to the side as though he were examining me. I was nervous as hell. Guys on angel dust can exhibit unusual strength. Paramedics who are dispatched to transport users of  dust to psychiatric facilities know to fear “dust” users.

I figured I stunk of fear. In my experience, persons having a psychotic break get agitated if they get mixed messages. I didn’t want him to get more confused by my acting all brave if he smelled the fear. So I just stuck by the truth so I could keep him listening.  “You scare me man when you act like this. I don’t want you to freak out and hit me or something.”    “I ain’t gonna hit you man. I am cool.”

“I know you are, but try to breathe deep and relax. Keep your mind right here with me and stop letting it run away with you. You can do it man. You gotta just stay right here and right now man. See, your wife is over there and she is nervous about how you are doing. We gonna take care of you, but you gotta help.”

“Its all cool man, really,” he said. I could see he was trying to stay with me. I told him to breathe deep and he tried. He was talking, successfully struggling to stay in the moment. The hallucinations would start again when he drifted.

Then it got weird. One of his homeboys walked up, a tall blond guy who was horribly alcoholic and not particularly bright. He operated off of one kidney; because one was removed from an accident or stabbing.  I can’t remember which. Well he walked up intoxicated, with a beer can in his hand and punched Knuckles in the chest and told him to “stop fucking around.” Knuckles became agitated again and told him to back off. The other guy was trying to make light of it and act as if it was all under control. He was laughing and woofing at Knuckles about, “you ain’t gonna do SHIT!”

I asked the guy to leave but he refused. He said Knuckles was cool and he would hang with him and everything would be cool. Knuckles face was looking taut again. His eyes were hostile and fearful. I kept talking to him.

“Let’s get your wife man and sit down somewhere. You need to relax and these guys are drunk.”

His wife was nervous. She didn’t want me to bring him over to her. She was a small thing and she was afraid he was gonna flip out violently. She was afraid to be there when he got crazy. But I reassured her I would stay and he would be all right. I didn’t know if that was true but I didn’t want to be alone with him either or alone with him and his drunk buddies. I feared he would get nuts and violent too and I didn’t want to be the closest thing. I figured my chances were better at keeping him cool if his wife was there.

It didn’t help that I had a date with me. It was Memorial Day weekend. I couldn’t run if he got ugly if the date didn’t run too. I would have to stay long enough to make sure she was cool and that would be all the time he needed to attack me. When you know an attack may come at any moment, you stay on the balls of your feet. You want to be able to scramble quick and not get caught off-balance. Having a date with you screwed up the escape dynamics.

We hadn’t been out often, and I figured this would be the last time. She could probably find funnier ways to spend Memorial Day. The good part is since she was a social worker too, so she was sensitive to the task before me.

That DUST is some shit man. It can really wig someone out. I have seen it take multiple guys to restrain someone in Knuckles condition. I tried to recruit some other neighborhood teens that I knew that were drinking nearby, in case it did get out of control. What if he attacked me? How much damage could he do before they pulled him off me? I had no confidence these kids would intervene.

I am worn out from the memory of the night. He finally calmed down and lay on the grass lawn at the beach. His wife Gail thanked me.

I took my date and we crossed back under the tunnel and we went to a nearby Asian restaurant for some food and a rare alcoholic drink. I needed a while to come down off the fear. My date, Peggy and I are still friends.

 

 

Who am I?

If there is a me, this might be. Can you summarize a life? I did so much living, I cannot recall half of it. But memories flow when I find that those memories may be helpful to others. I also realize that all I am in many regards, is memory. This moment fades immediately into a memory.  Here I lay out the substance of memories which comprise the path I follow to freedom from suffering. I have learned studying the Buddha that the most precious moment in my life is this moment. If you read through I hope it will be worthy of your time.

I am 66 years old. I am recently identifying as a lawyer, meditation teacher and  recovering addict. I relate to Marilyn Monroe when she said, “I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.”

I arrive here by luck and by being very street smart.  I spent most of my teens on the streets of Chicago, as a runaway from a physically abusive dad. While my family was affluent, I chose to live in poverty and crime, sometimes living on pieces of foam in the basements of apartment buildings and churches. I spent my teens stealing property, selling drugs, hitching rides and evading pedophiles.

Fightin’, killin’, wine and women gonna put me to my grave
Runnin’, hidin’, losin’, cryin’, nothing left to save
But my life
Stood on a ridge and shunned religion, thinking the world was mine
I made my break and a big mistake, stealin’ when I should have been buyin’
Uriah Heap

Probability of survival, low.

When I was 23, I created the nonprofit youth agency called Local Motion Inc. because it was the only way I could get a job working with teens. All the established youth programs I applied to declared that my lack of any formal college education disqualified me. So I hired me, I learned how to write grants for funding, and spent most of my time working in the streets with the toughest kids I could find. I was drawn to spending nights on street corners inhabited by gang members. My goal was to draw them away from the violence and facilitate their productive participation in society.

I dropped out of high school at 16. I tested and received a GED, high school equivalency when I was 18. I didn’t see the inside of a classroom again until 11 years later when I began a college program called University Without Walls. I spent 2 years in (and out of) the program getting a bachelors degree. My college program was interrupted when I went into drug treatment. After being clean of drugs for a year I returned to college and social services. Got my addictions counselor certification and my Bachelors in Human Services.

In 1985, at the age of 33, I enrolled in the John Marshall Law School. I was awarded a law degree 2.5 years later. I continued to work as a social worker with high risk populations in the inner city until I began a solo law practice in 1988. My own experiences as a street urchin and a drug abuser made me feel drawn back to the streets even as a lawyer. I could stay with what I had come to know the best, the streets! I have learned most of the tricks of survival by always bringing my work to the streets and the streets to my work.

I have been in numerous life and death encounters, including being shot at a few times. I have been witness to or involved in probably 100 violent incidents. Some days I saw multiple assaults. I have seen hate and most of its permutations. Probability of survival, low.

I am licensed to practice law in Texas, Arizona and Illinois. I studied law with some of the best trial lawyers in America including Gerry Spence and Racehorse Haynes. I loved doing trials and represented clients in all types of criminal and civil cases. I am especially proud of my representation of those accused of murder. The stakes for the accused are almost incalculable.

Moved to Dallas TX when I was 43 with my second wife. She was a corporate executive and I started the DFW Gun Range and Training Center,  the largest firearms training center in Dallas. Studied handguns tactics with some of the best, Thunder Ranch, Gunsite Academy, and the Executive Protection Institute among others. I was certified by the state of Texas to teach police and security firearms and the laws of use of deadly force. Survival odds, improved.

I made a best friend of my little brother Ricky when I became a Big Brother of Chicago over 35 years ago. He was 8 years old then.  My second and best wife and I became foster parents to Danny, an 11 year old I met when the juvenile court in Chicago assigned me to assist in his criminal defense.

I have owned 7 businesses including 3 nightclubs. I regard nightclubs as a world infused, infested with drugs, alcohol and pain. Probability of survival, low.

So let us summarize what I think I am. I do fail more than I succeed but my failures are so delightful to others that I enjoy sharing them when opportunity knocks. So I identify with my failures. At the same time, my failures were harnessed to create subsequent successes. I identify with that.

If I get past labels, it is because I realize that saying I love biking Dallas or hiking Tucson AZ. is not satisfactory. Teaching Buddhist meditation for several years at the Buddhist Center of Dallas and being present for my daughters/family Annastacia and Alexandria, does not explain who I am now.

Should it be a thing that I relapsed on drugs for 10 years but in 2007 I reengaged with and remain in 12 step recovery?  Does my study of Buddhism help sketch out who I am?

Funny story. On my way to losing a fortune during the economic tsunami of 2008, I befriended a Buddhist monk from Thailand who was living in Tucson Arizona. He and I hiked hundreds of  miles of mountain trails discussing and learning meditation the next 2 years. Then I ordained as a novice Buddhist monk and lived in his monastery for a little over 4 months. That monk, Ajahn Sarayut, taught me how to meditate and then how to teach meditation.  Odds of survival, very good.

I eat healthy, treat the Earth with respect and seek the companionship of great spirits. I have two mottos. Do no harm. And, Be humble, because I may be wrong.

I do wish to label me not. I prefer to be what I can be as the moment dictates what is true and right. My study of the Buddha taught me that the path of virtue, concentration, and discernment would lead to a state of calm well-being and then to use that calm state to look at all experience in terms of suffering and freedom from suffering.

I am certain that I must be accepting of everything. I may not approve but with a gentleness I never knew, I must accept the pleasure and adversities and how fleeting both are. Drug addiction was a quick way to allay my emotional discomfort. Meditation is a slower, safer more skillful way to free myself from the very torment that drove me to abuse chemicals, relationships and money.

The time I spend trying to be certain of the solidity of things and thoughts, the more suffering I have. When I bathe in the uncertainty of everything including myself, while it is bewildering, it is liberating. When I sit a look closely, there is nothing I can cling to with certainty. Buddhist teachers challenged me to find where my thoughts began and where they went when they left. I can not. I was challenged by my teachers to prove that my thoughts and emotions were mine to own/control by adhering only to happy thoughts and pleasant emotions. I accepted the challenge and discovered I could not successfully cling to my thoughts or emotions. None of us can.

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” Abraham Lincoln.

If I fail to stand for what I believe I would fail to be who I think I am. When I act mindlessly, not mindfully, when acting selfishly not selflessly, and when my intentions are unwholesome, then I am not who I want to be.

Who am I? Have not a clue. I no longer intend to let the armor around my heart remain there. I have been letting go of the pain of life’s encounters which closes me off to the sunlight of the spirit, creates the illusion it protects me and yet subverts me when I only wish to love. Breathing in I am mindful I am breathing in. I practice in meditation to be aware of the physical sensation of the breath, in and out. When I am fully mindful, meditating,  the sediment of mindlessness settles. There is then a clarity which I never had of this moment and all the pain of yesterday and the anxiety of tomorrow is dissolved. I am free to love my family and friends and even strangers without the rubbish of judgment and opinions I love attaching to.

Am I what they say I am.

When I was 14 years old I was beaten unconscious by a first generation 17 year old Palestinian boy in the swimming pool during swim class at South Shore High School. The reason I was beaten, the 6 Day War in Israel. Several Jewish boys watched as I was beaten. (I was 5′ tall and weighed 115 pounds) After I was resuscitated I approached the Jewish kids and stated as best I recall “I was beaten because I am Jewish and you didn’t help me. I hope they march you all to the ovens some day. I will take 6 of them before they get me.”
I was angry at those Jewish kids. I made a decision to be armed some day. I am not angry at Jews anymore, or Palestinians but I sure as hell am armed. I believed then that Anti-Semitism could get me killed. I believe it just as strongly today. The drums of hate are beating. The rhetoric of trump is the dog whistle to violent white nationalists. If they hate Blacks and Gays, They hate Jews.
What is my point? This is not a mere election between progressive vs conservative policies. This may be survival….. “ranging for revenge, with Ate by his side come hot from hell, shall in these confines with a Monarch’s voice cry ‘Havok!’ and let slip the dogs of war.” Shakespeare.
They are saying we are the violent ones and they are selling the story, quite successfully, that liberals are dangerous. I am mindful that fear has a similar effect on me as it does on the Right. I want to be secure in my home and community. I must balance my Buddhist sensibilities with history of resisting anti-Semitism, Racism, misogyny, and homophobia. The good people on the right are not coming to save us from the violent chants of white supremacists. No one in the republican congress is standing with us.
Tomorrow I may feel kinder and gentler. But trump praised a physical assault of a reporter and he is justifying the heinous torture/murder of a Middle Eastern man who lived amongst us. And his supporters laugh. He encourages violence against us. How do I wake up secure in home and country with this going on? How do I default to loving kindness and compassion when I feel the hot breath of hate on my neck?
Until I figure it out, I am prepared to take some with me when they come to march me to the figurative or literal ovens. Still gonna ride my bike, go to 12 step meetings and flirt with women. Live life yes. Am I going to be what they say I am? I cannot honestly say yet.

The Brett Kavanaugh hearings. We are seemingly nothing more than we believe.

Watching Senator Flake verbally assaulted by sex assault survivors, in the Senate hall today, drives home that there are those who will demand that their view be the definitive view and coerce compliance. Flake has frequently articulated a neutral view and attacking him after he took a reasoned if controversial position is doomed to result in more backlash.
Perhaps my friends know better how it serves the cause to subject Senator Flake to this type of verbal attack. Is throwing blood on celebrities wearing fur an effective tactic for PETA? I am falling further and further away from any side including my side. My Facebook is overwhelmingly filled with much self-righteous anger, and a sad certainty of the facts unproven.
I defended a young man in 1990, who was identified by 5 eyewitnesses as a killer. He was not guilty but he sat in jail for a year before I could put on contrary evidence. He was acquitted by a judge who heard all the evidence. In 1996 I defended another young man charged with murder. Multiple eyewitnesses identified my client. He also signed a 5 page confession. He was innocent. He was found not guilty by a jury.
There are many forms of evidence including eye-witness testimony, documentary evidence, and physical and scientific evidence. We can demand the outcome we prefer in the absence of evidence. We can tenaciously cling to our position and ignore and reject those that believe differently. And we can then get on with the public lynchings via social media of character and reputation.
At this hour there is still a chance that there will be further investigation. I have no confidence that any such investigation can be helpful much less dispositive.
I am tempted to demand that my (un)certainty be imposed on the public in this case.  I do not like the political or judicial views of Brett Kavanaugh. I believe he is lying about some important matters. I dislike his exhibition of anger and indignation. That makes him guilty of having temperament, beliefs and friends which I hold in low regard. Nothing more has been proven. I am certain of this and you must agree.

What happened when you were not looking?

The first time I was jumped on (outside the home) was 2nd grade. I do seem to have been in more fights than most of my peers. It often had to do with my mouth and my unwillingness to back up. Growing up on the south side I was attacked, robbed, beaten and chased on innumerable occasions. I left South Shore at age 14 and moved to Hyde Park. The instances of violence directed at me or near me, continued countless times. The problem was magnified when I left home at age 15/16 and lived wherever I could find that night to lay my head.

When people are aghast that I am armed all the time or that I am hyper-vigilant, I in turn become aghast that they are aghast. If my father had never struck me often and regularly, I probably still would have gotten PTSD. \

I was robbed or attacked my first day of high school, my first day at my third high school and the first day of my fourth high school. I was attacked in a preparatory boarding school (second high school) in New Hampshire.

I do not recall initiating attacks but I could be having selective amnesia. I certainly learned to live amongst predators. I had many friends who were quite capable of launching a violent attack but I do not recall us ever starting the fight.

As I slide into old age, I do not feel safer. I do feel more resigned to the universe, impermanence and death. So I am a hybrid of ideas, experiences and education. I am violence tinged with metta/loving kindness. Or perhaps it is metta tinged with violence.

I don’t know if I would have wanted it otherwise. I have no idea if I would have done many of the good things I did as a social worker or a lawyer if I had been raised in a more peaceful arena. I do not know if I would have been motivated, experienced or concerned enough to have provided the advocacy that I was able to provide clients. Having my experiences as a kid, as a defendant and as a loudmouth made me more empathic than others who lacked my background.

Time takes time. What is, is. What was, was.

I stand by Black Lives Matter.

Despite all that I hear about black on black or black on white crime, I stand in solidarity with BLM. I do so because the causes and foundation of racism in the US have never, ever been fully and openly addressed. The deterioration and disintegration I have observed over the past 40 years have convinced me that the war on black people has resulted in the unraveling in the inner-city of their culture, communities and values. I do not believe that the people residing in ghettos are inherently more violent or prone to criminality. I believe that by marginalizing, demonizing and disenfranchising poor blacks this country has created the environment and circumstances which has resulted in the devastation we see today.

My personal experience in the inner-city lead me to the conclusion that we over-incarcerated, under-educated and created the conditions upon which gangs can freely infest and prey upon the communities. But the gangs are in fact the product of the conditions I have cited. Gang kids are not born, they are created.

Chicago police historically and relentlessly preyed upon lower-income blacks. They committed crimes including torture against young black male suspects. They framed them for crimes they did not commit. They took payoffs to let gangs operate. They robbed drug dealers and resold the product they stole and spent the cash. One elite special operations group of the CPD has been implicated in significant series of serious crimes including attempted murder for hire on a police officer.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/08/chicago-police-charged-wi_n_846528.html

Chicago is just one of many departments that committed crimes against the community they swore to protect. While victims were many and diverse, the bulk of the crimes were committed against black men.

There are more good cops than bad cops if we use a yardstick based on intent. But if we use a different measure which requires a good cop to be intolerant of bad cops, we have a serious shortage of good cops. We need to challenge police officers to rise up intellectually and spiritually to actively do the Right Thing. When what is intolerant is police misconduct and when peer pressure weighs against misconduct, then we may see a seismic shift in policing practices and an end to the need for BLM.

We can not change people’s racist attitudes but we can diminish their impact. We cannot fix the stubborn racist black or white who tenaciously clings to his hate. But we can deprive him of permission so that he acts alone if he acts at all. Racist should be as afraid to come out of the closet just like a pedophile. It should be a source of shame in the presence of our society to proclaim your racial animus. Lest we forget what community norms result in, remember Emmett Till, a 14 yo black boy beaten to death.

http://time.com/4399793/emmett-till-civil-rights-photography/?xid=time_socialflow_facebook

We are the frontline of defense against racism and its harm to our entire way of life. No more uncomfortable laughter at cocktail hour racist jokes. No silent acquiescence to locker room chatter about “those people”. Our young white athletes and students need to be given our permission and encouragement to stand up to this insidiousness. Power to the people ought to mean all people. You may just be the best example of a human being that some people ever see.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will ……

I have made up my mind who I am going to vote for. My friends have made up their minds also. We can publish all the facts, rumors and innuendo available, but no one now is changing. Unless it is extreme (like David Duke blaming Jews for Melania’s speech) I will refrain from posting for or against the candidates. I am not attached to my candidate. I am supportive but I will survive in any case. We are slowly becoming a third world country. Our economy is failing the poor. Our police are openly targeted. Our police are frequently abusive. Our capacity for productivity has diminished and we rely upon exports for many of our needs. Our population is breaking into tribal like groups based on territory, race, religion ideology, politics, etc. Our agricultural productivity is threatened by climate changes.
 
Instead of worrying about God in or out of government and schools, and worrying about what color Iphone case you want, I suggest you worry about race relations, the disintegration of our primary and secondary educational system and about the inability of millions of Americans to thrive economically in an increasingly hostile financial environment for our aging and unemployed population.
 
The seeds of revolution and disintegration of society as we have come to know it looms greater every day. Wake up. It is not the absence of God or religion It is economics. Hungry people are angry people. Ignorant people are angry. It is not a shortage of God. It is a shortage of wealth and opportunity which will plague us into thrid world status. Then back the Blue will be meaningless. Lawless will be commonplace. Look around.
 
We disenfranchised men of color and poor whites by incarcerating them at the fastest and largest rate of any country in the world. We are not the most criminal country. We are the most punitive. Then when we release these prisoners without training and resources they soon find that rehabilitation and reformation and integration back into our society is near impossible. They won’t vote, cannot work and they use what they have to get what they need. That requires immersion back into the criminal subculture.

Then we have our returning soldiers (again often drawn from our underclass), many who are mentally unstable and now are choosing to use their skills to kill cops rather than become one. The cost of mental instability to our economy and safety is immeasurable but I guarantee it will be astronomical.
Follow the bouncing ball. The wealthiest are dividing us by race and religion. They permit police misconduct because it perpetuates the agenda of emasculating and disenfranchising opposition. There is no shortage of scapegoats. Every year they want to magnify our anger and fears. It is paralysis by fear. We elect the angry guy. He justifies our worst emotions and gives permission to persecute and prosecute our most recent enemy. Why in the last 30 years have we had some group or another, who never imperiled us, become the focus of our fear? Do you even remember when all of the sudden you found out the illegal Mexicans were no longer a source of cheap labor but the new thieves, rapists and drug dealers? Do you remember when the Middle East shifted from being out there somewhere to being here? (It was September 11, 2001.) Do you know why we were suddenly incapable of having peace with Muslims? Did you follow our military incursions into the middle east which preceded our being targeted at home. Did you see the carnage in the middle east brought about by the years of shock and awe which we unleashed in the middle east?
 
If you wish to make reference to the Bible, make this the foundation of your studies. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7

Vietnam and the US patriot

I am of the age to have served in the military during the war in Vietnam. Instead, I joined the anti-war movement and avoided being drafted into the army. Now I see many young and old people being accused of being unpatriotic for protesting our armed forces being in Iraq and Afghanistan. Makes my blood boil to see them judged so. and here is why.

My older neighbors and friends went into the armed forces and fought in Vietnam. Most of them returned with regrets that serving their country meant blowing up someone else’s. They regretted calling in air strikes on entire villages. They regretted interrogation techniques which amounted to torture. They regretted seeing US GIs blown to bits, driven on to punji sticks,  and disemboweled.

They regretted participating in the use of napalm and Agent Orange to destroy in its entirety everyone and everything touched by chemicals. And like every GI, they regretted that they had left family and friends, jobs, and schools, to fight an enemy that was elusive and in fact often invisible.

So many of the men I knew returned home full of anger and regrets. Some had even been involved in attacks on military superiors in response to orders they would not obey. These were good men. Proud men who had grown up much like me, with every intention of serving their country admirably and honorably and unhesitatingly. When they returned and we sat to talk about their time in Nam, here is what they said. Don’t go. It is a wrong place where we are doing wrong things. This is  ot the war our fathers fought. This is not a just war. They told me to resist. They told me to forget everything I thought about war from John Wayne movies.

I began to question the notion that when I reached 18 I would serve in the military, with vim and vigor. I read more news accounts. I spoke to more vets. I watched the Vietnam Vets Against the War march in downtown Chicago.

Many of my generation will never trust the military/industrial complex. We have tried in earnest to motivate the next generations to listen with caution to the beat of war drums. I cannot say with certainty when we should militarily or politically intervene in foreign countries. I can say that I think it should be quite sparingly and reluctantly.

And opposing the war in generally associated with protests and demonstrations. Some are peaceful, some not. Some are well organized, some not. Often times they turn dramatic. Flags and effigies are burned and profanities hurled along with an occasional bottle or rock.

I suggest that whatever dishonor and disrespect you interpret in these actions, many of us believe that not resisting unjust wars are dishonorable and disrespectful.

Phil Ochs, a folk singer sang this lyric  “It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all”

Read more: Phil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore Lyrics | MetroLyrics

He also sang this lyric

One-legged veterans will greet the dawn
And they’re whistling marches as they mow the lawn
And the gargoyles only sit and grieve
The gypsy fortune teller told me that we’d been deceived
You only are what you believe

I believe the war is over
It’s over, it’s over

Read more: Phil Ochs – The War Is Over Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Be slow to judge who seem unpatriotic. They may perceive themselves to be super patriots. They/We risk being beaten by cops, going to jail or prison, losing jobs and being despised by neighbors in order to follow their conscience. Even if they are wrong does not mean they are unpatriotic. I fought my war during Vietnam. When riot police surrounded us I was scared. I was afraid of being gassed or beat.I knew if I left quickly I could avoid the ugliness to follow. But I stayed the course and chanted anti-war slogans. Because I loved my country.

Polarization, Narration, Frustration,

I started a post on Facebook about the polarization I am seeing between the political/ideological factions amongst my friends and acquaintances. The premise of my post is that the Right vs Left is so disparate and hateful now that there will never be a political reconciliation. Without reconciliation and a new narration there will ultimately be a disintegration of our society and country. We cannot remain the United States much longer. The language of hate I hear on the Right is too similar to the language of hate used against Jews.

Anti-Semitism is not something I just read about. It was a frequent event in my young days. It was not uncommon at all to be called a dirty Jew, a Kike (a contemptuous term used to refer to a person of Jewish religion or descent), Yid, Christ killer, Hebe, and more. I heard it on the South Side of Chicago, when I was in grade school. I heard it in New Hampshire where I was sent to boarding school. I heard it in automotive and motorcycle shops, clubhouses and more. 

I was assaulted by a Palestinian in my gym class when I was 14 y.o. He beat me unconscious. I harbored hate for years as a result. But eventually maturity set in and I came to recognize the threat had passed. The perpetrators of anti-Semitic assaults against me would have no further opportunity to harm me without facing significant opposition. I further recognized that my experience was not the sum total of the universe nor necessarily reflective of the non-Jewish world. I slowly altered my reaction to the world at large.

I read the following today. and it helped me fathom what I have gone through. “Humility allows you to make mistakes and to start over when you fail. It also frees you of the expectation that you should be rewarded for doing the right thing.

Many times I don’t know what the right thing to do is, so cultivating “don’t know mind” can prepare the ground for new possibilities to arise. When faced with a difficult situation, ask myself, “Do I know for sure what’s right?” If the answer is, “I don’t think so,” then reflect on my inner experience: “Is this a situation that I have some feeling about that seems to be true, and is it important for me to bring my truth to bear?”

– See more at: http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/do-right-thing?utm_source=hootsuite#sthash.VDX1ORax.dpuf

I showed up today with my “don’t know mind”. It feels very liberating. But is it futile in a world where most people are signed on to a narrative which engenders polarization? Is the frustration of being bombarded with hate speech and fear-mongering something I can continue to “don’t know” about?

I thought when I broke through the haze of hate infecting my mind, that I was well on my way to being liberated. But I ran smack into a wall of other people’s hate. It stopped me in my tracks. I am constantly resisting the urge to be the “knowing one”, the “right one”. I am working my way to accepting that even hate may be a social passage which must be allowed in order for us to move forward. Seems like a bad plan but when I start seeming, it is often disastrous.

Anyways, I think the point is that the narrative which is dominating the conversation in the world around me is very negative. It is polarizing, It is frustrating. Can I help shape the narrative? Earlier today, long after I started this blog post, I noted on Facebook, that I was inspired by other Facebook posts to be more charitable. That seemed to stimulate truly generous even loving feedback. So for the next couple of days I will try to not feed the beast and perpetuate the negativity. I will resist telling others about the flaw in their logic. Instead I will see if I can stay in a place of “don’t know” but “can do” actions which originate from a place of grace. The pastor at the memorial I attended today, said many inspirational things. He did a beautiful closing argument for the power of God and his readiness to embrace us all, no matter what we do or who we are.

Who are we people that you hate?

This my attempt to examine the way we deal with differing ideologies and viewpoints. I just discovered that a grade school Facebook friend has unfriended me because of my “stance on guns”. There were no preliminary exchanges before he did it. I didn’t know he had done so until I sought to look him up on my friends list and see what he was up to. (He didn’t appear in my friend list of course which was the first clue.) He is not the only one who reacts strongly to my views. But in the case of other friends who told me they were going to unfriend me, none actually landed up doing so….yet. I attribute that to the fact that by telling me their intention, they opened up a dialogue. And that dialogue engendered some willingness to tolerate what feels distasteful for the sake of friendship.

I have never hunted nor have I ever killed an animal on purpose in my life. I am not now nor have I ever been a card carrying member of the NRA. I actually go out of my way to eat vegetables instead of meat as often as possible for my health and the ecology. I recycle most everything. I voted for a democrat for president since my first vote cast. I also have something called hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Thus, if I do not feel protected and ready to engage threats I am in a constant state of increased anxiety. As a result, I may respond to my environment different than others. My closest friends can tell you that I am guarded in public and can consistently discern threats which others miss. It has served me well in dangerous situations, like living in the inner-city, evading Catholic school bullies, working with street gangs, representing criminal defendants and traveling across country on motorcycles and in cars.

It happens that I was riding my bicycle Sunday morning when a large man on a large motorcycle started yelling profanities at me. I had just gone around him on my bicycle at a stop sign. He caught up to me and yelled at me about breaking the law and what a fucking asshole I was. I stopped my bike and asked him why was he so upset. This seemed to enrage him. He clearly thought about getting off his bike. I calmly asked him why what he thought I did was making him so mad. I asked what harm had I done him. He kept yelling at me, strings of profanities, his face flushed. I tried using deescalating techniques, which I am well-trained in. It didn’t work. In the old days, before I carried a firearm I would have escalated the situation by meeting his aggression with greater aggression. It is very effective in averting violence to convince the initial aggressor that I mean to do him great harm if he pushes me. This tactic was precipitated by the fact that I am fearful of violence and experience dictated the best defense is an aggressive offense. My rationalization? If you sought to intimidate me, I would demonstrate what real intimidation looked like.

I found I didn’t need to escalate in that fashion when I have a handgun. I know that if I am armed and someone intends serious violence, I will be able to respond quickly and effectively to protect myself. This helps keep me calm. Most folks never have violence visited upon them. Not sure yet why I am so special. But between my past work, my travels and my being the odd looking one, I have seen dozens of assaults and I have been attacked or threatened with attack on dozens of occasions.

When the girls were young we sometimes went walking or hiking together in Tucson. One day we went walking but there was no sidewalk where we were. So whenever a vehicle approached around this curvy road, I would step more into the road to force vehicles away from my young girls. (If we tried to step off the road it was all cactus) A man pulled over and got out of his truck and started yelling at me for walking in the road. This guy went nuts. As soon as he had pulled over and I saw him getting out, in the middle of nowhere, I placed my hand on my gun in my pocket. I tried to calm him down but he just had to tell me that he had been proceeding safely and I had no business causing him to slow down. Understand? He is yelling at me and is highly agitated in front of my two young girls. Do you think I would have hesitated to prevent him if he made any physical threat? In fact if I didn’t have the gun, I probably would have used the rock which I was holding in my other hand.

So you may have handled yourself differently in all these encounters. You are more self-assured, more pacifist, more gracious. You are probably sweeter and more intelligent than me too. Maybe you go to church on Sunday and the good Lord keeps you and protects you.

We should be doing all we can to combat societal ills which are tearing at the fabric of or country and the world. I think we should recycle, be vegetarian, donate often to charity and be kind to strangers. If you do that then I admire you and I want to be just like you. Then you deserve a platform to discuss gun violence, an issue which gravely needs to be addressed.

I find no usefulness in yelling at or being yelled at about my political views and ideologies. There are so many issues which are critical to our survival and comfort as a species and they are all related. I suggest we attack violence holistically, as an ill which needs to be addressed at so many levels, including, but also beyond firearms.

I hope all can agree, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; a real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato  It is my experience that all persons have boogeymen. Our world is many things and dangerous is one of those things. We are a vulnerable little eco-system of a human trying to thrive in an environment fraught with chemical, ecological, climatic and accidental perils.

My friends cover the spectrum of political ideology. I doubt any of my friends is wholly insensitive to the concerns of others, but most are quick to dismiss the viewpoints they do not agree with. I have urged friends to open their minds up to the discourse in a more loving way but it generally falls on deaf ears in any ideological discussion. Guns is one of many issues that tear at my friends and family. (My family is generally quite anti-gun and was very disdainful of my owning a gun range) In fact, I will continue to urge my gun owning pals to open their minds to the need to explore solutions not approved or encouraged by the NRA. I will continue to tell them that they only think they know what a liberal wants much less what a liberal thinks.

If you read this far, thanks. I keep saying I have nothing more to say about guns. But yesterday, a crazy man randomly stabbed a jogger to death on my regular bike trail. Being hyper-vigilant I remain alert when riding alone in wooded or isolated areas. I have no wish to die from the repeated stabbings of a lunatic. I don’t want someone to bash my head in as I ride beneath an overpass where homeless men with liquor sit or reside. So this incident yesterday, the death of a random victim makes me sad. But it makes my spidey sense tingle just a little stronger. Forgive my frailties and my lack of faith in . Forgive that I place faith in myself and my training and my weapons. I don’t pretend it is best, it is just my way.

So once again I will assure you that I wish to have no part in this debate. It is a polarizing issue which is complicated and divisive. I lose friends because of it. As Paul Simon the songwriter noted, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”. See ya on the other sid

Once upon a time in a faraway land, Part 1

I remember standing outside the high school waiting for the bell to ring for. Until the bell rang students had to wait outside untill they unlocked the doors and let us proceed to our classrooms. 5 black boys approached from a gang called the Blackstone Rangers (Stones). I was a pipsqueak. I was 4’11” and I had Free Lunch stamped on my forehead and these guys wanted lunch at my expense. I didn’t know these guys, but they had a keen sense of smell and picked up the scent of my fear.

I needed to do something and fast. I sized them up and ran through my encyclopedia of bluffs and the first one that occurred to me was to act as if we were all together in this escapade. This normally doesn’t work for a little white Jewish kid about to be robbed. but I had spent a lot of time around guys like this and I am a good mimic. I could talk the talk even if I couldn’t walk the walk. I knew these guys were gang-bangers just from their look.

 A gangster’s style was dress-casual. He wore lose fitting, almost baggy clothes. His shirt was an Italian knit and he wore pants with two pleats at the waist with room in the leg so that a gangster could pimp. Pimping was a way of walking with a kind of shuffle and slightly slouched and emanating attitude. They frequently wore narrow sunglasses that they had to look over the top of when talking.

The way this worked, when thugs approached, I would initiate the encounter by talking to them. I mean I knew damn well they planned to rob me, so I greeted them first, “Hey, what’s up?” (It is called, act as if.) Then I asked if “Anyone has seen JB.” See JB was the baddest kid around and a leader in the Stones and we went to grade school together. So I would got the jump on guys by asking for JB. The fact that I knew his name gave me credibility. so usually after that, they don’t ask for money. A rule of the streets was to not rob a friend of a gang leader.

Now if that doesn’t seem like much of a plan, it wasn’t but I had a back up bluff. That next part was to act as if I could fight. I acted like I would want nothing more than to have these guys mess with me so then I could whoop someone’s butt. Totally grounded in fantasy! Fact is if you acted first you might throw them off balance psychologically long enough to get in the school. One way to do this is as they approached I would ask them for some money and act huffy when they don’t got it. So the 5 spread out in a semi-circle in front of me. They arrroached me intending to secure compliance and get my money or pounce.     I know I have to make eye contact and hide fear. So I stare at the closest one and ask  “Hey, someone got a quarter?” The reply “Huh? Are you out of your mind boy?”, (a reasonable assumption when a small white boy tries to coerce several young black boys out of “spare change”) I would reply along the lines of “Hell yea, I’m out of my mind. better believe it! So who got a quarter? Don’t be tight. man. Someone give it up. don’t be cheap, help a dude out man.”

I was not only a small white boy, but I was dressed preppy. The uniform style of dress amongst my peers was Brooks Brothers button down shirts, khaki pants with cuffs dark socks and Bass Weejun penny loafers.  I might have been slightly more convincing if I dressed like the white thugs we called greasers. Anyways, if that bluff failed….run.

This particular encounter just typifies the type of incidents that took place regularly in my neighborhood. This time it ended with the five boys walking away, heads nodding in bewilderment and wonder about what exactly had just happened and who the hell was I. These encounters would have the hair on the back of my neck stand up. My palms would be quietly sweaty. My heart would beat so loud I thought anyone near by could hear it.

Amazingly, for me, acting like a teenage Jewish kid was much more difficult. At least acting like a “cool” Jewish kid. The encyclopedia of bluffs was quite useless in this realm.  I arrived to high school from a grade school that was over 50% black. In grade school I had taken to speaking the language of my black peers. So, in high school I had to learn to minimize my inclination to mimic the sound and speech of a young black boy who had emigrated to Chicago from Knoxville TN.

Many of the Jewish kids in my high school were in organized fraternities and sororities which were comprised mostly of Jewish kids. I have never met anyone outside of Chicago’s south side who had these clubs in their Chicago area high school. It seemed important to be accepted into this fraternity environment. I can’t tell you why but it did. My older brother had been in a fraternity, but I didn’t like him much. For sure I desperately wanted to be cool. But the reality was, I was too young and too awkward to blend in well. Fraternities just didn’t place a value on having members who were 12-year-old, freshmen, short, non-athletic, jive talking and not particularly affluent. I was 3 years away from a driving permit, and my body wouldn’t see pubic hair in the immediate future.

It took about 6 months of lobbying to be accepted into the second lowest-ranked fraternity in school. Ranks were based on the number of cool guys you had in the fraternity and gentiles and blacks were not considered cool and don’t count. I suspect most non-Jews were invited to join to bolster the athletic standing of the group (Ringers). My fraternity was considered just slightly cooler than the one fraternity that accepted both people of color and gentiles. But my membership resulted in 2 friendships that span over 43 years so I consider it a good investment.

Anyway the point is I had a harder time passing in my natural state for what I was (the little Jew kid) than passing as something I wasn’t and didn’t appear to be (the little black kid).

I can’t tell you the first thing about being with a sorority girl as I was barely able to negotiate being a preteen boy in a teenage world much less hope to date girls. I had no business being in high school. I wasn’t a good student or mature beyond my years. Hard to say if I was even age appropriate as I had no way to determine that. I had gotten ahead in school through some stubbornness, luck (bad/good), timing and mistakes. So while most kids had already consummated their childhood before going to high school, I was still wrapping up my juvenile affairs. bar mitzvah, puberty, walking, you know the basics. There is much more to this story. I was on a trajectory which would lead me to 5 failed years of high school and becoming a drop-out. It was the precursor to becoming a real criminal. But here is an insight. I got sick and tired of being picked on. Not only was I robbed the first day of each of the three Chicago high schools I attended, I was assaulted my first day of college preparatory boarding school in New Hampshire. In the sophomore year I was brutally attacked and nearly drowned by a rabid anti-Semite Palestinian student. I promised myself that someday I would get a gun and I would end the reign of terror of bullying and getting robbed which seemed to summarize my early years.

Hurt people, hurt people.

The title is a statement about what hurt people do to others. Hurt people in turn often hurt other people. So follow along as we stroll through my mind, surprised by what we might find.

I was driving to my AA meeting this morning and as usual I was watching the car behind me to monitor how close it followed me. I get agitated if I am tailgated. I decided I should really just look forward and wondered why I pay so much attention to the cars around me. It struck me that I have always driven this way. I walk this way. I am in a constant state of vigilance.  I wondered how did I get this way. I had sudden recall back to 1966. I was standing in the hallway of my high school. I was supposed to be in class but I had pretended I was going to the toilet so I could stand in the hallway. 

A young black kid approached whom I recognized from another class. I said hello to him. He didn’t say a word but he quickly struck me in my chest and knocked me down. Some change fell out of my shirt pocket. He picked it up and walked away without ever saying a word. I was stunned by the swiftness and the silence of it. I never told the school just as I never told them about the other assaults on me. Importantly, I was not stunned by the violence of it. 

I have tried to remember the number of times I was robbed or assaulted in high school. I can recall only a few. Maybe 20 or so. A lot of it was black on white crime but I had my fair share of white on white, greaser vs Jew assaults. But the assaults started with my dad when I was about 4. It continued in grade school as I was jumped by other kids starting in the second grade. The assaults increased when I lived on the streets. Most didn’t result in much harm. I either escaped quickly, bluffed my way out or won against the attacker(s). I would guess that I could have avoided some of these encounters had I been where I was supposed to be and generally speaking less openly. Like do not hang out on the streets at night, do not go to the go-carts without an adult, and do not walk by the drug store that the Catholic kids have claimed for themselves. Do not talk back when tough kids threaten, don’t mock hoodlums and don’t scoff at threats.

As an adult I faced dozens of violent incidents working with street kids. Kids that I talked with one day could be dead the next, always from gang violence. What is manifestly clear to me is that hurt people, hurt people. Abused children often become abusers, sexual victims especially men, become sexual predators. It probably always has been and probably always will be.

So, is there a way out of this hyper-sensitivity and vigilance which I practice without intention? If my experience is any measure, the answer is no. At best damaged people will find healthy, new ways to cope. They will find mentors and techniques which will serve them well. Or they won’t. And they will suffer addiction, institutions, incarceration or simply have a gnawing sense of insecurity which follows them into everything they do. 

If you have a friend or family member like me I would look for opportunities to introduce them to 12 steps, or meditation or something which has been shown to successfully be a catalyst for change. I am convinced I will have to live with my demons despite every effort to shed them But I am also sure that my demons serve me well at times. I have known danger was imminent when most others were unaware. I have been heard by very damaged humans who could otherwise not hear. I have intervened and helped facilitate change in the lives of persons believed to be beyond reach.

My demons will go anywhere with me. Physically or mentally or spiritually they have staked a claim to a portion of my brain, heart and soul.  Dark alleys or sunlit mountains, they have treaded fearlessly with me. (Along the road of happy destiny)Always protecting and always threatening my well-being.  And it is this awareness that grants me an ability to understand that hurt people, hurt people. 

Is a Ghetto always to be a Ghetto?

Just returned from Chicago and I was reminded why I left. The traffic, the cost and the crime. I was there to work.

So I am working a case of a police officer shooting and killing a 20 y.o man who I shall call Damon. The bullet entered in through Damon’s back. The young man was allegedly shooting at the plain-clothed police officer, but no gun was ever recovered. No debate that the officer fired 16 times at Damon. No debate it was his bullet which killed Damon. No doubt that at some point Damon was running away from the cop. He died about a half block from where the officer says Damon was shooting at the officer. But this post is not about Damon per se, but about where he lived.

My investigation took me into an area of Chicago which is depressed. It is called West Englewood. Up until the early 70s I believe it was a white community. Now it is 98% Black/African American.

Where my time was spent is an area of mostly single family homes. Some homes were so very well-kept. Many others were boarded up. I interviewed about 20 people or more. This is what struck me. Most of the residents have been in prison, which includes men and women. Most are jobless. Most know someone or themselves have been shot. Most would probably qualify as suffering from some level of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder based on experiencing or witnessing traumatic events.

This community and many others have been distressed a long time. It is brutally ugly to come face to face with. I ask, where are the governmental concerns, plans and objectives to improve the community. Why would Chicago news media not have constant stories about the task forces, resources and enhancements to the community? Why are the lake front and the North Side so gentrified and beautified and the South Side so bereft of assistance? When school gets out in Englewood, there are yellow- vested personnel everywhere who are part of Safe Passage. http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/19113214-418/cps-to-hire-more-safe-passage-patrols-to-watch-over-kids-going-to-different-schools.html#.VE7Q8_nF98E

The reason for these people is that as schools are closed and students transferred their lives are in jeopardy. So, these Safe Passage folks have to try and facilitate the safe transit of these children. A neighborhood so dangerous that people are hired to stand on the street and try to get the school kids home safely!!!

Well Chicagoans often can be heard bemoaning the prevalence of guns in Chicago. Those are not ghetto folks generally. You can’t hear the bemoaning emanating from the inner-city. It is drowned out by tears, poverty and violence. Where is your fucking indignation at the conditions that your fellow Chicagoans are living in? How can the mayor advocate for health, safety and welfare of his town without holding press conferences about the persistent, consistent and massive efforts to help those in poverty?

I see it this way. A prison record can hamper someone from getting a job. Lack of jobs requires resourcefulness. Drug dealers are resourceful. Drug dealers get busted and get prison records. Prisoners become ex-prisoners who can’t find jobs. Jobless people get hungry and are required to be resourceful. Resourceful people often become drug dealers. Drug dealers get busted.

Good houses must be boarded up as soon as they are vacant to prevent being sacked by thieves. Boarded homes are unattractive. Property values are not as high in unattractive communities. Lower property values in neighborhoods where local citizens can’t afford to buy property leads to predatory practices by outside landlords. Ex-cons without jobs sit on stoops drinking beer all day. Fathers are in prison. Children grow up without dad. Boys without dads often land up in prison. 4 generations later, boys have no relationship with Middle America. Their relationships, value system, and education are derived from their experience in prisons and streets. The prevailing social system in prison is gangs. Gang members return to the community and further blight the already depressed community. They prey upon other gangs and the innocent. The innocents move away or join gangs for protection. They adopt the values of the gangs. They are no longer innocents.

Stores have a higher cost of operation in the inner-city because of crime and poverty. So major stores abandon he area because of the difficulties associated with operating there. Instead, small convenience stores owned and run by daring immigrants become the primary providers of dry goods, prepared foods and restaurants. They charge more money because they have less buying power and more risk. The people in the community have less spending power, spend more for what they do get and have they fewer choices in products.

So the politicians convince the Haves that the Have Nots are a burden on society. They convince the Haves that the Have Nots are just sucking at the tit of society, parasitic and ungrateful to boot. The solutions is often to cut welfare as if then poor people will suddenly jump in their make believe cars, drive to the make believe jobs and bring home the make believe pay. Notwithstanding the lack of education, mobility and money, what could possibly be wrong with such a plan?

If we start right now, it will take generations to unravel the Gordian knot which is the inner-city. You can hate Blacks and other inner-city dwellers. You can cast aspersions on their ethics, values and lifestyles. But if you do not expend the resources to bring up the least of us the chickens will of necessity come home to roost. Inner-city dwellers have higher birth rates than others. They have a greater propensity for violence and crime. They run the drug trade at the street level. At some point you will be unable to gentrify them out of existence. They will not leave the city to become farmers nor will they relax and while away their remaining years on the porches of the new suburbs you push them to.

So if it were up to me, I would harness the best brains and capital and I would invest in these communities. I would empower the people to work and derive income in their communities. I would make it so attractive to businesses to relocate and hire the locals that someday, some day in the future, the mindset of the inner-city dweller would be very much like that of people not confined to the ghetto and gangs. In a future I may not live long enough to see, there would suddenly be born a generation that breaks the inclination towards incarceration. Someday, a new generation would adopt a value system and pride itself on education and production. Someday we would have a generation where gang kids are an aberration not a logical outcome of the environment.

The people I interviewed were just lovely.  Most all had been convicted of crimes thus they were criminals by societal definition. But all were more likely to know their neighbors than any other community I have worked in. These persons who were generally kind to me, a stranger, were used to gunshots. They expressed fear of violence and theft. They shared a sense that cops were there to protect society from them not protect them from predators.

 I do not have the psychological mindset to face, as a lawyer, a system that lacks concern for the salvation of the lives brought before it. It is a system which emphasizes punishment at every turn versus rehabilitation and reformation. Hell, you should be very afraid of all the convicts and ex-cons who have been required to survive an environment where dog eats and rapes dog. Some of my clients deserved prison but most didn’t deserve to be sent to a hell which was controlled externally by the government. The crimes which loom largest are those of a government which makes laws which work to the advantage of criminal cartels and their bankers.

Oh well, I am tired and you have read stuff like this many times before. I didn’t write anything new. Just cannot understand how years and years go by without the recruitment of the best minds, (not political hacks) and a monumental commitment of financial and intellectual resources to solving the dilemma that is our entrenched acceptance of persons residing in poverty with its attendant assault on the mental, psychological and physical well-being.

To all living beings

When I drive or bike why do I stare at objects in the road which appear to be animals that may have been run over. I am drawn to the sight to verify what I often think. Frequently it is just a pile of leaves or debris. Sometimes it is a dead squirrel or rabbit, cat etc. And my reaction is always the same. I am pained by the sight and then I say a silent prayer that it died quickly and painlessly. But I cannot explain why I even look closely to see what it is that seems to be laying in the street.

So while I was biking Sunday, I pondered this ritual of mine. It stimulated me to think how I desire to have all living being be free from suffering. I pray that all living beings be free from all forms of suffering. I pray that no living thing live or die in fear. I pray that there is a power in the universe which will protect sufferers such that their physical or mental anguish will be mitigated by the higher power.

I cannot imagine the suffering someone like the 3 women in captivity by Ariel Castro. How much suffering is associated with being held captive, no one knowing where you are and never knowing if you will ever be freed. Or what is it like to be  Jaycee Dugard, the abducted girl who was held captive for 18 years.

I especially hurt for kids lost, kidnapped, ill or injured who have not developed the coping skills of someone much older. Defenseless! Is God there to provide some relief from untold fear and suffering?

And then how about the men and women who just struggle every day to make a living and support themselves and family. Never having enough to be comfortable. Always fearful of losing a job, having an auto repair or a medical expense which creates anxiety about being able to pay the rent or utilities. I pray for them too.

I pray for people who have emotional, psychological, mental or physical handicaps that result in their isolation and seclusion from others. Living alone with their illness, alone without family or friends to comfort them or assist them.

I wonder how to support my country against its “enemies”. Often those that wish us harm are those we harmed. I didn’t start it. I didn’t wish it. I do not want young Americans placed in harms way and I do not want them to suffer further upon their return because of my aversion to inject our country into these armed-conflicts. So I pray for our troops and I pray for our enemies.

I pray for those in prisons and I pray for those who imprison. I pray for the wage slave and the corporate plantation owners. I pray for the prey and I pray for the predator. Once I start on a course of compassion and loving kindness for any as described by the Buddha, I find little freedom to not pray for all. My willingness to be selective in my compassion has dissipated and now I am compelled to include all. Evil is no less deserving of my prayers than goodness. Sinners no less than saints.

I can’t explain how I got here. It started with a spark of love which was always in me. It was enough to make me an advocate for those I felt needed an advocate. It was enough to make me believe in and act on behalf of street kids, gang-bangers and drug addicts. But not enough love was left for the persecutors, bullies and predators. What I had left over was a lot of judgement.

My policy statement was found in Ezekiel 25:17 And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.” 

Now age and maturation fueled by the practice of Buddhism and Metta (loving/kindness) has broadened the group which I classified as deserving and diminished the group who were undeserving.

I am difficult. Easy to anger, quick to fight. I do not tolerate any threats, physical or other of any sort against me. I will resort to verbal or physical violence if prodded. I prefer to be kind but I am not hesitant to show anger. I wish it were not so, but until future progress, I think we can safely say this is where I reside. But despite all the violence and difficulties, love grows through practice. Compassion is slowly demanding more of a seat at the table. Equal time is now given to the practice of metta and I always include the reflection on loving/kindness before I end a meditation.

I don’t know why I stare at the crash. But at least I pray for the well-being of the victims. And I know that this practice of mine is good and wholesome. And I know that if everyone were practicing metta, that the world would be a better place. I don’t need someone to tell me that. I don’t need to see it. I just know its truth.

Thus was I told….

I met this nice lady by the name of Winona at a counseling center in Dallas. I asked her could she help me with what was a difficult adjustment returning to Dallas from Tucson. I was getting angrier and angrier at the driving habits of people in Dallas. I felt on the edge of violence. Winona thought I had PTSD from watching serial acts of violence when I was young.

I made the comment that I was hardwired for aggression. I said that because it has been my default position for so long that I assumed its truth. I have experienced so much violence but more so imagined so many acts of violence. I would draw upon the fantasy life I have, from the teaching of deadly force to others,  and to revisits of my own real life experiences. Winona replied. It was something she said which I probably heard others say in other ways. But this time it sunk in. Winona said, “it is not a hardware problem, it is a software problem.”

And I knew its truth and I have been working diligently to reprogram. I had a good start with my Buddhist studies, my background in social work and my upbringing in Hyde Park in the late 60s and early 70s. It was there that LSD and the hippie movement introduced me to universal love and respect. It was then and there that I learned to resist killing others in the cause of spreading democracy and freedom.

But something was terribly wrong in my head. My heart was good. But man oh man could I go to dark places, hang with rough crowds, and slip in and out of violence as readily as some people sat for lunch. I thought nothing of threatening violence. I thought nothing of having it threatened upon me.

When I was 19 or so, a man working as a cook at the Medici in Hyde Park threatened retaliation against me for threatening him. I scoffed at his threat. He replied by suddenly taking out a gun and pushing it into my forehead. My response was “you better shoot me now or I will find you, take your gun and shove it so far up your ass it will blow out your throat.”

I was scared but my street ethic prevented me from responding with fear.  That ethic served me well at times. Kept me safe in dangerous situations. Made me formidable as a social worker and as a lawyer. In the main, as a life attitude and response it did me poor emotionally. But I didn’t know I was writing the script to my own play. I didn’t realize I could change the way my stories unfolded. I didn’t believe there was a more appropriate or more sensible approach. I believed my own lies about my life and my lies became my truths. Hard and fast did I cling to these values and behaviors.

So I know another truth. I can change the story.

Civil War in the United States

People who despise guns and wish to control access or ban them altogether have no idea what they are embarking on. The war over abortion and other divisive issues will be minor in contrast to the polarization of this country if you attempt to criminalize and further demonize gun owners. If you could succeed which I do not believe you can, you would lose. You would have a country that mirrors Chicago, where gun  specific courts overflow and the homicides rates are extremely high.

I marvel at how little I feel threatened in Dallas. There are areas to avoid but if I need to go there I take protection and I don’t need to get agitated that I am having to be there. I can enter communities which I could never safely enter in Chicago. There is very little graffiti here in contrast to Chicago. Poverty is always a threat to the stability of a community. Violence is always a companion of poverty it seems.

We allow people who have never had a felony convictions, who have not been convicted of a misdemeanor and who have no convictions for family violence, to carry a concealed gun here. They must pass a 10 hour class, take a shooting test and submit fingerprints to the state police. If they meet the requirements the state must issue the concealed carry license.

Blood does not run in the streets. Persons with CCWs do not randomly shoot people. They do not resolve disputes by pulling a gun on someone or shooting someone. They can defend themselves or third-persons from assaults when threatened with great bodily harm. Police officers who pull over a CCW holder, know instantly, more than they would ever know about someone who can only produce a driver’s license. A DL tells an officer that the bearer has a home address, and has passed a driver’s test. It does not speak to criminal history.

This path of criminalizing the possession of firearms will not succeed and what would be worse is if it did. If I could wave off those on this road, I surely would. If you think the people who own firearms are crazy now, wait till someone tries to disarm them.

Sadly, I am one of those who will resist if my government makes such an effort. Know who I am and where I live. It matters not. I wouldn’t be marched to an death camp given what I know about the Holocaust. I will not be disarmed even if it is mandatory and involuntary.And I am one of the nicer ones.

One more reason to be mad at me

Because I am likely a smug, self-righteous ass who practices righteous indignation at every opportunity. My thoughts that I am a generic ass rests on my actions and thoughts of the past 24 hours. Early yesterday I wrote that the tragedy in Conn. would start a fire and fuel the debate about gun control. That didn’t take much intelligence to predict. But 18 hours later the persistent posts about how this event was a gun issue troubles the heck out of me. It defies all empirical data and it shifts the debate from the public health arena where I feel it belongs and makes it a law enforcement debate. The same tactic has been utilized in the abortion and drug debate. There are those who believe the solution to drug abuse is to outlaw drugs. There are those who believe that since they are against abortion, everyone should be legally prohibited from getting an abortion. Gun control advocates believe they can limit crimes of violence by prohibiting the possession of guns. Or they believe in the alternative that their position is justified if the next murderer cannot kill as many people as quickly thus mitigating the carnage. Maybe all the prohibitionists are correct and I am wrong.

If you are what I call a progressive or lefty, then it seems you tend to view the right with derision for their short-sightedness  and their demands that we practice what they preach. But the conservatives arrived at those solutions the same way most of you got to the gun control answer. Ignoring facts, drawing conclusions based on feelings or religious convictions and the belief that a complex problem can be resolved through controls on human behaviour.  My personal belief is you, who believe that, are guilty of the same crime as the right-wingers that offer that if God were allowed in schools then criminals wouldn’t be found there. It just pains me to see people treating their perspective as truth and marching sharply and in unison behind their causes.

I do not know if guns are the answer to anything. I know what my personal experience is. I do not mistake that experience for even the truth of the moment as I experienced it. Example, I used to think I was a responsible drinker and drug abuser. Time has taught me that I was not responsible but I was an idiot. But I do not extrapolate from that insight that everyone who uses or even abuses drugs is having the same problem I had.  I do not presume that abstinence or 12 steps in the sole path to recovery. It is simply my path which I am on today. I take great comfort in the teachings of the Buddhists who emphasize personal responsibility over salvation through religion.

By the way, on a related note, I offer one more reason to hate me. I do not wave the American flag, I stand against religion in government and I do not believe in controlling human behaviour through legislation.

I do believe the suffering of families in the United States ranks right up there with those who lose children in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gaza, all over Africa and elsewhere. It is fashionable to support our troops. Our president got a Nobel Peace Prize he didn’t deserve. I support keeping our troops out of harms way. I support every attempt at diplomatic solutions before sending a single soldier into the fray. My personal solution is to practice a form of personal responsibility and to practice loving-kindness for all living beings. My greatest contributions to society so far are my daughters who are vegetarian, practice recycling and will save the life of insects that find there way into our home.

Yep, that is what I am doing or not doing about the pointless death of people in Conn. I am trying to do what I can to take personal responsibility about how I behave. And I am trying hard not to self-righteously hold the rest of you in disdain. I am inclined to do that with people who do not agree with me, but with practice I can act my way into better thinking.