Do We Want to Live in a Society Like Nazi Germany?

Barbed Wire Fence
Barbed Wire Fence

“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.” – Bayard Rustin

“Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture.” – Charlotte Bunch

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.” – Nelson Mandela

“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” – Pope John Paul II

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refused to hate him.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of the time, I’m a positive person. I believe that humanity is making progress toward more peace, love and fulfillment for all people. I work to see the positive aspects of people and societies. However, there are times I’m brought down to despair by events. Today is one of those days.

This afternoon when I was eating lunch I found articles in both The New Yorker and The Atlantic which were posted on Facebook about Kalief Browder who, when he was 16 years old, was picked up for a theft he didn’t commit. He subsequently spent more than a thousand days (three years) on Rikers Island without a trial and nearly two years of it in solitary confinement. However, he was never brought to trial and eventually he was released, but by that time his life was shattered. While he was being held, he was abused and tortured. Much of this torture and abuse was recorded on tape, so no one can deny it happened.

Last Saturday, June 6th, Kalief Browder committed suicide. He’d finally succeeded after many attempts to kill himself, which were interspersed with attempts to put his life back together. His story came to the attention of celebrities who tried to help him, and who aided in bringing his story to the public, but none of it helped in the end.

When I read the articles about what happened to Kalief, I wept for his pain and for the pain of his family. And I had to ask myself are we’re living in a similar situation to Nazi Germany? We have more people in prison in this country than in any other industrialized country in the world. Most of those in prison are people of color, many convicted of crimes that, in other countries get light sentences. Are these people our Jews? Do we white people think we’re so superior that we have a right to mistreat those who aren’t like us? Are we so afraid of losing our way of life that we attack people who aren’t white? I just want to know how we think that perpetuating violence against anyone is going to make this country better. And I really don’t see how these kinds of acts uphold our Constitution.

Have we become so terrified that we attack black youths who go to a swimming pool, where they have passes, because someone there having a party wants to keep them out? Do we always assume that the person of color is the one who committed the crime? Do we assume that people of color don’t have the same feelings we do? Do we assume that poor people are lazy, that men have the right to abuse women physically and dictate the amount of money they can make and what health procedures they can and can’t choose for themselves, that the rich have some kind of superior wisdom, or that Christians should be the dominant religion in this country?

Today I’ve just had it with people who don’t stop and think rationally. I’m angry with people who aren’t willing to try to understand a situation from the other person’s point of view. I’m tired of people thinking they know what’s best for everyone else, and not stopping to examine their own lives. On the one hand I’m tired, angry and fed up, on the other I know that without the vast contrast between the society we have and the one we want, we’d never do anything to change.

I know there are rays of hope. I’m thankful that there are journalists who have been willing to write about tragedies like the one that happened to Kalief Brower and too many others. People who are willing to stand up and defend women and the poor. I’m grateful for people like Jackson Katz, who is an Anti-sexism educator, and who gave a TED talk titled “Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue.” If you can go watch his talk because he talks about how the dominant culture, sexes and religions can become invisible within the discourse of a society by assuming that the discourse should concentrate on those being abused rather than the abusers. It’s one way those who are in the dominant position become invisible and retain their power positions. When we don’t talk about them, they are invisible and are safe from scrutiny. The way we talk and use language is so very important.

There are indications that we humans are waking up and some are rocking the boat. And indications that we’re shaking up the status quo. There are those who are pointing out the thinking that has gone unexamined for perhaps centuries. I want to be one of those people. I’m going to pay closer attention to how I talk about these issues, but I’m also going to pay attention to how my friends, family, students, and colleagues talk about them as well. I’m not going to keep my mouth shut any longer. We need to be more tolerant of others who we think aren’t like us, and one way to do that is to take a good look at our thought patterns and own them.

I weep that almost everyday we hear another story about acts of violence because they deteriorate our ability to be sympathetic. Violence begets more violence and fear. The only way to stop it, is to stop it. To allow ourselves to get in touch with our emotions and realize that all human beings share similar feelings. We all want to be seen, heard, and loved just because we exist. I hope you will allow yourself to hear the stories of others and grieve, or rejoice with them.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share this with others.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Fear Or Love

Our Rosebush
Our Rosebush

“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success – or are they holding you back?” – W. Clement Stone

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.” – Ellen DeGeneres

“Imagine what seven billion humans could accomplish if we all loved and respected each other. Imagine.” – A. D. Williams

Today’s post has been a long time formulating in my mind and heart. I’m not sure I will explain it very well, or whether you will understand it, but I think now is a good time to write about some very profound insights I’ve had over the last few years.

This year I decided to study A Course In Miracles. I started on January first and every day I read a portion of the text and do one lesson. This isn’t the first time I’ve begun to study the book, but I guess I just wasn’t ready, until now, to give up my old ways of thinking and being to stick with it.

The main message of the book is that fear is connected to the ego which we created when we separated ourselves from God. There are so many erroneous things we believe that we created with our egos during this long separation. Too many to innumerate here but we cling to our beliefs. When they are challenged conflict ensues. The point of the Course is that God is love. That there is nothing else but love. That we are a part of God and always have been. She waits for us to wake up and realize that. When we do wake up and remember our connection, all our other erroneous beliefs fall away. We see the world, ourselves and our purpose for being here in a completely new way.

Now I know that sounds impossible. Fear is real most people moan. The problems of the world are so numerous we may never be able to solve them all. The world is a dangerous place. That’s the way things have always been and that is how things will always be. That’s the way things will always be IF that’s what you want to believe.

My journey to letting go of all the junk my ego fed me over the years hasn’t been a straight or an easy one. But something deep inside me looked at the world around me and said, “This is insane. There has to be something better.” So, I looked for the better. I looked for God in my studies, in my meditations and contemplations and through my creativity. Little by little I’ve shed the illusions that we humans have lived with for centuries. No millennia! And now I’m beginning to feel hope that we can wake up from this long nightmare we’ve been living.

A vital step on my journey to finding true love and peace happened when I read Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. In the book she describes exercises she does when conducting workshops at the Omega Institute which she cofounded. One of them stuck out for me as quite profound. She has the participants in her class imagine that they are dead and gone from the demands of this earthly world. At first I thought the exercise a bit gruesome, but then I decided to try it. When I did the most extraordinary thing happened. All the cares that I thought were so important fell away and I was immersed in the most profound peace I’d ever felt in my life. There were no white lights or anything like that, but I was completely relieved of my burdens of this world and was free to go anywhere I liked, to become anything I liked. I could BE with God in a new and profound way. That experience was the beginning of a new direction that has led me to my study of A Course In Miracles and in letting go of the fear that had been such a large presence in my life.

Just these past weeks I’ve experienced another profound shift in the way I experience life. I was studying a section about how the ego thinks we need to attack those around us. The ego convinces us that if we attack first we’ll be protected, but the opposite is true. When we attack another, we are attacking ourselves. When I understood that, I knew that I had to let go of all the resentments I’d been holding on to. I needed to let go of the wish for revenge, or for accountability, or for apologies from those I thought had attacked me. I needed to forgive completely and totally. As I did that, again, I felt a deep sense of peace. I’ve been able to see each person I might want to hold a grudge against for who they really are, a child of God just like me.

I won’t say I’m perfect at this practice yet. It’s a day to day choice to turn away from those terrible feelings of fear, anger and resentment. When I’m tempted to be angry at some politician who does something I feel is hateful, or against the common good, I have to remember that he or she is a child of God. That person just hasn’t let go of their fear yet. When tensions arise with friends, family and coworkers, I tell myself that God is with me wherever I go, and all is well, even if it doesn’t look like it at the moment. If I just send out love to everyone and everything, that is more powerful than the hatred and fear that is being spread by those who are still asleep. It’s more powerful because love real and fear is not.

I don’t know if you will understand this post. I hope that something I’ve written here will prompt you to allow your connection to God to grow stronger. That’s how we will change the world, and as those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while know, I’m all for making this world a better place in which to live.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Compassion Can Change Lives

SOO-wreath - Creative Commons.org“Freedom cannot be learned by tyranny of any kind, and the perfect equality of all God’s Sons cannot be recognized through the dominion of one mind over another.” – A Course in Miracles

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama

“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” – Maya Angelou

What if you made a huge mistake? I mean a really big one that society says is unforgivable? How would you feel? I don’t know about you but when I make even little mistakes, I beat myself up over it. If I made a huge mistake, I’d feel so much shame, I’d never want to show may face out in the world again. But if someone showed me compassion and forgave me, I’d be able to feel better about myself.

Last Sunday my husband and I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, one of my favorite shows. My husband and I watch it faithfully every Sunday morning. Almost every Sunday I cry during at least one of the segments.

Last Sunday there was a story that made me think again about compassion and forgiveness, and how it can transform someone’s life. The title of the story we saw was “The Gainesville Tornadoes Thank Their Unexpected Fans” filed by Steve Hartman. Click Steve’s name to go to the CBS Sunday Morning page and watch the segment. I was touched by the story because it’s about the Gainesville Tornadoes who are young men serving time for felony offenses at the Gainesville, Texas Juvenile Correctional facility. The team is made up of students who have been on their very best behavior. When they get to play, they play teams from private schools like Vanguard College Prep in Waco, TX. The remarkable thing about this story is that the Gainesville Tornadoes rarely, if ever, have any fans. They are, after all, from a correctional institution, so none of their classmates can attend the games and most of the time their parents aren’t able, or don’t want to attend their games either. So not long ago, two Vanguard basketball players cooked up a scheme. They asked half their fan base to cheer for the Gainesville team, because as one student put it, “It’s no fun playing when the other team has no fans.” The thing is, by the end of the game, all the fans were rooting for the Gainesville players, and that was just fine with the Vanguard team. When Steve Hartman said, “This is not what I’ve ever seen sports be.” One of the students responded, “I think in a way this is kind of how sports should be and kind of showing you the real impact that encouragement and support for anybody can make.” Go watch the segment and if it doesn’t touch your heart, then you won’t understand the point I’m trying to make in this post.

We all need to be shown compassion when we make mistakes. It shows us that someone understands us. I know it’s hard sometimes to show compassion when we’ve been wounded by another. When that happens, we put on our armor and think that we’ll be safe inside it. But what retreating inside our armor does, is separates us from others.

Most of us are wounded people lashing out at other wounded people thinking we’re going to feel better by being the first to attack. This sets up a vicious cycle. The only way to stop the cycle is to do what Atticus Finch tells Scout to do in To Kill A Mockingbird, “You’ve got to put on another man’s shoes and walk around in them for awhile; see things from his point of view.” That’s how you cultivate compassion. If each of us stays inside our armor, we’ll never change the world for the better.

When I see a story like the ones Steve Hartman files on Sunday Morning, I rejoice. His stories always make me cry, because they are so hopeful. He tells about people in the world who are willing to set aside their personal goals of winning or being successful to help another person feel like there is someone who cares about them. Isn’t that what we all want? We want to feel needed and heard. We want to feel useful and we want to feel like we’re not the only ones who make mistakes. And on the other side, we want to feel like we’re making the world a better place in which to live. To do that we have to shed our armor and be the person who makes a difference in someone else’s life.

Thanks to my new and old followers. Please leave a comment below and connect with me on one or all of my social networks.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Cynical No More

Arizona Butterfly
Arizona Butterfly

“…that the sage awakes to light in the night of all creatures. That which the world calls day is the night of ignorance to the wise..” –The Bhagavad Gita

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” –Buddha

“When you feel the suffering of every living thing in your own heart, that is consciousness.” –The Bhagavad Gita

“I won’t let others stoke fear in my heart. I choose to remain true to who I am and where my dreams direct me, no matter the hardship I might incur. I remember it always: Fear wins or Freedom wins, and I choose Freedom.” –Brendon Burchard from page 49 of his book The Motivation Manifesto

As you might guess from all the quotes I chose today, I’m trying to make sense of what happened with the elections. I’m not too proud to say I was devastated, then angry and afraid. What’s going to happen to all the gains we’ve made in the last six years? I wanted to punch someone, scream …  and yell at God, “How could you let this happen?” Then quiet-calm came over me and I started to think more clearly.

We have a choice: We can follow the old us-against-them paradigm, OR we can turn away from that idea and create a grass-roots peaceful revolution and build a completely new society. We can continue to live in fear and think that those with the external power are stronger than those of us without it, OR we can look around our communities and find something that we have the power to address, roll up our sleeves and get to work. We can be cynical, my personal favorite when bad things happen, OR we can turn away from calling those who don’t agree with us all manner of nasty names, and just send them love. I’m choosing love.

A dear college friend of mine, Marjie Siegfried Foster, posted a similar manifesto on Facebook on Friday. Here’s what she wrote: “It is not okay to label people and then insult them. When we call any group of people names – those ‘stupid Democrats’ or those ‘hateful Republicans’ or ‘those lazy people on welfare’ or ‘those bigoted whites/blacks/immigrants’ or whatever – we are calling our neighbors, family members, friends, and colleagues those names. Would you really look me in the eye and call me stupid or hateful or lazy, just because I happen to ‘belong’ to one of the narrowly-defined demographic groups that’s been created by the media or by a political party or by you? Or do you have the courage to get to know me, to love me despite (or because of) our differences, to understand that it is our diversity that creates opportunities for collaboration? The polarizing name-calling, the labeling, the vitriolic language … all serve no purpose other than creating more division, building more walls, and hurting our fellow human beings. What happened to United We Stand? I’m standing here. Who stands with me on this?”

Marjie stated so beautifully exactly what I was feeling. Take a moment to think: Who benefits from the divisions we’re experiencing now? Do you really want those who hate and fear to have the power? We’ve been hypnotized into thinking our darker feelings are so much stronger, but they’re not. Love and light are so much more powerful. We can help dispel the darkness by facing our own fears, turning toward the light, and sending love and light out into the world.

To help make the change in the world, I’m resolved to change my thinking isn’t going to happen over night. I know from experience that I’ll fall back into name calling. When that happens, I’ll have to acknowledge what I’ve done and make a conscious effort to change my outer and inner dialogue. I can’t get away from the fact that, I am the only one in charge of my actions and thinking.  My real power, and yours lies in taking control of our actions and our thinking. So, I’m going to use my authentic power to stop being cynical. I’m going to stop calling people I don’t agree with names, even in the privacy of my head. I’m going to search out opportunities to get to know my neighbors and I’m going to help solve problems in my community. And finally, every day, I’m going to send Reiki and prayers of love to our country and the people who run it. As Gandhi said, I’m going to be the change I want to see in the world. Will you join Marjie and me?

One last quote for your consideration: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth. –William Faulkner. I’ll keep raising my “voice” every week in this blog.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Happiness as Radical Love

Bazz & Luce in Quartzsite 2Maybe some of you felt the way I did when the Supreme Court chose to side with Hobby Lobby. I was sad, but not surprised. It’s just the latest attack on women’s freedom to choose for themselves. To soothe myself, I went to Facebook. I have lots of friends who post positive messages. Luckily I found a post by my friend Terri. She was sharing how happy she was about the little things in life. In the stream of comments to her post, someone put the link for the YouTube lyric video to Pharrell Williams song “Happy”. I like the song, so I followed the link to start my day off right, and was struck by these words from the song.

“Here come bad news, talking this and that.
Well gimme all you got and don’t hold back.
I should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine.
No offense to you, don’t waste your time.
Here’s why. Because I’m happy.”

That’s how I’m feeling about all of the people who are so frightened about what’s going on in our world. They’re the ones bringing bad news. They try to control every little thing around them and want to control us so they feel better.

I’ve got news for them. There are a growing number of people out there who have decided that they aren’t going to allow those fearful people to control them, no matter what. I say yay to that!

I’m going to join them and go on building my happy life and not pay any attention to the haters, the conservative politicians, the fearful people who want to tell me how to live my life. They mistakenly think that if they control everything outside themselves, they’ll feel better. They won’t.

Our inner state is our choice. I choose to be happy. I’ll let them be miserable if they want to be.

Eckhart Tolle says “What you resist persists. What you fight you strengthen.” It’s a hard concept to get. We’re so used to putting up resistance when we feel like someone is in our face. But think about these things: The opossum plays dead when it feels threatened. It takes two to keep a fight going. It’s better to be for something than against it.

Wayne Dyer tells the story of Mother Teresa turning down an invitation to attend a protest rally against a war. I don’t know which war. She was gracious about it, but she said, “I’ll attend when you have a rally ‘for’ peace.”

I’m not only for peace, I’m for everyone being able to live the life that will make them happy.

One solution to help yourself achieve happiness amid all the chaos, is to follow The Four Agreements. Someone posted them on Facebook the day after the Hobby Lobby decision. I love number two: “Don’t take anything personally”. That was a difficult one for me to learn. For many years I didn’t love myself, so I thought the world was against me. It’s not. The Universe is always on your side, whether you believe it is or not. It’s when we are fearful that things don’t go the way we’ve planned. That doesn’t mean The Universe is against us. It just means we’re being offered a new opportunity to find our place in the world. If we take the opportunity provided, eventually we find peace.

True peace, happiness and joy can coexsist with all the turmoil going on in the world. We can choose to be an influence for good. I love what Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”

What role will you play in the history of the world? I want to be remembered for spreading love, light, healing and happiness.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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