Hitting Rock Bottom

My father was an alcoholic. For years, the members of my family pretended it wasn’t so. We pretended that dad was just dad. He had a lot of good points about him – generous to a fault, reaching out to others who had less than he did (a lesson he and my mother instilled in me that is still alive and active to this day, long after they have both passed away). My father finally admitted he was an alcoholic, and my mother and I finally admitted we were co-dependents, and we started attending AlAnon meetings. A number of years after that, after more pain and anger and confusion and downright craziness, I admitted I still had problems, and started attending ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings.

One of the common themes of AA, AlAnon, and ACOA (as well as NarcAnon and other similar groups) is that at some point, we all hit rock bottom. That we realize that, as much as we have denied our problem, lied about our problem, ignored our problem, and tried to imagine our problem(s) out of existence, they are still there. And we have a choice. We can continue on that path, and continue to watch our lives fall apart while pretending they aren’t, or we can choose to wake up and we can choose to change.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, many of us are asking why. We are asking how. We are asking why and how this could have happened. And, in chorus with this, some of us are asking why now? Why didn’t the Aurora shootings, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Sikh shootings, the Columbine shootings, the Thurston High School shootings matter? Well, I think they did. But, like the alcoholic or drug addict and his/her family, we hadn’t hit bottom yet. It didn’t hurt enough yet for enough of us that we said, “Enough!” Like the family of an alcoholic or drug addict, we could excuse Aurora or Virginia Tech or the other shootings as something awful, but as “not us.” We could say, “Oh my! How horrible, what happened to those people!” Because really, it didn’t hit home.

In my own experience, we excused many of the things my father did. “It was just this time.” “It was a fluke.” “It’s not going to happen again.” Someone on the outside could say, “Hey, folks, are you kidding me?” But unless we, those directly involved, could hear that, those on the outside could just as well be whistling in the wind. We could continue to ignore it.

But when my dad crashed the family car into a telephone pole, and then shortly after, got arrested for drunk driving and I got called to bail him out of jail, well, it woke me up. A bit. After that, my dad started attending AA meetings and my mom started attending AlAnon meetings. Then she brought me with her. Over the years, along with AlAnon, I attended ACOA meetings and also found a therapist who specialized in treating family members of alcoholics and drug addicts. It took some time, after I hit bottom (bottom being I tried to kill myself), but I have grown since then. I have shaken loose from that which I knew, that which blinded me, that which held me prisoner.

And I deeply believe that that process has everything to do with where we are with the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Was Virginia Tech awful? Yes, it was. Was the Aurora shooting horrible? Absolutely? Was Columbine? No doubt about it. Was Thurston High School? Yes, it was, and doubly so because my daughter’s step-sister was enrolled in that school at the time, so it was personal for us. So why wasn’t there the type of outcry that there has been since Sandy Hook Elementary School? Why have we allowed the stories to fade from view, from concern, when it seems like we are not so willing to do that after Sandy Hook? Continue reading Hitting Rock Bottom

Newtown: Evil May Be Its Source

Have we lost our way? I don’t think so. But we are definitely missing the point. There is a body of wisdom and mistakes that we have accumulated from past millennia that tell us about living, about love and despair. There are voices old and new outside of policy makers, practitioners, and others trained to stick to scripts of talking points and scripts that are great for looking at the components of issues but are at a loss for new ideas or how to use the wisdom of old. Those voices fall short when confronting new challenges outside of their reach and training.

In the face of fear and grief, of hurt and pain, we jump on the visible, the available. We look for single source, sensible cause and solution. I often see people blame Barney Frank for the housing bubble, blaming one man for the out-of-control practices that defined an industry printing faux money in every state, selling its junk as derivatives, backed by thousands of untraceable pieces valued at billions. I see others who ignore the global recession and Europe’s retreat into a second recession with its rise in regional unemployment, and blame President Obama even as the US leads the recovery. Especially, I see virtually no one in our public conversation who provides a sources of new ideas and facts. So we return to the sound bites of old speech (as distinct from ancient speech). Now, we are at a loss. What do we do?

The killing of innocent children breaks our hearts. We fail to understand how or why.

I think we miss a major point of explanation. The killings had to do with the most ancient of forces, evil. Not evil the adjective, the dark, angry monster of the movies and novels, not the paralyzing fear that exists in many minds, nor the ugliness assigned to its carnage; but evil the noun. The thing itself.

Surprisingly, evil is a small force. As a thing, it is closer to a quark or Higgs boson than a hurricane. Think about small forces for a minute: they have incredible power. The transistor and miniaturization of electronics unleashed the tech revolution—and put music, voice, images, and the globe in your hand. But the invisible holds a darkness. The most deadly weapons that create the most massive destruction are tied to small forces—the explosion or implosion of the particles of atoms. The most deadly diseases are global epidemics linked and spread by wee little viruses which rapidly transmit their illnesses, killing thousands daily, in irreversible agony.

Metaphysics says parallels in the material world are signs for things in the world of the spirit. The parallels of destruction and plague point to evil actually being a small force. Evil is also small because it cannot sustain itself; it replicates through other means. That’s a fail safe that adds to our confusion! Because evil goes and comes without our knowing, and ebbs and flows, we deny its role and miss the steps to take to guard against it. We think of it being associated with individuals and lone incidents, but its expression and form is social.

Why is evil ever present if it is not able to sustain itself? It is efficient at finding hosts, yet follows no patterns, and has no preferences. Ironically, it is a creative force, not in terms of ends but means. Evil requires a host. To find a host, it can access pathways and levels in ways that are the non-repeatable real numbers of the dark side. We look for patterns and signs, try to trace its logic, and miss the point that evil absolutely has no preferences for its means. Because of its nature, it can be routed through time and space by very long or quick random changes, and use conditions and people well within the range of social norms. Think about breast cancer, the randomness with which it affects women. All ages, income, race. (With some statistical preferences, but none absolute.)

One of evil’s strengths is its facile randomness, swift and slow; its impromptu shifts, its pattern not repeated, even when the ends are the same. Its randomness makes early detection hard. Without the right personnel, it’s impossible to read. Evil can’t be profiled. Continue reading Newtown: Evil May Be Its Source

Is Empathy the Antidote to Violence?

When acts such as the Sandy Hook school shooting occur, it is natural for there to be strong reaction from across society. Even when one argues that a violent culture breeds more violence, it is easy to forget that a churlish response peppered with epithets will not be the oil that calms the seas. That is why I was so proud of my own son, Brian Todd, for putting forth some rational thoughts on a thoroughly irrational day.

“The politicization of this tragedy is exemplary of what we believe and what we believe in as a society. People should stop worrying about who they believe or who the believe in and start worrying about what they’re being taught or what they’re teaching someone else. People argue about how much more important their beliefs are than another’s in reaction to somebody valuing his beliefs more than the children he killed. Perhaps I’m the only one that sees the disgusting hypocrisy of this tragedy. The reaction to the tragedy just becomes fuel for the next tragedy.

Selfishness, egotism, ignorance and wrath are the root of the problem. People who put more value in what they believe than they do another person’s life are the problem. People that think their belief system is more important than somebody else’s are the problem. People who punish out of anger, which teaches the next generation to punish out of anger, create this problem. Tragedies like this will only cease when people stop believing their reality is more important than somebody else’s. Continue reading Is Empathy the Antidote to Violence?

Fuck Huck

To: Mike Huckabee (R-Douchebag)

To say that your recent remarks in response to the tragic events that unfolded at Sandy Hook are despicable would be a vast understatement. They were in fact beneath contempt – as are you.

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

First off, let’s be completely honest with each other, shall we? We both know you are a godless fuck who will say anything to appease the gun-toting voters who have traditionally supported your party.

Rather than risk losing that support by laying blame at the feet of those responsible, you instead choose to conjure up a vengeful God who allows the massacre of children out of sheer spite at not being prayed to in our classrooms, an arrogant God whose need to be worshipped and adored at every turn is so overwhelming, he smiles with glee as his revenge for being somehow marginalized is carried out by a gun-wielding, troubled young man – who was, given his years, not much more than a child himself.

In other words, you would sooner blame God – or the egomaniacal deity you are conveniently proffering as the Almighty – rather than admit to your own failures and those of your party members, who would sooner get down on their knees and felate every NRA member in the nation rather than lose their votes.

It isn’t God who allows assault weapons to be bought and sold, Huck; it’s people like you. It isn’t God who foments bigotry, hatred, intolerance and racism; it’s the idols of your party – like Limbaugh, Coulter and Beck. It isn’t God who loaded his weapons and took aim at a group of six- and seven-year-olds; it was a disturbed young man who never would have had access to such weapons were it not for the GOP’s desperate attempt to hold onto political power by supporting the NRA – and, along with it, every gun-nut who falls through the cracks of the flawed legislation your party seeks to uphold, the consequences be damned.

When President Obama was elected, the first outcry we heard from Republicans was, “He’ll take our guns away,” rather than, “He’ll take our Christianity away.” It was the number of weapons purchased since his taking office that went up – not the number of those attending church, nor the number of Bibles sold. So much for the priorities of the gun-toters whose “rights” your party consistently protects, while you hold them out as good, patriotic, Christian citizens who are merely interested in protecting themselves and their families.

“We’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability – that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”

As any true Christian can tell you, Huck, their determination to live a moral and ethical life is based on having embraced the teachings of The Nazarene, and not fear of eternal damnation. But then I doubt you are acquainted with any true Christians, so I can understand your not being familiar with the concept.

But the irony is not lost – the irony of hearing a Republican talking about responsibility and accountability, when your party accepts neither. It’s easier to blame a vengeful God of your own making – like that non-existent God who punished NOLA for its gay pride parades by causing Katrina’s devastation, the God who visits hurricanes and floods on innocent people due to their belief in equal rights for their fellow citizens regardless of sexual orientation – rather than accepting responsibility for legislation that allows weapons to be placed in the hands of those too twisted, too full of hatred, too mentally unbalanced to use them responsibly.

“Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”

Yeah, I hear that noise, Huck – and I remember the perfect case in point. In 1998, one David Huckabee was dismissed from his job as a counselor at a Boy Scout camp after being involved in torturing a stray dog by hanging it from a tree limb and watching it slowly choke to death. One can only wonder what totally fucked-up home that boy was raised in – but apparently it was one in which God wasn’t “let in on the front end”. Maybe the kid’s father was just too damned busy being a hypocrite to notice. Continue reading Fuck Huck