Saturday, April 14, 2012


This is a response I wrote to an article by Natalie Reed at FreeThoughtBlogs.Com. Hers is a thoughtful and well-written piece about God, religion and skepticism, with over 170 comments from readers. But I was surprised that there was absolutely no mention of spirituality, as opposed to religion. Where were all those people claiming to be "spiritual not religious?" Anyway, here's my response, slightly edited from the original. 

Excellent piece, Natalie. I agree with every word. As well as most of the words of the responders.

A couple of thoughts:

There is one word that is strangely missing from this entire conversation (unless it whizzed by me unnoticed). That is the word SPIRITUALITY.

As many of you are aware "religion" and "spirituality" are even more different than "sex" and "gender."

Religion has been defined, I think quite accurately, as "institutionalized spirituality." And what are institutions? Big. Rigid. Conformist. Authoritarian. Ugly.

But spirituality, ah, that’s something entirely different. My definition of it is: "bonding with the universe." You are free to define it as you choose.

In every human culture, present and past, there seems to have been some component of spirituality. I can’t say it’s a strictly human characteristic. Animals may share this trait, as they do a sense of morality/ethics/compassion/empathy/sense of justice – MORALITY IS NOT AN EXCLUSIVELY HUMAN TRAIT. Indeed, as Mark Twain so eloquently said, man may be the least moral animal!

So we don’t need religion to be moral. Perhaps, as many of you have suggested, we need to supercede religion to be moral.

Spirituality perhaps is still closely associated with religion and/or mythology, but it is far larger than these human creations. Reason and science may offer even better portals to spirituality. The more we learn about the universe, the more wondrous it seems. Not fear and awe of the supernatural. But amazement, enchantment, and love of the natural ALL.

What we see in the structure of the microcosm and the macrocosm is energy seeking order, emerging complexity, inconceivable beauty and vast oceans of that which is still unknown. Marvelously unknown. It’s the Great Mystery. But unknowable? I’m not sure I would go there. Aren’t we the universe coming to know itself?

Science itself now points to a universal energy – the quantum field – that connects everything, so that electrons light years away from each other "know" what the other is doing. There is a unity. There is form, and order, and beauty. And all of this is, to use a loaded word, "sacred." To me the entire universe is sacred, and filled with meaning. There is no such thing as meaninglessness.

I am not willing to abdicate the word "sacred" to the religionists. Nor "spirituality." Nor even "faith." I can’t fully explain gravity, no one can. But I have faith in it. I have faith that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. I have faith in myself, and in my true friends. So you see, I have rational faith. Believing that "God" came to earth 2000 years ago through a "virgin birth," was crucified, died for my sins, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, and now is my lord and saviour is mythological faith.

They can have the word "religion." I have no use for it. Nor any of their dogma. If they would like to meet to discuss the golden threads that run through all religions of: love for one another, forgiveness, non-judgment, justice for all, and unity, I would be more than happy to share in that conversation regarding universal values. But I walk away when they get divisive talking about chosen people, and final prophets, and the only way, and heaven and hell, and original sin, and only-begotten sons, a worldview based on dualism, and literal readings of ancient myths.

These are the components of religion that do not lead to spirituality, they lead away from it. Only the pathway of reason, which is another word for "truth," leads toward real spirituality. And then, as you go through the portal, reason itself is transcended and you merge with the ALL, perhaps just briefly, but that’s enough to change your life. That’s the dark night of the soul. That’s looking into the abyss. That’s touching for just a moment the field of the eternal. It’s something that should be done by yourself. No intermediaries. No priests. No rabbis. No gurus. No self-help authors. Just you and the universe, one-on-one.

If you make it back, you’ll have a spirituality worth talking about.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Arapaho Eagle Killers

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has granted permission for the Northern Arapaho tribe of Wyoming to kill two bald eagles annually for religious purposes. Eagle feathers, feet and other parts are used in sacred rituals, including the Sun Dance. A tribal member was arrested in 2005 for illegally killing a bald eagle, and the legal battle ensued. It is believed that this is the first time that the ban on harming or killing America's national symbol has being lifted. The tribe has hailed the decision as a victory for both tribal sovereignty and religious freedom.

Eagle feathers and parts are available from a federal government repository and birds that were found deceased, usually following encounters with power lines. But the tribal members say that having to request these sacred items from the government is demeaning.

“How would a non-Indian feel if they had to get their Bible from a repository?” asked one of the tribal leaders.

"It has been since the beginning of time with us, and we respectfully utilize the eagle in our ceremonies. We get to utilize the eagle, which we consider a messenger to the Creator," explained another Arapaho leader.

The Eastern Shoshone tribe share the Wind River Reservation with the Arapaho, and oppose the killing of eagles. Response from other tribes has been mostly muted, though the Arapahoes have received some support from other Indian tribes and officials.

Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based American Indian rights group, says that the Fish and Wildlife Service did the right thing. "It's a good step in the direction of the United States trying to make amends for things that they did all too well to suppress Native American religious freedom for so long."

A tribal leader of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico said, "The common theme for a lot of indigenous peoples is that the bird, it brings not only strength and courage, it's just one of those creatures that still brings awe to many, many people. I think because of ceremonies, our language has survived, our communities have survived, and I think that is one of the keys for endurance of Native American culture. So if again, other tribes harvest birds for sacrifice in the name of ceremony and tradition, and longevity and health, I guess it makes sense."

I disagree completely. I have Cherokee blood, so I deeply respect the native religions and spirituality. I believe that in sum they are far superior to that of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. The core of that superiority is the shared deep respect for nature of native spirituality.  

That ethos is perverted by such a killing of eagles, or any animal, for the purpose of sacrifice or ritual. Such a ritual is not core spiritual truth, but divisive and ignorant religious dogma. It is a custom, a tradition, a belief and behavior that is out of sync with rationality, morality, compassion and, certainly, modernity.

The eagle is "a messenger from the Creator." So it must be killed!

The eagle is an emblem of strength and courage, and "still brings awe to many, many people." So it should be destroyed!

No, this is perversion. This is sacrilege. This is an outrage to all who love nature, to all who honor life, to all who value beauty, to all who demand justice.

Spirituality, by its nature, is uplifting, affirming and uniting. Religions, by their nature, are divisive, and sometimes incredibly stupid and cruel. This is an example of such a religion.

In this world that we live in today, we lovers and defenders of nature, we who will be the Rainbow Warriors of the old native prophesy, look forward to a time when the divisive, stupid and cruel religions of the world have been overthrown, and the rainbow tribe comes together in cooperation, affection and sanity. The Arapaho eagle killers spit upon that rainbow vision.

I ask the Northern Arapaho tribe, who among you wants to kill eagles? Who needs to kill the prince of the sky? Is it the women? Is it the children? What say the council of elders? Is this a democratic idea? Or is it some macho bullies among you who just want to murder something?

What needs to be killed is this custom, this tradition. There is much that is beautiful in your traditions. They will survive without having to kill eagles. Preserve the beautiful and the unifying. Phase out what is disjointed and divisive. Just because something is old doesn't make it good. In this case, it is very definitely not. I say to you Arapahoes, tame those among you who have this very bad idea.

Those individuals, the gang with the blood-lust, are about to bring shame upon all of you. Such a killing does not feed your spirit, it feeds their ego. If you kill the eagles, you earn the dishonor of being called "eagle killers." You earn disrespect and hatred from millions, perhaps billions, of people around the globe. To us, these eagles are our brothers, our sisters, our children. So from our perspective you might as well desire to be "child killers."

Where do you get the idea that the eagle is yours to kill? What "holy" cause requires that its life be sacrificed so you can prance around with feathers and claws that are not yours? What crime has it committed against you that it must be so punished? It has never harmed you, never taken anything from you. It is not your eagle. It belongs to Mother Earth and Father Sky. Do not lie to yourself and say that it gives itself to you. It flies away from you because it senses your bad heart and mind and spirit. 

In killing something you do not need to kill, you become like the Wasichu. They, too, gave "religious" reasons for their wanton killing and abuse of animals (and Indians). Like the Indian, the eagle was pushed to the brink of extinction by the stupidity and cruelty of the Wasichu. Now brother and sister eagle are flourishing, and it is you who seeks to persecute them. Now it is some Wasichu who are more in accord with nature than you!

When you kill an eagle, you are also breaking the heart of another eagle, its mate, who may never recover from the wound. So your act of dishonor and disrespect to the one you kill extends to the living eagle nation as well. The Great Spirit is not pleased. It is a vile act you are considering.

I say to you sincerely that the time for animal sacrifice, whether whale or dog or horse or eagle, is over! This is animal cruelty, plain and simple, no matter whether it is pawned off as "scientific research" or "religious ritual." Animal cruelty has no place in the modern world, in moral conscience, or on the good red road. On this road, the people, the horses, and the eagles are all happy, not killing each other.

Spirituality/religion must evolve to take into account the accumulated wisdom of all the people, not rigidly stick to only the old ways. If it does not live and evolve, it ossifies and dies, simply because it becomes more and more out of step with truth that we - the new people - have discovered. Killing eagles is an old way that must be stopped. If you do not stop it, your grandchildren or great-grandchildren will, and they will look back on your deeds with shame and sadness.

Arapahoes, take your great victory... tribal and religious rights... and proclaim that even though you have been given the right to kill eagles, you will not do it. Say you will defer to love of nature, not violence against the Great Mother. Show the world the sacredness of the good red road that seeks to unite, not divide, that seeks to create community, not render it, that seeks to affirm our kinship with all life. Say you will embrace compassion, not aggression. Say you wish to join hands and hearts with the vast number of humankind that at long last is coming around to the profound truth of native spirituality, that which lives in accord with the energy of the universe. If you follow this pathway of unity, of compassion, of adhering to higher values, you will be cheered and celebrated around the globe, and the spiritual lesson you provide will be one for the ages.

But if you do not, if you willfully choose to become renowned as the "eagle killers," I warn you my brothers and sisters you will have chosen a bad road, and you will reap the whirlwind of disdain. Think carefully, friends, before allowing one of your blood-thirsty punks to pull that trigger. When a bullet or hail of shot rips through this greatest symbol of beauty, freedom, courage, power, wildness and goodness, its holy body falls into the dirt and the light in those magnificent eyes turns to dull glaze, your tribe has just purchased infamy. You do not gain the eagle's power by killing it, you become antithetical to it. You have set yourself against the goodness of the world, and now you are the ignorant, the backwards, the cowards, the slaves, the weaklings, the evil-doers, unable to control those few among you with bad spirit. The spirits of the eagle nation and the nation of eagle lovers will turn against you for generations. And you will deserve all the scorn you will receive.

How much better to let the eagle fly free, our spirit elevated to transcendence as we adore and revere it as the Good Mother intended, soaring and trilling through the wild, blue yonder.

Friday, November 4, 2011


This is my personal response to an editorial in the Tacoma News-Tribune today by a self-proclaimed "black conservative," named Walter. He suggests in his essay that black conservatives have to be very courageous to buck their own community. He says he used to be a loyal Democrat, but that people in the Democratic Party can't be anti-abortion, against gay marriage, or religious. He says his conversion to conservatism was a "come-to-Jesus" moment, but he didn't realize the cost. He has been called a traitor, an "Uncle Tom," and been accused of giving aid and comfort to the "enemy." He says he does not support Barack Obama, and agrees with most of the positions of Herman Cain. He says he wonders if his dying father, an Obama supporter, was proud of him, particularly for standing up for his belief: "no excuses."

Walter –

Thanks for your essay today in the News Tribune. I am always eager to learn more about the mindset of that rare and elusive creature you call the black conservative.

I admire that you stood up for what you believe in, and had the courage (or foolhardiness, as you intimate) to go against the grain of your clan, the African American community in establishing your own identity. You were exercising your liberty. Good for you. That doesn’t mean, however, that you made a wise choice. When departing from the “common sense” of your own community, you are either a spiritually gifted prophet who perceives an entirely different dimension, or someone who is deaf, dumb and blind to truth that everyone else can clearly see.

Like many contemporary conservatives, I think you may not have a very good idea of what conservatism really is. Many people think being conservative means being prudent, frugal, Christian, all-American. But liberals are these things, too. (You show stupendous ignorance – and a degree of malice - when you declare that liberals are not “religious,” and even more audacity in claiming that your becoming conservative was a “come-to-Jesus” moment, in reference to one of history’s greatest liberals. It would have been far more accurate to say you had a “come-to-Pharisees” moment.)

Political conservatism is the predilection to “conserve” established hierarchy, institutions and traditions. We can see this dynamic working throughout human history, and its modern political incarnation dates back to the Irish politician Edmund Burke (ironically something of a liberal for his time) in the mid to late 1700s. We see it still working today in almost every showdown between liberal and conservative, where liberals see a new and better way, and conservatives are desperate to retain or restore an older order.

Conservatives were against the founding of the United States of America. The conservatives of that era were called the Tories, the same as they are still called today in Britain. Those early American conservatives were determined to “conserve” the tradition of kingship and their traditional ties with Britain, and so fought fiercely against the patriots in their own country. The first American “civil war” was patriots vs. conservatives. Following independence, many conservative Americans moved to Canada.

Conservatives also fought, tooth and nail, to “conserve” such “traditions” as education only for the male elite, slavery, Native American subjugation (and sometimes actual genocide), women’s subjugation, unfettered rights of aristocracy and wealth, child labor, feudalistic economic structure, lack of worker’s rights, the right for corporations to pollute at will, and, of course, they fiercely resisted civil rights and affirmative action. In short, conservatives have been the very bane of culture – worldwide, and in America – since the dawn of culture itself. They have always been the party of “no.”

We have to scratch our head and ask a couple of questions. "What have conservatives ever offered the world?" And, "who are the conservative heroes of history?" And for the most part, we simply draw blanks.

Find an arch-enemy of the poor, the non-white, the female, the natural world, even science, and his (almost always his) face will be conservative. That is as true today as it was 2500 years ago when Socrates was being convicted by the Athenian court, 2000 years ago when Jesus was accused by the Pharisees,  600 years ago when Joan of Arc and “witches” across Europe were being burned at the stake by the Church, 500 years ago when Galileo and Copernicus were persecuted for their scientific awakening, 230 years ago when men of the enlightenment sparked a revolution among the patriots of America, whose first rebellious action was to attack a corporation, 150 years ago when conservative madness sent this country into a bloodbath of unimaginable proportion (again, patriots vs. conservatives), through over 100 years of reconstruction and Jim Crow policies of continued subjugation and prejudice against the now free black people, to 40 years ago when Martin Luther King and the freedom riders were beaten and harassed by conservatives waving the Confederate flag, to today when conservatives try mightily to deny liberty, equality, justice and pursuit of happiness to gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, as well as immigrants who happen to be poor and brown.

Yet the history of America, and the world, is the continual refutation of conservative ideology. Yes, it wins elections and sets us back from time to time, but the arc of history is toward ever greater liberty, equality, justice, pursuit of happiness, oneness, cooperation, love for one another, forgiveness, non-judgment, the very ideas conservatives so desperately attempt to thwart. Overall, conservatives are the biggest losers in world history. They have stood against progress at every turn for thousands of years.

So there is DAMN GOOD reason that poor people, people of color, females, people of alternative lifestyles, people who revere nature, as well as those who are authentically religious and actually try to live according to the core precepts of their faith, find conservative ideology highly dubious, if not downright diabolical. The African American community is not wrong for leaning liberal and Democratic; the facticity of the matter proves them dead right!

The only “black conservatives” I have yet come across in my 59 years seem to be – coincidently? – those black males (almost always male) who have managed to succeed within the paradigms of so-called “mainstream” society. I take it that you, like Allen West and J.C. Watts and Alan Keyes and Clarence Thomas and Michael Steele and Herman Cain,  et al, are at least somewhat affluent. Good for you all. That’s what America is supposed to be about: opportunity for all. Liberals do not resent success based on merit and virtue; we cheer a Steve Jobs or Howard Schultz or Warren Buffet or Lady Gaga or Beyonce Knowles or Carl Sagan or J.K. Rowling. We resent extreme unfairness, and unmeritorious “success” as personified by George W. Bush and John McCain, for example, punks who would be lucky to be managers at Wal-Mart if not for their poppies and grand-poppies (will Mitt Romney be the next candidate of privilege and nepotism offered up by the conservatives?). Likewise, we disdain CEOs who make millions in bonuses while driving their companies into the ground, and financial traders who rake in billions while actually contributing nothing to the economy.

Despite America’s progress, we still have a long, long way to go. We have formed a more perfect union, but the game is still rigged. We haven’t yet completely succeeded in deconstructing all of the paradigms of conservatism, particularly unmeritorious, un-virtuous hierarchy. Indeed, the big political story of the past 30 years is the come-back of conservatism after half a century of being flat as a pancake. Since the “Reagan Revolution,” conservative ideology has held sway, fully putting into practice its two “great” ideas – no definitely not liberty, equality, justice, pursuit of happiness, oneness, cooperation, love for one another, forgiveness, non-judgment, virtue – but low, low taxes (especially for the wealthy) and deregulation. These twin “values” have steered American policy through three Republican administrations (20 of the past 30 years), one conservative (at least corporate conservative) Democratic administration (Clinton), and now an administration that has been described – by conservatives - as “moderate Republican” (Obama).

Now the clear-headed, around the world, see where this radical swerve away from the policies of the liberal New Deal and compassion, this “good effort at conservatism,” has gotten us: wildly out of balance economic disparity, the world economy on the precipice of depression (exactly like the last time a “good effort at conservatism” was tried in the 1920s), governments broke, global warming, technology out of control (crippled nuclear power plants, and mutant corporations like Monsanto threatening our very biosphere), horrendously non-virtuous farming practices (including the utter shame of industrial animal food processing), unions emasculated, poverty, hunger, depression, anxiety, despair and unhappiness rising all around the world, while a tiny cadre of the richest of the rich still pocket (often ill-gotten) profits, swill champagne and look down their snooty noses at the rest of the world, the 99 percent. They don’t realize they are so poor, all they have is money.

Meanwhile, the conservatives, undeterred by their historic sins and their contemporary failures, charge on into the Land of the Wrong. They now want to double-down on their philosophy: more low, low taxes and more deregulation. It is as if they are not satisfied with the world economy on its knees; their greed knows no bounds and they believe they can extract even more profit even as they risk total collapse and catastrophe. I can only surmise they have some sort of clever escape plan for themselves.

I suspect, Walter, that your dad was very proud of you for being an individual, for exercising your liberty, for making it in a white man’s world. Perhaps he was troubled, though, by your abandonment of the wisdom of your community, and of universal values for false and selfish values. You boast that you stand for “no excuses,” but in articulating that point you paint your entire community with the label of excuse makers, while being entirely blind to the art-form that conservatives have made of excuse-making for their ideology of selfishness.

I would argue a bit with Maya Angelou, and suggest that it is not courage, but heart, that makes all other virtues possible. Conservatives love to think that they are filled with courage, just as they like to think of themselves as “rugged individualists.” Both self-conceptions are actually laughable. Conservatives are conformists, and need to be told what to believe. The black conservative is an anomaly of sorts; one who rejects his own community and its values, but yearns to join and conform to a different, ostensibly superior community, that of the affluent, ruling society. It’s quite an understandable, egoistic desire; only the very strong could resist. Having earned a level of financial status and adopted their ways and beliefs, he may be welcomed into their ranks, even if only as a token symbol of their magnanimity.

It’s all completely false and selfish. Certainly conservatism is not based on courage or wisdom or any higher virtue. And it has always lacked heart. Someday, you may evolve forwards (or would it be backwards?) into recognition that liberals sometimes err in their zeal to be selfless, but conservatives always err in their zeal to be selfish.

Take care my friend.

Annie R.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I am a fan of the "It's Get Better" campaign, designed to help queer youth understand that they are going through an especially dramatic (and sometimes downright dangerous) phase of their life, and that (usually) things will settle down within a few years. I've defended the campaign to those who say it doesn't really do anything. I think it accomplishes a lot, on an individual level, and it has certainly elevated the subject of queer-bullying in the national conversation. Hopefully, not just queer individuals, but also parents, friends and schools are more aware of the situation and working to help solve the problem.

But I think the campaign is very incomplete. Here's what I would like to add to the equation. Yes, queer or bullied or unhappy youth, it likely will get better. But that doesn't necessarily help you much in the here and now. And it's entirely possible that things could get worse before they get better. So we need something that's going to help right now.

Of course, if we are seeking something that can help "right now," it can't involve society itself, because we have no control over all of society, or really, anyone outside ourself. We can't immediately change a school system, and we can't necessarily change even one bully. So the solution must be something we can conjure within ourself. Now we have full control over a potential solution. I think that something, that solution, is the concept of virtue.

It's an old word, an old idea, but one that is actually very fundamental to everything that we do and think. Yet our modern culture doesn't really take virtue very seriously. Some even scoff at the term. We are not encouraged to think about it much, if at all. Instead, we are encouraged to conform, to desire, and to consume, which it turns out are all in their ways un-virtuous. For instance, rampant consumer capitalism, which is the economic model that most of the "civilized" world currently engages, principally promotes the emotion of desire... desire for something that the seller promises us will make us "happy." But it turns out that this is usally a deception. The thing which we desire will not make us happy. And which emotions are most closely associated with desire? Greed and envy. Both of these distract and divide us from our true self, and from each other, and from the natural world.

So this is a prime example of how society de-emphasizes virtue, and emphasizes what really are unvirtuous emotions.

So how do we, especially, say, a queer youth, begin to consider virtue? First they have to be made aware that there is such a thing, and that it resides inside them (at least for most people). Recognizing that this natural goodness, this ability to think and act rightly, this virtue, is already inside you, is deeply empowering and protecting. But only if you recognize it. If you don't recognize it, it remains like Excalibur, stuck in the rock.

Uh-oh, you may question, what is this about Excalibur? Where is this leading? It's leading to the hero who pulls out the sword. And you know who that hero is? The only hero who can pull out the Excalibur of your life. The hero is you.

No, I'm not suggesting that anyone has to become an Arthur, or some kind of super-hero, or even a tough guy. You just have to recognize that you should be the hero of your own life. And you do have an Excalibur to help you do that; it's your virtue.

The bullies, those who are self-absorbed, those who want and envy and hate, they are disconnected from their virtue. Their own Excaliburs are stuck in the rock, and completely hidden from them. And so, they are really not very powerful. In fact, they are actually pathetic. And they instinctively know it. They sense they are disconnected and unreal and weak. So they feel bad about themselves. To make themselves feel better, to seem stronger, they often lash out at those they perceive as "weaker." They often turn to weapons to use against the "weaker" person. If they turn to real weapons like guns or knives or any kind of physical violence, then we have a real problem, that requires professional attention and assistance. Do not go silent in the face of this threat. Call in the authorities, parents, teachers, school administrators, the police. All of civilized history should be on your side in protecting you from such vile and inexcusable behavior.

But it's not typically guns or knives or any kind of physical intimidation that bullies employ. Their usual weapon of choice is words. And words are nothing but string to your Excalibur, your virtue.

When you are assaulted by their words, wield Excalibur. Imagine striking the offensive words down as they come at you. This is your virtue, coming to your defense. You know who you are. You are the good guy; the bullies are the bad guys. You are not trying to hurt anyone; they are. You are compassionate; they are not compassionate. You are intelligent; they are not intelligent (at least not when they are being bullies). You are creative; they are uncreative. By being a virtuous person you are in balance with Universal Order; by being bullies they are unbalanced and out of control. You are unformed, but hold high potential; they are unformed, and demonstrating low potential. You are beautiful where it counts, inside; they may be beautiful on the outside, but are a mangled mess inside. You will likely find beauty and meaning and happiness in your life; they, alas, will find heartbreak and woe. You are truthful; they are liars. Or, even if they tell the truth, they don't understand the truth, certainly not your truth. You do.

The bully will go for your perceived weakness. You're gay, you're trans, you're ugly, you're fat, you're clueless, you're not popular. Some of these things may be true. The words they sling at you may actually be accurate. They may call you "Fag" or "Queer" or "Homo" or "He-She" or "LadyBoy" or "SheMale" or "Sissy" or "Whale Butt" or "Pizza Face" or whatever. It will usually be an epithet you've heard before, because these people are not very creative.

And so, as you swing Excalibur you focus on the term and size it up, parse it. Like one of those slow-motion action films, the words fly at you... "SSTTUUPPIIDD".... and you think no, that is a completely false, completely worthless description; I reject it. Slice! Next! "FFAAGG"... and you think yes, that's part of who I am, I'm OK with that, I accept it, and this word cannot hurt me. Slice! Next!

Just like this, your inner hero protects you from the bully's assault. And all you did was get your mind around your virtue.

We should have compassion for the bullies. They are that which they deign to despise and torment. That doesn't mean we have to put up with their antics and drama. If they get really out of control, call the cops. But if they are just up to their usual shenanigans with their gossip, or their Facebook and Twitter pranks or something like that, even if they confront you with a torrent of verbal bile, just be present, look deep into their frantic and frustrated eyes, focus deep inside yourself, and flash Excalibur.

There's a long journey ahead, heroes! Yes, there will be problems, but magic is also in store. Wonderful friends and experiences and thoughts and feelings await. It won't be long. It does (usually) get better. Meanwhile, virtue in, virtue out.


My last post, "Vote, Damn It," generated some complaints that I was being too harsh, that I was "in pain," and that the non-voters should be treated with more gentleness and respect.

I am not "in pain" so much as angry. And anyone who is not angry about the
situation the world finds itself in today is not really paying attention, or
perhaps does not care.

Now we must parse words, and also definitions. Is anger always a "negative"
emotion? It can be, especially when it comes to rage, an extreme form of anger,
or when anger is allowed to fester. But we learn from those who have carefully
considered and written about the "passions" that anger can be, in fact, a very
productive emotion... because it often prompts to action. Sometimes it is very
appropriate to be angry. Sometimes, if you are not angry about a particular
thing, there is something lacking in you; you may, in fact, be unconscious
and/or uncaring. You might ask yourself, where would America be if a contingent
of colonists didn't get really angry around 1776?

There is a saying, "The Truth will set you free. But first it will piss you

I'm angry that a certain class of extremely un-virtuous persons in this world
have managed to screw it up for the vast majority of us. And they wish to
continue to do it. They wish to continue perpetrating the very same ideology and
policy that has always thwarted liberty, equality, justice and fairness. And
they will lie and cheat and manipulate to do it. These people are bullies and
pirates and assassins, assaulting the human family and our precious planet. An
election is coming up next year that will determine to what extent they will be
able to continue getting away with their crimes.

I do not accept that we - the collective - can do nothing about it. I do not
accept that I - an individual - can do nothing about it. In fact we have a
wonderful tool for effecting change: it's called democracy. So I have accepted
my responsibility, to myself, and to the collective, to fight back, to make a
better world. In the cultural wars, and in the war to save the planet, I am not
a victim, or a bystander, I am a warrior.

Yes, I use the terminology of war and violence because this is a war, and it is
violent. The people we are up against are thoughtless, careless and sometimes
uber-violent. Though my methods are non-violent and virtuous, that does not
preclude whacking them as hard as I can with my most potent weapons... words and

And in rallying our side, like any warrior, I exhort my fellows to action, to
arete, which means our most virtuous self: including our inner hero. It is
intentionally non-diplomatic. Diplomacy, making deals with the devil, got us
into this mess. Diplomacy by its nature is uninspiring. Again, I use words,
pointed words, motivation by sharp rebuke for those who have heretofore shirked
their reponsibilities to themselves and their friends and family. It's intended
as a slap. Snap out of your stupor. Earn your respect. Get your act together and
help the cause.

Now, it's not like I'm asking them to sharpen their sword and physically go to
war. I'm not even asking them to volunteer to help a campaign. I'm just asking
them to get off their duffs and VOTE.

Yet they still carp and whine, and say, "Oh, you ask too much of me, and you
don't ask nicely, you hurt my feelings." So they have come up with yet more
excuses. It is these excuses that hold them down, and this behavior that
commands disrespect of themselves, and from others.

I don't think it's low self-esteem for most not-voters as it is plain old
laziness and apathy. Yet those who wish to psychoanalyze themselves, or others,
and allow such excuses are playing into the hands of the oppposition, and so are
actually highly counter-productive. The weak, slackers, the self-absorbed who do
not vote, and those who coddle and enable them, actually aid the opposition;
they vote for their oppressors and the destroyers of the world. And the cycle of
feeling bad about themselves is not broken, perhaps it is even worsed by one who
is aware at some level that they, again, failed in their responsibilities.

And, so I have in part accomplished my mission. This message is not a personal
message; it is a social message. It is not to someone; it is to everyone. I have
brought forth the issue. I have stimulated spirited conversation. I have made
the call to arms. I have raised the hackles of some. Good! Get mad. Get mad at
me. Get mad at something! Be passionate, damn it! Live with passion! Allow your
anger to arise and be channeled into something productive.

Conversely, if I had asked so very nicely for people to vote, it would have been
a typical post that no one really bothers to notice, and little if any
conversation. Of course, such a "nicecy-nice" post could hardly have ventured
into the primary thrust of my message: you have a RESPONSIBILITY to vote. And I
am not asking politely, I'm demanding that you stop shirking that reponsibility.

It affects me when you don't vote! It affects the entire country when you don't
vote. You may have the right to screw yourself, but you don't have the right to
screw me, or the community, or nation, or planet.

You know, I hear that in Australia, if you don't vote, you are fined. That's the
right approach. I'd love to see that here in America, too. In this country you
are fined for lots of things when you shirk your responsibility. Run a stop
sign: fine. Leave garbarge in your yard: fine. Don't bring your library book
back on time: fine. Don't pay your taxes: big fine. But strangely, we are not
fined if we blow off our biggest civic reponsibility: voting. Of course, the
opposition would hate to see required voting because they feast on non-voters.

Voting is a sacred responsibility. And there is NO good excuse for not doing it.

Yes, GASS is all about support. Having conversations like this is spot-on with
regard to its mission. Very important ways GASS can support its members is by
stimulating conscious thought and action, and by not acting as enabler of their
adharma, their avidya, their non-virtuousness. Psychology clearly informs us
that the best way to higher self-esteem is through a framework that emphasizes
discipline and responsibility. So a supporting person or group that is trying to
encourage higher levels of self-esteem will provide a caring but firm
scaffolding for that development. That includes, to some degree, a sense of high
expectation, which is fundamental for enlightened growth.

In demanding that people vote, we are not demanding that they heal themselves of
all their afflictions. We are not asking much at all. Just vote. And see how you
feel afterwards. If you have not been a voter, then by voting you have
transformed yourself, for the better. You will feel better. You are taking
responsibility. You are helping yourself and others. You have broken a pattern
of laziness and apathy. And who knows where that transformation will lead.


Saturday, October 22, 2011


Today, some tough love.

The past few weeks I've noticed something very troubling: quite a few members of
our trans community don't vote. I don't know if the ratio is larger than with
the general public (which is pathetically low), but I suspect it may be. Several
of the persons that I talked with volunteered the information that they don't
vote as if they were actually proud of the fact, like, "yeah, I stick it to the
man by not voting."


It's called the "right" to vote. And that's true to a degree. There was a time
when we (meaning the "little people") were prevented from voting. We do now have
the "right" to vote, and we are downright stupid not to take advantage of it.
Our ancestors would have given anything to vote.

It's also called a "privilege." That's a bit shaky. Yes, we should feel
"privileged" in some sense to live in a society that is enlightened enough to
have such rights. Many people living today do not have the right to vote. So,
again, not taking advantage of this "privilege" is stupid.

But more than a "right" and a "privilege," voting is a RESPONSIBILITY!

When you don't vote, you're not screwing "the man," you're screwing yourself,
and you're screwing your family, friends, allies and community, too. When you
don't vote you are FLUNKING YOUR RESPONSIBILTY to yourself and your community.

Because, you see, in a democracy where most all adult citizens have the right to
vote, there's no such thing as "not voting." You say you "don't vote," oh, you
are horribly mistaken... you vote alright, you vote FOR the person or issue that
you would have voted AGAINST if you accepted your responsibility!

Yes... it really is that stupid. Why don't you just punch yourself in the
face... and then do it to everyone you know, as well. It's pretty much the same

Your "no" vote, is exactly that... a subtraction from the good guy's total vote
count. The bad guys feast upon your idiocy. You're just as good as a "yes" vote
for their guy!

"Oh well, my vote doesn't matter," you say. BALONEY! If all, or even half of,
the "not voting" turd-blossoms out there across America accepted their
responsibility to vote, the bad guys wouldn't have a chance in Hell. We, the
little people, would RULE! We would kick their ass every time. Instead, every
not-voting doofus is actually working for the bad guys.

Wake up! Get your head out of your ass! Stop being so self-absorbed and selfish
and pathetic and dumb as shit! You're smarter than that. You're better than

Live up to your responsibilty to yourself and to your community. Get registered
to vote NOW, for this year, so you'll be ready for the big showdown coming up in

The LGBT community, the middle class, the poor, minorities of all kinds, and the
vast majority of average citizens are under assault by the bad guys with the
toxic ideology that serves only the top 1%. We need every person on board If
you're too lazy to help in other ways, at least VOTE!

Sometimes things do come down to black and white. If you're not voting with us,
you're with the terrorists!



The Zanesville, Ohio massacre of 49 beautiful, precious and completely innocent animals has me seething. What insanity is this? Let's start with the moron who collected guns and such "pets" as tigers, lions, leopards and bears. This Marlboro Man wannabe was well-known as a trouble-maker, and recently served time for illegally possessing over 100 firearms. Then he commits suicide, but only after opening the cages of all of his "pets." They escaped and local law enforcement executed all but six out of 55 exotic animals. A shocking photograph of dead tigers, lions, bears and cougars captured for posterity the carnage.

We know the world is populated by a contingent of crazies who will do anything. ANYTHING. But what is perhaps even more infuriating is that common sense did not handle this wacko appropriately before a tragedy. He was a known danger to the community. But it turns out Ohio is under the spell of a political delusion that highly regards "property rights" and disdains "regulation." Republican governor John Kasich refused to extend an emergency order by his predecessor (a Democrat) that restricted the ownership of exotic animals. That law might have prevented this debacle.

It's not a stretch to see the similarity in the carnage wreaked upon the economy by banksters, also a known danger to the community, who were likewise deregulated. This dysfunctional mindset must be cast into the cracks of doom from whence it came. The conservative mantra of "deregulation" begs for catastrophe.