No Mob Rule

This one’s more touchy than yesterday’s post, but I want to express my thoughts on it: The recent sexual harassment stories we’re reading in the national news.

How sad it is that these men and women were able to abuse and intimidate so many people, especially women, for so many years, while others turned away? I believe that when someone’s call for help is ignored, when we turn a blind eye and look away, we are committing an act of cruelty. We are telling them that we do not recognize their value as human beings. I understand that there are often hindrances involved, but I feel that the only way we can prevent these acts from taking place is to support the survivor in their claim.

If we make it understood that sexually assaulting someone will definitely lead to legal issues for the assailant, that the survivor of that assault will be heard rather than shunned, we could make significant headway in curtailing such abuses. We would, at the very least, take away the guarantee of invisibility, which could have a chilling effect on those who would engage in such behaviors.

At the same time, I cannot stress enough how concerned I am with how <em>fast</em> the fallout is coming from these occurrences. Not that sexual assault survivors are coming forward, I am gratified to see the stigma of sexual assault starting to lose hold, but what does concern me is the swift action taking against those accused. They’re losing their jobs, their friends, family, their reputations are being utterly destroyed all in the blink of an eye.

It feels satisfying, for many, to see justice served, but the thing is that justice has yet to be served. It is of vital importance that these people get a fair trial, that they are afforded all the rights necessary to produce a result that is correct, and not just something that feels good. Our news media isn’t going to stop and fact check everything, if anything, before tossing up the next salacious accusation for all to see across the world.

As a result, there will come a point where an innocent party will be skewered, and will still fall to the mob mentality of public opinion “justice.” Mob “justice” is seldom nuanced, and almost always cruel. In the United States, we once had a history of public lynchings, where the accused was found guilty with little evidence, but a heaping dose of community anger and outrage.

I cannot stress how careful we must be here, because we live in a nation of professional outrage. The far reaching effects of social media can kill a career, a life, a reputation, with just a single shout that spreads across the entire platform. Suicides will happen as human beings face throngs of angry commenters, who will not keep it strictly on social media.

Isn’t that the saddest irony? I think so. In our zeal for justice, we engage in cruel, bloodthirsty behavior, before all of the details are in. Before the court date has been set, people have been tried, and found guilty, in the court of public opinion, and their places of business, their employers, these organizations aren’t waiting for a “guilty/not guilty” verdict, they’re acting now, and I believe they’re doing so to our mutual disadvantage.

Accusations are easy. Gathering proper evidence is less so. I want the accusers to be heard, but I want the accused tried fairly, and in as equitable a fashion as possible. Anything less, and we’re just replacing one assault with another, more far reaching one.

I realize this may seem like I’m taking the side of the accused, and in one sense I am. If we do not protect the accused as much as the accuser (and they should both be protected and with full exercise of their rights), then we become no better than the lynch mobs of our past, meting out our own brand of justice to salve our collective souls.

On the other hand, however, I am also protecting the rights of the accusers. Consider this: given the speed and ferocity with which the news media is pushing out these stories, how much time until a number of them are proven false? Whether due to personal vendettas, retribution, or just good old lack of fact checking on the part of the news, there will come a point where a series of accusations will either be found false, or lacking in evidence. When that time comes, how will public sentiment shift? Human beings are fickle, more so in this day and age where our attention spans have become so short as to require constant reminders that there is a world around us.

I can see sentiments shifting back to that cloak of invisibility again, where it’s better not to see it happening, to just ignore it once more. The blow back would be severe, and would cause greater harm to those who desperately need to get their story out.

So we can be better than this. We MUST be better than this. We cannot be cruel to be kind. We cannot call cruelty “justice,” or “tough love.” We cannot indict human beings without allowing them the ability to defend themselves.

We must learn empathy, we require compassion. Cruelty should have no place in the system, but it does. It holds a prized place, and I fear it will become the hallmark of our society. I believe that we’re already on a path where cruelty is seen as a “necessary evil,” and that prospect worries me because rights are easily eroded when people are given license to act cruelly in the name of the common good.

Those acts cause us to jump too quickly, to condemn too strongly, and as a result people pay, sometimes with their very lives, and when that happens, what is the excuse we will use to extricate ourselves from that moral quandary? It was for the public good? Maybe. I mean, that would soothe the consciences of most, but for the rest of us, we would know better. We would know  the truth.

 

Just my two bits for today. May the Goddess bless you.

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Ending Cruelty

It’s a tall order, and that’s an understatement. It seems that there is some inherent cruelty in people, no matter who they are. Though I believe humans are fundamentally good, that isn’t to say we can’t be cruel. Humans are quite adept at being cruel, and often they don’t even realize it.

It’s easy to say you’re just offering “tough love,” or that you believe in “firm justice,” but it becomes far easier to be cruel when it’s considered acceptable by social and legal authorities.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard comments that sadden me regarding the way we treat and speak of others. A poor man isn’t poor because of social factors that disrupt his goals for a better life (factors such as economic downturn, lack of available jobs, no access to higher education), he’s poor because he’s lazy. He deserves scorn for his laziness. He deserves the pain he’s in, and some people feel if they help him they’re being soft on him, and for some reason compassion towards those we feel don’t deserve it is seen as a weakness in our society.

Take, as another example, a prisoner. Watch the news tell of prisoner abuse, and you will inevitably hear the comment “they’re criminals, so it’s not like they’re innocent.” Being beaten, being abused by those in authority or other inmates, is what you deserve for your crime? You’re in prison, and are receiving punishment for that crime. The reason we stopped cruel and unusual punishment is because it was state sanctioned revenge. Yet here we see it continue to thrive unofficially, in the hearts and minds of people who probably believe they’re only being cruel to be kind.

There is no such thing as cruel to be kind. If you’re being cruel to be kind, you’re just being cruel. Any kindness that might exist there is residual, and will go unnoticed by the recipient of your cruelty. You may think you’re doing right, you may feel that someone deserves a particular brand of justice, but all you’re really doing is letting anger, pettiness, and revenge creep into your heart. There is no love in cruelty. None.

We must live compassion. It is vital that we recognize the humanity in every person. Don’t let what you see around you convince you that your life is “normal,” because it isn’t. We all live on a foundation of personal precepts and social contracts. Every single human being you’ve encountered thinks differently than you do, their brains are wired differently than yours. It doesn’t seem that way because you’ve all agreed to those unseen social contracts, and your personal experiences reinforce the permanent nature of those contracts, but I assure you that not everything is ever as it seems.

I’m not saying you can’t hold to your own moral convictions, that’s fine if you do. What I’m saying is that you can’t use those moral convictions to justify cruelty towards others. 100 years ago, smoking marijuana didn’t make you the scum of the earth. Nowadays? Politicians talk of the dangerous nature of people who smoke marijuana, because those people are clearly criminals, and cannot be trusted. They get thrown in jail for smoking a weed that grows in the dirt, and it is fully enforced by the social contract that has been established as “acceptable.”

It’s so easy to be lulled into the notion that you’re on the side of good, and anyone who disagrees with you is on the side of evil. It makes it easier to oppress, condemn, to discriminate and abolish. It makes it legal, and healthy, to destroy the lives of others because you find in them a moral failing that you cannot abide. That is why I so often speak against moral legalism. When you equate morality with what is and is not legal, you open yourself to the idea that being cruel is just one more tool in the arsenal to eradicate the enemies of the state.

We can be better than that. We must be better than that. We need to start seeing human beings as human beings, people who make flawed, imperfect decisions. I’m not excusing horrible deeds committed by people, I just want to take away the system that dehumanizes them and makes it easier to commit atrocities against them in the name of a “justice” system that lacks mercy, and compassion.

I believe our first goal in building empathy is to recognize that we all do stupid things, we all make terrible mistakes. To accept the idea that we can improve, that we can be better people if only given the opportunity to change. A person who has stolen, who has murdered, who has committed terrible acts against others, is still a person. They’ve done wrong, they’ve done a horrible thing to another person, that is true, but that doesn’t mean they’re now useless, or someone to be locked away and destroyed. They are still human beings, and deserve to be treated as such.

Speaking of the United States, our system is far too interested in unrelenting punishment. Unlike many other countries, we don’t rehabilitate, we punish, and then when someone has done their time, we punish them upon release by making sure that record follows them around the rest of their lives, regardless of their behavior, or even their innocence. It’s shameful, and it is the system of a cruel society, one that needs to be tossed aside.

Systemic cruelty is a danger to us all, because it makes it okay for us to be cruel in return. So when you see a news story about a murderer getting raped in prison, you’ll find comments of “good,” and “I hope he gets raped by the biggest man in that prison,” we perpetuate that cruelty. That even applies all the way down the ladder to someone who stole $1,000 from a cash register in a grocery store. Our thirst for vengeance, our desire to hurt those we believe hurt us, is a strong one.

Also, I’m sorry if you didn’t know this, but yes, it is a serious problem in the United States, one that seems unlikely to go anywhere. Efforts to put an end to that practice are small, and unpopular. That is why I am concerned. It is why I fear we have adopted a culture of cruelty, one which we have no intention of discarding any time soon. In light of recent events in the news, it may even be growing in influence. I’ll have more on that tomorrow, though.

If you take nothing else away from this post today, then take this: We must be kind, always kind. Let your compassion and mercy lead your heart, not the desire for cruelty masked as “tough love,” or being “cruel to be kind.” Those concepts are not real, and only allow greater cruelties to be acted upon under the guise of justice.

Until next time, I love you, and may the Goddess bless you.

I Can’t Make It More Plain

I posted this on my Facebook page, but I’d like to repost it here because I mean it. I mean it. I mean it.

I love you.
Surprised? Of course not.

You know how much I love you already, or at least I hope you do. It shouldn’t surprise you at all to know that I love you, but if you are surprised, please don’t be, because I do love you.

Before you let your self-doubts tell you that I’m lying, or that I don’t know you well enough to say whether or not I love you, let me tell you something:

Think of the worst thing you’ve ever done, the worst thought you’ve ever had, the most vile feeling, the deepest pain, and hold it up to the light. Now I want you to imagine I am looking right at it. Visualize me being in the room with you, and we’re both looking directly at the worst thing you can think of, the thing that makes you feel sad, ashamed, angry, that causes you self-loathing, and I want you to see me smile at you.

I love you.

For all of your faults. For all of your fears. For all of your sins. For everything you’ve ever done, or thought of doing, I still love you. I do not, cannot, WILL not hate you. I will not pretend you do not exist. You are here, you are real, and you matter to me.

If you think I exaggerate, or fill this white space with words I don’t back up with the full measure of my heart, I promise you it isn’t so. If you are filled with doubts because you think you are a monster, then I tell you that you never have been, you’re a human being, and you are worthy of love.

You are not alone.
You have an ally in me.
You have love and compassion from me.
Words do not do these thoughts and feeling justice. My words are woefully inadequate to express to you just how much I love you, and that you have nothing to fear or hide from in me.

I love the whole person that is you.

I love you.

Mercy Mission

Since Tuesday, the lens has shifted into better focus. I feel like I’m back on track once more. I am in command of my self, and what I am doing now is preparing myself for this next mission: I am going to save the people that society has cast aside. That group includes everyone from the simply misunderstood all the way up and beyond those who are considered among the worst criminals.

Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve wanted to heal people, and that included the people who had wronged me. My mind has always processed things just a little bit differently than most people. That’s not to say most people aren’t good, or don’t have compassion, but my desire has always been to heal hearts, even when everyone else has tossed those people away as useless, irredeemable, or unworthy.

For a long time, I let others take control, I let them make decisions for me on who I felt was worthy and unworthy, who I thought was right or wrong, and by doing so I ended up confusing myself, and causing myself undue pain and mental anguish. I was trying to keep control while letting others control me, and it began to break me apart. No more.

This can be an unpopular stance to take, because it means I won’t be outright rejecting the people that society finds objectionable. Our modern day reaction when seeing someone who believes or does something we find distasteful is to shun them, to push them away, to lock them away, to hide them, and pretend they’re not human beings. I cannot do that. Every human being deserves love and kindness until they have shown all they wish to do is cause harm. This is the bottomless well of compassion that I sealed off, where I added a spigot and doled out only small amounts over the years, thinking I was doing the right thing.

Yeah, what you’ve seen over the years is me with limited compassion. I kid you not when I tell you the well is bottomless, and now that I’m in control again, that seal has been removed. People whom I was angry with before? It’s gone. I kid you not, it’s gone. I can’t even muster the anger to be remotely upset at them.

What happened Tuesday? It was an incredible experience, and in the span of a picosecond I could see all of the universe, and all it could be. I could see how short life was, how precious each soul was, and it all clicked. As of Tuesday, everything shifted back into laser focus. Everything I needed to remember came back to me, and the mental blocks that had been in place were obliterated, leaving me in direct contact with the entire core element of why I do what I do, and why I am who I am.

Now that my own self has been re-asserted, I have work to do.

No pressure, right?

May the Goddess bless you.

Joy!

As I haven’t felt it in many years. It started off as a terrible day. Dark thoughts had been plaguing me all through the night. My dreams were nightmarish, and I was thinking the worst things that could happen to me.

I woke up exhausted. As many of you know, I don’t get time to heal, time to recover. I am switched on 24/7, so no laying in bed hoping the bad thoughts will go away, wishing the world would stay away. No, I have to get up, I have things to do, whether I feel like doing them or not.

The morning was trudgery (that’s my portmanteau for trudging about in drudgery). I had a headache, my chest hurt, and I was trying to take care of the things I need to do each day. Earlier, I had revised my life expectancy downward once more, from 50 to 40. That may seem a touch dramatic, or macabre, but if you knew the kinds of thoughts I was having, you may have considered my estimations to be optimistic.

Still, I muddled on. Finally, around 2:30 PM or so, I set out to pick up what we would need for dinner tonight. As I drove, I looked about at the overcast sky, the way people walked down the street, untrusting, angry even, looking about like all the world wanted them harmed.

It got me thinking about the news, and how awful things appeared to be. I considered just how much I had lost faith in mankind, in my country, and I had almost zero faith in our legal system. I believed that we, as a people, were looking at the last days of the United States as a free(ish), and open(like) society.

So I did something I haven’t done in so long, I think I had to dust the cobwebs off to get to the center of it: I prayed. As some of you know, I have taken my first steps into something new, something that has called to me. There are so many new but familiar feelings about where I am, but it feels different. Unlike my former faith from a decade ago, there is no oppressive weight here. I feel no demand for perfection.

I prayed to the Goddess Selene. Now, I am quite new, but I have long loved the Moon and what She represents for me, and so I reached out to Her, in the hopes of some kind of solace from the pain. Some may not agree, and that’s okay, but what I’ve learned so far is that each person’s path is unique, each application of what they learned is theirs to explore.

I prayed. In my heart I requested Her guidance. I always request, I don’t demand. Some folks demand, but I can’t really bring myself to demand something from others, even if they are a Celestial Goddess. Probably moreso, in fact. I asked Her to guide my steps, because my thoughts were betraying me, and it was tearing me apart.

I felt this strong urge to speak, and so I began to tell Her everything, from my deepest fears and flaws, to my greatest hopes and dreams. When I was finished, I had begun crying. Now, I know everyone is going to have a different take on this, but I swear to you, I heard a voice. Now, I was in my car when I said these things, and there was no one else around. The voice said, “I love you.”

I started crying again, and I managed to reply, “I love you, too,” and I felt this warmth that said “that you should love someone you do not yet know speaks well of your heart.” Of course, by this point I was a blubbering mess. If someone had come along right then, they’d have thought my dog had died, and that the Pope had said nasty things about me to my face.

So I continued between the tears. “What do I do about all of the horrible things I’ve seen? Events that have fostered these awful thoughts in my head that won’t go away? What do I do about the evil in the world? How do I deal with all of this?!”

There was a two word reply, and it shot me right in the heart: “Love them.”

At that moment, my heart started burning, I mean it felt like a physical fire had erupted in my chest, and then it was ice, pure ice, and the ice spread through my whole body, into my brain, and my brain started feeling like someone had wrapped it in a cloud, and when it was all done, when the feeling had passed, the pain was gone! It was gone! All I could feel was pure joy from every part of me.

I looked around, and every person I saw, I could see inside them! I don’t mean their physical selves, but their spiritual selves! I could see their pain, and their fears. I was witness to their doubts. The command came forward again, strong this time, and it said “LOVE THEM.”

And I knew right then that the deepest darkest seed inside of me was the kernel of doubt that said I could no longer keep up with the world. That the world was outpacing me in anger, in hatred, in cynicism. That it was growing more insular, and vicious every day, and that I had been competing with every other human on this earth that had embraced such things, that even though all I wanted to do was love, I was replacing that love with judgment, and I was wrong to do so, because in my judging them, I was denying them the love they needed to change.

I have long felt that every person is redeemable, that every person should be given the chance to change. For a time, I had put that aside to condemn those I felt only brought harm, and while I realize that my intentions were good, they were ill-fitted for someone like me. There is a person to every emotion, and every walk of life has a different step. Mine was not what I had adopted. It was not my own. My own steps were elsewhere, and I realized right then, just as I’m realizing now, that I needed to follow MY steps, to do MY will, to embrace MY power, to own it, to use it, to wield it MY way. I discovered that abdicating the seat of my power, of my will, to others was killing me.

I had given away the command of my soul to others who had no intention of seeing to my needs. Now, the power is mine again. I have wrested control back, and I have put in place the right compass to guide me.

Today I felt joy, my friends, more joy than I have felt in a long, long time. I do not wish to relinquish that joy, save to spread it around to others, and the love that accompanies it.

I love you, my dear, dear friends. I love you so much. May the Goddess bless you.

A Devotion For Healing #1

I draw you down in my solitude,
Luna, Diana, Hecate, Artemis, Phoebe, Selene.
You are known by many names,
Moon Goddess, I call to you.

I ground myself against the Earth, the domain of life.
This is where I am. My roots reach into the soil.
They affirm I am alive.

I beseech the water, come forth, and flow through my heart.
Carry from me my pain and sorrow. May you be a slow trickle at first,
yet steadily increasing, building gently until my heart gives way,
to the steady stream that will cleanse her.

My heart is ready. My mind prepared.

Akasha, fill the void.
Selene, my companion.

Spaketacular

I eat, but there is no fill.
The chasm just gets deeper, the hunger pangs only get stronger.

I sleep, but I get no rest.
The fatigue keeps me weary, my mind switched on.

I smile, but there are no corners.
The faces are clearer, but they aren’t any friendlier.

I speak, but nothing is actually said.
The voice is vainglorious and bereft of meaning.

I listen, but the words are jumbled.
Guttural utterances lacking a purpose, no information shared.

My hands move to help.
They are misunderstood and slapped away.

My heart seeks to love.
It is denied.

Life is worth living, they say.
But who are they, and why do they get to say it?

I have eaten too much, and slept far too long.
My body is unfit, and wanting.

Salesmen slip me panaceas of gods and gold,
and cajole me in filling their coffers with my soul.

Smile, says the police man, in black riot gear,
Your rights were a pipe dream. No one cares.

Entertained around the clock, the screens brightly lit.
Faces staring at nothing, the pretty ones show their teeth and purr.

I am a resident of a living city on a dying planet.
The future isn’t ours to meddle, though only to our benefit.

Bleeding, bleeding, bleeding feet on which I stand.
A tourniquet is just as good as a bandage.

I think cut it off entirely, dealing with it just takes time.
Time is money, and we’ve none to afford others.

I see hungry children that should get jobs.
They’ll better learn the value of a dollar.

Coughing and wheezing without a penny to the name.
The sick knew what they did, and sinned.

I’ll stand in the soup line for warmth in my belly.
Murdered for a loaf of bread in an economic upturn.

I’d say life is cheap, but it depends on who is living it.
Passels and penances, a law’s proper order is to subdue.

Tears form at the edges of my eyes, blurring reality with my dreams.
I cry.