Death of Liberty

“So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.”

The greatest danger often lies in the seemingly insignificant.  In the 14th Century rats and sea travel went hand in hand. It was just generally accepted as the way things were. Not worthy of a second thought…or even a thought at all. Yet, this seemingly insignificant fact of life destroyed nearly three quarters of the European population. More recently, the assassination of a relatively minor European noble, seemingly insignificant in and of itself, sparked what was known at the time as, “The war to end all wars.” Or, an upstart charismatic Austrian who had no real chance of attaining power in Germany eventually committing the single greatest atrocity in all of human history.

In other words, we often minimize the real threat to our humanity.  We laugh it off as impossible. Then, as we lay dying, wonder how the hell we got here. Time and time again, this phenomenon occurs throughout human history. Once the smoke clears, we swear we have learned our lesson. This will never happen again. Until the cycle repeats and it happens again.

The oft repeated line, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” is ironically given both great thought and routinely ignored.  We read and share Santayana’s great truth while simultaneously ignoring the warning. We see the horrors of the past and chant, “Never again,” while failing to see the symptoms and events in our own society making such atrocity possible. Thus, history repeats itself, and once again we are left wondering how the hell we got here. And yet, future generations look at the patterns and wonder how the hell we missed it. It was so blatantly apparent.

It wasn’t that no one saw the danger, but they were a small minority. It wasn’t that the majority were inherently evil. They were, in fact, just average human beings who were misled. The combination of charisma, economic disparity (real or imagined), and manufactured fear can easily lead once noble humans down the wrong path. It has happened frequently throughout history. It is happening again.

There is truth to Goodwin’s law and the reason is a simple one. Take a speech from any politician compare it to any speech of Hitler’s and you will find striking similarities. This is because there was a lot of truth behind Hitler’s rhetoric. He frequently addressed the truly dire straits that was the German economy. He correctly addressed the raw deal Germany received from the Treaty of Versailles. (It should be noted, the sanctions taken against Germany was not without good reason. But, many Germans felt screwed over by the treaty and Hitler, brilliantly, used this to his advantage.) We view Hitler as the ultimate evil.  Thus, view everything that came from him as inherently insidious.  It is much more complicated. Hitler was a very charismatic man and a gifted orator.  In fact, he was quite correct in identifying Germany’s problems. From the economy, to the lopsided treaty, to the weakness of the Weimar Republic…he was right. He was, however, grossly wrong in the cause of these problems. At the same time, he gave the people exactly what they wanted. Someone to blame.

To me, the parallels are obvious. Completely separate from Goodwin’s law.  I see and understand the faults inherent within humanity which can lead to such horror. There are serious problems in our society, and Mr. Trump accurately depicts many of them.  When people are hurting we actively search for someone to blame for our misfortunes. Humanity will rail against the uncomfortable truth That it is our own apathy, our own complacence, which is often the cause of our woes. Rather, we will cling to the ludicrous idea that a single group of people is responsible.  And when someone uses our own prejudices against us we rabidly cling to the scapegoat they offer us a way to absolve ourselves from any responsibility for the problems we face. Yesterday, it was  Jews and immigrants. Today, it is Muslims and immigrants.

To those who stand there in disbelief, who think it cannot possibly happen again.  I assure you, it CAN. And, if we are not vigilant, it will. We are on the brink, poised to make the very same mistakes we SWORE we would NEVER let happen again. When we do so, it will be because we have let our own prejudices blind us to the exact same patterns that precluded every dictator, every evil empire, whether in fiction or reality, that has ever been known to man.

For the last ten years, I have been the first to call out the often hyperbolic comparisons. I have done so because I believe it diminishes the suffering of millions of people. Betrays the memory of those lost. Because it diminishes my children’s heritage.  I can say, with one hundred percent certainty, had things turned out differently my children would NOT be here. I can say this because they are the great-grandchildren of survivors.  As it is, it is a miracle my husband was even born. For not only did his grandparents survive Hitler, but Stalin as well. Somehow, not only did they manage to survive the war, they also managed to escape Europe and reach America.  A feat far too few of Slavic descent attained. I tell you this, not to brag about the blessings I have received. But to show you how serious this is for me.  I love my children more than anything.  More than my own life. Had either of these men succeeded in their endeavors my children would quite simply not exist. So, yeah, it means something to me.  What seemed foreign and far away in my youth has become extremely personal.

I tell you this so you know, when I make these comparisons it is not just the typical hyperbolic rhetoric. These are real, accurate, and frightening comparisons I once, naïvely, thought impossible in American politics. I was wrong. I see that now, and I hope to God the rest of the nation does to. Before it is too late and we are left with our hands in the air wondering how the hell we got here.

Now, in the spirit of true honesty, I must say, in many ways, Mr. Trump is right.  He accurately addresses many key problems in our economy.  The American Working Man has been repeatedly screwed by failed policies. We allow China to pad the market and break many of the rules set down by the WTO.  Lack of tariffs, quotas, and other disincentives has led many American companies to move jobs overseas. On that, he is correct. He is also correct in stating that these issues need to be corrected.  Of course, what he won’t tell you, is solutions to these problems have been routinely shot down by Republicans in Congress under the guise of ‘Free Trade.’

However, my issues with Mr. Trump are greater than Democrat v. Republican, Liberal v. Conservative. My concern is with the far, far too many parallels that can be made between Mr. Trump and infamous leaders of the past. He is a malevolent narcissist. His proposed ‘solutions’ are not only morally wrong but blatantly unconstitutional as well.  If you ask me if I honestly thought that Trump could be a fascist dictator, my answer would have to be a terrified, yes.

In the beginning, I too, saw his campaign as too bombastic and ridiculous to be real. I too, thought his nomination was impossible.  It was a joke. Hilarious to watch the establishment scramble.  I, too, underestimated not only him, but the gullibility of humanity.  As he continued, I slowly became convinced this was indeed very real and very dangerous.  I have heard the defense of some of his more asinine statements.  The most blatant. “Sure, he said it. But he didn’t REALLY mean it.” Ladies and gentlemen, yes, he did. Even if he didn’t, can we really afford to take that risk? Because not that long ago there was another raucous upstart who, “told it like it was,” “wasn’t afraid to speak the truth,” a “man of the people who couldn’t be bought.” Trust me, when I say, it didn’t go so well.

Currently, the nominee of the Grand ‘Ole Party, is a man who not only blatantly ignores the constitution but also holds none of the principles of the party he purportedly leads. The scary thing is, many Republicans see it too.

This is a man who has not only insinuated he would order the murder of innocent women and children, but also firmly believes such and order would be followed without question. That is the trait of a dictator, not the leader of a democratic republic.

A man who feels humans deserve torture. A man for whom the ends justify the means. A man who would sink to the level of criminals and terrorists. A man who feels limited by the Geneva Convention. A man who has threatened war with Russia. A man who not only refuses to rule out the use of nuclear weapons, but actively calls out for more.  A man who has blatantly stated he will start World War III. People, this is not a leader. This is a dictator. Even in jest (I’m addressing my opponents early), none of this is OK, and from the ‘Leader of the Free World’ it would be disastrous.

A man who has promised law and order, despite the fact, such power is not in the jurisdiction of the federal government and not one of the enumerated powers the constitution allows the executive branch. Law enforcement, for the most part, is left up to states and cities. A man who promised an executive order mandating the death penalty, despite having NO legal grounds to do so. Who would obliterate the 8th Amendment to increase the pain of execution.

A man who has the support of nearly all the worst people on the planet. Seriously. The sheer number of frightening endorsements should be enough to give anyone pause.

A man who quotes, and seemingly admires dictators. Who does not even try to distance himself from White Supremacists and Neo-Nazi’s.

A man whose plans are nearly all unconstitutional. Immigration. Registration of Muslims (⇐ If I have to tell you why THIS is a problem…). Banning Muslims. A man who seeks to curb the Free Press. To violate the freedoms of religion and speech. Has argued, against members of his own party, to repeal the 14th Amendment.

A man whose supporters not only threaten violence, but also carry it out. Even to those within their own party. Actions the candidate has never criticized nor condemned. But actively encourages and defends. That the most violent, racist, and cruel members of our society flock to this man is cause for concern.

He is a man who ‘jokes’ about murder. Who routinely violates equal protection laws…and has since the 1970’s. A man who refuses to admit when he is wrong. A man who ‘may have’ supported Japanese internment. Praises the ‘strength’ of the oppressive Chinese government. A man who called out to another nation to break US law (and international law) while the official Republican candidate for president. (⇐Seriously, if I have to explain this one…)

He is a man obsessed with strength. Who sees pragmatism and diplomacy as weakness. A man with a self-inflated sense of purpose. Who supports rabid nationalism and genuinely thinks that he is the ONLY solution. That he is inherently superior to all others.  Come on, this is right from ‘How to be a fascist dictator 101.’

He meets criticism with threats. Dismisses them with disgusting remarks. Has admitted that he would seek laws to punish those who spoke ill of him. (⇐ Red Flag) Mentioned his genitalia in a debate…seriously!  Who wants to replace liberal appointees with loyalists. (⇐WARNING!! Literally, Hitler’s first move people.) Please, please open up your eyes and realize this man is the single greatest threat to American Democracy that EVER existed.

“To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”

― Elie Wiesel

I have a few beliefs that are unshakeable. The first is the resilience, generosity, and beauty of the human spirit. I believe we are capable of truly amazing and wonderful things. But that doesn’t mean I am blind to the faults of humanity. The darkness that lies within leading to horrors untold.

I believe in God. A creator. A great force of good in this world. A better life after this one. Not a God who ignores the evil in the world, but one who has taken a step back, allowed us to make our own mistakes. So we learn the lessons for ourselves.  I believe in a God who loves us, despite all our ills. A God who understands truth discovered is far stronger than truth that is given. A God who desperately wants us to get there. Who weeps when we fail. I believe he wept for Germany in the 1930’s. I believe he weeps for us now.

And I believe, with my whole heart, with every fiber of my being, with deepest conviction, the words written upon the single, most brilliant display of treason ever to grace the pages of human history.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I believe in this idea with a fire that cannot be extinguished. THIS is why we won the revolution. Not because of a superior army. Not because of the genius of our generals. But because an idea that once planted could not be uprooted. An idea that no war could destroy. I know that this idea has yet to be practiced in its entirety. There are those we have failed. Call me the Greater Fool, if you will, but I truly believe that this type of society is possible. I believe in the greatness of humanity. In hope.  I will cling to hope regardless of the ferocity of the storm.

My fellow Americans, we have come to a crossroads. One where we can continue our grand social experiment of equality for all. Or one where we lead from hate and fear. We have a choice, to be either on the right side of history, or the wrong one.

We need to open our eyes, and make the phrase ‘Never Again,’ mean not that it can’t happen again, to acknowledging the darkness within humanity. By making it mean it CAN happen again, BUT WE WON’T LET IT.

Our system is battered and bruised, but not broken.  We can either come together and fix the problems or we can decide it’s not worth fixing. I am not naïve as to how the system “works.” I will be voting for Hillary Clinton, because she is the Democratic Party nominee. Because I know nothing about the third party candidates. I acknowledge this is due to media bias. I agree that the two-party system needs to be dismantled and replaced with a more equal representation of our various beliefs. Yet, I know, as it stands, no third party candidate has a chance in winning a single state, let alone the election. I ask you all to consider this unfortunate truth in November. We have four years afterwards to make our elections more fair and equal.

Those who know me, know that I have never been a fan of Secretary Clinton. Despite the many disagreements I have with her, I will vote for her. I get that the status quo isn’t great. I get that many see this as a ‘lesser evil.’ I hear you. I understand. I am there with you. I too, am tired of the establishment, the lack of choice, and politicians serving their own self interests. Sick of it. I too, want change. Not by dismantling the idea, but by actually living up to it. It is a worthy goal. One I will push and strive for, for the rest of my life. But, to me, the facts are clear. Hillary Clinton does not, for all her ills, represent a clear and present danger to our constitution. Donald Trump does.

If you believe in everything Mr. Trump is selling, then by all means, vote for him. Understand that we will need to part ways. Because I will not support fear and hatred…however tacitly.  If you truly believe in everything I have spoken out against then there is nothing I can do or say to convince you otherwise. Regardless, I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

But, if you are considering a vote for Mr. Trump, merely because he has that (R) behind his name, please don’t. We need to let go of partisan politics. Let go of loyalty to party above our own interests. If that (R) is the only reason you are considering Mr. Trump, I implore you to truly consider whether this vote speaks to your conscience or against it. If your conscience will not allow you to vote for Hillary, that’s fine. I get that. Just don’t vote for Mr. Trump out of some displaced loyalty to a party that has never really had your interests at heart. (Same can be said of (D) by the way.)

If you are considering voting for Mr. Trump because you are tired of the Establishment, please, don’t be fooled. Donald Trump is very much a part of the Establishment. He cannot be bought simply because he’s the one doing the buying. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a Trump vote is anti-establishment. Open your eyes and realize, not only is he establishment, but that he represents the most insidious parts of it. If you are considering a vote for Mr. Trump as a way to “stick it to the man,” please God, don’t. Mr. Trump IS the man. If you really want to shake things up in Washington, to send a message to the politicians that we are sick and tired of their games. That their jobs are NOT guaranteed…then vote against every incumbent (R) or (D) up for reelection this November. If enough of us do it, they WILL get the message. And it has the potential to actually affect the types of changes you want. Changes we all want. For more than any Presidential election ever will.

I ask all of you to seriously consider your vote in November. To vote your conscience. To ask yourselves, if you truly believe in the constitution. And if you do, is Mr. Trump really the guy you think will uphold and defend it? These are serious times and they call for serious people. This not a joke, or a game. Who do you honestly think is the person worthy of guarding the values we hold dear? If no one, then no one is your answer.  I believe Mr. Trump to be a serious threat, not only to our Republic, but also to humanity at large.  I hope to God I am wrong. But you need to ask yourselves, is it worth the risk?

We are not Germany in the 1930’s. We are far better off, and our situation is not as dire as some would have you believe.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. –Edmund Burke

World War II and the Holocaust did not occur because Germany was rife with evil people. They were just people. People who were scared, hurt, and tired. People just looking for an ease to their suffering. The majority of those who voted for Hitler and the Nazi’s were not voting for the massive genocide that followed. It was never their intent. But the intentions of an action mean very little when the result is so catastrophic. Would you so eagerly accept the apologies of someone who voted for the Nazi’s if they said they didn’t mean for it to happen? Does the fact it was never their ‘intent,’ in any way, diminish the horrors of that era? The evil unleashed upon the world? You know it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything. Doesn’t help anything. Whether you believe the Germans were evil or fools, it doesn’t change what happened. Nor does it make it more acceptable. I urge you all to keep that in mind come November. A vote for hate is a vote for hate, regardless of how noble your intentions may be.  Fifty years from now, I don’t want America to look back with regret on what we unleashed upon the world. I cannot support a vote for Mr. Trump. Not because I am an American with American ideals. Not because I am a Christian. But because I am human, because I am a citizen of this world, and because I have the firm belief in the goodness humanity is capable of.

 

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

― Elie Wiesel

Oh, Indiana.

There is a lot of talk going on lately about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and with good reason. Some support it, some don’t…and many seem to be confused as to what it is and why it’s a big deal. The confusion needs to go. My problems with the Indiana law are two-fold. First, my religious freedom is already protected by the first amendment to the US constitution and by my state’s (and Indiana’s) constitution as well. I fail to see why we need a special law saying we have the right to religious freedom when that issue was solved with the Bill of Rights. Along with this issue, goes another one (a big one for me), and that is the inherent hypocrisy of those who support the law. Now, those that know me should know that nothing gets my goat more than hypocrisy. To quote Denzel (Remember the Titans- great flick, but I digress): I may be a mean old cuss but I am the same mean old cuss to everyone. I like consistency if you don’t support something for someone else then you can’t claim to have a right to it or a need for it.

So, where is the hypocrisy, you ask? I am glad that you did (even if you didn’t we are going to pretend that you did, so go with it). See, my biggest issue is that many of the laws proponents argue that the LGBT community is not asking for equality, but for ‘special rights.’ They hold the idea that people already have the right to marry who they wish, but LGBTers want ‘special rights’ just for them. I don’t hold to this opinion (I find it highly flawed, offensive, and discriminatory) but if you do, so be it. But if you do, yet you support the Indiana law, you are by definition, a hypocrite. As I already mentioned, religious freedom is already protected, the proponents of the Indiana law do not want religious freedom (which they have all had since birth) but they want ‘special rights’ they claim are within the mandates of their religion. Rights that may possibly violate other state and federal statutes.

We have anti-discrimination laws for a reason. We shouldn’t have to have them, but we do because people generally suck. These laws do not harm anyone nor do they violate the first amendment. See, like with all rights, there is a limit to what you can do with that. We have freedom of speech, but we can still be prosecuted for telling lies (libel), mis-truths (slander), or any speech that causes or threatens active harm (threats of violence, or screaming fire in a crowded theater.) These limits are not stifling our freedoms, but, rather protecting them…for everybody. The same holds true for religious freedom. Your religious freedom ends at the point where someone is exposed to undue harm. Hence, why stoning or human sacrifice (or sacrifice of any kind, generally speaking) are still illegal. This is the reason that, despite many religions supporting and/or promoting it, polygamy is still illegal in many states, because it has shown to come with a lack of consent and harm to individuals (sometimes underage)…see: Colorado City.
In fact, the argument over religious freedom is hardly anything new. SCOTUS has decided this issue many times over, and reached the same (ish) conclusion every time. The exception being the Hobby Lobby case…well, sort of. The big religious freedom case was US v. Lee. An Amish man made the argument that as we was spiritually opposed to social security, he shouldn’t have the pay the employer required contribution on behalf of his non-Amish employees. SCOTUS basically said, uh-unh, doesn’t work that way. Well, actually they said: When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity. In other words, when you open a business you make a ‘choice.’ No one says you are required to do so, and no one is forcing you to open a business against your will…you choose to do that. As such, in making that choice, you agree to follow any and all laws and regulations that apply to that business. There are laws on the books that state you are not allowed to discriminate against someone in your business, these laws are unfortunately necessary and are around for a reason. They protect those to whom others wish to place an, undue burden. That’s the language used in the Hobby Lobby case, too, but wrongfully applied.

See, if the government can show that a law fulfills a fundamental need, is in the public good, (or shows compelling interest) and doesn’t place an undue burden upon others then that law is not in violation of anyone’s religious rights. For example, the state can require vaccinations (oh, if only they would) because they can prove that it is a compelling interest (i.e. Vaccinations save lives, improve community health and cost far less than the treatment of said diseases.) The government can prove that required vaccinations to keep a public healthy, is the least restrictive method of doing so. In the Hobby Lobby case, the court again used this compelling interest/undue burden requirement. Where it dropped the ball was here. See, the decision stated that the government did prove that requiring employers to give health coverage (and that, that coverage cover contraception) was in a compelling interest (side note: in stating this the court has already decided for the ACA). Where the government failed, according to the court, was to prove that such a requirement was the least restrictive method of obtaining their goals…and thus, violated the owner’s ‘strongly held religious beliefs.’ But where the courts failed is that they forgot that Hobby Lobby would then place that ‘burden’ on a third party…the employees. (Yes, this is all the fault of the Hobby Lobby case…way to go for unintended consequences).
The Indiana law would allow businesses to refuse service to individuals based on their ‘strongly held religious beliefs.’ (Since, you know, corporations are people now and have religious freedom). This, however, places an undue burden on consumers (discrimination). The law essentially forces others to comply with another’s ‘strongly held religious beliefs,’ which is, in all actuality, unconstitutional. How can this go wrong? Say some one has a ‘strongly held religious belief’ that black people are unclean and thus refuses to serve them in their establishment. Many would agree (I hope) that this is a false belief and that allowing a business to carry out this plan is wrong. But that is exactly what the law allows to be done to the LGBT community. How much longer before they refuse to hire certain group of people? The Indiana law, and the Hobby Lobby decision, places the ‘rights’ of a business above the rights of the individual. This is why I have a problem with both the new law, and the decision. Your religion does not give you the right to discriminate against people. (If you want a more professional opinion, one of lawyers and such, with all the legal mumbo jumbo click here)

Seeing Things

I fully admit that I am a conspiracy theorist.  I often see things that don’t exist…or at least don’t appear to exist to the general population.  Looking at world news I am beginning to see a theory form…and I wonder if I am going crazy, or if I am just that awesome.  (I concede that it is most likely that I am crazy).

Oil prices are plunging.  There are a few reasons for this.  One, the increase in US shale production has flooded the market with more supply.  Two, a global recession means less demand for oil.  But the biggest reason for the drop…OPEC refusing to cut production.  See, if OPEC cuts production than the oil surplus diminishes and prices go up again.  It is flat-out bad business for OPEC to continue its production levels.  So why are the doing it?

Here is where my crazy conspiracy riddled brain comes in.  First, lets start with Russia.  Putin has spent the last year doing nothing but pissing people off.  I don’t think it much of a stretch to say that the majority of the world wants that asshole to disappear.  (I hear there is this nice place the CIA runs in Poland).  Every time oil drops so does the ruble (currently one ruble is worth about 2 cents)…and Russia’s economy.  Economic collapse killed the USSR and will likely destroy Putin’s reign as well.  Putin’s corporate backers are losing money, big time. Between oil prices and sanctions…it won’t be much longer before they turn on him.

Still, that doesn’t really explain why OPEC would continue production.  Sure, OPEC countries have a reason to dislike Putin…but I am not sure they have enough of a vested interest to be persuaded to lose profit in order to oust him.  No doubt, the US has a very vested interest in seeing Putin disappear from the world stage.  The last thing we want is to see the rise of another Soviet Union and repeat the cold war.  Which is, ultimately, Putin’s goal.  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.  Despite what some claim, the US still has high bargaining power around the world.  If anyone could convince OPEC to help destroy Putin economically, it would be the US.  But I still have a hard time seeing OPEC do so without receiving something in return.  So what does the US have to give that won’t piss people off…or at the very least, can be done covertly.

This is where the fun comes in.  First, Obama is smarter than many give him credit for.  Since this thing began with Putin I have seen him play the long game.  His goal has never been to simply get Russia out of Ukraine.  The goal was always to remove Putin from power entirely.  Now, there are a few ways this can be done.  Classically, we would either use an assassin or sponsor a coup.  However, that hasn’t worked out so well in the long run.  In fact, it has come to bite us in the ass more often than not (see: Cuba, Nicaragua, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan…I could go on).  Then, there is collapsing the economy and letting nature take its course.  I believe this is what we are using and that is why in the beginning Obama was perceived as doing nothing.  It takes longer, but is generally more effective (see: USSR).

But it is a lot more than just destroying Putin.  Two of the biggest environmental (thus political) issues are fracking and the Keystone Pipeline.  Going up against big oil, when big oil holds most of Congress, is nigh impossible.  When the new Congress takes over next month, you can bet one of the first things they do is approve Keystone.  This is a bad thing, for a number of reasons that I won’t get into here.  Obama has made it clear that he opposes the pipeline.  But there is little he can do if Congress gives the OK.  Thus, the pipeline will be built.  Unless, of course, oil prices plummet and TransCanada can no longer afford to build it.  But that’s ridiculous because oil would have to fall to well below $80 a barrel for that to happen…oh, wait.

Also on the line with low oil prices is US shale production.  Sure, we want to see the US produce more and maybe ease our trade deficit…but is it worth the risk.  Shale oil is retrieved through a process called fracking.  This process is highly controversial and is quite possibly linked to an increase in earthquakes in high fracking areas.  There are quite literally, dozens of environmental concerns that surround this process…and enough scientific evidence to seriously question its safety and efficacy.  But you try getting big oil to listen to reason.  Of course, if prices dropped low enough and shale production was no longer cost-effective…

And this is what OPEC gets out of the deal.  It is really a win, win, win situation (except for a few oil companies…and Putin, but f&%* Putin).  OPEC gets to hedge out a few annoying new competitors increasing their profit margin when prices do go back up (and they will).  In return, the Obama administration can get a few political wins without actually getting political wins.  In other words, it gets what it wants (elimination of Keystone and fracking) without having to go through (oil owned) Congress and making it a big political fight.  Obama can then either claim the victory or (the more likely scenario) use plausible deniability.  Obama also gets a win by taking out Putin (which will happen when the Russian economy implodes).  Even though it may appear to the world that Obama did little to stop Putin, he will still get the political credit for Putin’s fall occurring during his tenure (see: Reagan/Gorbachev).

So, where does my third win come in?  Well, that’s us.  See, we all benefit from lower gas prices.  And when we spend less on gas, we spend more on crap.  When we spend more on crap, the economy gets a boost.  If the prices stay low long enough they will actually help the economy rebound, thus increasing demand for oil…and raising prices (another boon for OPEC).  But higher oil prices in a burgeoning and stable economy won’t hurt as bad as they have recently.  A strong and growing economy benefits everyone.  Also, Putin goes bye-bye and we get to watch his epic decline.  Bonus

So, long story short (too late), in my crazy-ass brain, the reason oil prices are so low are because the Obama administration made a clandestine deal with OPEC that will destroy Putin’s Russia, eliminate Keystone, and end (or at least greatly decrease) fracking in the US.  Plausible, yes. Probable, well..  In all honesty, this is something that is not beyond the realm of modern politics.  So, while it could be what is really going on, I fully admit that I could be crazy.  Maybe it’s true…or maybe I am just seeing things.

Slow Burn

Perfect for anyone going through a major physical change.

I'm Not Blind Yet.

Lately I’ve been seeing many of those ‘feel-good’ articles in relation to vision loss. So-and-so has [insert genetically inherited eye disease] and despite this is [insert super powered feat of magnificence.] Like these lovely people, Blind woman climbs mountain in Maine, Blind man to tackle seven marathons in seven states over seven days for Aussie kids, Visually impaired Alexandria resident set to take on the Ironman world championship. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy these stories from time-to-time.  Reminding me that there is life after blindness, one can overcome so many things and dreams can come true.

However, there are times when their stories make me angry. These people are not like me. They do not choose to do things like me. The very idea of running for more than the time it takes to run from the bathroom to the bedroom without a towel or…

View original post 1,010 more words

A Little Compassion

“The mentally ill do not “commit” suicide. It makes it sound like they did it on purpose or that they had a say in the matter. But they don’t, really. Their illnesses were in control.

The entire concept of “committing” suicide, as it relates to mental illness, is nothing short of tragedy. Your son died by suicide. More specifically, he died from his mental illness, which caused him so much torment and suffering that he ultimately succumbed to it. It was not his fault, nor was it his desire. Most importantly, it wasn’t his choice.

Your son didn’t kill himself; the illness killed him.” – Gabe Howard

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about suicide and mental illness. While the death of Robin Williams is nothing less than tragic, the discussion is one that we, as a society, need to have. One we have needed to have for a long time. Sadly, we always seem to wait for a tragedy before we talk about the taboo.

It is apparent that few people truly understand what depression is and how it affects someone’s life. I have seen a lot of commentary along the lines of, “He should have gotten help.” After all, Mr. Williams was privileged, had access to the best healthcare system in the world…so why didn’t it work? Coming from our society I find this ironic. We shame those in death for not getting help just as we shame those in life for daring to seek it.

Truth is, mental illness is something that we do NOT speak of. A dark and dirty secret that needs to be stomped out and forgotten. We sit upon our high thrones and pass judgement upon those who take their lives just as we do for those who try to prevent it.

Those who loose the battle are characterized as weak, selfish, cowardly. And yet, how many times we all had this conversation:

    “Did you hear? Lala is going to therapy.”

    “Figures, I always knew she was crazy.”

Mental illness is not seen as a disease, and it is not treated as a disease by far too many in the medical community.

It is a weakness, a choice, an exaggeration, done only for attention, an excuse. We treat mental illness with such stigma and dirision, then we act surprised when someone succumbs to it. Imagine if we treated cancer with the same lack of depression and disbelief.

Truth is, mental illness is real, and it is just as deadly as cancer. Suicide is merely a symptom of a much larger problem. A problem that is highly underestimated. After all, Mr. Williams had everything, what did he have to be depressed about? Or like this moronic comment: “most of us have suffered from severe depression in our lives. We need to stop making this a mental illness conversation and make it a “everyone has the capability of getting really, really, really sad for an extended period of time. I mean, there are only about 10,000 books written about how to get out of an emotional slump. But no, apparently everyone individually thinks they are part of some suicidal expert club because their depression was somehow deeper and more meaningful than everyone else who disagrees with them. Ridiculous.”

 

Statements like this are a giant neon sign flashing that the speaker has no idea what he is talking about. I blame this on the fact that there are two types of depression…and the human ego. So, let’s talk about depression. First, there is depression with a specific cause. The death of a loved one, loss of a job, stress, exhaustion. These can all cause a person to feel depressed. An emotion, really. This type of depression is felt by nearly everyone. It is temporary and usually resolves itself with time or the elimination of the trigger. And, naturally, because everyone experiences this from time to time, many assume that this is what we are talking about when it comes to depression. That if a,b,c was true for them then it must be true for everyone. Ah, the glories of human self-importance.

 

However, there is a deeper, darker version. One with no external cause. One that doesn’t simply pass with time. It is not something that you can just ‘get over.’ It is not an ’emotional slump.’ Not something that you can talk your way out of. Nor can you just ‘decide to be happy’ any more than you can decide NOT to have cancer. It permeates everything, diminishes everything. It is something that those who have not experienced it can ever, truly, understand.

 

The real bitch is, those of us with clinical depression are still prone, like all human beings, to situational depression. In this case, it serves to make a bad situation worse and can be the tipping point that leads to suicide. I find it oddly humorous that we praise those with terminal illness for stopping treatment, leaving the hospital, and choosing to die at home. We praise them for their strength, for fighting so hard, for so long. We cast no blame or shame upon theme for choosing to stop fighting. The same does not hold true for those battling severe, chronic depression. If they stop fighting; if they can no longer stand the pain. They are weak, selfish, and cowardly. Not worthy of our empathy and sorrow.

 

Is suicide a selfish act? Perhaps, on some level, and it certainly appears that way to those on the outside. But what many seem to overlook is that depression twists a person’s thoughts so much they often think those they love are better off without them. To a severely depressed person, suicide may actually seem like the most selfless thing they can do. If you think that sounds completely irrational, you’re absolutely right. But the fallacy at work here is the assumption that the person is capable of rational thought. Think about this for a moment, we blame those who commit/attempt/contemplate suicide for making ‘poor choices.’ But one of the first thing that is done when an attempted suicide arrives at the ER is begin the process of having them declared legally incapable of making their own decisions. On the one hand we criticize their decision making process, while at the same time, working to have them declared mentally incompetent. Care to explain to me that little bit of cognitive dissonance?

 

Is suicide a ‘permanent solution to a temporary problem?’ Not really. Another logical fallacy, for suicide is neither a solution, nor is the problem temporary. Is suicide a tragedy? Always. The problem, is the thought that the person you knew and loved chose to die. This is an assumption based on the premise that the rational mind was in control. It’s not. It never is in the face of suicide. (I will pause here, briefly, to state that we are talking about suicide as part of a severe depressive disorder. Like many things, not all suicides are created equal. For example, murder-suicide or mass suicides, are entirely different monsters.)

 

All humans have two voices inside their heads. The one that holds your true self, the rational self. The one that is positive (generally) and tells you that you can achieve anything. Then there is that other one. The little voice at the back of your head. The one filled with doubt. The one that tells you, ‘you can’t.’ For persons with a depressive disorder, that ‘little voice’ is actually a roaring, raging, controlling demon. (I am being metaphorical people, I am not saying that persons with depressive disorders (or any mental illness) are possessed by demons. Though, sadly, I have the feeling that I would have a greater chance of convincing the majority of Americans of that idea then I do of convincing them that depression is actually a disease.)

 

The demon is always there. Raking, clawing, rending. Constantly pulling you toward the jagged abyss. The rational self, clings to the walls, fighting. The rational self knows the demon lies. The rational self knows that death is not the answer. The rational self knows that you, the REAL you, doesn’t think that way, feel that way. But as the disease of depression worsens, the demon becomes stronger. Battering, cloaking, masking the rational self, sometimes manifesting in very real, physical pain sometimes eliminating all feeling at all. The demon continues to tear you away from your rational self. The rational voice becomes quieter and quieter…until it disappears all together.

 

I know. I have stared into the abyss. A terrifying, swirling blackness of pain and anguish. If you haven’t, you are so truly blessed because you cannot possibly understand that level of pain. Physical, mental, emotional. I wish that kind of pain upon no man. The kind of pain that eliminates hope and covers the world in a thick blanket of darkness. I have felt myself fall, only to be pulled back at the last second. This doesn’t make me somehow stronger, braver, better than those who do fall any more than the cancer survivor is somehow superior to the cancer victim. It just makes me lucky.

 

I haven’t won my battle, because my battle is never-ending. And I am keenly aware that the next fall could be my last. As for now, I am lucky that we have been having success with medication. Because after 16 years, I can finally admit that I need to continuously be on medication to control my condition. And that does not make me weak. I have a condition that requires medication to treat. The same as those with diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or any other chronic condition. And like any other condition, a failure in treatment can prove fatal. The only difference is the way my condition is perceived.

 

Many people with a major depressive disorder often become addicts. The reason is simple, we self-medicate (in part because a bottle of whiskey is more socially acceptable than an SSRI). We turn to drugs and alcohol because, for a brief moment they give us an enormous high or make us feel nothing (depending upon the manifestations of our depression and the drug of choice to combat them). Mr. Williams also suffered from addiction and was recently in rehab. Unfortunately, society has the same problem with addiction as it does with depression. It doesn’t understand it. The typical rehab facility treats all addiction as equal. It treats addiction as a disease, in and of itself (and sometimes it is). Or worse yet, a product of poor decision making. But not as the symptom of something more serious. Very rarely does rehab ever treat the actual ’cause’ of addiction. That’s the reason that rehab fails so very often.

 

Some medicate to feel. Something, anything. Sometimes the cloak of depression is so heavy that the body is constantly in a state of horrifying numbness. As though the entire world is cloaked in a fog. Sometimes this sensation is so great and persists for so long that the person will begin to cut themselves. The intent is not to harm themselves but simply to feel something. The fog is so pervasive that even pain is preferable to nothing. It is not that the person, necessarily, likes pain. But, more often than not, pain is the only thing that can break through the fog. It should be pretty easy to surmise that this type of behavior could very easily be taken too far. A cut too deep because it took that long to feel something. This is not a choice, this is the disease.

 

Sometimes, ironically, the pain is so great that feeling nothing is preferable, despite the inherent risks. Sometimes we cave the nothingness. We yearn for oblivion, even for only a short time, because the pain is just too great. You need that relief or the pain itself will kill you…or so you think. I have been there. I have been racked with pain so great that I prayed for it to end, not caring how that ending came.

 

The pain blinds you. Nothing else exists but the pain…and the pain is never-ending. You hear, but you don’t hear. You see, but you don’t see. You may be vaguely aware that other people are present, but feel entirely alone. Even if people are trying to help you, your perception is that they are there only to watch you suffer. To allow you to suffer. Had I been able to move (google: dystonic storm) I would have done ANYTHING to make it stop. I can easily see myself having taken the entire bottle of Valium had I, rather than my husband, been in control of my medication in that moment. But my goal would have been to stop the pain, not death. Death is rarely the goal of suicide, but more of a side effect of ending the pain.

 

I believe in God, believe in heaven (hold on, this is important). I believe that this life is temporary and the next life will be far, far better than anything I can imagine. Therefore, in my rational state I do not fear death. However, neither do I welcome it. In the words of Tyrion Lannister, “I like living.” A better world may await me but I truly love this one. I am nowhere near ready for it to end. (Note: Faith is great, it can be a light in the darkness of depression. But, it is also not a cure. It’s not a magic bullet. Faith can also be the enemy. The demon, (remember metaphorical) can use that against you just as it uses anything against you. Nothing and no one is immune to the disease.) I am happy and yet I am severely not happy. If that is confusing to you, then imagine living with it.

 

It’s like those old cartoons, with the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. The angel tells the truth, is the moral compass, then the devil comes along and beats up the angel. So the only voice is the devil’s…and it lies. Yeah, it’s kind of like that. It is confusing, because sometimes reality fades so much that you are not sure which voice is which. It is annoying. It is frustrating. And in its worst moments can make you feel as though you are going ‘mad.’

 

And you are NOT supposed to talk about it, ever. After all, “It’s all in your head.” Not a single line, in all human language, infuriates me more. Most of the things I have to say about that are not suitable for print. This is ‘victim blaming’ in its highest form. No one ever tells the diabetic, “It’s all in your pancreas.” I don’t want this, no one wants this. It is not a choice we made. Depression is a cruel bitch that can either make you feel nothing or it can twist you up in so much pain you can’t think straight.

 

Like all disease we have good days and bad days. Sometimes we can even find something akin to remission. But the possibility of the next fall is always, always at the back of our minds. The demon waiting in the shadows. Make no mistake, Mr. Williams has not become some ‘hero’ to the depressed community. But rather, just another tragic victim. His death, perhaps, affects us so deeply because, for many of us, his comedy helped us through some of our depressive states. Laughter really is an awesome medication, a fantastic high. Perhaps it is the best medication because unlike the others it has no side effects. Comedy can be the thing that shakes awake the rational self. Allowing it to rise up, kick the demon in the ass, and say, “Screw you, that’s funny. I’m going to laugh.” Comedy can become a tether to reality. But, sadly, like all medications and treatments it doesn’t work all the time. Sometimes, even the laughter isn’t enough to beat back the darkness. Sometimes nothing is.

 

If you think that you are stronger than that, would be stronger than that, then you understand nothing. The human body can only withstand so much pain before it begins to shut down (we call this shock). Likewise, so too, does the human mind have its breaking point. No one, anywhere is immune to that. You can break, and if put under the right pressures for long enough, you will break. Depression doesn’t see race, culture, gender, religion, socio-economic background. It exists across every culture. So too, does cancer. Every year billions are spent on cancer research, looking for a cure, a cause, a better treatment. We have awareness ribbons, months, campaigns, runs, walks, fundraisers. Yet, we have none of these things for depression. Even though it is just as pervasive, just as deadly. But, to this day, mental illness, for some illogical reason, is something that we still can’t talk about. Well, we are talking now.

 

I do not presume to know what Mr. Williams was thinking at the time of his death. But I do know that within him raged a battle of epic literary proportions. Coming back from a fall is like climbing out of a deep dark hole. It’s exhausting. It hurts. You desperately cling to the walls, dodging the things that would knock you back down. Pushing yourself ever higher, begging your body to hold out. Then, your arms give way. You don’t want to let go, but you just can’t hang on anymore. You fall. Sometimes, something catches you. And sometimes you slip through its grasp. Sometimes, the demon wins. And it is always, always tragic. But it is never a choice. It is a deadly symptom of a very fierce battle raging quietly within.

 

 

“There is nothing selfish about suicide. What is selfish is those of us who are left behind thinking that our loved one, who experienced such debilitating pain, somehow owed it to US to live.”—comment on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, SCOTUS, Thanks For Nothing

The Hobby Lobby ruling is a slap in the face to all human beings, especially those who proclaim to be a part of a religion. The reason why is this: SCOUTS just gave a non-living entity the same rights and privileges afforded to me and all other human beings BY GOD. God did not give these rights to tigers, rocks, treesor businesses but solely to HUMANS. By giving these non-living legal entities the same rights and privileges afforded to humans SCOUTS has effectively demeaned the entire human race. We, especially those of us of faith, should be appalled and offended by this ruling. Faith, and thus the exercise of religion, is a gift given to us by God… it is not something that can be granted by a court of man. For those who would argue towards the owners religious freedomthis is not about that, they are free to exercise their religion as they see fit. This is about the corporation of Hobby Lobby. The owners made the CHOICE to incorporate their business making it a SEPARATE entity from themselves. This was never about the owners paying for anything, but for the separate legal non-living entity of the corporation complying with legislation. What SCOTUS has done is given rights to a non-living entity above the rights of actual human beings. SCOTUS has taken the gifts, given solely to the human race, by God, to a non-living entity created solely by man. Congratulations, I hope you are happy.