Random Thoughts About Corona Virus

We’re all pretty sick of hearing about the Corona Virus I’m sure. I know I am. So, I thought I’d share some of the random thoughts I have been having on this topic.

First and foremost: Don’t panic. Use your wise mind. Regardless of where you stand philosophically, a pandemic is something where science rules. Virus don’t care if you believe in it or not. The only way we can reduce the impact on us individually and as a society is to apply the scientific method and use that knowledge to fight it. By the way, the same thing is true of other phenomena involving the natural world like climate change.

Political aside: The Trumpster originally tried to tell us the virus was a hoax. He has since changed his tune. It would be nice if he would have a similar epiphany regarding climate change. When in doubt, go with science.

Lots of people are getting the cabin fever, so if it helps any I have set my fantasy The Rebecca Pendragon Trilogy to be free on Amazon for the next couple of days. Check it out. Some people like it.

What’s the deal with the toilet paper shortage? People are not using more of it. I know when I looked for it one day last week the shelves were empty. So, since there isn’t really a shortage, there must be people in my local community with closets full. I have only one thing to say to those people: Shame on you! Good job putting your panicked wants supersede other people’s needs. Use your wise mind.

I have been gratified, however, to see the good in many people rising to the surface. This often happens in times of trouble. I choose to believe this is because most people are good. Let’s try to remember that after this crisis is over.

Also, it occurs to me that learning mindfulness practices might be helpful to people staying home because of the virus. Though I can’t make it free at this time, my book The Mindful Lifestyle is a good way to learn about mindfulness.

One final thought, someday this thing will be over. Try to remember this, it may help your mood. But also, when it is over, things will be different. What our world looks like after depends on each of us. Be kind, be smart, be safe.

The Trumpster

OK, so Trump was able to avoid being thrown out of office. Is anyone surprised? One can hardly blame the Republican senators for being afraid of him. I’m afraid of him too.

However, I refuse to let it get me down. Remember way back when people like Johnny Carson called him “The Donald” and made fun of him? Those were the days.

I have decided to call him “The Trumpster”. You might wonder why. Well, because it is juvenile and derogatory—just the kind of thing he might think of himself. I say let’s get down in the mud with him—mock him like he mocks others.

Also, it allows me to make this joke: What’s the difference between the Trumpster and a dumpster?

Garbage goes in the dumpster; garbage comes out of the Trumpster.

Maybe it is not the best joke in the world, but I encourage you spread it around just to remind everybody that garbage comes out of the Trumpster.

Let’s all make up Trump jokes and spread them around. Scary stuff is less scary if you can laugh about it.

Make America Great Again

We’ve been hearing it since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the office of president: “Make America Great Again”; or the acronym “MAGA”. Who could argue with this argument? Who doesn’t want America to be great? Of course, this begs the question: what makes America great?

There are almost as many opinions about the answer as there are Americans. Some would say it is our military power. Some would say our economic success. I suspect those Americans known as “The Greatest Generation” (Those who lived through the Great depression and won WWII) would say it is our ability to band together against a common foe to preserve those freedoms guaranteed by the constitution—our impulse to fight for “truth, justice and the American Way”. Or, maybe it is simply those freedoms themselves.

I think the foundation of American greatness is best summarized in the Declaration of Independence : “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our constitution and body of laws exist primarily to support this bold assertion. So, our greatness is based on a set of self-truths.

Therefor, without truth America cannot be great. Truth matters.

Right now, our Senate is debating the fate of the President. Due to the seriousness of the allegations against the President; regardless of what you think of him, regardless of what you think the final outcome of the trial should be, don’t you think the American people deserve to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? These are dark days and how can America be great again without the truth?

Without truth, justice, and the rule of law, the bullies rule—with the biggest bully of all sitting in the Oval Office. Without truth, justice, and the rule of law we all devolve to jackals fighting over the carcass of a once-great nation, with the nastiest jackal taking the biggest and best parts for themselves.

So, I call on you to help make America great again. Stand up for truth, justice, and the American way. If you are among the 70% that think a trial should have witnesses, call or email your senator today and demand the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

You’re Entitled to Your Opinion

One of the things that really bugs me these days is the huge number and variety of people who are calling me and sending me emails trying to trick me into giving them either money or my personal information. So many people want what little I have and are willing to say anything to get it. As irritating as this is, I see it as part of a broader category of people: people who are willing to lie to me to get what they want.

Here’s an example: “I am entitled to my opinion.” On the face of it, that seems like a harmless; even virtuous statement. Aren’t we all entitled to our opinion? Of course, we are. However, when it gets irritating is when someone uses that statement to try to pass off something that is blatantly not supported by evidence as the truth.

Let me give you a few examples:

  • Our climate is changing. This is a statement that is supported by a HUGE body of evidence. However, there are quite a few people who say, “That is your opinion, I believe something different.”  I’m sure it is just a coincidence that those people usually are directly involved in the fossil fuel industry or politicians supported by the fossil fuel industry.
  • As Americans, we have the right to bear arms. The false opinion promoted by some people is that any restriction on that right means we will lose it altogether. This is clearly false, because that right is already restricted. Very few people think is a good idea for individual people to possess a functioning atomic bomb. The evidence shows banning assault style weapons reduces the number of mass shootings. What’s your opinion?
  • This might be my favorite example: This morning I watched Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana tell us that Fiona Hill is entitled to her opinion that the story of Ukraine meddling in our election instead of Russia is a false narrative promoted by Vladimir Putin.

Well let’s just examine that, shall we? If my memory serves me correctly, 17 American intelligence gathering agencies agree that Russia interfered in our election. And really, why would Ukraine do it anyway? We are an ally, supporting them in their defense against a Russian invasion. Not only would it be against their best interest, but they need what ever resources they have to defend against the Russian invasion.

In spite of this, Senators Kennedy, Graham and others continue to promote the idea that Ukraine meddled in our election—in spite of being briefed by intelligence agencies to STOP DOING THAT.

I will leave it to you to speculate about their motives, but it really bakes my cookies that they continue to propagate this false narrative.

So, here’s my opinion: My PayPal account has NOT been suspended; a Nigerian prince does NOT want to send me money; I did NOT win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse; “Alternative facts” are NOT facts and Ukraine did NOT meddle in our election. So, stop lying to me about it.

I Just Don’t Get It

OK, I just don’t get it. After the last two weeks of testimony in Congress (as well as the Mueller Report) I just can’t understand how anyone can still believe Donald Trump is not a criminal.  I always figured I was a pretty smart guy. But I just don’t get this.

Then the other day I realized I was going down a road that is not so smart. Most of the time when I don’t understand something, I ask a lot of questions. In this case, when I looked at the evidence I came to a certain conclusion. Since I’m so smart, I assumed my conclusion must be the correct one. That led me to another conclusion: If you came to a different conclusion you must have overlooked something in the evidence, so I should repeat the evidence to you with increasing volume until you acquiesce and convert to my way of thinking.

Well, obviously that’s just not going to work because you think you are as smart as me (and you’re probably right). You have the strength of your convictions. So, when my volume goes up so does yours. Does this sound familiar? How many arguments have we had these past few years with friends, family and neighbors about this topic that went exactly this way? This path inevitably leads to strengthening our divisions and hard feelings.

So, what if we try something different? We all see the same evidence but come to different conclusions. How about we ask about and truly try to understand the opposite point of view?

We have a long history during times of calamity like wars and natural disasters of putting our differences aside and coming together to work toward a common goal. What if, in the Thanksgiving week to come, in the inevitable discussions of current events, we truly try to understand conclusions different than our own? We are all, after all, more alike than we are different—patriotic Americans.

Who knows what conclusions we might reach together?

What Happened to My Blog?

The few people who actually follow my blog might wonder what happened to my blog. I started out trying to promote issues related to mental health and addiction. Most recently I have taken a decidedly political turn. Well, I decided that these issues I have talked about are having an effect on MY mental health. Though I try to remain centered on the present moment, certain events have caused me to worry about the future. I am sure I am not alone in this. For my own mental health, I try to take an objective look at the issues that concern me and try to generate a dispassionate dialog and hopefully help myself and others define a better, safer path forward.

Having said that, I want to appeal to anyone reading this to try to set aside any partisan differences, dial back the rancor and take an objective look at the issues that will have a real and lasting effect on our future.

Issues like:

  • Environmental issues like climate change, deforestation and pollution
  • Issues related to violence, including gun control.
  • Issues related to mental health as a public health issue as well as individual concerns
  • Corruption in public offices that endangers the freedoms that we all hold dear

Right at this moment, because of the impeachment hearings, I plan to concentrate on this last issue. That way, no matter how this turns out, I can at least feel that I have done all I could. Perhaps that will help my mental health going forward.

What Are You Willing To Do?

What would you do for your country? If we were attacked, would you defend it? Would you enlist in one of the armed services and put your life on the line to protect our sovereignty? Maybe you are one of those people who did just that after 9/11. Maybe you are one of those people who did other things in support of the effort to defeat terrorism. Or maybe you are one of the many veterans of other previous conflicts. During World War II, even kids were collecting scrap to support the war effort. We should all be proud and grateful for their bravery and commitment.

Clearly, the majority of Americans are willing to protect themselves whenever the need arises. So, what about when the attack is covert? The Russian attack on our election in 2016 and ongoing (so says every American intelligence agency and the Mueller report) is not an overt violent attack. It is a massive misinformation campaign. The object is to promote chaos and polarize the American public enough to weaken our presence on the world stage. How do you defend against that.?

Well, I have a suggestion if you are interested. If you are willing to lay down your life to defend your home, family and democratic ideals; are you willing to lay down your partisan or other kinds of beliefs to see what’s really going on? Amidst a sea of misinformation how do you ferret out the truth?

I think a good place to start is to try to identify the obvious liars. If, for example, someone is shown on TV saying one thing and then shown saying the opposite thing, or someone is promoting “alternative facts”; they might be lying to you. If you know someone is a liar, you should probably question anything they say. That’s common sense.

I believe it is our patriotic duty to set aside our personal bias and truly look at the facts surrounding the impeachment hearings taking place in Congress. Do you believe the consistent story presented by multiple witnesses or the ever-changing story presented by President Donald Trump (a proven liar) and his supporters?

If you believe the witnesses, maybe you think using the power of the office of the President to withhold military assistance to an ally to make them investigate a political rival is OK. If that’s the case, I really don’t know what to say to you. However, if you think that is wrong, or if you think it is or should be illegal, if you think it is a dangerous precedent; then it is your patriotic duty to let your senators and representatives know. Make a loud noise. Support impeachment. This is not a partisan issue. It is a patriotic issue.

Defend your democracy.

Civil War?

I witnessed something this last week that has me concerned. I saw a U.S. Congressman on the floor of Congress warning that if “the Democrats” didn’t cease the impeachment investigation they would be risking civil war. Further, there were reports of people tweeting about how they had enough bullets to “take care of” Trumps enemies.

You might think that such talk is coming from a radical fringe—and that may be the case; but you should remember that every civil war I can think of started out as “radical fringe rhetoric”. That would be why governments throughout history have sought to suppress such talk with imprisonment, torture and execution.

However, in this country we have guarantees of free speech in the constitution. So, theoretically a person can say whatever they want. Apparently, some people think threatening a civil war is going to help them get their way. So, let’s talk about what “civil war” means.

It means that you take your assault rifle (that the Constitution guarantees you the right to own) and start murdering people you see as the enemy—neighbors, co-workers, even friends and family. It’s that political argument over Thanksgiving diner on steroids. It starts as chaos, then some organization develops, and the killing starts in earnest. It doesn’t matter which side you take. Chaos and murder play no favorites.

Clearly, this is a time for some clear thinking. I must admit that I spent a certain amount of time wondering what Trump supporters could possibly be thinking. Did they not see the lies, the bigotry, the misogyny? Do they not care about the evidence of crimes? I don’t know. But I do know that if I let that bewilderment and frustration turn into hate, then Trump has already won, and we are living in the last days of America as the land of the free.

 So, what do we do? I say that we start by reminding ourselves that these unconditional Trump supporters are still our friends, neighbors and family. We keep our passion in check. We consistently relate the truth—and we patiently wait for the impeachment process to play itself out. Trump will be gone someday—one way or another. Let’s not make things worse by letting our passions take us to places we don’t want to go.

We All Want the Same Things

People were so nice about yesterday’s post I am inspired to write another

My topic today is “Everybody Wants the Same Thing”. I mean at a very basic level. We all want to be physically secure and safe. We all want to have meaningful work that earns us enough to live in some degree of comfort and have a little fun once in a while. If we have kids, we want to see them grow up in good health and have those same things we want for ourselves. Also, because we are social animals, we want friends and family. That all seems pretty simple. How hard can it be?

Apparently, the answer is “very hard”. It seems we can all agree on what we want, but not on how or even if we can all have these things. Nor can we agree on how to get those things. Take American politics as an example.

The average Republican, for example, believes that government should only provide defense (including law enforcement). They see any other government action as unwanted interference. This keeps taxes low, they figure, and is good for everybody.

Democrats, on the other hand, will tell you that rich people have unfair advantage in a competitive economy and that government intervention is needed to protect vulnerable individuals and address environmental concerns.

What we see today is this simple, basic disagreement about how to get what we want blown way out of proportion. Our leaders hunker down in their separate camps and refuse to consider any proposals from the “other side”. Both forgetting that at a basic level we all agree on what we want.

So, who is right? It is my opinion that there is an element of truth on both sides—and way more faulty thinking on every side. It leaves me wondering what would happen if we all just set party labels aside and address the pressing issues of the day by looking at what is actually happening and using our skillful means of negotiation to arrive at a practical solution.

For example: A poll I recently saw indicated that over 70% of the voting public believes military style assault rifles should be illegal. How is it that in a functioning democracy something that is supported by a large majority can not be enacted into law? People accepting their party line as reality and not accepting the real truth that is staring them in the face—that the majority of Americans want common-sense gun control.

Furthermore, opponents of gun control further distort the picture by claiming the “other side” is “coming for your guns”. This in spite of the fact that every gun control advocate I have ever seen is quite vocal about saying they don’t want your hunting rifles and shotguns. This leaves both sides pointing across the aisle and claiming, “They are lying to you.”

What a mess. My suggestion is let’s all try to figure out what reality is and advocate sensible solutions to pressing issues that interfere with getting what we want. Just remember—we all want the same thing.

Are you slipping?

OK. I admit it. The constant barrage of bad news got to me. I started to think, “Why bother?” As a person with a natural inclination to depression I started to slip. But then . . .

Wait—I’m getting ahead of myself. What is all this bad news to which I refer? Well, it starts with our leaders. Clearly, they have failed us. At this point I don’t care what party they belong to. They have failed us. Also, we have failed ourselves. After all, we elected them.

How have they failed us? Take your pick: Climate change, foreign interference with our elections, a president that openly commits felonies and continues to be president, an epidemic of gun violence, a president who openly supports violent racist groups, a trade war with China that has already ruined the farm economy, the rich get richer and the poor go to prison, the richest country the world has ever known has many children that go to bed hungry and many that don’t have access to even the most basic health care, rampant fear of anyone who is not the same as us, and—fueling everything—way more money in politics than is conducive to free and fair elections.

Anyway, many years ago when I was initially recovering from my depression, I vowed to never let it happen again. So, when I noticed I was starting to slip I determined to do everything in my power to prevent it.

The first thing was to try to see things the way they really are. Are things really that bad? I realized that question of itself was judgmental thinking that colors my perception of reality. So, I tried some “radical acceptance”. I made a conscious decision to release my judgmental thoughts as soon as I noticed them. I started to feel better.

Then I realized that most of these issues were such that individual like myself will have little impact unless I can join with others to address the problems. I realized that as humans we are more alike than we are different. But guess what—people joining together to address an issue—that’s politics. Though there is much about politics I really don’t like, we are all involved in it weather we like it or not.

So, as we enter this next political season make sure you know what the reality of an issue is before you let it influence your vote. Because, guess what: politicians lie. When one says something, look for hidden motives. Many politicians will tell you what you want to hear just so they can get the power to change some other issue. Also, remember that it has been proven that Russian Intelligence interfered with our last election in large part by misinformation. We used to call that propaganda. If you see or hear something about a candidate that shocks or disgusts you, do a reality check. That information could have originated in Moscow or St. Petersburg and not in reality.

That’s probably enough for now. It’s good to get that off my chest. I feel better all ready.