Tag Archives: political commentary

40 Days for Life, 10 Reasons for Choice

I’m in my early 40s, and I’m childfree (childless by choice).  Over 8 years ago I had an abortion. The father was a man I thought was my soulmate (although kind friends have told me deep down I already knew he was the dangerous, destructive person I eventually found him to be).  We were practicing safe sex and birth control when I got pregnant, but I wasn’t yet childfree.  Ending my 40-day-long pregnancy was one of the most gutwrenchingly difficult decisions I’ve ever made, and it was the most painful — emotionally, spiritually, and physically — experience I’ve ever been through.

And not only do I fiercely defend the right of other women to make the same choice, I would do it again if it were the right decision.

The 40 Days for Life campaign is back.  Every year during Lent they pace and pray outside the Planned Parenthood clinic near my house.  This is the same clinic where I had my abortion — but that was before I’d gotten a really good job and bought a nice house nearby.  Those are two of the many wonderful things that very likely would never have happened had I not let my child go that day.

Yes, I said child.  I identify as politically progressive (no, not liberal) and staunchly pro-choice.  And I believe that teeny tiny embryo inside me was life.  And yes, I ended it.  And no, I don’t feel guilty.  Anymore.  Sometimes I do feel a little regret.  There’s no way of knowing what my life would have been like had I allowed that child to come into the world.  I’m sure there are beautiful, joyful moments I’ve missed because of my decision.  But I’ve also had many beautiful, joyful moments I wouldn’t have had if I’d birthed that baby.  And I’m 100% certain that neither my life, nor that child’s life, would be as healthy and happy as they are today had we not parted ways.  I still believe that I saved two lives that day I took the pills to end my pregnancy.

When I see the 40 Days for Life folks now I feel a range of emotions: anger, pity, disgust, rage, grief, frustration, empathy, gratitude.  I wonder what their stories are.  I wonder if they know how condescending and insulting their signs are to me, like “abortion hurts women.”  I wonder if they think they’re talking about me, or if they’re talking about themselves?

The whole “abortion debate” really isn’t a debate because the two sides come from such different sets of values that can’t seem to really hear each other.  In fact, I have’t always been pro-choice.  But here are the reasons I am pro-choice and likely will be until I die:

1. This is a woman’s decision, not a man’s decision.  Sorry guys, but until you carry the children, bear the children, raise the children, and support the children financially to a degree that comes close to what we women do, you don’t get to decide this for us.   As long as women get paid 76% of what men get paid and women are raped, beaten, abused and harrassed in epidemic proportions by men, we get to decide whether or not it’s safe — for our children and for us — to bring them into this world.  If you are a man against abortion, be celibate, always use two methods of birth control when having sex, or get a vasectomy.

2. This is a personal decision, not a group or governmental decision.  Sorry government, but until you pay for prenatal care, the birth, diapers, food, clothing, HeadStart, K-12+ education, child care and health care, you don’t get to make me have a child I’ll need to spend countless hours and a couple hundred thousands dollars to raise to functional adulthood.

3. We don’t need more humans on the planet.  Seven billion miracles is enough.  Per reason #2, I could see some justification for the group stepping in to say the survival of our tribe or species is more important than my individual desire to not have a baby, but not only is homo sapiens not anywhere close to having this problem, many of the most dire problems facing homo sapiens today have to do with there being too many of us, living in unsustainable ways on our tiny planet.

4. We don’t need any more unwanted children.  More and more research is showing how the circumstances of our conception and births affect our development and how we perceive and interact with the world for the rest of our lives (see conscious conception, or from womb to world).  I know personally what it feels like to be raised by parents who didn’t entirely want you, and it’s something you carry your whole life.  Child abuse and neglect is another epidemic in the US which takes an epic toll on our individual and collective lives.  Hurt kids hurt kids, and hurt people hurt people — just check out the statistics on how many folks in prison were molested or abused as children.

Adoption is certainly one option for unwanted pregnancies, but given #3 above, the disconnect between the number of babies and the number of adoptive families; how adoption (not to mention being carried by a woman for 9 months that doesn’t want them) affects kids; and how carrying a child she’s going to give up can affect the mother emotionally, economically and physically, it’s not the answer.  Sure anecdotes abound of unwanted kids who turn out to be amazing, and even loved by their parents, as well as people who thank their mom or their fiancée’s mom for not choosing abortion since the resulting human turned out so fabulously.  But there are also plenty of anecdotes about horrible people who were wanted kids, and non-aborted people who kind of wish they’d never been born.  Anecdotes alone don’t point to absolute truth, hence the importance of a mother’s choice to maximize a child’s chances of an excellent start in life.  As one of my friends says, “wanted babies only!”

5. An embryo is life, but not the same as a person.  An embryo, a fetus, and even a newborn are helpless without adults.  Privileging the rights of an embryo or fetus over those of a fully formed human being isn’t fair, nor is saying that pro-choicers who fight for social justice and human rights are being hypocritical when they don’t fight for the rights of proto-humans.  Apples and oranges.

6. Human life is not the most important life form on Earth.  We end life every day without hardly thinking about it.  The animals we kill to eat.  The forests we cut down to make room for cattle, or to make cheap furniture.  The rivers and lakes we choke off to power our cities.  The oceans we pollute with our vasts amounts of non-biodegradable waste.  I’m not saying these behaviors are OK, but to say abortion is an abomination above all others is frightfully anthropocentric and narcissistic.  A tiny human embryo is not more important nor more deserving of life and health than our air, water, soil, animals, and plants, and we are much more dependent on these for survival than on the existence of one more human embryo.  Again, see #3.

7. Being “pro-life” doesn’t make us moral or ethical as a society or nation.  I think I understand the concern of the “pro-life” camp about us not being a society where human life is taken, and I admire the dedication to standing up for what they feel is immoral and unjust.  But why so inconsistent then?  Why pace and pray in front of family planning clinics, yet cheer the execution of prisoners, accept the enslavement of undocmented immigrants and abuse of workers in general, promote the slaying of civilians overseas in unjustified wars, ignore the animal cruelty on factory farms, tolerate hate crimes and discrimination against African Americans and LGBT people, and vote against policies that would bring the poor (including vast numbers of children) out of poverty?  The death penalty, the treatment of undocumented workers, the Iraq War, factory farms, hate crimes and neglect of the material needs of families and children are far more immoral than ending the future potential of a human embryo.

Frankly I would consider joining a movement that worked proactively to change this list of immorality and also happened to be anti-choice.  But until we truly do respect and cherish all life as sacred, I stand for the right of a woman to decide whether or not to bring another person into so much immorality and suffering.  Sure, each embryo represents potential and could be the next Mozart or Einstein, but until we regard our existing children as bursting with the same potential and genius, treat them as such and set them up equitably for success and happiness, the argument about an embryo’s potential falls flat.

And speaking of morality, why doesn’t 40 Days for Life set up camp outside fertility clinics where boatloads (estimated hundreds of thousands in the last 30 years) of embryos are “discarded” in the process of in vitro fertilization?  These are intended pregnancies that are ended by the dozens per couple.  How is this not immoral if life begins at conception?  How is this OK, but a woman ending an unintended pregnancy for the good of herself, her child, and the world is not?

8. Your beliefs don’t make them true for me.  Perhaps you fear the divine wrath of God for permitting abortions in your midst.  I appreciate that fear and where it comes from.  However, your beliefs don’t make them true for me, or true at all.   I am the one that has to face the consequences of my own choices, and taking such responsibilty is moral, ethical and mature.   If you are against abortion, don’t have one, or don’t cause a woman to have to contemplate one.  If you are against abortion, work to ensure wage parity for women, stop violence against women and girls, superior schools and child care, and an end to poverty — where 40% of our children grow up.

9. We have choice.  Perhaps this is where I differ most with religious anti-choice folks, but I don’t believe in a Divine Being who presents me with situations just to test me and see if I “pass.”  I believe Life and the Divine present me with opportunities to grow, learn, and shape a life — my life — to be full of happiness, health, creativity and joy, and share that with the world.  I have been given the ability to choose and wield the decision of life or death for myself.  I don’t believe in a Divine that would give me such power and not “allow” me to use it or to test me to see if I do.  I don’t believe in such a jealous God — that’s a human notion, not Divine.

10. Not wanting to is reason enough.  I am responsible for much that determines the quality of my life.  If I want to take on the commitment of parenting for reasons of joy and love and service — or whatever — that’s up to me.   If I — or any woman — don’t want to go through a pregnancy or bear and raise a child because I want other things for my life and my soul calls me to a different path, that’s a good enough reason.  I just don’t want to, and I don’t need to justify it any more than that, nor feel guilty about doing what makes me happy.

When it comes down to it, my main problem is not with the anti-choice (“pro-life” is a misnomer — see #7 — and wrongly implies pro-choice folks are pro-death somehow…also pro-choice folks can also be anti-abortion) position which has a life-affirming moral basis I agree with in many ways.  My main problem is with anti-choice people and what feels to me like the invasive, aggressive, and often deceptive approach most of them seem to have.  I find it highly arrogant (and anti-American?) for a stranger to pass judgment on me and my choices when I am the one to face the consequences of my actions, which don’t adversely affect them in any material way (and, in fact, might ultimately benefit them and society).  Pro-choice folks certainly don’t demonstrate outside churches, clinics, hospitals or adoption agencies touting signs of images of miserable mothers covered with children, trying to convince pregnant women they should have an abortion.  Pro-choice people don’t judge women for deciding to become mothers, so anti-abortion folks should stop judging women for deciding not to.  We women have so much more to experience in life than just motherhood, and we have so much more to contribute to the world than our genes.

Ultimately, trying to prevent a woman who wants to terminate her pregnancy from doing so ends up creating more, worse problems with far-reaching consequences for many.  For if we don’t trust that woman to make such a decision for herself, how can we possibly trust her to make the many, many important decisions required to parent?

And making it shameful and frightening for those of us who have had abortions to say it out loud, or talk about it even with close friends and family keeps us isolated as individuals and dishonest as a society.  One in three of us have had at least one abortion.  It’s time to take back the power, speak the truth of our experiences, and reject the shame and guilt others try to make us feel about our lives and decisions!

Here’s to a world where there are only intentional conceptions, joyful pregnancies, wanted babies and loving parents.  Here’s to a future where all lifeforms are cherished and honored as sacred.  Here’s to a day when all women wisely and consciously wield our awesome powers, and are respected for our  decisions.

Until then, may we all be philosophically anti-abortion, fiercely pro-choice, and unapologetically shame-free.

In lak ech,

Jaxsine

The End … and the Beginning …

I would be remiss to not post on 12-21-12, given that the title of my blog is Evolving 2012.  So hello from Valladolid, Yucatán, México and the heart of the “mundo maya”– the Mayan World! And Happy Solstice!

You may or may not be aware that the Maya never disappeared from this land.  In fact, there are more living right now than at the height of the “Classic” period over 1000 years ago.  I was reminded of this yesterday as I roamed the streets of Valladolid.  I heard some form of Maya being spoken in the street almost as often as Spanish.  Few of the men are my height — I’m 5’5″ — and the women are shorter than the men.  A large percentage of those women — especially in their 30s and over — were wearing hipiles (seems the spelling is no longer “huipiles”)  as they went about their day, and not just selling items to tourists, but also picking up kids from school and taking care of cell phone business at the Telcel office! Of course there were also a number wearing tops and short pants — or four-inch stilettos and skinny jeans! — and the men dressed in anything from guayaberas and dark pants to (for the younger ones) long shorts and t-shirts like in any U.S. city.  The difference is that — with startling frequency — the brown faces above the outfits look like they could have jumped right off a carved stone relief at Chichén Itzá or Palenque carved centuries ago.

Even many of the Spanish speakers speak Spanish with an “accent” similar to the “accent” that many “Indians” back home in the U.S. have when speaking English.  Sounds made in Mayan languages seem more similar to sounds in the Diné (Navajo) and Pueblo languages spoken in my home of New Mexico than English.  And I was reminded there are more pan continental similarities.  The music full of drums and flutes and various percussion instruments made from natural materials.  The foods, based on corn and various local meats and local plants.  And the ceremonies, honoring life’s transitions, the circle, the cycle of life, the community, sharing, and taking a moment to appreciate and ask for help.

I got to witness such a ceremony last night in the main plaza — “hetz mek.” Done for male babies at 4 months and female babies at 3 months, the family members go around the table 13 times for boys, 9 times for girls, say prayers (from what I gathered) to desire a straight path in life for the child, and then share various foods.  I was offered some pepitas, some kind of thick tortilla, and a honey based sweet.  There was a little boy in the ceremony, but the purpose was also symbolic.  It was a ceremony for a new era, for baby humanity, for the Shift.

And it was a part of a week-long “festival de la cultura maya“(Festival of Maya Culture) which goes through Sunday.  I guess the Maya don’t expect the world to end.

All kidding aside about the end of the world happening today, the mood around today’s historic solstice is decidedly anticlimactic.  In a culture that has been around for thousands of years and lives in a cyclical reality, it’s only the linear gringos who seem to fear we’re falling off some kind of cliff (fiscal or otherwise!).

In fact, in quintessential Mexican tongue-in-cheek, creatively-capitalizing-on-the-moment, laughing-at-death, living-in-the-now fashion, the only signs I saw that anything might be different this December were literally written on the walls.  It’s significant that these walls were in Playa del Carmen (a very touristy area) and that the writing is in English.

Here’s one, advertising a cool “Day Zero” concert festival on the 21st (mostly techno music I gather):

Playa del Carmen, Mexico, 12-18-12.

And another:

023

This “Time and Space 2012 Countdown Festival” boasts 3 days, 90 artists (more techno it seems), 48 hours of nonstop music on 2 stages in Tulúm and live painting by metaphysical artist Alex Gray:

Time and Space 2012 Countdown

Here were some cool t-shirts for sale (the top one says “awakening” and “awareness” …

024

…and a festive holiday wish:

Happy New Age

In all of Valldolid, there was no reference to the Solstice (I actually had to ask around about events!) other than this one low-key sign in the Valladolid bus station, in Spanish:

ADO Valldolid

Its headline is “We’ll take you even to the end of the world” and announces extra buses between Valladolid and Chichén Itzá (which is being spelled “Xichén” more often now).

Speaking of which, as you read this I am on my way to Xichén to hang out with 5,000 to 200,000 (yes, that is the range of estimates) of folks, mostly foreigners I’m guessing (although I don’t know where they’re hiding because Valladolid — the closest town/city to Xichén — is definitely not teeming with tourists nor feeling like a woo-woo mecca nor a party waiting to happen nor a hippie hang out nor a doomsday hideout).

I’m not sure what today holds.  I don’t know if it’s true that we will be experiencing a celestial alignment that happens every 584, 283 years.  I don’t know if the aliens are going to land.  I don’t know if the world financial system or the U.S. government are going to collapse.  I can tell you with some certainty that the sun will continue to rise, a 5200-year cycle of time predicted by one of the most advanced civilizations of its time will end, and it is the Solstice — the darkest day of the year, which also signifies the return of the light.

That’s my favorite part of the Winter Solstice – the darkest day is the return of the light.  This is so profound and hopeful.  I prefer the pagan seasonal calendar which marks the seasons on cross-quarters, which means winter began in early November and ends in early February.  If you pay attention to the sunlight, the weather, and plant cycles, this actually makes more sense than the idea winter starts today.  [Although you wouldn’t know it’s winter at all here in the Yucatán with its 80+ degree heat, intense sunlight, humidity and mosquitoes!]

Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen, or what is supposed to happen or should, I see today as the Return of the Light — and possibly a brighter one than in Winter Solstices past.  I will be taking my own prayers and others’, and a few special objects (one of which was entrusted to me) to Xichén tomorrow.  I will express gratitude for all the blessings of life, for the learnings of 2012, and for this opportunity for humanity to grow, learn, and progress in a way that brings us back to our humanity, to love, to our femininity, to our collective caring for each other and other lifeforms, and to the earth.

In Lak Ech — tú eres mi otro yo — you are my other me…

2012 and beyond!

~Jaxsine

Sense and Sensibility: The Newtown Massacre

It’s happened again.  For the second time in a year, I’m blogging about a mass shooting.  For the fourth time in his presidency, Obama travelled today to a city to grieve with families after another bout of senseless violence.

And I am weary of hearing these incidents referred to as “senseless”.  From the principal of Columbine High School to the prime minister of Australia to news anchors and my Facebook friends, one of the most common words I hear is “senseless.”  But to me, it makes perfect sense.

In fact, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.  When you take a society that values money and material things over people and relationships, add social isolation and lack of true community (like Adam Lanza’s upscale neighborhood where he occupied two bedrooms in his mother’s spacious home and some neighbors didn’t even know them), leave out critical education about mental and emotional health (as well as resources to identify and treat those with these challenges), leave out education about healthy communciation and anger/conflict management, and add a healthy dose of easy access to guns, you have situations like Newtown waiting to happen all over this country — a country where there are as many guns as people (300 million) and, compared to most other industrialized countries, a very high percentage of people experiencing mental and emotional illness, excess stress levels, and a lack of healthy coping skills or social support.

This is not meant as an indictment of the Lanza family or of Newtown, but a plea for us to look at the bigger picture,  We are all connected.  We can’t tolerate institutions that oppress and dehumanize us; an industrialized food system that not only does not nourish us but addicts our minds and weakens our bodies; a prison-industrial complex larger than any in the world; forms of entertainment that dehumanize us; a lifestyle that disconnects us from the earth, other lifeforms and spirit; a general disregard for the needs of women and children; a general lack of purpose, meaning, and love … and expect there to be no consequences.

Newtown is one of many consequences.

I’m grateful that this time around, there seems to be less usage of the word “evil” to describe these murders, as I decried in my post about the Aurora shooting, despite the fact that most of the Newtown dead were six-year-olds.  I can’t even imagine the horror of such a thing for a parent.

And yet we still need a responsibility check.  It’s not useful to decry such violence as senseless or incomprehensible, because it is neither.  Doing so absolves us of any responsibility, and makes us believe we are powerless.  We are not powerless.  The “society” we rail against is not an entity outside of us — it is something we each create each day with the jobs we choose to work in, the decisions we make, where we spend our money, what we eat, how we speak and think, and how we treat each other and ourselves.

And calling Adam Lanza — or James Holmes or any of the other recent perpetrators — “crazed” is also inaccurate and feeds into this kind of helpless thinking.  The folks who perpetrate these murders — who are typically young males, usually White — are methodical and deliberate, and take months to plan their attacks.  According to Jack Levin, a well-known professor of sociology and criminology, they don’t “go off” or “snap.”  What they do have is a sense of their problems being caused by other people — they blame everyone but themselves.  They too see themselves as powerless and unresponsible.

Levin also challenges the notion that these events are increasing.  On NPR the other day, he said that there are about 20 such mass murders per decade, with about 150 total victims.  In the meantime, he points out that there are about 15,000 individual homicides — per year.   However, Connecticut Senator John Larson said today that of the 12 worst mass shootings in our history, half have occurred in the last 5 years.

Regardless of who’s right, it seems most people feel things are coming to a head.  And solutions are already being proposed.  Paul Bennett, author of Glock: Rise of America’s Gun, said today that two short term solutions are (a) greater security in public places, and (b) better support and resources for people with mental and emotional illness.  Others are using Newtown to bolster the argument for gun control — I’ve already seen a couple online petitions to this effect.

And while gun control would certainly be a sane approach to the insane ease with which people can access deadly firearms in the U.S., it’s not the solution.  Guns are still tools used by people, and while limiting access can minimize the damage (there was an incident at a school in China on the same day as Newtown, and while the perpetrator, a man in his 30s, stabbed 22 children, none of them died), it doesn’t solve the problem of hurt people hurting people, and the epidemic of walking wounded in the U.S. and the world at large.

Much like I argued in my “Aurora, Anger, and Evil” post, the drama of the latest episode of mass violence in all its technicolor drama often obscures larger, more sinister problems and a bigger context.  It’s a symptom, not the problem per se.

Perhaps it’s helpful to think and talk about what is working.  Be humble and reflect on how there but for the grace of God go we.  How many of us, when we are being fully honest and self-aware, can’t think of a time we wouldn’t have liked to take out a bunch of fellow humans with an uzi?  Or take our own hopeless, miserable lives in some dramatic way?  Or feel like everything is someone else’s fault and someone has got to pay?

My hand goes up on all three of those.  It’s profound to think about the little things that stood in the way of me actually doing damage to others or myself in those moments.  Perhaps we can learn from this and not stop at celebrating the heroes of incidents like Newtown, like Dawn Hochsprung and Victoria Soto, but also try empathizing with and mourning the broken souls of young men like Adam Lanza.

We should grieve.  We should rage.  But we should NOT hide behind “hugging our children tighter” or stop our examination of the situation as “senseless” as if it were random and outside of our power.  The bigger context is that we need to see and own our power, and therefore our responsibility.

Lately I keep coming back to the Marianne Williamson quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.”  I think owning our own power, and all that entails, is one of the invitations and challenges of humanity as we move farther into the shift.

I’m heartened that President Obama, and others, are talking about “meaningful action”.  I’m glad he said tonight in Newtown that we will have to change.   I’m grateful that he said,

“Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days … If we’re honest without ourselves, the answer is no. And we will have to change.”

He continued:

 “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”

And this, to me, is the key.  We are not powerless.   This violence isn’t senseless.  It isn’t incomprehensible.  In fact, it is in the comprehending, and in the activation of  our sensibilities — emotional capacity, responsiveness, and consciousness —  that we can make sense of this heartwrenching tragedy and take meaningful action in such a way that we take powerful responsibility for ourselves, those around us, our communities, and the “society” and country we all co-create, every day.

Que en paz descansen los muertos de Newtown y que duermen con los angelitos los sobrevivientes.

In lak ech.

Jaxsine

 

The real reason a vote for Obama is a vote for a better future

I voted over a week ago, and I voted for Obama.  You may think you know why, but you might be wrong.

Obama’s 2008 campaign for president was the first time I became active in a campaign.  I actually made cold phone calls from the headquarters here in town, and canvassed neighborhoods months before the election — alone.  I was energized by the potential Obama embodied — of creating structural changes in our country on a wave of tremendous popular support.  I was inspired by the profound significance of having an African American family in the White House.  The night of the election results, I celebrated with hundreds of strangers, exchanging hugs and tears ina ballroom where we watching history unfold.  There was elation in the street as well, which I enjoyed as I drove home.  Two months later, I watched the inauguration on TV and about lost it when Barack and Michelle danced to “At Last” sung live by Queen Beyoncé herself.

Like so many, I felt like I was finally a part of something great.  I was ready to get to work.  I was ready to receive my orders.  But none came.

Today in 2012, I am somewhat disillusioned with Obama, but less than many progressives.  I was concerned in the months leading up to Obama’s election that too many progressives viewed him as The Messiah.  I had a feeling that pedestal-pushing was going to backfire.  Like a love affair with someone who can do no wrong often ends in hatred, I saw and heard many progressives express almost as much disgust with Obama in the months following his inauguration as they had expressed toward John McCain in the months prior.  Damning McCain and exalting Obama never were healthy approaches to the real problems facing us, since this sort of good-and-evil rhetoric does the convenient job of excusing us from any responsibility.  More on that later.

There are things that Obama has done that I’m not happy with.  More undocumented immigrants have been deported on his watch than any other.  Drone strikes in the Middle East have become commonplace.  He has done nothing to roll back the excessive powers Bush placed in the Executive Branch.  He put banker Timothy Geithner in charge of reforming Wall Street, which is like putting a McDonald’s executive in charge of reforming our food industry.  He hasn’t taken advantage of key opportunities to bring up race or racism (see Ta-Nehisi Coates’s  excellent piece in The Atlantic). We continue to rapidly devolve into a Surveillance State with limited freedom and privacy (see Glenn Greewald’s writings and videos on this topic). We went into Pakistan, murdered Osama bin Laden in front of his wife, shamefully dumped his body in the sea, then celebrated our behavior as if such barbary were the righteous way to respond to the tragedy of 9/11.

But I still voted for Obama last week.  Not because his worldview and life experience is much more closely aligned with mine (and most of the country’s) than Romney’s.  Not because his Christianity threatens my rights and values less than Romney’s Mormonism.  Not because my access to contraception and abortion remain safe with him and Biden.  Not because he seems to genuinely care about the well-being of most people in the country.  Not because Europeans overhwelming favor Obama over Romney.  Not because he and Biden came out in favor of marriage equality.  Not because he allowed young, undocumented DREAMers to pursue their education unmolested.  Not because of the benefits I’m already enjoying under Healthcare Reform, or the promise of a slightly reduced unemployment rate.

All of these things definitely matter to me.  But the main reason I voted for Obama is the main reasons I voted for him in 2008.  He is the best person to most gently guide our nation into its decline.

Empires fall, and so will ours.  It already is.  For evidence, you need only look at our declining wages, declining health, declining standard of living, declining quality of products (clothing is where I see this the most), declining level of critical thinking and engagement, declining infrastructure, and declining institutions (educational, financial, healthcare, and political).  In fact, we’ve been able to prop up our economy for a few years with stopgap measures like the stimulus and auto and bank bailouts (funny how we decry socialism and then engage in socialism when capitalism leads to inevitable failures!).  But these only keep the illusion alive.

The truth is that our nation’s status quo is unsustainable.  Our level of consumption is outrageous and immoral (we’d need 6 more planets if every human consumed like the average American).  Our level of inequality is socially unstable.  Like Katrina, Hurricane Sandy once again uncovered the staggering inequities that we nonchalantly take for granted in this country.   The top fifth of New Yorkers makes 40 times more than the bottom fifth — a gap that’s not only growing, but rivaled only by a few developing nations in sub-Saharan Africa.

We keep wailing at our government to provide us with more jobs.  There are two problems with this.  One, there are less jobs today thanks to technology and outsourcing to locales where workers are not only cheaper, but often more competent than we are.  Two, we are expecting government to solve a problem for us, even when it means “creating jobs” at the expenses of the environment or any sustainable model of economic development.  We shouldn’t be struggling to revive a defective economy focusing only on growth and GDP, but create a new economy entirely, based on what Gus Speth calls “people, place and planet” in America the Possible.

I am no Libertarian.  Government is important and essential to do for us collectively what we cannot do ourselves.  But we’ve forgotten that we own the government — or we’re supposed to — and we have become lazy and complacent in solving our own problems creatively, in community.

Elected officials are always trying to get elected or hold onto their seats, so no politician is going to come clean with the U.S. public and say “look, we’re an empire in decline, there are no more jobs, we can’t keep consuming the way we have much less base our economy on our levels of consumption.  So let’s figure out a new game plan together.” Can you imagine?!

Actually, I can, which is why I’m more in alignment with the Justice Party or the Green Party.  However, I still voted for Obama because the risk of a Romney presidency is too great, and that risk is real if too many of us vote for “third parties” — here’s one perspective on that topic from LA Progressive.   The gross inequalities in France and the conspicuous consumption of its ruling elite right before the French Revolution keep coming to my mind these days — maybe because Les Miz is hitting the big screen this winter (coincidence or serendipity?) but also becuse I see parallels with the U.S. today.  A Romney presidency might push the rest of us 99% right over the ledge of complacency into all-out mutiny and revolution.

And maybe that would be the upside of a Romney election.  The potential of an Obama re-election is continued complacency among progressives.  In his brilliant piece on the “Empire State of Mind” that has shaped even Obama’s presidency — in which the super wealthy see themselves as super entitled and persecuted, and the rest of us accommodate, admire, and want to emulate them  — Imara Jones talks about the danger of the fantasy world all of us live in regarding wealth, and the danger this poses to democracy and our society.  He wonders if we’re ready to reconnect with reality, and so do I.

Still, Obama is the best person to continue to lower us gently into a decline that doesn’t have to lead to complete collapse or total destruction.  There are a few reasons I believe this, which have everything to do with the kind of person I believe Obama to be, and less about his policies.  First, everything I’ve read about Obama suggests a real person who is brilliant, willing to be vulnerable, genuinely caring, and even tempered  (see Michael Lewis’s recent Vanity Fair piece as an example).  Second, I believe Obama is in touch with his feminine side, witness his relationship and frequent mention of his two daughters, his relationship with his strong wife, and his politeness in the first presidential debate and respectful demeanor towards the moderators in all three (penis sword fighting with Romney in the second and third debates notwithstanding).

Third, Obama, and his family, are more similar in looks, life experience, and philosophy with the majority of the Earth, the majority of the U.S., and the future of both.  This can, and will, help ease our transition to being a participant in the world than its overlord.

This isn’t an easy transition for anyone to lead.  In fact, a recent study found negative attitudes towards African Americans — both implicit and explicit — are higher now than in 2008, and now held by a majority of U.S.ians (take that, “post-racial society” believers!).  Obama’s race is estimated to have cost him up to 5 percentage points in 2008.  But the fortitude, integrity and stamina required to face real, daily struggles of race, class, and privilege are the qualities we need in a leader.

My hope is that Obama’s second term is characterized by more boldness and real change.  Unencumbered by the need to campaign for a second term and forged in the fire of one, he may become the Democrats’ Reagan, as Andrew Sullivan outlined nicely in Newsweek.  My hope is also that more of us average Janes, Joes, Juanas, Josés, Jamals and Jamilas will wake up, hold Obama accountable to move real change forward, and take greater personal responsibility for embodying those changes and moving them forward in our lives, families, communities, and institutions.

Some of those changes might start with caps on campaign spending (imagine how those two billion dollars might have been better spent!) and reform of where those dollars come from.  From there, a reform of voter identification and where, when, and how we can vote.  A complete revolution of our consumption-and-inequality-based financial system starting with the repeal of Citizens United v. FEC.  An overhaul in the tax structure.  A huge increase in the minimum wage.  More collective bargaining and unions.  A complete revolution in quality education for all, and free healthcare for all.  A complete revolution in how we power and fuel our machines, and how we feed our bodies.  A reduction in the power of the executive branch and the level of surveillance in our lives.  A movement towards racial equity and reparations for Native American nations.  Full equality in pay and democratic representation for women in all spheres.  A lack of tolerance for violence against women and children.   Access to birth control and abortion at all times to everyone.  Marriage quality for all.  A commitment to integrity, people-centered values and community over profit and competition.  And a reasonably-sized lifestyle for everyone.

It IS possible, and only WE can make this happen — together.  No one is coming to save us from ourselves.

So VOTE!  And when you do, vote for people, place, and planet … not profit, plutocracy and powerlessness.  And regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s election, continue every day after November 6th to stand up for people, place, and planet in your words, decisions, actions, and purchases.

Ometéotl!

~Jaxsine

On Wisdom and Uncertainty

A week ago I spoke at a conference where I anticipated running into some employees of my former organization — employees who used to report to me.  I was nervous about this, because I hadn’t been allowed to say goodbye to them properly before I left, and I didn’t know what they might have been told.  I figured some of them might be angry with me — some perhaps justified, others not.  I fear people being angry with me.

I went prepared to be professional and stay in the moment for whatever showed up.  I was pleasantly surprised that two of them ran up to me during the informal breakfast meeting to say hello.  One of these was no surprise, but the other…?  I had no reason to believe she lacked affection or respect for me, but she certainly wasn’t one I imagined would run up to me during a breakfast meeting to say hi!  I accompanied them to the large, round table where the rest of my former staff sat.  I was relaxed and met their kind, energetic gazes with the same.  I felt genuinely happy to see their bright faces, and hear them doing well.  I spent a moment with each one, reconnecting, complimenting and catching up.  I’d almost gotten to the end of the table when the last two got up and excused themselves.

Frankly, that wasn’t entirely a surprise, not from those two.  They were both excellent at their work, but had had some conflicts with others and with me.  Employee A had been aggressive with her coworkers, conniving, occasionally inappropriate, and an outright liar.  I had worked hard on our relationship, exerted effort to constantly question my interpretations of her behavior, and strove to openly dialogue with her, actively problem solve with her, and get her to consider other points of view.  I thought we’d made headway.  Employee C had been very cool and inaccessible at first, but after a few months seemed to warm up and trust me.  She was even friendly at times, and once brought a situation to my attention that painted her in an unflattering light.  She owned a mistake and allowed herself to be vulnerable with me when she could have easily chosen not to.

Seeing the way these two literally walked away from any contact with me hurt my feelings to an extent that it bothered me.  This caused me to wonder — Why did it bother me so?  Why was I angry?  What was I holding onto, or feeling insecure about?

I realized I felt like a fool.  I had given these ladies the benefit of the doubt, listened to them, shown willingness to question myself and consider other possibilities, engage with them, meet with them where they were, and treat them with respect and dignity.  They had not done the same.  I felt like a fool for trusting them, and for believing they could be different.

I felt like I’d known the truth from the get-go and didn’t listen.  Instinctually I’d suspected Employee A was bad news — dishonest, inauthentic, and backstabbing.  I suspected Employee C was possibly manipulative and a holder of grudges.  I was angry — with myself — for doubting my intuition and initial impressions.  Even though I will never know for sure how these two women really “are”, what they really think or feel about me, or whether their behavior has anything to do with me at all — I was angry at myself for being proven “right” about them in the end, and wasting all that time and energy trying to engage them.  My virtuous self-doubt had not been rewarded!

In my work, I believe — and teach others — that “instinct” and “intuition” are often constructed from falsehoods and impressions that say more about us than anything else.  However, as I get older, I think I’m learning what wisdom means, and I think instinct and intuition play a role.  Wisdom is a knowing that comes from experience.  It’s also a knowing that lives in the body and heart, not the mind.  The insights and sensations I experienced when my mother died suddenly, and when my beloved “baby” sister got married, went beyond any prior intellectual understanding of those events.

Throught the experience of events like death and rites of passage, wisdom can connect us in a new way with the broader experience of humanity — or a large segment of humanity like other women, in my case.  But I believe wisdom can also bestow us with a form of precognition.  We see the beginning of a story and already know how it’s going to end.

A dear friend once described it to me this way:

There is a hole in the sidewalk.  First, you don’t see the hole, you fall in, react with fear and bewilderment and frustration, you finally climb out.  Second, you’re walking down the same street, you don’t see the hole, you fall in, react with fear, etc., but get out faster.  Third, you go down same street, you don’t see the hole, you fall in, then say, hey, I’ve been here before, there’s no fear, bewilderment, or frustration, you just quickly get out.  Fourth, going down same street, you see the hole, you fall in anyway, but you get out right away.  Fifth, you see the hole and go around it.  Sixth, you completely avoid the hole by crossing to the other side of the street.  Seventh, you go down a different street.

This wisdom can be very useful. For me it’s most honed in my ability to determine whether or not a man is a good match for me.  This story has started and ended so many times in my life over the last 30 years that my clarity itself can be intimidating to menfolk! 🙂  But this wisdom allows me to be more efficient, more effective, more authentic, more fulfilled, saner, and safer when it comes to dating and romantic relationships.  Wisdom helps me eliminate doubts that used to drive me crazy or lead to injury.  Now I simply avoid the hole or go down an entirely different street.

At the same time, there is an important body of knowledge, including in my own professional work, suggesting that doubt is an important ingredient in boosting self-confidence, opening minds, experiencing intimacy, enriching spirituality, and even having breakthroughs in business.  Jonathan Fields talks at length in his book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance about how uncertainty is not only normal, it’s necessary for creativity and following your passion (and Lord knows we need more of both!).  He offers concrete ways to face and harness the Terror of the Unknown (my words and emphasis) to transport us to completely new realms of possibility and success.

In the July/August edition of the very cool Ode Magazine, Diana Rico authored an excellent piece called “Sure Enough”, which examines doubt — including its dark side and some of the brain science behind it.   She cites research demonstrating that when we hear statements that contradict our ethical beliefs, we react (to any doubts) within .25 seconds, and almost instantly stop listening.  She describes a study by Gal & Rucker (2010) which found that individuals who were injected with doubt became even fiercer advocates for their beliefs “as if they now had to try to convince themselves as well as others.”

To me this is an excellent reminder that much of the intense and polarized political rhetoric going on in our media, our various governing bodies, and our homes is a good sign.  It’s a mere backlash against the inexorable movement of history forward into greater equality, freedom, justice and higher evolution.  It’s the violent death throes of the ancient paradigms of “me first” and “you are not me” and “power over.”  If r/evolutionaries were not experiencing vehement opposition, it would mean real change was not taking place.  The loud, angry voices are just roadblocks erected by the fearful, trying to resist the tidal movement of a shift in consciousness.

Rico also talks about the light side of doubt — its benefits.  She cites the number of incarecerated people — disproportionately people of color and the young  — who have been exonerated of the crimes for which they were convicted, due to new DNA testing methods (and yet police and prosecutors insist they were right anyway!).  She examines the role that doubting what we think we can or cannot do or endure can lead us to tremendous breakthroughs and bursts of self-confidence.

Undoubtedly then 🙂 , injecting doubt into our lives and thoughts can lead to positive breakthroughs, realizations and achievements.  It can lead to truth and justice.  But it also triggers deep fears and defenses.  I think I understand better now why this is.

I’ve spent most of my life doubting.  I’ve made it a practice to constantly question.  “But how does the communion wafer turn into Jesus’s body in my mouth?” “How is rape only about power if it involves sex and penises?” “Do these pro-Affirmative Action people have an idea I should take seriously that is also fair?”  I’ve made it a practice to also give people the benefit of the — er — doubt: “Maybe he didn’t mean to hurt me, and is just damaged and doesn’t know better.”  “Maybe this time it will be different and she’ll do what she says.” “Maybe if I hang in there at this job people will change and things will get better.”

But doubt is exhausting.  It’s mentally and emotionally draining, especially for someone whose personality needs some degree or order, clarity, and an eventual decision.  Living in the ambiguity of a question is a limbo few of us can tolerate for long.  Besides, doubting and questions can lead to answers that can rock our entire worlds — the very foundation of our identities and lives!  Here are some of the ones I’m dealing with right now: “What do I do for exercise and meditation if I can no longer run (like I have for the last 30 years)?” “Who am I if my real purpose is not to be a world problem-solver and people-fixer?” “What can I do for work that doesn’t spring from the need to heal my own wounding?”

You know, little questions like those! 🙂

I feel empowered by my new wisdom — by the fact that often times I can see clearly into the future, a situation, or a person without spending hours mulling or months gathering data.  I think after 42 years of experience I have earned the right.  And yet I must hold this “wisdom” lightly.  As with most things, balance is the key.  For if I retreat into complete “knowingness” about everything, not only do I choke off invisible possibilities and opportunities for miracles, I constrict my life — and that of those around me.

So my recipe for today is:

  1. doubt in manageable doses, and
  2. wisdom with a grain of salt

What’s yours?

In lak ech,

~Jaxsine~

Land of the Free … ?

Yesterday was July 4th and I celebrated big.  As in BIG.  I had a party at my house that was very well-attended by a large, diverse group of interesting, bright, caring, talented people who enjoyed themselves and each other, and stayed later than they planned.  The occasion?  My freedom!  But not freedom in the “patriotic” sense;  rather, my liberation from traditional full-time employment last month, and the tenth anniversary of my arrival in my adopted home state — which also reprented liberation from my miserable, toxic, abusive marriage.

So what is freedom anyway?  Yesterday morning I went to work out, and as we left the small studio after class, one of the owners made a point to say numerous times in a loud voice things like “Yay for freedom!” and “be grateful to live in America where we are free!” and “Yay for democracy!”  This sentiment was generally met positively, with one lady pontificating in return about how grateful she is to live here and enjoy freedom instead in other parts of the world where “all they have is a bowl of rice.”

This really bothered me, and it seemed to also bother my companion, who was born and raised in a “third world” country.  When the co-owner said her “yay America” piece after us, all I could muster was a “we’re not the only ones [who are free].”  This left me feeling yucky.  I didn’t want to pretend I agreed with what she was saying and let her perspective go unchallenged, especially coming from a person in an authority position, but my response felt incomplete and flippant.

Now that I’ve thought about it, this is what I might have said instead:

I appreciate that you love the United States and are grateful for your life here.  I am curious though, what do you mean by “free”?

I think this is the key question.   What does it really mean when U.S. Americans say they are free?  It seems folks don’t always know — perhaps it just sounds good and they accept it as a truth since they’ve heard it since childhood.  Sometimes they say something like “I can do whatever I want” or “I can say whatever I want” or “I can worship whoever I want.”

But is this true?

To the folks who say they are proud to be an American because they can do whatever they want, I ask — do you have the freedom to live wherever you want?  How about the freedom to go wherever you want, including Cuba?  Do you have the freedom to go to school wherever you want, for as long as you want?  To not go to school at all?  To see a doctor when you need one?  To drive a car or fly a plane at age 14?  To drink alcohol at the same age you can vote and get married?  To only go to work when you want to?  To be able to survive by doing work you don’t hate — or even enjoy?  To follow your dreams with no fear of starving to death?  To obtain a loan or mortgage?  To eat food that has not been poisoned by pesticides or environmental toxins, nor genetically modified?  To have sex with whomever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want?  To terminate your pregnancy?  To dress however you please — or not at all?  To lay down in the park or on a meridian and take a nap anytime?  To not pay taxes if you don’t approve of the government?  To kill yourself by jumping off a bridge or building without the police trying to stop you?  To spend less and still live in a thriving economy?

The answer would likely be confusion or a no, followed by protests that you can’t do any of those things anywhere, that we need to earn certain things, that we need money, that there are rules based in human nature, that this is a stupid question, that it’s still better here than anywhere else.

Really?  Often folks with this mindset haven’t been outside the United States, nor had significant relationships with people outside of the United States.  If they did, or if they just did some critical reading and research, they would learn that on some of those questions, several countries (particularly in Europe) fare better than we do — particularly with regards to health care, social and geographic mobility, education, work, healthy food, and even equitable pay.

I remember the first time my sister visited me when I was living in Mexico for the second time.  I think she was 19 or 20, and we were driving through the streets of my beloved city one morning in a friend’s car, passing a city bus packed to the gills with a staggering number of people inside, and plastered by even more clinging to the outside.  She casually remarked: “Wow, people are really free here — free to hang off a bus clinging on for dear life with their butts hanging into traffic and no one will tell them not to.  They get to face their own consequences.  Back in the U.S. you can’t even step beyond the white line on the bus.”

So what is freedom?  Ok so what about the freedom to say whatever we want?  Do you have the freedom to speak your mind to your boss?  To your spouse or partner?  How would you be treated if you expressed an unpopular opinion (like a belief in UFOs, a talent for telekinesis, or support for a single payer healthcare system?) or lifestyle choice? How do you see folks that express unpopular opinions, ideas, and lifestyles get treated?  How diverse and balanced are the viewpoints you read in newsmedia, or on TV?  Are you free to talk about terrorism or participate in left-oriented political movements without being labeled or surveilled?

The answer is usually no, followed by a protest that it’s better here than elsewhere.  Are you certain?  Have you spent any significant amount of time in other countries to gauge this?

Granted, freedom to do or say doesn’t necessarily mean freedom to do or say without consequences.  And granted, in many ways we have more freedom of speech than in countries struggling with repressive governments.  But are the consequences for people’s choices of that to do and say the same everywhere?  Is it truly the freest in the United States?

And how about freedom to worship whoever we want?  Ask a Muslim about freedom of worship in the United States.  Ask a fundamentalist Christian, Mormon, pagan, Wiccan, or Scientologist.  Or an atheist.

This is the point at which I might be called “unpatriotic” or “anti-American” for raising these issues.  So I ask another key question — does being “pro-American” or “patriotic” mean I have to believe in the superiority of the United States over all other countries?  Does “loving” American mean I have to believe it’s the best country on earth?

Personally, I don’t think so.  As a progressive, I tire of being told my love of, and loyalty to, this country is measured by my level of unquestioning belief in the USA as the best, strongest, most righteous country on earth.  It’s not.  Look at the data.  Our educational system is one of the lower-performing of comparable nations.  Our healthcare system is more expensive and in many ways less effective than in many other nations.  Our political system increasingly lacks credibility and effectiveness.  Our financial institutions are increasingly unstable and corrupt.  The health of our population (including life expectancy and infant mortality rates), particularly in communities of color like urban African Americans and rural Native Americans, is worse than that of many “third world” nations.  We have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.  We have a wide (and widening) gap between rich and poor and a very high percentage of folks in poverty.  We have some of the highest rates of drug use and antidepressant use in the world.  A majority of us are unhappy with our work, and a lot of us are unhappy in general compared to other (even third world) countries.  Most of us are slaves to our jobs and to a material lifestyle we rarely question (just notice the tone, flavor, stress and obligations tied to the Holiday season).  And we are enslaved and controlled by corporate interests who limit our choices and prime us constantly to buy their products and consume to a level that is destroying our planet, and us.

In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t think the United States sucks.  I think we are good at innovation.  We are good at business and making money.  We are good at creating new technologies.  In some ways we are good at nurturing and supporting new ideas.  This is a good place to be a woman – especially a single, childfree woman over 40 like me.

But there are many countries that are as good as us in some things, and better than us in others.  There are countries where it’s easier to be a woman — economically and politically — than the U.S. (several countries are way ahead of us in terms of women in positions of political power, for instance, even in the “third world”).   There are countries that are much more supportive, financially and socially, of children, mothers and parents in general.  There are nations whose populations enjoy better health, better healthcare, better education, and more equity.  There are countries where it’s less devastating to fall ill, lose a job, or face major hardships — not just because of those nations’ social and economic programs, but because of cultural norms and more collective ways of being in community and supporting one another.

The danger of beating the “America rules!” drum is that beating that drum drowns out other voices and realities.  This narrowness and ignorance is dangerous.  We really aren’t the underdog of the American Revolution anymore, and we haven’t been since World War II.  The freedom the revolutionaries fought for in the 1770s is not the freedom we enjoy today.  In fact, movements similar to that of the revolutionaries are suppressed by our government — both here at home and abroad.  We are The Empire now.

The other danger of the drum is that it drowns out the truth of our history.  There has been plenty of ruthlessness, cruelty and dishonesty on our road to power and “freedom”.  We have invaded occupied lands, exterminated entire populations, enslaved people, raped and mutilated women, stolen land, stolen ideas, dishonored treaties and agreements, excluded whole populations from politial and economic participation, and manipulated political processes here and in other countries.

To me, love is not about blind admiration or pedestals.  It’s not about justifying ourselves by insisting on the perfection of our creation or object of our affection.  Love is about commitment. Love is about acceptance.  It’s about honesty and truth.  It’s about vulnerability.  It’s about growth and support.  It’s also about self-awareness, accountability, integrity, and healthy boundaries.  I don’t believe “loving” American means I have to believe it’s the best, strongest, most righteous country on earth any more than I have to believe a child (or person) is only lovable if s/he is perfect, without fault, and the best.  To truly love the USA is to look at it, see it for what it is, tell the truth about it, and help it be better.

This is what progressives try to do, at least the way I see it.  This may come across as “unpatriotic” only because it may feel threatening, or because I offer this additional perspective in an occasionally strident way as a counterbalance to the constant rhetoric about how great we are.  This is only part of the story, and America deserves for us to look at all of who she is, love her for who she really is, and help her be her best self.

And she is not being her best self right now, and neither are we.  In the USA when we talk about being “free”, I think we really mean “rich”.  This why we instantly refer to material situations like having more than a bowl of rice to eat, or allowing women to go to school or work as evidence of our freedom.  It’s not really freedom we are proud of, it’s our “American way of life” which is about our material wealth and ability to endlessly consume.   We consume, unaware, unbelieving, or uncaring that the lone daily “bowl of rice” some folks eat in other parts of the world (or other parts of the USA) is a direct consequence of our “way of life”.  I once heard a figure that if every person on earth lived like the average American we would need six additional Earths to provide the necessary resources.  This level of consumption is selfish, narrow-minded, short-sighted, abusive, and destructive.  This is not us being our best selves.

While gratitude in general is a positive way to approach life, the admonition to be grateful for what we have in the USA, and to appreciate how “fortunate” we are, absolves us of guilt or responsibility.   We don’t have what we do by magic or by accident.  We enjoy more than others because we take from others.  Those of us who experience more “freedom” (more wealth, more available life choices) often do because we are in the majority, or enjoy some form of privilege, or both.  We choose to be ignorant of the big picture, to not take responsibility for our contribution to this big picture, or to justify why we deserve more.

So what then is freedom, really, if not wealth or an abundant “way of life”?  My very fat dictionary says “state of being at liberty rather in confinement … exemption from external control, interference, regulation … power of determining one’s or its own actions …the power to make one’s own choices or decisions without constraint from within or without; autonomy; self-determination.”

So how free are you after all?  How do we experience more freedom?  Is it true that “freedom isn’t free”?

Freedom is a state of mind, a commitment, and a choice which manifests in action.  It is mindful, it is powerful and it is scary.  Choices have consequences, some more difficult to face than others.  Leaving my husband was one of the best, most difficult decisions I ever made.  Leaving traditional full-time employment was one of the messiest, most complicated decisions I’ve ever made – and after only a month I can already tell this was one of the most important, life-affirming choices I’ve ever made … and one of the most courageous.

But saying that “freedom isn’t free” — usually to justify military action — obscures the fact that the majority of our military action around the globe in the last few decades has nothing to do with liberating us from some oppressor (even though it’s framed that way so we’ll play along).  It has to do with securing our economic interests in other countries so we can continue to take more than our share of the world’s resources.  It has to do with ensuring the reign of our Empire — maybe because we are too terrified to imagine our lives liberated from the enslavement of material addiction.  The terrorist threats we face today are real, but they are not from a powerful oppressor.  They are from the rebel force, the freedom fighters, and the underdogs we still admire and identify with in stories and films.  But we have more in common now with the 18th century British Empire than the American Revolutionaries.  We have more in common with The Empire in Star Wars than the Rebel Alliance.

Since yesterday’s encounter at the gym, the line from that country song keeps running through my head: “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”  Maybe that’s the heart of it all — many of us are unhappy, or frustrated, or struggling, but we calm ourselves and justify our choices by choosing to believe here is better anywhere else, and that this is as good as it gets.

Perhaps it’s time to declare our independence from unhappiness, ignorance, material addiction and low expectations!  Time to show up as our best selves … and help this country we love do the same!

What do you think? What does “freedom” mean to you and how can we experience more true freedom?

¡Paz, justicia y libertad!

~Jaxsine~

M.I.C. check … 1-2, 1-2 … is this thing on?

Have you ever seen a dinosaur in its death throes?

Of course you haven’t, but can you imagine it?  I can, because  I see it every day.  I work in an organization and an industry functioning within a paradigm that is dying:  Health care — or “healthcare” as we call it.  But it’s not alone.  Government, industry, education, even institutions like the family, religion, political processes, and public services are all dying as we know them, and if you have ever had any experience with dying things, you know how they fight to survive, even when there’s no hope.

The myth of 2012 is real.  Whether the end of the long count of the Mayan calendar really indicates the “end of the world” or just the idea of this is freaking people out, it doesn’t matter.  Whether you believe the amazing astromical shifts due to take place in December 2012 will have a profound impact on Earth and humanity or none at all, it doesn’t matter.  Whether we are responding to changes around us, or manifesting the changes ourselves, it doesn’t matter.  Something is happening, and I think most of us sense it.

And it’s about damn time.   If you pay attention, you notice the signs everywhere that things can no longer continue as they are.  I have felt for some time now that I go to work every day, sometimes up to 60 hours a week, in a building that is on fire and falling to pieces around me — but I’m the only one who smells smoke.  I see a couple folks fleeing the building with wet hankies over their nose and mouth.  I see hundreds putting on gas masks, protective goggles and headphones and going on about their business as usual.  And I see many dashing about blindly in fear and/or anger, with the vague sense that something isn’t right, but unsure what it is, much less what to do about it.

Putting bandaids on broken bones and waving the smoke away are not enough.  I have been trying to decide for some months now whether to flee the building myself, or stay in and try to hold up a corner of a room somewhere and save a few folks when it all collapses.  In the meantime, I have been trying to let people know the building is on fire and getting ready to fall down.  Most ignore me, some continue their flailing, and others attack me for sounding the alarm.

This week I decided to flee the building.  In my personal life, I had finally learned the lesson of not trying to change people who aren’t ready, willing or able, but apparently I hadn’t quite learned that lesson in my professional life.  Now I am listening.

Not a thing is different on the outside, but on the inside I am changing.  I am outside the building now in my heart, mind, and spirit.  I can breathe.  I feel the sun on my face and even welcome the winter chill.  I hear bird sounds as they rustle around in the trees, attending to tasks that really matter.

I believe now that I am not meant to be miserable and fighting all the time, and that suffering in order to supposedly help others diminishes my light and theirs too.  Waiting for external validation for my efforts is not how I want to live.  Casting the pearls of my gifts before swine is no virtue on my part, it is an irresponsible waste.  Staying out of loyalty to one or two leaders who are the exeption instead of the rule is not honoring of them, or me.  Fearing change because I cling to my generous paycheck is not consistent with my values – it is slavery.

I can no longer ignore the fact I don’t fit in, but I do not accept the idea I am alone, crazy, or naive in believing that people are essentially good and work is supposed to be joyful and meaningful.  I realize now that staying in the building not only prolongs the inevitable, it is dangerous for me.

The world doesn’t need any more apathy, anger or anxiety.  It needs creativity, compassion, love, inspiration, connection, community, and meaning.  I have faced my own inconvenient truth that I cannot “be the change I wish to see in the world” in my current environment.

So! I didn’t know I would be making this decision now, and while I had pondered starting a blog as a creative outlet for a few weeks, I hadn’t intended to start it until next month after the new year and my 42nd birthday!  But I felt called to start it now, and since I am doing better at listening these days, I am heeding this call.   Tonight it was a full moon, which is a time of letting go.  When I started this project it was 12-10-11 and now it is 12-11-11, which are cool dates with lots of powerful 1s and 2s.  We are just 11 days from the Solstice which not only is the darkest day, it marks the return of the Light.  And we celebrate La Virgen de Guadalupe, Earth Mother of this continent, on Monday – moon day.  It feels right.

This is a new leg of my journey, and I hope to share it with you that we may support, inspire and encourage each other during the difficult challenges we face.  This is a M.I.C. check — a checklist, check-in and self payment — of Meaning, Inspiration, and Creativity.

M.I.C check … any fellow (r)evolutionaries out there ready to change their world too? It is time!

Paz, amor, vida y fuerza …

Jaxsine