I just recorded my Thanksgiving episode for "Stories from the Road." I hope you'll take a listen!
27 November 2008
25 November 2008
It's been almost two weeks since I posted an entry here. In that time I've been working my ass off rehabbing a log cabin behind the house I am presently staying in. By rehabbing I mean cleaning out literally decades worth of crap; hundreds of boxes, 400 sq. feet of straw and sawdust on the second floor as insulation, and just a lot of other stuff. I also hired a carpenter to put in windows, build stairs to the second floor, and build a wall between the living space and the car port.
Tomorrow I will pressure wash the interior, and then shop-vac it. This weekend the woodstove will be installed (fingers crossed!) and then I can move in. It will take some work to get it tight enough to hold heat, but it's definitely within reach. I am looking forward to being in the space. The cabin is over 100 years old, pretty funky, but with all we've done so far and a good cleaning, it's going to be a very sweet space.
Today I had a very nasty experience with the credit union in Vermont where I used to bank. Long story short, they tried to screw me out of $2500. I am so sick of financial institutions who act like they are doing the customer a favor by allowing us to access our own money, and who gouge the customer with fees every chance they get. I am so sick of being lied to, and having procedure and policy used as an excuse for dishonesty and theft. At this point, if all the banks fail, I will say "good riddance." I swear, in this country people seem to value money over life, over human connection, over just about everything!
I've made a point of simplifying my life significantly in the last 4 years, but I still deal with these financial institutions. I see them as parasites, sucking energy, in the form of money, out of people's pockets. Luckily I am savvy enough to make a stink and stop them from screwing me 99% of the time but there are plenty of people out there who are not savvy in those ways, who are being ripped off by their bank or credit union. It's really disgusting.
I'm watching Obama appoint his cabinet, as we all are. I'm disappointed in some of his choices, especially Hilary Clinton for Secretary of State. Hilary is anything but a peacemaker, which is what we need. It's also disappointing though not surprising to see how many Democratic machine players are being selected. It would be nice to get some really new players in the game, people who are not beholden and whose integrity has not yet been gnawed away by Washington politics. Ah well, as I said, disappointing but not surprising.
Posted by Baruch at 5:55 PM
12 November 2008
Possessions...interesting concept. When I left Italy I boxed up most of my stuff and my kind friends there agreed to mail it to me in the states. This was mainly because I (finally!) realized that schlepping 80 pounds of stuff was doing a number on my injured spine.
The boxes were sent in mid-September and one of them arrived today! Hooray! My stuff!
I got rid of most of my material belongings in 2005 before hitting the road. It felt great to lighten the load,and to give things to people which they would enjoy. This period of waiting for my stuff has given me cause to further reflect on this issue of ownership. I miss my warm clothes, my jeans, my hiking boots, my drum! Now that one box has arrived it seems very likely that the other box will also arrive, but the length of time in shipping allowed me to confront the possible loss of my stuff, and I didn't like it. I didn't freak out. It is, after all, only stuff, but it's nice stuff that I cannot afford to replace.
Attachment is attachment, even if it's to a small amount of stuff, or to an idea. Even attachment to the idea of non-attachment is an attachment.
I have a dear friend who stopped having contact with me this summer and never said why. I think it's because he felt more attached than he was comfortable with, and so in an effort to eschew attachment, he stopped being in contact with me. I have felt sad and frustrated by this, but accepting...everyone needs to do what they need to do. I do think, though, that being attached to the idea of not being attached is kind of a paradoxical set-up.
The election happened. The person I voted for in the presidential race won. I have had more than a week to notice my attachment to the intensity of feeling I had about the election. Now that it's over I can resume being attached to watching and commenting on the government. There is a new piece now though, which is the hope that the new administration will be more human, more caring, and more honest than what we've had for the last nearly 8 years. Attachment to hope.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism have touched me, taught me, inspired me. Now, however, I am seeing the irony and paradox inherent in the quest for non-attachment.
Posted by Baruch at 2:02 PM
11 November 2008
06 November 2008
I...we...are faced with an interesting dilemma. Already historical revisionists are beginning the rehabilitation of Bush's legacy. I see it in articles in various publications...columnists saying that Bush had a lot of bad luck, luck of the draw, etc. I say that's nonsense. Sure, there were things that happened which were beyond his control, but the choices he made (and which were made in his name) and the policies established under the Bush presidency ARE Bush's responsibility. Remember where the buck stops? That's supposed to be a metaphor for taking responsibility, but in this case it's been quite literal that Bush has allowed himself and enabled his friends to abscond with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, from criminally negligent contract fulfillment in the war, to the disastrous bailout. In fact the list of bad choices, and the list of out and out corrupt deeds, is too long to even list here. Bush is a christofascist, seeking to impose his religion on others, while marrying government to corporations whose only motive is profit. Personally I would like to see Bush reviled by history. I'd really like to see him and other members of his administration prosecuted, some of them internationally.
The dilemma is that in the interest of accountability, it is too easy to be vindictive and hateful. "You become what you hate" seems to be a truism, so there is great risk in pursuing justice in this case because there IS so much anger. Of course we all have a right to feel angry, and that energy can be used in a constructive way, but it could easily energize vendetta, which is not what we need as a country or as a world.
The election did issue a mandate, and it did move the country in terms of racism, but it did not heal all the wounds and divisions that exist. There is still an ideological chasm between the so-called left and right. Within the Republican party there is still a will to enforce the christofascist agenda. Just because they lost this election doesn't mean they have given up, or will do so. It could mean just the opposite; an energized christofascist coalition of forces.
It behooves us to NOT polarize, and at the same time to be vigilant in watching and exposing those who would foist theocracy and even more extreme classism on this country.
It is also clear that the radical right is continuing their war against people who do not fit into the heterosexual mold. We saw a number of anti-gay initiatives approved at state levels by voters in this election. It's safe to hate and oppress queer people. After Prop 8 (the anti gay/lesbian constitutional amendment in California) passed in California, the very next day at a rally against Prop 8 a cop beat up someone at the rally. When an initiative legalizes discrimination, legalized scapegoating (a la the third reich) it grants tacit permission to violate the scapegoated class in other ways. We will see an increase in hate crimes against sexual minorities as a result of these initiatives. In fact there has been an increase in hate crimes against sexual minorities steadily throughout the Bush presidency, because his administration silently sanctions such hatred and oppression. Bush stands for violence, for domination, so the implied message to his followers is "It's ok to beat up and kill queers."
There is a lot of healing needed for our species.
Posted by Baruch at 4:14 PM
05 November 2008
Congratulations world! Congratulations United States! Congratulations to Barack and Michelle Obama!
My anxiety dropped when I heard that Obama had won. Like many others I have hope. Obama's acceptance speech was so moving and sincere. I have never heard a president-elect mean what they say like Obama meant what he said last night.
May the tide of fascism now be turned! May the US now strive to be what we say we are and yet have not been.
I'm tired after working an overnight, so this is short...time for me to sleep...but I am very happy about Obama's election.
Posted by Baruch at 7:22 AM
04 November 2008
It's election day...finally! I voted at the local High School at around 10:30 AM. The place was packed. There were no parking spaces left in the huge parking lot, I had to park on the grass. This is a small town and yet there had to be 200 people in the gym with me, along with dozens of local folks serving as election officials. I voted, then drove 5 miles to someone's house to do a massage.
Voting is a funny thing. I have voted in every national election since I was 18, 30 years ago. I have seen my vote count as one of the ten write-ins that elected Bernie sanders to his first term as mayor of Burlington, VT, so I know that voting can matter.
I have also seen the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections stolen, with nary a word in the corporate press about it.
Voting is funny because it is active participation in a system which I know can be corrupt, and more deeply it is participation in a binary system which is deeply flawed. Generally, in the US, whoever has the most money for PR tends to do best in the election. This is not always the case, but at the national level it definitely takes a fortune to campaign for office. Between corporate lobbyists and monied special interests, it's usually pretty difficult for the "little person" to make a difference, and yet Obama has raised over $600 million mostly in the form of small donations from individuals. This shows how hungry people are for the change Obama represents.
I am not naive enough to believe that Obama will or even can make all of the changes that I think are needed. He has corporate ties. He has said he will escalate the war in Afghanistan. He voted in favor of legislation that excused the Bush administration and some huge telecom companies from accountability for illegally wiretapping phones and reading email of Americans. He is in favor of building new nuclear power plants. These are positions which I disagree with 100%.
Obama is clearly an intelligent educated man. He appears to be educable and interested in learning; a far cry from the current occupant of the white house. He also speaks (intelligently!) as an advocate for the so-called middle class with regards to economics, health care, education, and food security.
Like McCain Obama has not mentioned the poor, the homeless, the utterly disenfranchised in the US. I tell myself he has done this for political reasons, but that he does care about all the people. I hope that's true.
Montana has traditionally been a heavily Republican state. Now, however, there are two democratic Senators and a Democratic Governor. The polls have determined that Montana could go either way in the presidential race. we shall see tonight!
If you haven't listened to my election episode on "Stories from the Road" you can go to the show's archive page and listen to the show and the accompanying musical selection. I think you may find it enjoyable and affirming.
Posted by Baruch at 12:12 PM