Liberals, Prejudice & Demons

Although I tend to think of myself as a liberal person, in recent years the ideas and behaviors that pass as liberal have become more and more disturbing to me. Ideally, I think, to be liberal would mean to be open to a wide range of ideas and possibilities, and to allow people to think and behave differently without punishment or marginalization. But recently, liberalness seems to have become about forcing everyone to have the same, seemingly enlightened, opinions. Opinions which are supposedly tolerant and non-judgmental. Racism, sexism, homophobia, islamaphobia, antisemitism, transphobia… labels like birther and climate-change denier… all these concepts are used like battering rams to force every mind into compliance with the right, the good way of thinking. And I don’t like it. Although I can relate.

The first time Obama ran for president, I didn’t vote because none of the candidates supported gay marriage. I remember Hillary saying she coudn’t condone it due to her deep spirituality (although, miraculously, just like Barack Obama, she has recently had a change of heart). Gay marriage was my number one issue. It felt symbolic to me. Rainbow flags, the very word “gay” with its connotation of happy levity… I naively believed that once gay people were accepted, everyone would be accepted. I would be accepted. People everywhere would drop their masks and let their true selves come forward. Unicorns would walk the streets. So passionate was I about gay rights, I told James I couldn’t marry him unless he would dance in a gay parade. Something which, as a Jehovah’s Witness, he wasn’t keen to do.

James and I would have our worst fights about politically charged issues, like abortion. It enraged him that women would kill innocent babies just so they could continue their debased, sex in the city lifestyle, and I would freak out about all the innocent preteen girls dying as they gave birth to rape-induced babies. He would get choked up as he thought of the poor dad whose first child was killed in the womb without him having any say in the matter; I thought James was being disingenuous to call a single celled organism a child, and if he really was that sensitive then he should be a vegetarian.

Plus, we would argue about black people. Race was a sensitive subject for me. In my mind, black people had become symbolic of my own vulnerable self, of every time I had been abused or treated unfairly. It was easy for black people to assume a symbolic role in my mind, since, to a large extent, I didn’t really know any. Growing up, the black people I knew were mostly housekeepers or waiters at the country club, casting a benevolent and helpful aura around them in my imagination, as though they were a little closer to the angels. Whereas James grew up in a mixed-race world where blacks and whites married, fought, and interacted on equal footing. Which gave him a different view of things like affirmative action. I thought of it in an abstract sense- trying to help a race heal from historical oppression. James thought of it in a more concrete sense- his next door neighbor getting an unfair advantage because of his skin-tone. He didn’t see why he should have to be weirdly sensitive to the black guy sitting next to him in the kingdom hall, stabbing him with a ballpoint pen.

But I really hated fighting with James. Eventually, I decided I would have to stretch my brain out, until I could see things from his point of view. And when I did, I could see that his ideas were valid- he was just reaching different conclusions because he was viewing things from a different place. When I looked at life through his lens, suddenly his ideas and feelings- once reprehensible to me- made sense. Slowly, it dawned on me that my strong feelings weren’t really about gays, black people, or feminism (another point of contention)- these issues had just become symbols for my own wants and needs, my own hurts and pains. And my anger about these issues was really displaced anger, from things that happened to me that I didn’t like. To the extent that I could detach my brain from its baggage and emotional associations, to the extent that I could let it fly free, I saw that, well, maybe a person could want to keep marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution without hating gay people, because, in reality, the only thing that means you hate gay people is actually hating gay people.

And I could also see that it didn’t really matter if any random person did hate gay people, so long as he didn’t set out to hurt them. If he does hate them, odds are that they are a symbol in his mind of something or someone that has caused him pain. We all have these personal symbols, I think, which cause us to irrationally like or dislike certain things and people. Many people who become irate in the face of homophobia make no secret of their aversion to Republican rednecks and religious fanatics. So, considering that it is difficult to even conceive of a person without prejudice, it seems we have no choice but to try and tolerate prejudice in others. If someone did want to wipe out prejudice, their only real option would be to try to wipe out their own prejudices, whatever those might be. However, we tend to view our own prejudices as harmless quirks, not the major threat to society that someone else’s prejudice poses.

There are so many forms of prejudice, so many reasons why people feel superior to others, that it would be impossible to even list them. Wealth, fashion, weight, education, age, career, popularity, sophistication, worldliness, accent, grammar, hair, vehicles, philosophies, diet, opinions, religion, house size, personal size, nationality, lineage, IQ… the list could go on forever. There is no reason to believe that the next Hitler would be an anti-semite. Maybe he would kill people with low IQs  or else people with high ones. Likewise, there is no reason to believe that black people will be the slaves of the future- maybe it will poor people, or else rich ones. The devil never does what you expect him to; he is always sneaking up in your blind spot.

The fashionable isms of our day are just tiny drops in an ocean of potential evil. If we could somehow make it impossible for anyone to think a sexist thought, the world would be no better off, because the feelings and bad intentions that fuel one sort of evil can just as easily fuel another, like demons who leap with ease from one body to the next. Sexism is just a form that evil can inhabit- it is not the evil itself.

Which is why I think it is dangerous to go over the world with a microscope, looking only for examples of the evil du jour, while ignoring the bigger picture, which is that we all have crosses to bear and we all need protection from the devil. Or, to bring myself back to the point (sometimes I get carried away when thinking about demons), we are all both the carriers and recipients of prejudice, probably more than we realize. It is when many minds start to merge and congeal around shared ideas, everyone throwing their own emotional baggage into the mix, that I start to get uncomfortable. A large number of people who hate homophobes is more dangerous than the lone skinhead, in my opinion. And when a groupmind starts trying to wipe out the minds that disagree with it, then things can get downright scary. Once everybody shares a prejudice, it doesn’t even seem to be a prejudice anymore- it’s just reality. That must be when the devil really has a field day.

So, I would think, maybe the next time someone says the “n” word, or implies that Jews are good with money, women are bad at math, or gay kisses are gross, maybe, rather than unleash a torrent of righteous anger, we could just try to understand where they are coming from. I don’t think there is any danger in that. Sometimes, when you move your mind to encompass another person’s position, it enables their mind to move in the process.

 

 

Through the Christmas Tree

 

This song was created through the confluence of two streams in my mind. On the one hand, I was thinking about Christmas, and how happy I am for winter to be coming. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but I’ve already had my fill of accommodating autumn and am now craving the stern precision of winter. I can’t wait to fill my home with bundles of puritanical pine branches and portraits of scowling santas.

The second stream of thought that produced this song is so taboo I should probably not even mention it. But here it goes.  I was thinking about… White People. The White Race. It is weird, I am afraid to even say White People. Although considering the racial genocides that have gone on since the beginning of history, perhaps it is not weird that our society would prefer to blot out concepts of race altogether. Still, how can I think about ice, snow, and Christmas without white people entering my mind? Some think humans turned white in the first place from spending so much time in frosty, northern climates, deprived of warmth and sunshine. In a way, white people are the children of ice and snow. Or more precisely the descendants of giant white man who is made of ice and snow himself, although he turns green in the spring. He is a severe man and you don’t want to end up on his bad side…

 

Through the Christmas Tree

Follow me through the Christmas treeChristmas Tree Fairies
inside a silver ring
and I’ll stay with you, my whole life through
I’ll never ask for anything

Seasons go, we’ll watch them flow
through windows of ice
see the people die; they always cry
so surprised to pay the price

Snowflakes fall, they form a wall
that cradles us inside
where we’ll drink our tea, you’ll stay with me,
couldn’t we be satisfied

Snowflakes fall, they form a wall
but that’s the price we pay
to be hard and strong and never wrong
to never falter never fade

When the white man comes you can know he will not leave you dry-eyed
(fly away when you have the chance)
Gold or silver, only you can decide
(better not to join his dance)

Shaky wrists, glassy eyes
your mind starts to slide
filled with fantasies, christmas trees,
dreaming of the world outside

Tall and proud, men say out loud
that pain is divine
but I’ve seen it slice, a blade of ice
they clench their teeth; they change their mind

When the white man comes you can know he will not leave you dry-eyed
(fly away when you have the chance)
Gold or silver, only you can decide
(better not to join his dance)

Distant dreams of earthly things
take on a golden glow
how the valleys shine; they fill with wine
they draw you to the world below

Where I once found you red, almost dead
stripped of all your rings
lying weak and poor upon my floor
you who wanted everything

Download MP3: Through the Christmas Tree

Candy Cane Lane

In my last post I wrote about how I need to begin expressing myself more for the sake of my own life. But, you may be wondering, from where will I get the discipline to follow through on this commitment, especially when it is something I am so afraid of? That is easy, I will buy the discipline from Yankee Candle.

I used to laugh at the people who shopped at Yankee Candle, taking $30 they probably needed for their electric bill to buy a giant “Home Sweet Home” candle, and another $25 dollars to buy a candle cozy shaped like an English Cottage. It seemed to me that they were probably buying overpriced candles to compensate for a lack of love in some part of their life. But I have changed my mind, and while I do still think that Yankee Candles generally serve as a love substitute, I no longer think this is pathetic. After all, who doesn’t need a little bit of extra love in their life? Nor do I think the use of love substitutes is dumb. After all, we all know that when a baby animal is taken away from its mother, it must  be given a stuffed animal to snuggle with, or it will probably die. Love substitutes are real, effective, and not beneath anyone’s dignity. We all need love, but we can’t always control whether or not we are receiving it. Which is where Yankee Candles come into play- to fill up the holes in our chest with colorful, scented fire power, so that we have enough warmth to make it through another day without needing to shut down chambers in our heart.

Candy CanesAs far as I can tell, Yankee Candles don’t smell better than less expensive candles; what I love about them is the glamour the store casts around their candles, elevating them from meaningless trifles to the most important aspect of your life! They do this partially through their elevated prices, but also through the candle accessories they sell, and the instructions they give you on the proper way to burn and care for a candle. They just make scented candles seem so darned important, which I think acts- especially to women- as a subconscious symbol that their emotional needs and desires for love are important. When you tend to your Yankee Candle, you are- through the powers of transubstantiation- tending to your own heart.

So yesterday I went to Yankee Candle to choose a candle that would symbolize the commitment to express myself. I selected Candy Cane Lane, a red candle, since red represents the courage to be true to yourself. I thought peppermint candy would be a good scent, since it combines the sugary sweetness of the heart with the minty freshness of the brain. I will burn it for four hours at a time, just as my candle consultant taught me. She warned me to never blow out my candle until the wax has melted all the way to the very edge. Otherwise the candle will start tunneling, and once the tunneling process has begun it can be difficult and costly to reverse. My candle consultant also sold me a gold Illuma-lid candle topper to maximize scent throw, and a wick trimmer to ensure that my wick stays 1/4 inch between lightings. So what if I can’t afford a warm coat or shoes for the season?

Just think about it- fire has been one of mankind’s best friends since the very beginning! Many believe it is precisely fire (learning how to cook with it) that caused humans to evolved differently from other animals. Cooking with fire enabled us to absorb more calories more efficiently, while reducing the work load on our stomachs. This enabled us to invest the extra energy into growing our brains. Without cooked meals, we would have weaker brains and stronger stomachs.

So couldn’t a bit of fire do the same thing for our hearts? Predigest for us some of the more difficult feelings, like loneliness and despair, while giving us a boost of warmth and light? Then we would need to spend less energy filling up the empty places inside. What part of us would receive that freed-up energy? My guess is the energy might be spent in fulfilling our purposes. I think once are heart are filled up on the inside they begin radiating light and warmth outwards into the world.

Maybe next time I go to the mall, I will pick up a candle cozy as well… perhaps the limited edition Christmas Teddy being crushed between two plush hearts.

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

Hi! How are you? Sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been fine, thanks. I decided to write this blog post to you, because I can’t think of anyone else to write to. Usually, I write with a person in mind, someone I feel the need to connect with. But recently, I haven’t been able to envision anyone. No one seems real to me. A world full of paper dolls.

Paper dolls only on the surface, though. Underneath, people who are busy, engaged, trying to better themselves or take care of their families. Not people who need to know my feelings about the color gold. I can’t envision anyone in the whole world who needs to know my feelings about the color gold.

So why blog at all, then? Especially when all I really want to do is to redecorate my desk in shades of orange and find out what happened to Europe after the fall of Rome.

GodBecause I have to. There is this red light that wants to flow through my body, but it will only flow if it can form a complete circuit. Right now, it is blocked in my thymus gland and will only complete itself if I open up my mouth and let words out. If I don’t do this, there will be no red for me. I will have to live out my life as a bloodless vegetable sucked dry of all it’s colors.

Still, I don’t really want to say anything. It feels like opening my mouth is just an invitation to be attacked and ridiculed. I would feel more comfortable just trying to be nice and quiet and only speaking to flatter those around me. When I was a teenager, I decided to make complement bombing one of my life strategies, which basically meant whenever I was around a mean or threatening person I would try to sing their praises in such rapid-fire speech that they would be unable to get a word in edgewise. I would spend hours before encounters imagining all of a person’s praiseworthy attributes. It could be exhausting, but was somewhat effective, like throwing a constant string of steaks at a lion. I would still get bitten, but not as frequently.

It could have been a better strategy, though, for someone like my husband James, who is adept at lying. Some people, it seems, can wear one face to themselves and another to the world without becoming confused. I admire those people. But for me, the worst part about flattering people, is that I truly hypnotize myself in the process until everyone I meet takes on a godlike magnificence in my mind. James reminds me of this sometimes, when I fawn over him with praise he feels is undeserved– “Look at the arches of your feet- they’re so beautiful, like swans. Mine are like rusted canoes.” (I usually throw in a little insult to myself for contrast. That always seemed to make my parents happy.)

But, there is definitely a price to pay for pleasing others at your own expense. It bleaches you of all your prouder colors, the reds, yellows, and golds. It makes your hands and feet cold, and turns your face into a lifeless mask. It sucks the blood from your heart and brain and eventually turns you into a catatonic moron who can neither think nor feel. That is the eventual price of being a sycophant.

On the other hand, those who do stand up for themselves also have to pay a price and sometimes it is severe. Being scorned and shunned, stabbed in the back of your hand with a fork, forced to kill your own puppy, sometimes being killed yourself… things can get sadistic when people are intent upon breaking down your will and you refuse to let them. Who can say if being a fighter or a flatterer is the better choice? Sometimes the fawners live to see another day when the fighters don’t.

The confusing thing about life is that it feels like love and goodness should be all-powerful, and yet, whose observations prove to them that this is true?

From what I can figure, Heaven is that place where love, beauty, and justice rule absolutely. Hell is the place where power and force rule absolutely. Earth is the place where the dark forces of power are blended with the shimmering forces of goodness to produce strong and durable materials that couldn’t exist otherwise. Materials like gold, which is stockpiled in Heaven, but only produced here on Earth, from the pure intentions that are constantly subjected to trials and tribulations.

On Earth we are forced to never lose sight of love and dreams, for when we do we die inside. But we are also never allowed to let go of practicality, selfishness and cunning, for when we do, we die outside. Having to keep our grasp on these two fluctuating polarities, which are sometimes in harmony and sometimes in conflict, gives rise to whole generations of strong and beautiful alloys, which, I like to think could not be created otherwise.

But it is hard work to always keep one foot in heaven and the other in hell, so sometimes we deal with life by releasing one of these poles and becoming either too good or too bad in the process. Bad people can sometimes be quite effective in a practical sense, since they can streamline all their choices to maximize personal gain and self-aggrandizement. But the trade-off is being forced to live in an internal world that is harsh, barren, and brutal. And if they ever want to leave their inner hell, there is a long road of pain and remorse in front of them.

But releasing the dark forces and aiming to be too good is equally treacherous. It is like living on a diet of jello. You end up weak and insubstantial, lacking a mind or will of your own. Eventually you become an instrument in the hand of evil-doers.

Which all comes back to why I feel I must write. Because I’m the sort of person who, under stress, lets go of the dark forces and levitates upwards into a world of unicorn fantasies. Whereas every time I open my mouth and utter words, I merge more and more with everything that is complicated, imperfect, and heavy. After all, nothing I say will be exactly true, nothing I express will quite capture what I think or feel, I will certainly end up misrepresenting myself, alienating people, being criticized and ridiculed, and lying tangled on the ground in a heap of contradictions and funny feelings. But in the process, word by word, I will take on mass and become real. I will earn my red stripe, and eventually that stripe will turn to gold.

Sober


PompousThis song was inspired by my ongoing realization that the grumpier and more serious you appear, the better people treat you. The heavier and darker your clothes, the thicker your glasses, the more sour your expression, the more intelligent people think you are. And the more intelligent they think you are, the more likely they are to come to your aid in an emergency situation (even better if they think you’re rich.) We all know that when animals are in trouble, the amount of effort people put into saving them depends completely on their weight. The whole world joins forces to save a trapped whale, but when a fruit fly languishes in a glass of water, nobody sheds a tear. So in life, you gotta seem heavy. You got to try to be that whale.

 

Sober

Let me be the one who is sober,
Unconcerned, responsible and older.
Sneering at their childish plans,
Disgusted by their sticky hands,
Weighing down their dreams like a boulder.

For in this world never believe that
it’s safe to be terrified or go soft inside
for we’ll take it all
we will all watch you fall.

I used to think a smile would make them love me,
But it only lifted all of them above me.
The wiser man would wear a frown
That drags the other person down,
Cause when they’re down they see the glory of me.

For in this world never believe that
it’s safe to be terrified or go soft inside
for we’ll take it all
we will all watch you fall.

I used to float like a happy bubble in the air;
They smiled at me, they watched me pop without a care.
While the ones who frown are carved in stone,
The ones whose hearts are filled with bone,
They’re the ones we always repair.

For in this world never believe that
it’s safe to be terrified or go soft inside
for we’ll take it all
we will all watch you fall.

People say that happiness is a butterfly
Who abandons you, who flits away when it’s time to cry.
Drive the sluts out from your fold-
Bitterness contains the gold,
Bitterness contains the glue
That binds hearts to you.

 

 

Download MP3: Sober