Archive for September, 2013

30
Sep
13

myth and reality

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite
The other day I was talking with a British friend on the phone, and she said the American Dream doesn’t exist… and furthermore, it never has.
Americans believe that our system of justice is so much better than anyone else’s, and yet with nearly 1 in 100 Americans in prison, it is one of the worst. People of the world are horrified by the barbarity of our courts and our system of prisons, yet we smugly take pride in our codified system of “tough love.”
How delusional.
The other day, a friend in Spain sent me a map showing all of the countries of the world that imprison kids for life, and it was a map of just one country: the USA.
Today another friend from South Africa sent me a link to a story about a 17-year-old who repeatedly stabbed his stepfather and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, illustrating, he said, that compassion is entrenched in law outside of the USA. Can you imagine such a thing happening in America?
Americans are hated the world over because they think they are so much better than everyone else. Foreigners love nothing more than seeing American know-it-alls like George Dubya trying in vain to get through locked doors, falling on their asses, being shown up by reality.
the beatings will continueIt is amazing to me that people will stubbornly believe in a myth and deny reality. For example, time and again we are shown evidence that the Big Stick doesn’t work, and yet we keep thinking that harsher prison sentences or longer school years will somehow make things better. It is like falling for the old marketing trick of bigger faces and thinner boxes resulting in less product for more money.
Why don’t we swallow our pride and open ourselves to the possibility that other nations and cultures may know a better way?

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Groove of the Day

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“The myth of Kevin Mitnick is much more interesting than the reality of Kevin Mitnick.
If they told the reality, no one would care.”
– Kevin Mitnick*
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* American computer security consultant, author, and hacker.
At the time of his arrest, he was the most-wanted computer criminal in the US.
29
Sep
13

promises

promise 2
Sometimes I think I’m nuts to have taken this on.
My goals are so far away that, faced with the reality of how things are today, I often have moments of doubt that establish a spiritual kinship with the kid looking at a prison sentence that extends well into adulthood or the rest of his life. How can one maintain hope in the face of such daunting prospects?
The answer, of course, is that one must be satisfied with intermediate steps to the promised land. My ultimate goal is nothing less than a total change of heart within society towards parricides, but it will take a long time for that to happen and for us to see a change in the law. I may not even make it there. In the meantime, we must be satisfied with the purchase of an airline ticket so Alex King can start a new life, the purchase of a psychological report so Paul Gingerich can have a fair trial, etc. These are things we have recently done with your help.
Promises are an uniquely human way of creating the future, of making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible. All of the time I find myself making commitments that I cannot immediately keep, but that I work towards. For example, we have recently committed to Nathan Ybanez to raise the funds for an expert witness at his upcoming new trial, if his attorneys agree. We have also recently offered to place Estrella Vista at his disposal in a “parole plan” that his prison advisor has asked him to devise.
I don’t know if Nathan will ever make it to Texas. A lot of unknowables can happen between now and then. He has dreams of his own. I don’t know if Alex King’s plan for a new life will ultimately succeed. Life for most of us life is filled with disappointments, and he’s got a lot to learn knowing only prison since the age of twelve.
But in the meantime we can offer kids hope. We can tell them that we will always have their backs; that our help is always just a phone call away. They may stumble and fall, but they’ll never spend much time on the ground again.
We are able to offer certainty to kids in an unknowable future because of you. It is because of your support, and my faith in your always being there, that I am able to go out on a limb and offer help that I know will be there when it is needed. Right now it is baby-steps, but I know in time we will be able to run.
I am careful not to make commitments we will be unable to keep. These kids have known too many empty promises until now. The change of heart is the ultimate goal, but I never promise that. I never even promise reconciliation within families. That is out of my control. All that I can promise is an airline ticket, a car, a lawyer, the expert testimony of a psychologist or other expert witness at trial.
These are measurable indicators that we are successfully working towards the ultimate goal of experiencing love and understanding in a love-starved world.
28
Sep
13

smarter

baby einstein

Maybe it will work after all, regardless of your age.

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baby einstein 2

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Bach’s “Minuet in G” and get smarter

27
Sep
13

beefcake

einstein-beefcake001-645x1024

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Groove of the Day

Listen to the Chiffons performing “He’s So Fine”

26
Sep
13

anti-authoritarianism

albert einstein

Last week Sparkynitro sent me a link to another article, this time by a psychologist commenting about how people who question authority are being diagnosed as mentally ill by mainstream psychology and psychiatry. It immediately brought to mind how mental hospitals in the former Soviet Union were used to house political prisoners.

According to author Bruce Levine, anti-authoritarians are increasingly being diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder, and other psychiatric illnesses. Young people who show signs of anti-authoritarianism are increasingly being diagnosed with “disruptive disorders,” which include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and opposition defiant disorder (ODD), the most common mental health problems of children and teenagers.

question authorityLevine says that anti-authoritarians may use psychiatric drugs to help them function, “but they often reject psychiatric authorities’ explanations for why they have difficulty functioning. So, for example, they may take Adderall (an amphetamine prescribed for ADHD), but they know that their attentional problem is not a result of a biochemical brain imbalance but rather caused by a boring job. And similarly, many anti-authoritarians in highly stressful environments will occasionally take prescribed benzodiazepines such as Xanax even though they believe it would be safer to occasionally use marijuana but can’t because of drug testing on their job.”

Psychiatric diagnoses for anti-authoritarian types may say more about the people making the diagnoses than the people being diagnosed. Levine defines anti-authoritarians as people who “question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously.” They do not blow off all authority figures; they simply withhold to themselves the judgement as to whether a particular authority figure is legitimate. Authoritarians, on the other hand, demand unquestioning obedience to authority. Says Levine: “I have found that most psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals are not only extraordinarily compliant with authorities but also unaware of the magnitude of their obedience.”

Levine makes a good point when he asserts that Einstein would likely be pathologized in today’s environment. “Albert Einstein, as a youth, would have likely received an ADHD diagnosis, and maybe an ODD one as well. Albert didn’t pay attention to his teachers, failed his college entrance examinations twice, and had difficulty holding jobs. However, Einstein biographer Ronald Clark (Einstein: The Life and Times) asserts that Albert’s problems did not stem from attention deficits but rather from his hatred of authoritarian, Prussian discipline in his schools. Einstein said, ‘The teachers in the elementary school appeared to me like sergeants and in the Gymnasium the teachers were like lieutenants.’ At age 13, Einstein read Kant’s difficult Critique of Pure Reason—because Albert was interested in it. Clark also tells us Einstein refused to prepare himself for his college admissions as a rebellion against his father’s ‘unbearable’ path of a ‘practical profession.’ After he did enter college, one professor told Einstein, ‘You have one fault; one can’t tell you anything.’ The very characteristics of Einstein that upset authorities so much were exactly the ones that allowed him to excel.”

Think about the implications to progress in our society. Our unthinking, absolutist obeisance to authority is holding us back.

Father Knows Best

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Groove of the Day

Listen to the “Father Knows Best” TV Theme

25
Sep
13

constancy

young_and_old_eyes

Held in low esteem in a culture like ours which so highly prizes innovation and the constant adoption of the novel, consistency is widely thought to be the “hobgoblin of little minds.” I happen to hold the opposite view.

I have a friend, now in his fourth marriage, who jettisoned his second wife (I didn’t ask about the others) because she had become overweight. I have another friend who was a devoted father when his son was young, but became disinterested as the son grew up and began thinking for himself. The bloom goes off the rose. We grow bored with the familiar. Friends grow apart. Love withers and dies. It seems to be the way of the world.

I find special joy in old friends, in seeing how they turn out as they grow older. They are a source of unending fascination to me. I find enduring satisfaction in constancy, in remaining true to friends as they change.

The other night I paid a visit to Kosmic Kathy—she was tending bar at the Starlight—and she asked me what my secret was to having had a long marriage. I told her that for me, it was to disregard all thought of vows and ball-and-chain commitments (a demotivator for me), and to keep it fresh by finding new reasons to renew one’s commitment each and every day. As I thought about the question some more, I think that you must also develop a certain love for imperfection. This requires a certain amount of creativity.

It is easy to fall in love with a college sweetheart. It is easier to overlook imperfections in the young because those imperfections are harder to see. But as one ages, the imperfections become more pronounced. As one ages, the positives are enhanced, as well. Our core values rise to the surface and tend to take over the whole person. But in the end and taken as a whole, it is always a mix.

I think the transformational moment for me was when a friend told me of the Oriental practice of mending broken teacups with precious metals, much like a stained-glass window is constructed. Rather than being hidden as in the West, the repair is enhanced as if to show that the teacup’s history of use as a treasured item is more valued than the cup itself. Eventually we all become broken teacups.

Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world. Love conquers all. A wise man once said that we come to love “not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” How true.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground performing “Perfect Day”

24
Sep
13

tells a story

American Gothic (1930) by Grant Wood

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American Gothic Models

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Rod Stewart performing “Every Picture Tells a Story”

23
Sep
13

letter to austin

austin 25

Dear Austin,

It was a pleasant surprise to find your letter in my mail.

It is a sad misfortune that binds us in similarity.  For many years I naively thought I was the only one who had ever killed their parents. Up until the Menendez brothers, I had never even heard the term parricide. Then I learned not only was I not the only one, but I was one of many.  Approximately 300 kids per year (most of them adults) kill their parents in the United States alone.  Parricide it seems has been occurring at least since before the time of the Romans, whose resolution was to put the kid in a burlap sack with a poisonous snake, a rooster, and a dog,

Tie the bag closed, beat the sack and the unfortunates within, and throw them into the river.  They did this, it is said, to return the child to the hell from whence he was spawned.  Here we are thousands of years later and we have made little progress dealing with such atrocities.

It is appalling to me that they treat self-defense as if it were murder. I understand  there is a fine line between the two, but they give it not an ounce of consideration.

Our cases are very different and yet very similar.  Unlike you, I was released serving no time behind bars beyond the initial incarceration where I sat and waited until bail was posted.

Unlike most parricides I would not confess. I would not talk, and because of that, they (the legal system) could not “prove” beyond a shadow of doubt that I did what I did, and the second trial found me not guilty.  The first jury was hung.

I have wondered if things would have been better if I had confessed early on, but I think not.

I kept my truths to myself for seven long years before the guilt of it finally wore me down and I started talking.  I wrote a book about it called Inherited Rage“IR” is available as an ebook on amazon.com.  I would send you a copy if I thought whoever checks mail would allow it through, but it is my understanding they will not.

Writing IR was a great healing for me.  It was perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done.  Much more difficult than pulling the trigger–which was a result from taking one hit too many from my parents.  The last beating they gave me left me in a pile on a concrete floor unable to get up, so I crawled away and hid.  My vision lost color and I was seeing in black-and-white, which lasted for many days.

The native Americans say when your vision loses color and you see in black-and-white you are standing with one foot in death, only one step away from death.  I believe if my parents had hit me again that day they would have killed me.  I never planned or plotted to kill my parents (mom & step-dad).  I just went into some kind of  automatic-pilot survival mode and got the gun.  There was no thought about what I would do with it, only action. Kind of like when you go to the bathroom.  You just go, you don’t generally think about it past perhaps telling someone you will be right back.  No real thought, just action.

I felt like a spirit had stepped into my body while I stood on the sidelines watching.  I know now psychotherapists call this a state of disassociation, but most psychotherapists do not acknowledge god or spirits, or demons, or anything else supernatural.  They don’t seem to get it that just because they don’t acknowledge these things does not mean that they do to exist.

For many years I wished for an opportunity to talk to someone who had been through the same thing I had been through, but to no avail until not very long ago I found the Pendulum Foundation in Colorado and Dan Dailey in Texas.  The Pendulum group connected me with one young man who has been incarcerated for close to twenty years for killing his parents.  We exchanged several letters before I disconnected and I quit writing because I was sick and tired of reading complaints about prison life.  There is nothing I can provide beyond a few letters now and again.  I have never found complaining to accomplish much of anything.  I was, to say the least, disappointed as I was hoping there would be an exchange about our similar past experiences with our parents and a focusing on ways to heal.

I believe there is a higher purpose for all things including the atrocities that we have experienced. I believe in reincarnation and I also believe we choose our parents based on lessons we need to learn or experiences we need to have to help our souls grow.

I have wondered if I chose mine because they would help me become more independent or because by experiencing what I experienced I could help others somehow.  I know IR has helped many to have a greater appreciation for their parents as the feedback from my readers has told me so.

I have wondered if I chose my parents to help break the cycle of abuse that seems to have been passed down through many generations in my family.  These are questions I may never know the answer to, but I still wonder.

I think it is ridiculous to incarcerate parricide survivors because once the problem is resolved by the death of their tormentors, there will be no more issues as the problem no longer exists.

I don’t think we are murderers or even natural born killers; we are instead great survivors at an astounding price.

I saw a video about a zebra who was attacked by a lion.  The lion ripped a virtual roast out of the zebra’s hindquarter, but somehow the zebra managed to get out from under the lion turned on him and mortally wounded him with his hooves.  As a society we do not see the zebra or even the lion as a murderer; we see them simply as predator and prey.  I figure we parricides are no different than that zebra–you shouldn’t pick on things smaller than yourself. It is age-old wisdom our parents sadly never seemed to learn.

I have noticed in life that bullies only seem to stop bullying after they have had a dose of their own and people give them what they get.  My mother was a bully and she finally created a situation that hopefully taught her soul a lesson.  I can only hope her next life will be different and better because of lessons learned in this lifetime.

I may be wrong, and I reserve the right to change my mind as I continue to learn and grow, as I have in the past. For example: once upon a time I did not believe in God, but now due to experiences of my life I do believe in God.  However I am not completely sold on Jesus.  I like his message but I ask you what person in his right mind does not try to run when he knows someone is on their way to kill or hurt them? What person who believes in God does not do everything to try to protect himself from evil?  What person in his right mind would surrender to evil by death?

If this is what makes a person right then perhaps I am doomed, but I do not think so.  I can’t help but wonder, were my parents evil?  Were yours or any other parricide kids?  Maybe, but I don’t really think so.  I think they were very sick and lacked the tools of communication necessary to have a healthy relationship with probably anyone, simply because they were never taught to communicate about their feelings.  And if they did not know how to teach us, then how were we supposed to know?

My grandmother said my mother was never beaten as a child but my grandfather beat my grandmother so badly he almost killed her.  She went to the hospital for recovery for six long months.  If it was true mother was never beaten, I guess she beat because that was what she grew up watching. And so that was what she learned.  Otherwise I want to believe she would have known how bad it hurt and would not have repeated the cycle.

I suspect that only perhaps God really knows or could say for sure the reasons why our parents turned out the way they did.  Not all questions seem to have answers, but common sense often allows for realistic and probable conclusions.

I apologize if there are parts of your letter to which I did not respond to. Somewhere in the process of moving I have misplaced your letter, I called Dan for your address so I could respond to you.  I look forward to reading whatever you might like to write and am willing to answer any questions you might have.

‘Til next time. Take care, stay positive, and keep the faith. Miracles happen every day!

Sincerely,

Lone Heron

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Patty Loveless performing “Tear Stained Letter”

22
Sep
13

equinox

eggs

The equinox occurs today at 3:44 pm central, signifying the first day of fall.

As the angle of the earth’s inclination toward the sun changes throughout the year, lengthening or shortening the days according to season and hemisphere, there are two times annually when day and night are of more-or-less equal length: the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. These celestial tipping points have been observed for thousands of years and given rise to a considerable body of seasonal folklore. All my life I have heard the story that an egg can be balanced on end on the equinoxes, though I have never been successful in proving that it is true.

The egg being the most literal and obvious of all fertility symbols, ancient customs survive not only in the form of egg rolling and Easter egg hunts around the vernal equinox, but also in the quaint superstitious belief (most often attributed to the Chinese) that you can stand raw eggs on end on the the equinox. Apparently this derives from the notion that due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, special gravitational forces apply.

Looked at skeptically it doesn’t make much sense, however. As David Emery of About.com points out, there’s a fall equinox every year, as well. Why are there no egg balancing contests on the first day of autumn? Secondly, while it’s true that on both equinoxes the earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun, making day and night of equal length, there’s no scientific reason to suppose that such an alignment exerts any perceptible effect on solid objects here on earth. Thirdly, if the equinox can cause this curious anomaly, why not others?

Emory isn’t saying it can’t be done—standing raw eggs on end, I mean—it certainly can, but it takes patience, eggs of just the right shape (trial and error is the only way to find them), a pinch of salt if all else fails, and—here’s the biggest “secret” of all—it works equally well any day of the year. Emory has published a photograph of his website of an egg balanced on end three weeks before the equinox.

I have always used the equinoxes as spiritual holidays in which I make some effort, however large or small, to bring my relations with others into balance. Just as eggs can be balanced on any day of the year, our relationships know no special season. They can be in balance, like equal periods of night and day, every day of the year.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald performing “Night And Day”

21
Sep
13

new doctor

Doctor

No blog post today.

I have devoted the whole day to traveling up to Alpine to meet the new doctor in town, who I can only say is terrific. For the first time in more than a decade, I feel I have finally met a guy that I can have confidence in.

But I am exhausted, and sleeping off the rigors of the trip.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Harry Connick, Jr. performing “Doctor Jazz”