There is too much- The coming and going of pixels, products, and personalities, Demands, desires, deadlines, debts, Bandwidth saturation and buffering, Buffering, always, While the world continues to clickclick. Who hears anything? Who sees anything? Pay attention—a friend of mine just died. I didn't write acquaintance. I wrote friend. He needed things. Not much. I couldn't pay attention. It isn't all my fault, but Really it is. Not his death, but He could have left with more love and Care. Instead of waiting… Waiting for the buffering to clear.
Category Archives: Social
Today is my anniversary. The clock moves on, pages pulled from calendars, life moves on, people move on. But dates remain, along with the people for whom they mean something. This date means something to me. But not to anyone else. Not anymore.
And so the day goes on. Lisa is at a funeral. I am at work. I’d be at the funeral too, but today is the last day of mid-term exams, and the last day before the winter break. Taking off today was simply not going to happen. People move on.
Bob was a friend. A radical in the style, location and times of the Chicago Seven, a musician, a photographer, and political activist, Passover and Hanukkah at our house, jam sessions – his funeral is today. Cancer. Everyone seems to die of cancer. Ryan wondered what to do with his anniversary with Joyce, after she died. He didn’t have to wonder long. He died a week ago just about two years after she did. Cancer. He is no longer worried about his anniversary, how it will feel when it comes around, how it feels when it’s here, whether to mention it, not mention it, toast it, ignore it. Bob was older. Early 70s. Ryan was in his 40s.
And I’m in my 50s now. Late 50s. I was in my mid 40s then, when I first wondered what to do with this date. Lots of people have died since then. But not me. So I’m still wondering. Like my father wondered. His father, too. Now, no more wondering.
And wondering how much longer I will feel this way. How much longer will this date still have this charge? If the answer is for the rest of my life, how much longer will I still wonder what to do with it?
I’m not looking to leave anytime soon, but I do want to know what to do. How to notice it, and give its proper due without tripping over it, without ignoring it, which I could not do. Would not do. Would not want to do. Could not forgive myself if I did.
I have been mean to myself over the last two weeks. Even more than usual, and that is saying something. Extraordinarily mean. Exceedingly, aggressively mean. So hostile I have stopped myself in surprise. So rude I have wondered how I could treat anyone that way, let alone myself. And, yet, I have. I do. I am.
This is not mere description, not evaluation, but judgement. All judgement. I have vacillated in my belief of free-will, and yet somehow feel that my willpower is fully under my control. And many of you will agree it is, as does part of me. A small part. The part that looks on, aghast. Not the part that derides, castigats and punishes.
I was listening to music today, as many days. I put on a song by The Carpenters, “Bless the Beasts and the Children,” and listened, and, as often I have when listening to Karen Carpenter sing, cried a bit. How she could hate herself, her own body, so much that she would starve herself to death? Starve and die. How could she? Yet, I’d do the same, if only I had the willpower.
Willpower. It is stronger than I think, and I am usually right on. I get to the gym regularly, eat “right” for me, and do what I need to do. Yet, any small meandering off that straight path feels a failure, a disaster, and a breach of that which is sacred – a mistake for which I will surely be punished. And if the Gods do not, I will find a way to do so myself.
For letting myself down, and, worse, letting my family, my loved ones, all, down, for the constant disappointment I must be, there is only punishment and suffering. For being of no value. And no way to redeem myself but to make things easier for everyone and leave. At best, to fall asleep and not wake again. At best.
Value. Value depends on how well I adhere to the protocol. And lack of orthodoxy, which is common, means a diminution of personal worth. A decrease of value as a human being. And a reduction of usefulness. Being useful means being of no value. Mind you, this refers to me only. This is never a standard I would think of applying to anyone else. For others, simply being is all that is required for worth. The idea of worth is silly. They are. They are loved. They love. What more could one want?
This entire last week I have been preoccupied with a question. Do I look more like a troll or a dwarf? Dwarf only occurred to me as a sort of partial redemption, since they are at least industrious. I have even been looking to see if dwarves write, since I am not a smith or builder. I was working to justify my place as a dwarf.
I have thought often I had come to accept myself as an endomorph. That acceptance is always short-lived. I see others who are short, thick, stout, able, and I think that is fine. Really, I don’t think much at all of it unless it comes up. But, examining my thoughts – low center of gravity, tough and dense, strong. This is a fine fine way to be. But that’s not what I see when I look at myself. Troll. Others, strength and power, softness and ability. Myself, troll.
And that is something I feel I should apologise for. I’m always feeling like I have done something, many things, wrong, always something wrong, and always feeling I should apologise and mostly never sure what for, except for just being me. For inflicting, on them, myself. I want to take each family member aside and thank them and apologise. Each friend. Anyone who has to deal with me. Any coworker I can’t look in the eye. I can’t believe anyone would want me around. My lack of understanding I feel I consistently exhibit, miscommunications, look, twitching, habits… everything. It must be very difficult being my friend. I’m not sure why anyone would be. They deserve better. I’m sorry.
And all these things, and the emotions, I feel I should be able to control. And, regardless of effort, at that I have failed as well.
One friend, now dead, once told me I must have a very low opinion of her to think she’d be friends with me if I was what I think I am. So, as I had a high opinion of her, quite high, I must be pretty special. And that must prove I am not as I see myself. Logic. I have a very high opinion of my friends and can’t believe my fortune. Sometimes I wonder what I must have done right, but mostly, I just wonder. And so I keep trying.
I do the best I can. That I can say with neither reserve nor doubt. I always have, no matter how much I have screwed up, and I have done so monumentally. Always. The effort there, always. The best I could with what I knew and the tools I had. When I was in school, I went to guidance and asked for help. In my twenties, thirties, forties, I went to psychologists for help. Never any real assistance. No tools. No skills. Not for the frustration. Not for the confusion. Not for the communication. Forget the lack of social skills. Just help me get through a day without wanting to punch myself in the head. Without actuallybanging my dead against a wall. That would be nice. Finally, with a chance remark by a clerk in a psychology practice, a clerk who thought I was in the wrong place and that I was supposed to be downstairs in the Center for Autism Treatment, with some pushing with her to explain what she meant, and discussion with the psychologist where I nearly demanded the battery of tests, and diagnosis of ASD in the severe range. Finally. And finally skills. Finally tools. Finally the ability to modulate my reactions, to choose responses. But the feelings are still there. And no amount of Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy is going to change those. And so here I am. Still working on being better, doing better, and still looking up any information I can to prove that I’m a dwarf, at least, and not a troll.
Cup Foods is vibrant with activity. Deli counter, racks stacked with locally-made foods, locally grown produce on open shelves. Parents walk in with their children, picking summer treats. At tables, men sit and talk about George in a way that says “We knew him. We knew him well.” That says he is still here. It is a multi-hued humanity in a neighbourhood hub.
This is 38th Street and Chicago, George Floyd Square, Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis. To get into Cup Foods, one could avoid the spot where George Floyd was murdered. I do not. I stand there. I wonder. What would it be like to have my own neck knelt on for nearly nine minutes, to slowly lose consciousness, to suffocate. I stand there, and I do not stand there alone.
Taken over by the neighbourhood, then cleared by the city, then met with compromise by both, traffic is reduced to one lane each way, and slow, with bright, meaningfully decorated concrete barricades, here on one side of the street, then on the other, with wide crosswalks and gaps for pedestrians, George Floyd Square is alive. A community garden feeds this diverse neighbourhood of Edwardian and Victorian homes and busy sidewalks. Murals adorn the walls of the businesses on the corners. There is Martin Luther King. There is Malcolm X. There is John Lewis. There is George Floyd.
The traffic circle, amid flowering plants, holds signs with the names and faces of the slain. I walk around it, clockwise, slowly, pronounce each name. There is Breonna Taylor. There is Trayvon Martin. There is Emmett Till. Name after name, recognised and not. The famous by deed and those brought to fame by moments of senseless violence and inhumanity. Of one person feeling they had the right to wield power over another. Of those sworn to protect and serve becoming agents of death.
Here is a place to pray. Here is a place to sit. Here is a makeshift memorial library large enough for two or three people to step into. Bring books, take books. It is fully stocked, shelves floor to ceiling. Awash in colour. We select one for our grandaughter, Sadie. Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech and note, inside the cover, where it came from with an enclosed photograph. The convenience store across from Cup Foods is covered in writings of social justice, ground to roof, and, again, colour. Color everywhere. Candles, flowers, pictures, notes, everywhere, on everything. And, everywhere, people. People talking, walking, writing, in contemplation, meditation, prayer.
We stand together. Look around. A living memorial in a living neighbourhood. A statement of grief and tenacity, sadness and resilience. Lisa cries. A tall woman walks over, dark brown skin, bright yellow shirt. Hugs her. Is it right that those who live this console those who only witness? Yes. Yes, she says. We are all in this together. We are all one, together..
Across the street she points. A young white woman. ”She has been here every day for a year. I’m here most days, making sure people are safe and understand it is still a working street. We want to keep everybody safe.”
Walk down the street, two blocks, she tells us. To the cemetery. Past the community garden that begins with a picture of John Lewis admonishing us to make “Good Trouble” and ends with squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. The whole way, homes with pride flags, Black Lives matter signs, and reminders that science is real, and love is love.
Turn left. One block down the hill to the field. To our right, an apartment building. To the left, old three story homes. At the end of the street, a large pond and central fountain to the right, houses to the left, a green concave field with rows of small tombstones. Over one hundred of them, each with a name, dates, location, and “rest in power.” Behind the field, a grassy slope up to a busy street, and, amid the green, the words, in white, “SAY THEIR NAMES.
A small table is front and center. A person hands out information. A Lokotah man greets us. We talk.
When did all this start, I ask him.
“With Columbus, man. With Columbus.”
We walk the seven long rows, saying each name. Shot by police in her bed. Shot by police in front of a store. Shot by police in his home. Shot by police in front of his mother. Shot by police in front of his children. A massage therapist. A violin student. An autistic student. A prisoner. Nearly every one a person of colour. And those who weren’t, autistic.
No one is a saint. But everyone is a sinner. No one deserved this.
We walk. Name. Name. Name. Name. But each one is said.
A donation is left, and we walk up the hill, down the street, through the square. There is a place to be, and we must go. In the car, we sit quietly for a few moments. There are butter cookies. We squeeze each other’s hand.
I’m trying to write
a poem about a man who
died with a hood on his head,
naked, on the street,
pleading for his life,
murdered while the cameras rolled,
at the hands of those
who are supposed to protect him—
a public snuff film.
I’m sorry, I don’t remember his name.
There have been so many.
My shudder reflex is still active.
I can’t watch this, but
I watch regardless—
in some small way so he
would not die without witness,
after witness, after witness, after….
How do I write about this?
What can I say as poignant
as his own begging?
What can I say as meaningful
as the tears of his own family?
what am I supposed to do?
If he were my son,
I’d want the world to burn too.
It is one year since the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool in South Florida. While we wish it could have been the last, already, there have been others.
The students, the citizens, of March for our Lives have been criticized for eclipsing the names of the people who died, but, as David Hogg said, while he understands that, they are working to make sure there comes a time when there are no more people who die this way, so their deaths will not have been for nothing. They are working tirelessly to make sure sure this becomes a reality.
In the meantime, so many. So many I can’t recall them all. Columbine was not the first. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Marjory Stoneman Douglas. And the next one.
The names of the dead were hushed at Kings Buffet.
From the single TV,
High in the corner
Above the frozen soft-serve machine,
The steam table full of sesame chicken,
Broccoli and tofu,
On the screen
A man in a suit behind
A lectern answers questions
He will read the names of the dead.
Above the clinking plates he
Solemnly, slowly reads through
The taps of forks
The first name
Slips his lips
And, then, the music swells
From harp, guquin, violin and flute
But it was just that someone
Turned up the volume
From the wall-speakers above the salad bar
So the names continue to drop
To the sound of Mandarin and music
So the names continue to fall
To the sound of the ice and soda machine
And I can not hear them,
Didn’t know them,
Will not even know their names.
There seems little to do.
Eat my fish and think,
How I am, here, now.
In the last classroom
Twenty-one students were saved by their professor
Who used his body to bar the door
Before the shooter shot him through.
A holocaust survivor,
He had died before and for less.
It is good to know why you lived.
Student Perception of Speed as Affected by Diction: how charged words, as opposed to academic and neutral language, heighten emotions, create bias and skew judgement with specific emphasis on outliers
It has been a long time since I have done a study. 1988, I think. Designed one or run one. A long time since I have written one, and I know I have made many errors here.
I have been telling my students that words matter. Words create perception and they can be used to create bias, emotion, action or inaction. We study appeals to pathos, logos, ethos, kairos. Loaded language and logical fallacies. But I often sense they do not believe me. So I thought I would put them in the middle of their own proof.
The result was many open eyes and one student who insisted he should be filming me as a TED talk.
The results are below.
This study is designed to see if using a “charged” term, non-academic diction, can change perception of external events. Such language can be used to create bias or emotional states and it was my desire to demonstrate this to English honors and Advance Placement English Language and Composition classes. If the hypothesis is correct, this can demonstrate how “charged” terms can be used to control the overall responses of populations.
I hypothesis that using terms with a “positive charge” will increase perception of speed in a filmed vehicular accident.
Three classes of tenth grade honors English students were tested, with populations of 18, 19 and 21. All classes were studying the same curriculum and in the same program at the same location in their curriculum and instructed with the same materials, methods and instructor.
Each class was shown a five second film of a vehicular accident or a motorcycle striking a car that had just pulled out of a parking spot, as filled from a helmet camera. The film showed the motorcycle increasing in speed, with the sound of the engine extant, and striking the broadside of the car. It was made obvious, in the film, the rider was not hurt appreciably hurt, and there were no signs of injury in the film.
Each class was asked to estimate the speed of the collision and to write the number, in miles per hour, on a note, but each class was asked using a slightly differently worded query. The control group was asked the question in academic diction devoid of purposefully charged language. A second group was asked the same question with a word replacement or a neutral for a word with a “positive charge.” The third group had a query with two words carrying a “positive charge.”
- What was the speed of the vehicle when the accident occurred?
- What was the speed of the vehicle when it smashed into the other?
- How fast was the vehicle when it smashed into the other one?
The notes were collected and the data compiled for mean, median and mode as well as lowest and highest outliers.
27 mph average speed estimate
Lowest outlier 4 mph. Highest Outlier 53 mph.
33 mph average speed estimate
Lowest outlier 12 mph. Highest outlier 55 mph.
38 mph average speed estimate
35 – 40 split for the mode, with four estimates for each
Lowest outlier 18 mph. Highest outlier was 80 mph.
The language with the least emotional charge, the academic diction, resulted in the lowest perceived mean speed as well as the lowest outliers.
The language with one added “charged” word increased the mean perceived speed 22.22% 33 mph over the control group
The median and mode did not shift but the lowest and highest perceived speed increased by 200% and 3.78% respectively over the control group.
The language with two “charged” words increased the mean perceived speed by 40.74% to 38 mph over the control.
The median increased 16.67% to 35 mph and the mode was split evenly between 35 and 40 mph. Using the mean of this mode to calculate percentage, the mode increased 25% over the control. Seemingly most telling is the increase in the outliers. The lowest perceived speed increased from 4 mph to 18 mph (350%) and 80 for the highest (50.94%) over the control group.
It is clear using charged words increased perceived speed.
This can be extrapolated to other areas, such as crowd size, levels of violence, impending danger and many other real world events.
This demonstrates several things. Language can be leading/loaded even if language does not appear to be. Academic diction has the lowest “charge,” and this supports the need to teach students to be write in an academic fashion. It also supports the need to instruct them to understand the importance of diction, so they can recognize language which appears to create logos when it is really designed to create pathos, thus allowing students to notice subtle manipulations in language meant to create emotional responses to skew perception and/or drive opinion. Further, it demonstrates the need for careful word choice with high semantic value to decrease linguistic indeterminacy.
Replication and Refinement
In replicating this study, I would select a population corrected for gender and academic level to assure the populations were homogeneous. Further, I would add a 4th group with a variable “negatively charged” term to see if the perception of the estimated speed in such a group would be lower than the control.
In further refinement, I would like to test to see if changing the charged adverb (fast, slowly, quickly) or the verb (smashed, collided, hit) have differing magnitudes of affect.
We are aware that journalism can look objective but, upon examination, we find leading words and loaded language hiding in the sentences. This can have an effect on how we perceive an event. The word “mob” used for an assemblage instead of group can, and does, affect how people perceive the assemblage and this carries over to the perception of the individuals within the assemblage.
While I understand, in this test, the outliers skew the data, and it is possible the outliers should be taken into account when calculations are made, the outliers are of interest in themselves. Both ends of the outliers rose with inclusion of the charged words. The outlier at the higher end is of particular interest as it is the outliers in a society that cause the most dramatic and concentrated change and cause the most trauma as well (terrorism, murder, mass shootings) and if a small inclusion of a charged word can create a large increase in the emotional response of the top outliers, this is worth noting.
While we cannot combat this in every instance, we can begin to educate students to be aware it exists and to be on the lookout for the use of such language. Words with a positive charge can be used to excite/increase bias and bring activity when coupled with a call to action. Words with a negative charge can dampen responses and reduce activity. We see this in political rhetoric as well as in sales, and we are seeing it increasingly in social media and fringe news sources.
It is possible that educating children to recognise and not accept the charging of language may help reduce the effect of this.
My father was in the US Navy. He was a bubblehead, as I have been told those who serve aboard submarines are called. He also served aboard a destroyer and it is quite possible I was, shall we say, engendered, within that destroyer, when it was in the Charlestown Navy Yard. I have the American flag that draped his coffin, given to me by an honor guard upon his burial, on my bookcase.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, Albert Cohen, English, joined the Canadian Army as an electrical engineer, and saw combat, during WWII – a Jew fighting fascism and hate during the Holocaust.
I had, as a child, thought about the military. But I wasn’t ready even to leave home to go away to college, and my life took a different direction with marriage, children, and a full life. Nothing to look back upon with even a gram of regret.
In the back of my mind, I always thought of my father’s and grandfather’s service. While I knew I wasn’t cut out for the military, for reasons which would become quite a bit more clear as I grew older, I felt there were ways I could contribute to my country. That I could make my country a better place. To that end, I worked on environmental issues, sat vigiles, walked demonstration lines, and spent many years working with Earth First! in defense of the territory, not just the map. I worked to defend what the flag stood for and what my father and grandfather fought for.
For this, I have paid, but have never been paid, though my price has not been as steep as many. Others have been beaten, or paid with their lives – taken by our own countrymen. Sometimes this was due to ideology, sometimes their bodies stood in the way of profit.
I have been told to leave our country. I have been told to get a job, while already working three. I have been hit by eggs thrown from moving cars, held at gunpoint, run off the road, spat on while chained to doors, pushed up against walls to be photographed by men in black jackets with the letters FBI on the back, had my livelihood and income threatened from within and without, and alienated family. And I have seen those beside me pay far more steeply than I.
I did this most of my life, but, there was a time, for a while, I stepped back. During the time I needed to heal, during the great confusion, depression, fracturing, and despondency that was the aftermath of the death of my wife, I could not act. I could not care. But in 2016 I heard a call my conscience could not refuse, and I began to care again. I attended a meeting for Bernie Sanders. While I would have happily voted for Hillary Clinton, and did, and not felt at all as though I had made a “lesser of the two evils” decision, Bernie was my real deal and I went to work.
A month later I was asked if I would take an actual elected position. I was surprised, to say the least. In an area that is not deeply red, but in which Democrats, let alone Greens, Progressives and Democratic Socialists tend to keep a low profile and don’t often win elections, I was asked to take on an official position – Precinct Committeeperson. I was asked by Sanjay Patel who, at that time, I had no idea I’d be voting for happily, working with delightedly, and stumping for constantly, to help elect to US Congress. But, then, I didn’t see myself running for office either. And that wasn’t the only thing I found myself doing that I would not have foreseen.
I had never worked in an official capacity before, but now I was reaching out to voters in my precinct and attending meetings, planning, and working in concert with many others (nearly never easy or enjoyable for me). I began working on registering people to vote. Then I was asked to be the chairman of the Voter Registration Committee. Then worked on the Candidate and Campaign Committee delineating what positions were coming up, qualifications for each, and then working to find people to run for those offices.
Then came the door to door. No, not me. No. Never. Hold a gun on me, ok. Spit on me. Fine. But I’m not knocking on a stranger’s door! But the candidates… I believed in these people. They were my friends. I worked with them. Knew them. So, now, yes, I’ll try it. And so began the canvassing. The canvassing. The never-ending canvassing.
It was frightful. It still is. It twists my stomach. I hate it. And I did it anyway. Many of us did. But many said no. They had anxiety. It made them nervous. They had as many excuses as to why they could not take an active part in defending and improving our country as they had complaints about what was wrong with it. I could easily have claimed the same. I did not.
And running for office? “No. Have you found anyone to run against _____”? No, not yet. “We need someone to run against ____.” Yes, that is why we are asking you. You are qualified and we think you’d be great. Are you willing to do it? “No. Are you going to find someone to run against _____?” They didn’t see the connection between what they were asking others to do but were unwilling to do themselves. And wondered why change did not come.
But, slowly, our slate filled. And did so with people of sterling quality and character that I am proud to work with. People who are worth fighting anxiety and a roaring head and the dread felt before each and every knock. These people are worth that. Our country is worth that. Our grandchildren are worth that.
All positions but one. One open position. One position with no one to run for it. The position with a name that challenged anyone to dare put it on a sign. So befuddling no one knew what or where it was. Sebastian Inlet Tax District Commission. An environmental position and I said sure. Why not?
“I wish I could vote for you, but I don’t live in Sebastian.” You don’t need to.
“I didn’t know you lived in Sebastian.” I don’t.
“I wish I could vote for you.” You can.
Lee had always wanted me to run for office. School board. But I have seen what happens to teachers who run for school board and lose. And their spouses if they happen to teach as well. No. But, here – this was a position few had heard of, low profile, and science-oriented. I could do this. All I needed to do was learn about coastal engineering, fluid and colloidal dynamics, biosolids, environmental policy and a few other things.
Besides, I wanted to be the first autistic person to win a public office. I filled out the forms.
And I was too late. A year too late. Sarah Hernandez or Enfield, Connecticut. Fine. I was doing it anyway!
Then came the fundraising. The asking for money. The accounting and webforms. The letters from the Florida Division of Elections, Office of Campaign Finance telling me I had done this wrong, that wrong, the other things wrong, and my needing to ask for help, though no one would step up to be the campaign treasurer.
Public speaking was not a problem. But, more and more, the dealing with people, though I should have been just discussing science they wanted to concentrate on anything but, became harder and harder. It was my thought canvassing would become easier the more I did it, but some months in it began to twist my stomach even more. The more I did it, the worse it got. Walking up to a house, I would feel ill. I’d wish no one was home. Beg the deities that no one would answer the door. But they were. They did. And I kept going.
Press conferences were ok, but “meet and greets” would leave me sitting in a corner with my head roaring and my body rocking. During a fundraiser, Arlene found me sitting in a corner rocking back and forth. During a pre-Pride event, Marge found me on the floor, in a corner, singing to myself, holding my head. Even at the election watch party, even with benefit of Cruzian and Coke, I lasted less than an hour and Lisa and I left to bring home Chinese food and watch at home.
Seeing myself spoken about in third person was strange. Even, as so much of it was, positively glowingly. But the attacks. Public attacks on me as a teacher. Attacks that followed me to school. Complaints and allegations out of nowhere two weeks before the election followed by parents writing publicly about me being a “piece of shit” and a “horrible human being.” Nothing I had ever experienced in nearly two decades of education. And these coming from not just locally, but far away as Washington state.
Why did I keep going? Service. To make the world better, in large part. To do my share, as I had done before, but in a new and different way, as it seemed needed at the time. Certainly I am not the first person one thinks of when running for office. A person with great difficulty reading, and misreading, faces or tone, won’t talk to people he doesn’t know, won’t engage in anything that doesn’t have clear rules of parameters, and won’t engage in small-talk or banter but will simply dive into didactic, cannot stand crowds, bright lights, and noise, is not who one looks for as a candidate. I am not well-suited for it. It made Earth First! feel easy.
One of the candidates I grew to know is Mel Martin, who ran for Florida State Senate. She is a Marine Corp veteran and I won’t say anything more about her as a person because if I write one compliment, I will feel compelled, and am quite capable, of filling the next five minutes with her virtues. She is one of the few people who knew what challenges I was running with. Instead, I will simply give her space to speak on her own. She has this to say.
“After serving with the marines – some of the finest people on Earth – and retiring four years ago, I honestly did not believe I’d be in the company of true, selfless warriors again. But I was absolutely wrong. While marines fight for each other to accomplish the mission, with the backdrop of patriotic duty, YOU are directly fighting in the spirit of patriotism – for the very pillars of society we inherited and intend to pass to the following generations. We’re not fighting simply as Americans, we’re fighting FOR America.”
And there was what I had often wanted to say, thought for years to say, but could not as I had not the experience of both kinds of service. And, so spoken by an actual member of the armed forces, a veteran, this was more appreciated than I could, at the time, express. Service comes in different types. And those on the street don’t get paid, and, sometimes, meet the same ends, at the hands, however, of their own countrymen. Bombed, burned, jailed. Lose our jobs, homes, families. In service to that which is greater than ourselves. Without benefit of remuneration of any sort, we serve.
Different, yes. And I do not pretend to know what it is like to be in a firefight. My hat’s off to members of the armed forces, always. Respect and appreciation. Often amazement. But I also respect those who have given so much to fight at home to make this home better for us all. Those who worked far past their comfort and risked themselves when they could have stayed at home, and often lost so much.
To them, I say, also, thank you for your service.
Not ever wanting to be bored, not having enough to do being a precint committerperson, a chairman of the county’s voter registration committee, teaching full-time, which is never just full-time, and seeing patients, I thought I’d run for office. But not just any office. I chose an office that is so obscure, yet important, with such a misleading name that I can’t just run for it – I have to fully explain it nearly every time I mention it.
My wife always wanted me to run for office. She was thinking school board. But I know what happens to teachers who run for school board around here. Better win or look for a new job.
I chose Sebastian Inlet District Commission – a commission that is one hundred years old this year and is charged with keeping the beaches and rivers in as natural a condition as possible (after they cut four un-natural inlets into it), restoring them when they are not, with promoting education and conservation, and protecting the lives of the creatures that live in and around them from Vero in the south to Rockledge in the north. That’s fifty miles, through two counties, of one of the most ecologically diverse waterways in North America.
What they actually do, though, is keep millage rates low so people can afford to buy houses on the beach, and so development can keep moving forward, and business have plenty of rich folks to buy their stuff.
I’m running against a man who believes dinosaurs are still alive and well in Africa. Who doesn’t believe in science. What else am I to do?
I told a local group of about 300 people that I was going to change that. And, if I can’t change it, make the other four people on the commission as miserable as possible for at least four years. And they know I can do it.
I have worked as an environmentalist in social and direct action for many years. Since my twenties. From the outside of the Establishment, and sometimes outside of the Law. Now it’s time to do so from the inside. And, I hope, make my wife proud as well.
For me, this is my dive back into deep ecology and ecospirituality. In many ways, this may not be quite as exciting as my days with Earth First!, but I hope it will have a deep and lasting benefits and significantly less involvement from the FBI. And it might be safer, although, in this political climate, I might be less dangerous taking my chances sitting in trees and fighting bulldozers.
People who want to dismantle the EPA are the real ecoterrorists, and they are in office. Time for me to be in office too.
So, if you’d like to help me, I’d love that. Please donate a little bit, or share the link to this, or the link below.
Praying is what you do
When you pick up the shovel
and plant a tree,
Surrounding the roots with mulch,
Dirt under your fingers.
Prayer is what you have
When you cook a meal for someone
Who is ill. Give respite to a
Caretaker. Take on a task
Someone else would usually do.
Praying is visiting hospice
When you are tired of death.
Prayer is cleaning a toilet that isn’t yours,
Building a house you won’t ever live in.
Sow seeds for food you will never eat.
It is the knock on the door,
The letter in the mail,
The call on the phone.
Marching in the street.
Chaining to the door.
Praying is holding someone else’s hand,
Listening to someone else’s story,
Holding space after they have left.