The Day After Black Friday…

November 28, 2014

“Man shoots another man at Walmart over a toaster,” reads a headline.

He leaves his apartment, head lowered, not wanting to look “us” in the face, shoulders drooped from the burden of “our” behavior. We’ve made clear our priorities, money over people, material things over humanity. And he feels it, the weight of it all, maybe more than most. His feet drag the dirty floor from the heaviness.

The hallway of his project building only adds insult to injury, smelling of piss and yesterday’s drink. He steps over old, discarded appliances, cruelly replaced with brand new members of the household bought at a fraction of their value, or at least their price. The smell of urine becomes suffocating.

He exits his building and the cold, autumn air hits his face, steals his breath. And at that moment he hears the most beautiful sound, a song undoubtedly sent by the heavens, the uninhibited, magical laughter of a child. He looks up and sees a toddler, unattended by his older sister who’s sitting and texting on a bench several feet away. She’s completely unaware of the child’s careless brilliance, as he runs in circles, being chased by nothing but something at the same time, cackling from the bottom of his little being.

Tears well up in the man’s eyes as he watches the child; surely it was the cold air that transformed his eyes into tiny ponds. The child’s laughter fills the man’s heart, not missing the cracks and crevices that had not seen light in months, years even. He feels a warmth grow in his chest. And at that moment, he knows that “we” are still there somewhere, even if “we” are hidden deep in the joy of a child’s laugh that we have suppressed; it is there we still live, there we still love.

And so, like a crazy person, the man begins to cry and laugh. He runs after the child, whose sister continues to text, unaware. The tiny little boy pauses for a moment, looks up at the approaching giant, lifts his tiny finger and points at the man’s face. The man stops, afraid he has done something wrong. Then, like a call to dance, the tiny little fellow lets out an elated squeal, and runs and laughs, harder and faster than before. The man’s face breaks in half with a smile, and he runs after the child. They run in circles and laugh, for what feels like an eternity, beautifully weaving “us” back together, one revolution at a time.

I wrote this piece back in 2012 but never posted it here. I felt like sharing it this year. I boycott Black Friday every year because I hate what it turns us into―I hate when we put money over lives, property over people. That seems to be a running theme this year here in America, unfortunately. So, this year, I encourage us all to boycott Black Friday.

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Circus thoughts…

January 23, 2011

I took my little brother Eli to the circus yesterday. Well, actually, he used his Christmas money to buy the tickets, and I paid for the gas to get there and dinner, so I guess he took me. Anyways. We went to the circus, and for the most part it was absolutely incredible; seeing the amazing feats, stunts and tricks that humans can do when they put their sweat, blood, tears and lots of practice behind it was thrilling, to say the least! But a certain aspect of the circus made me really sad. Yep, you probably could have guessed it: the animals, and most specifically the bigger, not-normally-domestic ones.

Now, I am no animal rights activist, and I am not going to rant about mistreatment of circus animals when I know nothing about that. What bothered me was something I saw in their eyes. It’s pretty “normal” for me to see a dog jumping around and acting silly, and I’ve seen plenty of horses running around in circles. So, those animals didn’t bother me so much. Even the llamas were more entertaining than not because I was like, “Wow. I didn’t even know a llama could run!” and I can’t even picture a llama in it’s “natural habitat”, so whatever I saw just seemed natural to me. I could justify those animals doing silly tricks to amaze me. They are already domestic in my mind. But the elephants and tigers were a different story.

Tigers are such majestic creatures! And they are enormous! I watched as the trainer coaxed the tigers to do various different tricks, within the enclosed steel cage that dropped from the ceiling. There was a certain sadness in the tigers’ eyes. I think the word might be “tamed”. It seemed, no matter how long they have been in captivity, there is something deep within their soul that tells them that something is not right about this picture, that they are meant for something so much greater. I watched as the trainer used tiny little pieces of meat to reward them for the tricks, and to bribe them to go where he wanted them to, as they skipped over the biggest piece of meat in the cage: the trainer. It was heartbreaking for me to see these glorious creatures acting in such tame and contrived ways.

And then there were the elephants; one of the biggest creatures to stomp around on modern-day earth! Their presence demands respect. And I believe elephants are above the intelligence of some people, which made it even sadder to see them led around the arena by a man with a little stick, telling them to sit, and spin, and dance to the music. They were cute, and endearing, but their eyes spoke to me. Not necessarily of abuse, or maltreatment or anything like that. I didn’t read all that. But merely a sadness of being broken, and forced to to something that was below the fullness of their existence, trained by a tiny little man (in comparison to them) with a stick, all for the entertainment and enjoyment of people. I found it difficult to enjoy the elephants in that context.

And then I got to thinking…I’ve seen that look before in the eyes of humans. Like, that man who works a nine-to-five that he does not enjoy, daily confined to a tiny little cubicle, just to put bread on the table and to “get by”. He was made for greater things, but society has broken him, trained him, and told him not to live wild. He has turned his wants into needs and therefore has to make a certain amount of money to be able to afford the lifestyle he has created for himself. He has the stuff, but it has not made him happy the way he thought it would; and new stuff just keeps coming out all the time and he can never catch up.

He’s not happy. He wants so much more, and his soul tells him, if only on a subconscious level, that the desires of his heart have very little to do with “stuff”, and more to do with purpose. He’s told, “Chasing your dreams is too crazy, wild, and out there! We should be more docile, tame, and domestic.” Maybe he dreams of being a stunt man, or a writer, or a sports commentator, or a circus clown, but somewhere along the way, someone (if not many) told him that his dreams were too wild, that he needed to tone it down, and be more practical.

We are so often not all that different to those circus animals. We are majestic, glorious creatures meant to live in the fulness of our purpose and being, but we have been captured by another form of existence. Our cages are the materialistic lifestyles we desire, and our trainer is a capitalistic society, always holding that bait above our heads. We all too often settle for the little pieces of meat (in the form of conformity and complacency) when we were were made to be wild, to go after the big hunk of meat, following the deepest desires of our hearts and seeking happiness that way, instead of seeking happiness through more “things”. Material wealth and things will never quench our desire to be happy and fulfilled, like living in the fullness of who we are, most definitely, will do. But when we settle for less, convinced that we need that trainer to tell us who and how to be, we will remain in captivity. We will remain caged. And it will show in our eyes. I want to break free. I want to be wild.

 


Obama Drama: Health Care Reform

September 13, 2009

Health Care Reform? What the? Not living in the States but caring about family, friends and others who do live there makes things tricky sometimes. I try and keep up to date on relevant current events as much as possible, especially ones of the political nature, but because I am not in America, I tend to not always know everything that is going on over there. There is an upside to that however, because I see how people who are living “in it” (“it” being whatever the topic, controversy, scandal, etc. of the day may be), get so caught up in all the emotion, opinion, and hearsay that an objective view on the matter is more difficult to have.

I have recently seen this in my online interactions around the topic of President Obama’s crack at Health Care Reform. I have seen many emotional Facebook statuses, groups, blogs, Youtube videos, and comments under all of these things about the topic; government takeover, socialism, “why do we have to pay for them”, Obama is a socialist puppet, Obama is the health insurance companies’ puppet, we need to get back to capitalism, Obama is just like Hitler, Obama is a liar, emotion, opinion, emotion.

In a country where people are allowed freedom of belief, opinion and expression, it is literally impossible to please everyone! I get that. But sometimes when I see a frenzy like the Health Care Reform noise, I wonder if people even bother getting the full information about the topic they are ranting and raving about, before they begin their rants. Forget “full information”, sometimes I wonder if some people get any information about the topic. I saw a comment on a Youtube video where a guy called President Obama a “socialist puppet to the health insurance companies”. This guy obviously does not realize that a “socialist puppet” would be in direct opposition to meeting the demands of big business.

I went online and read into the topic a bit. I also watched the video of President Obama’s speech on Health Care Reform, twice. And after watching the video I really do not understand what people are still so worked up about. Maybe I am not understanding what he is proposing in fullness and I am open to correction, but in what I understood from his speech, he is indeed trying to reform the American health care system so every American benefits from it, but what he is suggesting is not totally radical change. What I did see is he is asking people to stop spreading fear, specifically and especially those opposing him, and be willing to sit down at the table together and really work on this. He said,

“But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned. Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.”

He then spoke on the actual plan, which he admitted “still needs ironing out”. President Obama said that he sees the Left wanting complete socialized health care like Canada, and the Right wanting every-man-for-himself with individuals paying for private insurance. He said that he can see positive arguments for both but he feels that neither approach alone will successfully work for America. Obama sees the need to find middle ground. He said, “Since health care represents 1/6th of our economy, I believe it makes more since to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try and build an entirely new system from scratch.”

Because honestly, the American health care system is a bit of a mess; “a bit” being an understatement. Sure, there are people who cannot even afford health insurance, but they are actually in the minority. A big problem is people who are insured are getting robbed by the insurance companies because they are not being covered in the way they should due to the greedy, profit driven, red tape ridden agenda of the insurance companies. From what I understood from Obama’s speech he does not intend for a complete government takeover with health care, and tax payers will not be paying other people’s medical expenses. Here is what I understood from his speech:

  • People who are on a health insurance plan that they are happy with are free to stay.
    • Within that there will be more regulations on insurance companies to make sure they: are not denying people of service due to previous illnesses, dropping people in the time of need, and even covering preventative check ups like colonoscopies and mammograms; all of these things in protection of the consumer of health insurance and not the companies.
    • He also wants to put measures in place to make sure that big insurance companies do not take advantage of small businesses and individuals.
  • For the people who are not covered by their employment or cannot afford private health insurance, Obama proposes to offer tax coupons to health insurance companies who offer a more affordable option. This will benefit both the companies and the consumers.
  • And for the people who still cannot afford a health care option, Obama proposes a public option. This is the option that people are freaking out about because they think their tax money will be paying for other people’s health care. But President Obama explained that this is not the case. The public option is also an alternative that the insurance companies are frantically fighting. But Obama explained how it would work:
    • This system will take four years to set up.
    • It will be funded not by money from tax payers, but the public health insurance option will eventually be self sustainable. How? From the actual premiums people pay. Much of the money consumers pay for private insurance goes to profits and the public option is a “not for profit” alternative, meaning consumers get what they pay for and no profit is made.
    • To oppose the fear of the insurance companies Obama explained that Americans who are in need of such a service only fall within 5% of the population, and he compared the system to public tertiary education institutions. Public colleges and universities are there for people who cannot afford private ones, but are in no way a threat to the bigger private colleges and universities. Obama believes it will also create an even more competitive market.
  • He also suggested a polishing and protection of Medicare for the seniors.

When I look at this I do not see a socialist government takeover and I also do not see a total surrender to big business and powerful insurance companies. Also keeping in mind that President Obama did not create these problems he is trying to fix, it seems the easy thing for him to do would be to just leave it for the next guy. In his speech he said that “now is the time” and he refused to back down form the challenge. His plan is not perfect, but to me it looks like an attempt to try and work at a flawed system, protect the consumer, make the market more competitive but better regulated, and insure that each and every American can receive the health care they need, when they need it most. Maybe I am missing something here. Watch the speech for yourself. I would love to hear your comments.