Ontario The Selfish

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So the morning after the night before and all I feel..…well what I feel is complicated. Ontario took the time to think it through and then choose Doug Ford and a Progressive Conservative Majority Government. I am not mad at Mr.Ford for his campaign. He took the time to judge what Ontarian’s were really about and what they really wanted and then ran a campaign that shot him to a convincing majority win. No Mr.Ford and team played this election brilliantly.

But my fellow Ontarian’s? What does this election say about us as a province? Well I think it is absolutely clear. What this election says about the majority of Ontarian’s who cast a ballot and elected Mr.Ford is that we are selfish, inward looking, and spiteful. Ontario the small minded . Ontario the indifferent. Ontario the Province of “it’s all about me!”

Ontario elected a Premiere who will hack the funding for the services for the most vulnerable amongst us. Claw back funding for the homeless, the addicted, those with a mental illness, those with a physical disability, and those in precarious work. The majority of Ontario’s would rather elect a leader and look past the very serious questions about his suitability for the Office and focus on the tax cuts, what they will get, and throwing a tantrum over the Liberals. Because in Ontario it’s all about me.

Now some might say “ we needed to do this to kick start our economy!”  Ontario’s economy s the strongest n the G7 and even stronger than California’s,. So nope – that’s a lie. “We have to help the average Ontarian that’s why we needed to elect the Conservatives! “. Well no that can’t possible be true since the majority of employment in Ontario are those who work in the service industry and are precariously employed. Mr.Ford has said he doesn’t support minimum wage increases so – thats a lie as well. Someone might say “Our taxes are too high and the average person can’t get by so we need a PC government.” Well the “average person” will see a tax decrease of $18 dollars and for that $18 your going to have to stand there and watch as Mr.Ford cuts 6 billion dollars from government services , and when that happens it’s always the most vulnerable that feel that effects . So enjoy your $18 – but that’s a lie. And there’s always the old chestnut “we have a huge deficit and we need to get our finances under control”. Well let me tell you that I have yet to find a single example of a Canadian or G7 conservative government that “got it’s finances under control”. So nope – that’s a lie.

No this election was a temper tantrum over Kathleen Wynne who was either a radical lesbian lefty or was selling our public assets down the river in a right wing power move. When Ontario had the choice they don’t go for the other progressive candidate. No, Ontario chose to be selfish and grab that $18 dollars over the needs of the most vulnerable all while stamping their feet to punish the liberals. So we are Ontario the small minded. Ontario the indifferent. Ontario the selfish.

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City Council and Mental Health

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Sometimes I fail. And sometimes really good leaders fail. Sometimes. Last night I felt that way when London City Council endorsed the misinformed and misguided mental health strategy for our city. Many will say that mental health services are a very complex with many parts and many factors.  But frankly in that’s balderdash.

Let me share with you some thoughts on why I feel this way this is an issue. Some background first.

In Ontario the Provincial Government is responsible for all health care including mental health. But Adult Mental Health is fatally underfunded and Child and Youth Mental Health is so bad that 80% of children/Youth with a mental health issue never get service. The Child and Youth system is so underfunded that recently 5 local Mental Health Agencies sent an open letter to the Liberal Government saying they were afraid they would no longer be able to meet service demand unless funding increased. Unlike every other medical illness, those with a mental illness wait 6 months to 3 years for service, and is often sporadic with no continuity of care to follow people throughout their illness. In other words those with a mental illness, which in london is up 130%, are discriminated against when it comes to primary health care. The Provincial Legislature’s Select Committee on Addictions and Mental Health has said this, The Ontario Ombudsman has said this, and the Auditor general has pointed out the inequities. The last three provincial governments have fundamentally failed in their duty of care. Why? It’s not about stigma it’s that there isn’t a single ministry in charge of mental health. It is divided amongst 5 ministries with often contradictory directions. The result is that suicide is the leading non accidental cause of death in Ontario and thousands suffer with a fractured and underfunded system. The Select Committee on Addictions and Mental Health’s first, and strongest recommendation, was that mental health for all in Ontario should be focused in one ministry.

In the last 20 years I have been through so many attempts to solve the issues in mental health including system including mapping exercises, collaboration tables, system integration efforts, that I have lost count. All of these efforts have failed because at the heart of the matter that there is no one ministry responsible and mental health care is fatally underfunded. Yet our City Council has decided to go down the well-worn path of previous local and provincial efforts hoping they can recreate the wheel despite all the times this has been tried before with the same failed result.

What is equally as troubling is that Council decided to follow this tired strategy despite the absolutely failed process they used , at the cost of $80,000 for a consult, in order to arrive at their strategy. I attended one of the meetings that was open to “those with lived experience” where 7 people were in attendance. At an earlier meeting there were 12. Yet at the meeting for service providers there were 40 people attended. Why the difference? Well the City of London staff, and their consultant, sent the invitation out with 2 days notice and hosted the meetings at times that was difficultly for those with families and jobs to attend. Add to this that the advisory Committee council appointed to advise them has no one with lived experience on it. Yet Council used this minimal input, by those who have to live and survive with this broken system, in order to make an “informed” decision about what their strategy should be?

The City of London does not fund mental health nor do they have any jurisdiction when it comes mental health yet Council deals with the consequences of the mental illness epidemic in London. But rather than publicly call on the Provincial Government to create one ministry for mental health or demand that this medical illness be equitably funded they chose to create tables of conversations. The same tables that I have sat at again and again for 20 years.

I have a great deal of respect for many members of Council and agree with their work on transit, city planning, supervised injection sets, poverty , and infrastructure. This Council works hard and tires to do the right thing and is filled with good people. But in this case, despite my many meetings with The Mayor and members of Council, and my two letters to all members of Council, they chose the leaset effective path forward and dd not call for a serious correction by the provincial government to address the inequity of mental health care. No Council has ever done this. Instead we’ll have the tired formula of tables and talk with no end in sight.

I want to thank Councillors Salih, Squire, and especially Ridley ( who completely understands the mental health issues) for taking the time to understand and voting in the way they did.

The Discrimination Against Jenepher Watt

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It has been a week of pain and suffering and at the heart of it all is the simple issue of some people’s inability to accept people who are different from them. Charlottesville struck our souls  and sounded us from top to bottom. President Trumps response further amplified this and left us feeling at a loss as to how he is president. But there have been other examples this week of prejudice and the exclusion by some in power toward those who are different.

While we are distracted by events south of the border, like drivers passing by a wreck on the highway, there was an example by a professor at Queens University of prejudice toward those who are differently abled. You can read his shameful article here and the response by a thoughtful educator here. Let us also not forget that we here in London may feel removed from acts of intolerance but there is a group of bigots planning to march on our own city hall on Aug.26th. Perhaps you may want to show up and let them know that London is a city of love not hate.

And then this week we were also reminded that prejudice doesn’t just happen along racial lines, didn’t happen along educational lines, but in the case of Jenepher Watt, it was along the medical lines.. Jenepher had struggled against her mental illness and had also been an advocate for others with the same struggle. But when she tried to get help for herself not once, not twice, but three times over eleven days she was turned away each time. After the third time  Jenepher Watt took her life.

Now you may feel that this is outrageous. It is. You may feel that this should never happen. It shouldn’t. You may feel that an injustice happened. You would be right. But for Jenepher Watt the beginning, middle, and tragic end was that she was discriminated against and that discrimination led to her death.

“How can this be?” you ask. “Discrimination?” you wonder. Yes friends, discrimination.

Here is the questions you must ask yourself to consider if this was discrimination or not. If you came into the emergency room with a broken leg after falling from skiing would you be turned away and sent back into the community? If you came to the emergency room with a cut to your finger after slicing yourself while trying to make your morning bagel would you be turned away and sent back into the community? If you arrived at the emergency room in diabetic shock because you forgot to take your insulin would you be turned away and sent back into the community? If you were 75 . with a bad flu, trouble breathing, and feeling horrible would you be turned away and sent back into the community?

Yet friends Jenepher Watt, who had a serious and chronic medical condition, was turned away and sent back into the community not once , but three times over the eleven days she suffered. The only difference between Jenepher Watt’s illness and the others is that Jenepher Watt had a mental illness and because of that she was treated differently from every other illness presented over the 11 days she suffered. The result of this prejudice is her death.

The distillation of democracy is justice and the distillation of justice is compassion yet Jenepher Watt received no justice nor compassion. She was shunned because her illness couldn’t be easily seen. So her family, rightly, are suing the hospital and the system that allowed this to happen. I hope they win. I hope that this win cause changes that will never allow this to happen again because friends, I have seen this story play out many, many times in the past 15 years. I have seen children as young as 6, seniors well into their 60’s. and all kinds of people in-between  be excluded from emergency mental health care because their illness is”different”.

Now you can shake your heads and cover this crime in the soft word stigma but lets actually take some responsibility for what happened and call it what it was. Prejudice. This prejudice happens in schools, colleges and universities, workplaces, and yes even in that one place where we are taught to go when we are seriously sick. The hospital. For Jenepher Watt it is too late but for your friend, your neighbour,  your mother or father, your husband or wife, your son, and your daughter it is not too late to make sure that they never suffer what Jenepher Watt suffered. You have to call your MPP’s and MP’s and demand that this prejudice is removed from how people are cared for. This democrats action will lead to justice and this justice will be expressed in the compassion that those with this illness receive.  Jenepher Watt didn’t receive that compassion but maybe the next person with a mental illness to walk into a hospital will.

In response: ““It’s important we address these issues with clarity and pragmatism.” . LMHU and an angry assumption.

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The respected, certainly by me, community activist and writer for Our London, Eric Sheppard, wrote a rebuke to Medical Officer Health Dr.Chris Mackie’s warning to Londoners that a lab report showed fentanyl in a urine test of a person/people who reported they only used marijuana or cocaine. So the Middlesex London Health Unit put out a warning suggesting that people who use marijuana carry naloxone kits which can counter the overdose effects of fentanyl.

There then came a vigorous reaction in the media and social media by a those saying this was an over-reaction by MLHU; Eric was one of those strongly critical in both mediums. Eric shared his criticism in his weekly Our London article. While I have a lot of time for Eric and the many good things he does for our community, encouraging voting and his advocacy of cycling among many others, I cannot agree with the criticism of MLHU or the reasoning that informs it. So I have reposted his article here, in italics and quotes ,with my response between each paragraph ( Here is the original post of Eric’s article in Our London and the warning posted by the MLHU)

Recently the Middlesex-London Health Unit issued a warning about fentanyl appearing in other drugs. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate painkiller, many times stronger than heroin. Already fentanyl and the even-stronger carfentanil have claimed many lives across Canada.

Totally agree here and an important reminder about the effects of this synthetic drug and its dangers.

“Most people who use opiates do so safely. They know their regular dose, and ingest enough to get the high they seek. Overdoses happen when mistakes are made — either overestimating tolerance or underestimating potency. Because of its potency, unscrupulous dealers have been known to add fentanyl to poor-quality heroin to make it appear stronger. Fentanyl-laced heroin makes a risky dose far more likely, possibly resulting in respiratory arrest.”

I am not sure how Eric know that most people who use opiates do so safely nor do I know where his knowledge of the cause of overdoses come from. When i google “common reasons for drug overdoses” there are 2,060,000 results returned and the first five results are:

    • Most Common Causes of an Overdose – Mountain Laurel
    • Drug Overdoses Are the 9th Leading Cause of Death in the US
    • Drug Overdose Deaths Top 10 | Time.com
    • Most Commonly Overdosed Drugs | 12 Keys Rehab
    • Drug overdose among the top 10 causes of death in B.C. | Global News 

On clicking the 6th result I learn that the US Centre for Disease Control ( CDC) says “The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid.  Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) quadrupled”. Health Canada reports that there were 2,458 opioid related deaths in 2016. So I’m unsure as to whether users know their tolerances or not or know how to use opioids safely. What is certain is that a substantial number of people have lost there lives due to opioid overdose. Eric rightly points out that unscrupulous dealers lace opiates with fentanyl increasing potential risk.

Thankfully, the drug naloxone can counteract the harmful effects of opiates. In an emergency, a naloxone injection could save the life of someone who has overdosed, or accidentally been exposed to a potent opiate. Naloxone kits have already proven successful in reducing mortality, and are a key component of harm reduction.”

Excellent points by Eric, especially as it relates to harm reduction, which is a proven way of helping addicts.

But something about this warning doesn’t sit right. The MLHU statement claims that local cannabis might be laced with fentanyl as well, which doesn’t make sense. Fentanyl is far more expensive than weed, so there’d be no reason to do this. The evidence for this claim is a positive urine test for the drug in people who claim to have only used cannabis — hardly an airtight case. No actual reports of laced cannabis have surfaced, but public fretting about it keeps popping up. Classic urban myth moral panic.”

Here is where i lose my way in understanding Eric’s argument and I begin to disagree. I’m not sure that saying something doesn’t sit right adds to a meaningful criticism of a public health warning or saying that the “claims” MLHU make don’t make sense because fentanyl is more expensive than pot. Some times people do things for no reason than the pure mischief of doing it. Or the same unscrupulous dealers Eric points to earlier in the article could as easily continue to be unscrupulous in putting it in low grade pot to make it seem more powerful. Unlike Eric the LMHU, CMHA, London Police, and Addictions Services Thames Valley take the users ,who’s urine returned a positive result for fentanyl, at their word when they say they didn’t use the drug and had only used pot or cocaine. I they chose to believe these users at their word as therapeutic relationships, including harm reduction, is built on trust. As to the claim that there has never been a case of fentanyl in pot I cannot say. but when I do a google search on it I get 428,000 results with the top 5 being:

    • Fentanyl-laced pot: threat or myth? | The London Free Press
    • Fentanyl and marijuana – The London Free Press
    • Is Weed Really Being Laced with Fentanyl? – VICE
    • Premier Clark’s claim pot laced with fentanyl not true, say police …
    • Mass. police concerned about reports of fentanyl-laced marijuana in …

I am not sure how Eric equates the warning of the MLHU and other agencies as  being an urban myth moral panic. I think it was a responsible action of these agencies to put out a warning reporting the possible risk from what they found in testing. How that equates to a moral panic or urban myth makes no sense.

“The rationale here seems to come out of the idea that it’s better to be safe than sorry, which holds some value. Encouraging more people to be equipped with naloxone is a noble goal, but the ends don’t justify the means. Misinformation like this is not just unhelpful, it actively undermines harm reduction strategies.”

I agree with Eric re being safe rather than sorry but believe it holds more than some value. If it prevents even a modicum of suffering then i’m all for it. I further agree with Eric that encouraging folks to carry naloxone is a good thing but would strongly disagreeing re ends justifying means.. The ends, no death or overdoses, do justify the means, which is a suggestion to carry a naloxone kit if your going to use street drugs. How this is unhelpful, or in any conceivable way undermines harm reduction, is frankly unfathomable. it also makes no sense how a public health warning that suggest carrying naloxone could in any conceivable way undermine HARM reduction. This in his argument Eric creates cognitive dissonance against the point he tries to make. There is no sense in it..

A major benefit of legalizing cannabis is removing the moral stigma around use, allowing a more nuanced conversation about drugs. Bold, scary warnings like these do the opposite. Scared parents will try to scare their children, who will see right through the deception — or worse, become numb to other warnings. Instead of establishing a trustworthy learning relationship, the opportunity to convey important information about developmental risks and best practices will again fall on deaf ears. This warning serves only to discredit the MLHU and the good work it does.

Really agree with Eric here that there does absolutely need to be a more nuanced conversation about drugs and their use. What I don’t understand is why he isn’t using one himself here. His assumptions as to the actions parents will or won’t take, or judging the efficacy of the warning, seems to be more about trying to defend pot use than having a nuanced conversation on drug use, addictions, or legalization. Eric has been a stalwart 420 ally and has advocated for pot legalization, something I agree with, but he seems to confuse this public warning with a negative judgement on the safety or use of pot. This sadly discredits his argument rather than the MLHU’s warning. The MLHU did not say pot use is bad. They did not say people who use pot are bad. They pointed out that this was the test result they received from this group of users and it was enough of concern to post a public warning. That is all. The moral outrage seems to becoming more from Eric and others on social media rather than the agencies involved in issuing the warning.

Should cannabis users carry naloxone kits? Absolutely; the more the better. Anyone who uses recreational drugs, or who has contact with people who do should consider getting one. They’re free, and the training takes less than an hour. Accidental overdoses do happen, and being equipped to save a life is well worth the effort.

Absolutely 100% agree with Eric here. Do this if you use any street drugs.

But if promoting the distribution of naloxone is what the MLHU is trying to accomplish, then they should do so without pretence. This practice is an inherent good for the health of our society; no further reason is needed.

Again Eric seems to be assigning motive when there is none demonstrated. What pretence? They posted a public health warning for the good of the public. Where is the pretence in this? And why do many pot legalization supporters on my Facebook and twitter feeds seem to think that this health warning is a judgement on them and their habits?

As the opiate crisis unfolds, we’ll need to start taking other steps to mitigate harms. Renewed talk of a supervised injection site in London has surfaced lately — arguably one of the best tools to ensure public health. Providing a safe, clean, well-equipped facility for people to inject will reduce overdoses, ensure proper needle disposal, provide wound care, and connect clients with social services they may need

Absolutely agree with Eric here!

It’s important we address these issues with clarity and pragmatism. If our goal is a healthy societal relationship with drugs, then we cannot rely on sweeping claims and fear mongering. Each drug is different, and knowledge is a powerful protective force.

Yes, please, lets address issues with “clarity and pragmatism!”! Eric’s article at times does do this but he ascribes motivations to MLHU that seem to be assumptions at best and attacks to further an acusation of an unspecified and unproven prejudice at worst. The result of the hue and cry by Eric and others is that it confuses the conversation. The conversation should be about drugs, their use, the truth of their effects, the legalization (or not) of them, and most importantly the assistance of those who suffer under the yoke of addictions. It should not be a vague attack that tries to discredit the honest motives of the MLHU or it’s officer of health..

“Drugs don’t kill people; ignorance does.” .

Sadly ignorance of a potential problem can kill people and the MLHU chose to not leave anyone ignorant of a potential danger even if at the slightest chance for harm.

Symbol of the Heart not of Fear

Amir Farahi has posted a petition that states “ We the residents of London, Ontario demand that Mayor Matt Brown and the rest of City Council put an end to the call for our city becoming a sanctuary for illegal immigrants “. His whole goal is to get our City Council to overturn their motion to become a Sanctuary City. He lists some reasons why it is important to sign this petition and stop the tide of illegal immigrants coming into to Canada.

Let’s look at his reasons and go through them one by one. Amir’s number one reason for London not becoming a Sanctuary City is: “Canada and the United States are both signatories to the Safe Third Country Agreement. Under the terms of the treaty, any refugees seeking asylum in either state must claim protection in the country in which they first arrived. Therefore, the motion that was passed by the council is contrary to this international agreement.”

Yes, Canada is a signatory to the Third Country Agreement but what Amir Fails to point out, and was reported in the news, is that our friends to the south are working hard to expel refugees. These refugees are so terrified that they are willing to walk through -15c and lower temperatures, with their children, over a great distance, to ensure they aren’t sent back to their countries of origin, where they fear for their lives. And while it is fun for Amir to trot out the Third Country Agreement, it has been noted that Trump is happy to ignore the agreement and send people back. Hard to have an agreement if both parties do not live up to it. So it’s a bit unfair of Amir to ignore the SAFE in the Safe part of the title of Third Country agreement.

Amir Farahi’s second and third point are essentially theme and variation on the same idea. He says “Supporters of this idea need to realise that your intentions may be great but that doesn’t mean that it is practical. Our human desires are unlimited, but resources are scarce. Canada can’t take care of everyone in the world. We have plenty of problems at home that we need to address. Let’s not break the bank.” AND “ First things first, our labour force participation and employment rate is below the provincial and national average. There are more than 35,000 people in the London area that are living in extreme poverty. Over 8000 children are suffering from poverty here at home. Aside from a mental health and addiction crisis, we have an HIV epidemic with a record-breaking 58 new diagnoses in 2016.”.

In these heartless and feckless points, Mr Farahi sets up one vulnerable of group, refugees, against another group; The homeless, addicted, and those with mental illness. As someone who has spent a bit of time working on the issues the effect our most vulnerable fellow citizens, I was not aware that refugees had created diverted resources from them. And if Amir Farahi was so concerned with the lack of resources available to help those in need, perhaps he would be better served by looking at the more than 50% cut in the corporate income tax rate that success governments have doled out like candy between 1998 and 2012. Reversing even some of these cuts would solve the issue of resources for most vulnerable he seems so concerned about, as well as helping refugees.

He then insinuates the idea that they’ll come here and take our jobs. Again this is the kind of argument that would be recognised when Canada and the U.S. refused to let the Jews in when they were fleeing Nazi Germany. There is not, nor any proof of, refugees affecting the jobless rate so permanent residents cannot get work .

Lastly, Amir Farahi trots out the most insidious reasons for his hateful petition. Refugees are dangerous. You let in refugees and terrorists with be amongst them and that s a danger to the good citizens of Canada. I would remind Mr Farahi that in the sickening attack on the Mosque in Montreal it was a Canadian Citizen that did the work, it was the monster Mark Lepine, a Canadian Citizen, who inflicted the atrocities at École Polytechnique de Montréal, and I would REMIND Mr. Farahi that it was Canadian Citizens who attacked the House of Commons. His fevered fear instigating reasons for why London should not become a Sanctuary City are more like hearing Donald Trump speak at one of his rallies rather than someone who ran for City Council in London Ontario.

In the end, Council cannot order our Police to ignore Federal law and ignore illegal refugees. Council cannot order the Police to do anything. And in the end, this motion by Council is much more a symbolic act than one of actionable consequences. But I would say to you that symbols are important. Symbols point to who we are and what we stand for. Symbols like the maple leaf, or the RCMP hat, or the tree for our forest city stand for something. I would prefer our city creates symbols of hope and love like a sanctuary city rather than the small and cringing symbols of fear Mr Farahi suggests in his small hearted petition.

Pacem ad Populum Terræ

There is no reason whatsoever for anyone on our planet to not have enough food, enough clean water, enough housing, enough medicine, enough education  and enough love to live lives without created suffering. We have enough resources on our planet to end the global environmental, refugee, food, and war crises we have today. There is no logical reason for human injustice and suffering to happen anywhere on our planet. None whatsoever.

BUT we have a collective flaw. We want what we don’t have and will not give up what we do. So much so that we will kill, persecute, disenfranchise, and ignore others who have less. We are inhuman in our collective ability to solve these very solvable problems.

Yet everyday I see messages of understanding, of pleas for justice, outrage at inequality, and lonely shouts out into the world of people searching for meaning and balance in their day-to-day lives. How can it be the case when there are so many efforts and pleas for a better world yet at the same time the world is filled with so much human created grief? It is a dichotomy that is at the heart of who we are as a species, and a dichotomy that beggars us to a whiplash existence from grace to hell and back again over and over.

Ask yourself this one question about the state of our world. Is there a single leader or government that continually works for the collective well-being of us all? A leader or government that holds human care and wellbeing above any other consideration? In Canada we have Justin Trudeau, a man who was elected with great hope, but is now creating a system where corporations will build out our much-needed infrastructure improvements for a profit, and is ignoring his own promises for democratic reform to our electoral system. Barak Obama maybe? He spearheaded some amazing strides forward for the United States with gay marriage, health care, and brought his country back from a near economic collapse. But he and Congress allowed the people who created that crisis, and the suffering that went with it, to continue without any penalty.

We saw what happened in Sierra, what happened in South Sudan,  what happened in Iraq, what happened in Turkey, what happened across Asia, what continues to happen across our planet. Nothing was done, no effort was undertaken, no action completed, to stop these mountains of human suffering. It happened and we shook our heads and made sad noises. We donated some money and posted to Facebook our outrage. We soothed ourselves with our own thoughts of “ that is horrible“ and moved on. I do this. You do this. We do this.

And we, in the west especially, lull ourselves through our days with pictures of our wonderful lives posted as displays of a faux identity. We alleviate our loneliness in likes and retweets and struggle for meaning in something that does not have meaning. We have bought into the lie of our identity as nothing more than consumers, and because we always want what we don’t have, we allow corporations and the governments that serve them to continue on unhindered and undeterred. We are complicit.

We don’t do anything about this. I don’t do anything about this. I rant and rave in these words in the foolish hope that someone else will recognize and understand some small part of what I am inadequately expressing. In the hope someone will reach back and ask to help me to make a change, or better yet , ask me to help them. 

And there are moments of human beauty and generosity. There are moments, millions of times a day, that we do or say something that is transformative. Millions of moments everyday where we exceed our own expectations and become something better than we are. Millions of moments of kindness, of laughter, of art, of caring, of LOVE. So much so that in any second, on any day, in any country on the earth, you can witness this and be left breathless with the how extraordinary we are.

But we have yet to overcome our basic flaw collectively and for more than a second. If I have a prayer for this new year it is that. That we find our way toward the sustained effort of being, not extraordinary individuals, but an extraordinary species. A species that sees itself for what we can offer one another and our planet and not a species that wants more of what we don’t have.

Peace to the people of earth and peace to our collective hearts as we stumble forward seeking who we can be rather than what we are.

 

North

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“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.” Emily Dickinson

It seems that with the U.S. presidential election so many of us have been struggling to make sense of what happened and to shout our opinions of the result in the spaces we have available to us. Why did he win? Why did she loose? How could this happen? Why is there such racism, classism, misogyny, hatred, spite? Are all those people who voted for him that clueless?  Are they all rednecks? Are they all stupid? Why? Why? Why?

Myself? I think I have the answers, but really I don’t. I think I know the solutions, but really I don’t. All I have are half formed opinions that are bursting to get out of me. Frankly I simply don’t know. I don’t know why he was elected and she wasn’t. I don’t know why I feel powerless. I don’t know why I have such a huge energy to do something but with no idea of what to do. And if I am really, really honest with you dear friends this has been the state of things for a very, very long time.

I am adrift in a directionless fog of what to do, and have been for years. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know what I want. I want justice and mercy, equity AND equality, I want anyone was left behind brought to the front, I want kindness, I want the sharing of knowledge and freedom, and most of all I want love to infuse everything all the time. But knowing what you want is one thing. Knowing how to get there is another. With people I know casually and those who are close to me I sense they are lost as well. I sense they want the same things. If what i sense is true then why can’t we get there? Why isn’t there more love, more equity, and a sense that the world is bending toward the light?

I have been talking to one friend on great number of things for a number of years now. Through the these conversations we explore ideas Ideas about democracy, morality, beliefs, politics, friendship, institutions, government, and who we are. We agree on many things and disagree on others and I like that. I like the struggle, in our time together, to define an understanding. To create a kind of common compass with which we can chart our way through the times we are in.I love compasses for they are miraculous things. By using compasses humans created the means to chart the world, find the undiscovered country, and expand the horizons of what we thought was a certainty to what we see is possibility. The ability of a needle to point north is not only an absolute in an uncertain world, but also comforts us with guidance when we are lost.

That needle pointing north is what we seem to need right now. The thing of it is though that no one can tell you where your  internal needle is pointing. You have to, and will know this within yourself, like all great explorers who have followed the compass north, face some moments of truth and some moments of sacrifice to get there. We know what is necessary to achieve equity and justice. We know what is needed to make the least amongst us first. We know what justice and fairness looks like. We know what is needed to develop education, healthcare, wellness, and create a decent standard of living for the world. We know what is required to achieve the world we all talk about but can’t seem to get to. We know which way is north and may have to, like those explorers following a compass , sacrifice some of what we have in order to balance the scales so we all can stand in a place of possibility rather than the grim certainty we have experienced in the last few weeks.

We can all sense within ourselves where true north is as much as we know where the sun is when our eyes are closed and turn our faces into its warmth. I sense, rather than know, that there are answers to this feeling of being lost in the world. I sense, rather than know, the direction we might take in order to get to that undiscovered country. I sense, rather than know, that the rest of you sense this as well. Perhaps we all should work on a shared compass and follow that sense of true north.