Sunday, May 21, 2017

Moving from an Adversarial, Competitive Culture to a Collaborative, Cooperative One


In Nashville, almost 400 people from around the country came together in May 2017, for one reason only: to talk about Cohousing. Participants at the Cohousing Association of the United States’ National Conference discussed topics like creating better connections between people, highlighting diversity, inclusivity and sustainability, communicating compassionately, and developing effective ways to handle conflict, a normal human dynamic between individuals, families, and nations. 
 
Is Cohousing a commune, a religious cult, a left-leaning political group? Or, a bunch of crazy, aging hippies? 

Nope. Cohousing is a movement about people who are interested in finding new ways to live together and share common resources. Cohousing includes working together while planning, developing and forming a community of people who do not share income but share some living spaces while each family also owns separate and private places. 

Nashville boasts one current Cohousing Community, Germantown Commons, and another community is being formed. Germantown Commons is the first of its kind in Tennessee, but many cities and rural areas around the country include Cohousing communities. Each group has some similar characteristics along with differences about how the groups choose to live together, and we often share some common values. 

Values like supporting each other throughout the life cycle. Germantown Commons is a multigenerational, intentional community where members share enjoyment together, community work, and a belief that our world can be a better place. Instead of living in separate houses where we owned lawn mowers, sprinklers, yards, and gardens, we share those and other items, like a Common House for activities and shared meals at times. 

In Cohousing we make decisions by consensus which may seem tedious to some but an adventure for others, where all voices get heard and hopefully understood. 

We embrace values like empathy and compassion for each other, along with composting. When our youngest needs child care, we pitch in. When our elderly experience medical problems, we help them out. When kids need a tutor, we have some among us. 

Before you get disgusted and stop reading this description of supposed paradise, note that while we aspire to embody these values and qualities, we sometimes fall short because we are human beings, with human needs and feelings, which sometimes bump up against those of others. 

Germantown Commons spent many years in its development stage and we are still young in the process of living together, almost two years for some. We run into the same sorts of issues and concerns that any community or family does, but we hope that by joining together and committing to each other, we can help all of us grow and learn. 

We also hope to change from a culture that is adversarial, hierarchical and competitive to one that is more collaborative and cooperative one day and one person at a time. Visit us at http://cohousing.org/, or http://germantowncommons.org/

Monday, March 6, 2017

“I Am Not Your Negro"

 “Nothing can be changed until it is faced.” ~JB

Please watch the documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro.” James Baldwin states that the…”story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.”

Some of us white people feel guilt and shame about how privileged we are and how much suffering we and our ancestors have inflicted upon those with darker skin. Then - and now. Are we helpless to change even when we try?  Some describe the “white” race as only a social construct anyway, but we Americans continue to refine our national stigmata.

Such narcissism and creative license. Few people are purely white and the global majority is a fine blending of skin colors. Now, immigrants of all colors enter America subject to a new style of slavery.  We can continue to be apathetic and ignorant, or face our (white) terror of losing power.

James Baldwin asked us white people to ask ourselves why we have needed and still need to have black bodies serve us? Perhaps land grants given to early settlers prompted the need for workers but why OWN people?  Buying and selling people to each other has been an horrific blight on our nation.

We white people can attempt to ally ourselves with our African American brothers and sisters but even then, we liberal and progressive elite often make clumsy mistakes. Our “assistance” sometimes looks like white men trying to rescue damsels in distress because they think the damsels cannot help themselves.  How condescending and patronizing.

This documentary illustrates white perpetration of violence and the murder of African Americans.  I wish this was only about our past, a history of which we are ashamed and grievous.  But, this is NOT only about our past.  It is about our present day even if in more subtle, cloaked forms.

The overly white justice system and white police still kill black and brown boys and men in large numbers.  When they are not murdered by us, we lock them up for petty crimes, throwing away the key, so that even if a person of color gets a traffic ticket that they cannot pay, they can end up imprisoned because they cannot earn enough money to pay large penalties. Locking up huge numbers of black and brown boys and men continues slavery today.

African American children are educated in a school to prison pipeline system and too many kids end up also incarcerated, or dead in the streets, just like their predecessors.

No racism in this nation?  We are all racists, having grown up in this culture, this America where white overpowers black every moment of every day in the work place, in schools, in the government, everywhere. 

Listen to James Baldwin speak about his fear and prediction that only a revolution may change this continual white terrorism of the soul, bodies, minds, and spirits of our black and brown citizens. “We must not sit down and do nothing.”

Monday, January 30, 2017

A letter to President Trump

  " And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  Anais Nin

Dear President Trump, your Cabinet and Supreme Court nominees,

I would like to ask you some questions.  Then, please tell me how you make your decisions based on your answers:

1. You have daughters, wives, sisters, and mothers.  Have you or any of these females ever used birth control to help plan your families?  Have any of these females had accidental pregnancies or pregnancies involving life-threatening, medical problems?
2. Have you ever had a pal or colleague who came from a different country? Have you known well anyone of a different race than you?
3. Were you raised in a religious family that teaches that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, especially the little children?  And that pride is a seductive sin?
4. Have you cared about anyone who loved a person of their same gender?
5. Have you accessed health care for you or your families?  Most of you have so much money that perhaps you aren’t aware of those not like you, who barely scrape by, whose medical problems have caused tragic bankruptcies, some never recovering from their lack of affordable healthcare. You solicited their votes and offered healthy change.
6. Did you attend public schools or universities? Do you drive on streets and interstates?  Did you ever take your children to a public library?  Do you appreciate fire and police departments, and other services that provide safety during emergencies? Are these democratic socialist institutions?

If you answered “yes” to any question, I wonder then why you want to overturn Roe v. Wade, or how you think abortions can be decreased while reducing funding to the very organizations who offer medical care and family planning services?

Are you worried that women, LGBTQ people and immigrants are taking over the country, being elected to leadership positions, and that you rich, white men might not profit quite so much or might lose your power while implementing torturous, violent policies that most Americans disagree with?  Do you know that your grandchildren’s education will focus on teaching them to get along and work with people who are different from you?

But, maybe you don’t want your daughters to succeed except on the arm of a man. Can they not develop power or fortune for themselves?  Are you petrified of progress and fear you will fall from grace?

Please look deeply within and realize that you can prosper in America as it changes. Please listen to Americans who have more humane values than you.

In fact, President Trump, talk to those who elected you. And, don’t be fooled.  They all don’t want walls, and most don’t even like your bonding with Russia. Although they may have been misguided in voting for you, they want a healthy, profitable and safe country, and there are many better ways to get there than by your recent executive orders and policies. 

Perhaps the more you resist change, the farther you will fall. Surely you want something better for yourselves.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Not Only about Trump


"A house divided against itself cannot stand."  Abe Lincoln

The November 2016 presidential election affects us deeply. Donald Trump as President-Elect, his actions throughout time, and how his cabinet is evolving trouble me greatly. Some picks, like Jeff Sessions, would be excellent satire if not for their true tragedies.

50% of our citizens did not vote in this last election. It stuns me that our leaders are elected by such low numbers. I am upset with Americans who have been so angry and fearful that they voted for Trump and that only 25% of Americans elected this grandiose, dangerous man. I am sickened by corporate media’s constant and continual coverage of Trump throughout time, and I am distressed that the media chose not to highlight Bernie Sanders, a highly skilled and intriguing presidential candidate.

But, I am much more concerned about the daily issues that our country faces, that only partially depend on presidential and congressional politics.

I am speaking about American Values.  About our moral, civic and spiritual obligations to take care of the needy, poor, and oppressed peoples.  About our need to refuse to block the immigration of Muslims and others, all of us being products of past immigration.  About our need to focus on human and civil rights for all people and not just for the wealthy, the lucky, and those who buy our elections.  About quality health care coverage for all people.

I worry about Donald Trump being President because he is impulsive, arrogant, disgusting toward women, fickle (he loved Meryl Streep and her acting skills then reacted viciously when she spoke out against him), and a man who wants to illegally hold onto his businesses while governing our nation, thinking that he is above ethics rules and that nepotism is his God-given right.

But, I am far more concerned about our nation’s daily shootings, gun violence by police toward black and brown men and boys, guns in the hands of those who have extreme mental illness, some mowing down adults and children just because it is so easy to access weaponry in this country, weapons made for military action and not for hunters or for those protecting their homes and families. 

I am concerned about the fact that women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights are being challenged to re-enter the early 20th century dark ages when women, LGBT people, African Americans and other minorities were frequently abused, lynched and/or killed just because of their gender, color of their skin, or loving their partners. That our culture began separating races, prompting European white people to feel so privileged that they could own other people or enslave them in correctional institutions for petty crimes, with money as incentive.

Lastly, I hope that Trump will be impeached and that Americans will become more active in their local communities, and in local, state and national politics that so that people like Trump cannot and will not be elected president again.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Words Matter: On Violence with sports and with Trump

"Stop the words now. Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirits fly in and out." Rumi


Sitting on my couch with a cold on New Year’s Eve 2016, playing Candy Crush Soda Pop (level 337 - Oh, that sticky bubblegum!), I was stunned when a TV sports announcer during the Peach Bowl’s Alabama/Washington game said, “And, put in the dagger!” He soon talked about “penetration” as if the football game was an exercise of war with flanks penetrating the enemy. Words matter. Roll Tide.

Other frequently used sports’ words: Attack, Ambush, Aggressor, Assault, Battle, Brutal, Capture, Chaos, Charge, Clash, Combat, Command, Confrontation, Concussion, Conquer, Control, Counterattack, Crash, Damage, Defense, Demolish, Destroy, Devastate, Dominate.  And those are only the A through D’s!

I began thinking about masculinity and violence: “Studies on gender and sports media find that sports commentary reinforces perceptions of ‘violent masculinity.’ By praising athletes who continue to play while injured, and by using language of conflict and war to describe action, sports commentary reinforces violence and aggression as exciting and rewarding behaviour….[reinforcing]the social attitude that violence and aggression are normal and natural expressions of masculine identity” (http://mediasmarts.ca/gender-representation/men-and-masculinity/masculinity-and-sports-media).

Violent, visual imagery affects not only children but us all. We become numb, traumatized, and/or desensitized when watching sports, news, violent video games and movies. Violence is all around us.

Throughout 2016, we also heard our President-elect using violent imagery as a regular talking point, a punch line, even a campaign strategy. Regarding Hillary: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks… Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know,” implying that some voters might assassinate Hillary if not “lock her up,” another favorite campaign slogan.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence said Trump’s statement was “repulsive — literally using the Second Amendment as cover to encourage people to kill someone with whom they disagree.”  Trump has called Mexicans rapists and just as hideous, he has bragged that he grabs women he doesn’t know by the genitals, using the slang word for cat.  Our President-elect brags about sexual assault, and offers troubling terms at the drop of a tweet.

Pope Francis speaking to U.S. Congress:  “All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by the disturbing social and political situation of the world today… a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities… We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within… Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice” (https://www.paulist.org/paulist-fathers-statement-on-moral-issues-in-the-2016-presidential-election/#sthash.T81M0uWh.dpuf).

Words matter, and Americans too frequently live in a world described in hyper-masculine, violent verbiage. It is time for all of us to speak instead about the values of nonviolence, peace and justice, and act accordingly.

Monday, October 17, 2016

I am voting out of fear and anger, but also with hope

"Things never go so well that one should have no fear, and never so ill that one should have no hope."
  Turkish Proverb
 
My favorite candidate did not get nominated for the presidency of the United States although he would have been the best candidate by far. Bernie Sanders should be the Democratic presidential candidate, but since he isn’t, I am faced with a difficult decision. Honestly, I do not like my choices.
For a long time, I have explored voting for a third-party candidate, but I believe that this election is too risky for such a decision. Please don’t split the vote because none of us can afford for Donald Trump to become President. 

I am voting for Hillary Clinton, not because she is a great candidate but because she supports the Democrat’s most progressive platform in the history of the U.S. She promises to deal with wealth and income inequality, the reality of climate change, the need for immigration reform, and decreasing tax breaks for the top 2%. She also wants to improve the health care system and decrease the high prices charged by insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Even though Hillary is too hawkish for me, she knows foreign policy backwards and forwards, and we need a smart President who knows how to work with all world leaders, not just with those who are power hungry and dictatorial. 

The fear and anger I feel are related to Donald’s being a despicable, menacing and dangerous candidate, who attacks almost everyone while using vile language not fit for kids or adults. Even before the recent video of his degradation of women as objects for his assaults, he has appealed to a huge segment of the American people many of whom are xenophobic, sexist, racist, and classist. They scare me. Donald says that he will improve his followers’ lives for the better whereas my guess is that he would do just the opposite. Giving this man the power to blow up the world is no small matter. 

Donald’s supporters are also angry and fearful, mostly white men losing their patriarchal power, worrying that women, people of color, and immigrants will become our future leaders. The future is now. 

We live in an oligarchy, where those elected do not represent their constituents but are obliged to bend over to their Big Money donors. Once we change the corrupt campaign finance system, then perhaps all people will be able to vote for a President of the people, by the people and for the people. 

Hillary Clinton has worked as a public servant most of her life. She wants to reduce poverty, feed hungry children, and face the realities of racism. Because of Donald’s horrific rhetoric and nasty character, Republicans are running away from him in hoards. My hope is that either the Senate and/or the House of Representatives will soon have a democratic majority assisting Hillary in carrying out their platform. 

I’m with her, because of the other current candidates, she is the only candidate who can bring rational, healthy and reasonable change to our country. Vote for Hillary!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Militarization of Nashville Police: who are we trying to keep safe?

"If it were not for hope the heart would break."
 John Ray
The Metro Council voted unanimously on September 6, 2016, to provide $1 million to Nashville police for new military-style armor, flack jackets and helmets. Of course, we want our police to be safe if events unfold in Nashville like they have in so many other places. 

At the same time we are also concerned about the “militarization” of the Nashville police. What message are we sending to our citizens and how do we provide the best protection and safety for not only police officers but for all of our citizens? 

The police may be seen as preparing for a gun battle that may never happen, much like our highly armed United States military attempts to illustrate to the world that we can withstand any amount of force by spending billions of our dollars on the military. More recently, the U.S. has entered other countries, intervening in their local difficulties. Some think this is the way to protect our country against terrorists. But, when do we become active terrorists toward not only other countries but toward our own citizens? Violence can beget violence. 

The Council’s vote on this measure may be only a first step toward buying other military machines that many states proudly sport.

What kind of message does this send our children and grandchildren when the police dress in this new armor for all sorts of public events? Battle gear sends a strong message that we are assuming there will be violence even though some believe that these visuals will decrease violence.
Police are here to protect and serve. Instead we will see them ready for war. How many more black and brown children and adults will be killed as a result? 

Black Lives Matter states that “militarized weaponry... will only widen the racial divide and create massive distrust of police...” (https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/stop- legislation-to-militarize-nashville-police?bucket=) Why use this money in this way? 

The ACLU states that: “Sending a heavily armed team of officers to perform ‘normal’ police work can dangerously escalate situations that need never have involved violence... [they] found that SWAT teams, which were originally devised as special responders for emergency situations, are deployed for drug searches more than they are for all other purposes...” (https://www.aclu.org/ issues/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/police-militarization) Let’s return to a more collaborative, less dangerous style of policing. 

After the recent Metro Council meeting, WPLN reported that Black Lives Matter protesters sported signs with, “Where is my jacket?” How will we protect our citizens from our militarized police? 

The Mayor and the Metro Council may be trying to make excellent decisions for the community to improve Nashville’s health and well-being. But, let’s not fool ourselves that while we are trying to prevent violence, we may actually be promoting more violence instead of de-escalating highly tense and potentially tragic situations.