A Hopeful Memorial

Today is Memorial Day and we are bombarded with Facebook posts that ask us to take time to honor the men and women who have served our country and to not passively and disingenuously dismiss Monday as being only instrumental in allowing for a three-day weekend and an excuse to drink in excess with social acceptance. I understand the sentiment of this notion, as we should not take for granted the origin and sentiment behind this holiday or, any holiday, for that matter — but, if we take notice of the sacrifice made by soldiers, then it would be respectful to take notice what they sacrificed for. Continue reading “A Hopeful Memorial”

A Letter to America

4 July 2015

Dear America (circa 1786),

Today is your 239th birthday and in all honesty, you don’t look a day over 10. Things here in 2015 for the most part look very similar to the nice bright-eyed childhood you remember. There are still some folks who are all up in arms over taxes being used for a war they don’t support; and there are still some folk’s bent out of shape over not having a voice/vote in Washington (we no longer meet in Phillie).   Just as it was in 1776, the United States still pays lower effective tax rates than most industrialized nations and just like 1776, people still think it’s too high. Oh, and guess what….we still have a problem with the 99% versus the 1%- go figure?

We still waffle around the idea of immigration and each new wave of immigrants are alienated and used as a scapegoat for economic and social woes. Same old, same old. Slavery was undone after a civil war about 150 years ago and the product of that was the former slaves were made free. This was followed by about 100 years of explicit and direct racism, and then we had some civil rights movement, which replaced the racism with institutional racism. The perk to this new breed of racism is it’s much easier to ignore, and the drawback is that it’s easier to ignore.  We have systematically found a way to use the justice system to incarcerate mass amounts of African Americans and people accept it — slowly cementing the idea that African American = Criminal  into the core of American ideology.  I mean it is not like we are enslaving them, their shackles are from bad behavior (that we objectively define at whim).

Remember back in 1776 when y’all used religion as a means of promoting the idea of rebelling against England?  Encouraged the masses to fall behind a political movement out of obligation to their morality and God- for duty. Inalienable rights? HA!   You would not believe it, but people still fall for this shit.   And more so, because of that old declaration of Independence and your claims of rights endowed by our creator, they confuse duty to God as being intrinsically aligned to duty to the state. Craziness, I know.  Oh, and remember back when Thomas Jefferson came up with the brilliant idea to replace John Locke’s trinity of Life, Liberty and Property in the Declaration of Independence to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in order to avoid the awkward conversation of having to explain why slaves, as humans alike, were not allowed to own property.  Well let me catch you up on that: in 2015 African Americans still own significantly less property, we still dogmatically champion the concept of private property and — if you can believe it — people don’t even try to authentically  pursue their own happiness.   If this was meant to be some sick joke- I am not amused.

I imagine you must be wondering how we are doing as a country. As a more perfect union and all. Let me brief you on how we compare to our industrialized counterparts:

  1. We rank towards the bottom in education
  2. We rank towards the bottom in quality of healthcare.
  3. We rank towards the bottom in wealth equality
  4. We rank #1 in calling ourselves #1
  5. The government passed legislation that has infringed on the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th amendments. But apparently we only like to bicker over the 2nd and 1st.
  6. We have amassed large sums of debt, most of which is to a country that is expected to surpass our economy in 2016…that may be a problem.
  7. There were two HUGE world wars in the 20th century that lead to 137 million deaths- this makes the 100 million human sacrifices used in the process of colonizing America seem, like, uhm, foreshadowing?

Ok, sorry, that got really dark. Lets move on to a lighter topic.

Just as John Adams wished, we celebrate every July 4th with fireworks and celebrations that stretch from coast to coast- he’d be so proud. Everybody changes their Facebook status, photo and cover photo (I know you have no idea what I am talking about, but just go with it) to something patriotic- American Flags, Bald Eagles and images of Fire Works. I know Ben Franklin was not happy with choosing a bird of prey as our national animal, but ironically, its been quite fitting to our national personality- but I don’t have time to get into foreign policy.

In addition to boasting national propaganda we celebrate your birthday by waving flags (87% of which are made in China), blowing up Fireworks (97% of these are also made in China) and eating processed meats (leading to metabolic syndrome and cancer (this is why we kick ass at poor health, but we are dying for Freedom, so its ok)).

As you take a deep breath and hope I didn’t put 239 trick candles on your cake, I want you to think long and hard about what you wish for. What does the wild-eyed young America wish upon it’s matured self? But remember if you tell me, it won’t come true. I have thought long and hard on what to buy you for your birthday…the country that has everything and all. And I have discovered the one thing you are truly missing. I give you the gift of humility– use it wisely.

I know this letter may come off as cynical or offensive and perhaps my opinions could be framed as unpatriotic to some.  But I ensure you that I speak from a place of love.  The process of building and maintaining America has been forged in blood and, henceforth, if we want to truly and profoundly honor the sacrifices that have been made we should hold our nation accountable for its faults and demand the perpetual pursuance of discovering the essence of human freedom.   

Happy Birthday,

Patrick

 P.S.  If this has made you sad, then remember you can always relish in another Fourth of July tradition- you can get DRUNK!  And to my dismay, we do not lead the world in alcohol consumption- Europe has us beat by a long shot.  However, we kick their ass in alcohol related incarcerations.


Sources:

1.    Half-dozen or so random web searches and Wikipedia

2.    Blind faith that one day We Shall Overcome

Note: this blog was revised from a post published on 7/4/14

Drug Free(dom)

Hey there, yes you— the kid in the back.

With your constant clatter and chatter.

Do not talk back

Hey there, yes you— the kid in the room.

With your deliberate defiance.

Do not assume.

Hey there, yes you— the kid in the hall.

With your nagging and non-compliance

Do not befall.

Hey Kid, do you ever listen?

Hey Kid, do you ever shutup?

How dare you question my authority— my title is bold and loquacious.

How dare you question my reasoning— my stare is cold and capricious.

My book of spells that I carry upon my back— it explains you so well.

In clear and confusing language that your desire to be free is, in fact, your disease.

oh well.

Take this potion and drink up.   White noise and robot bliss is such a breeze.

Is this ok?  Do you need help swallowing the pill?

What was that?  Free agency?  There is no such thrill.

Swallow the pill and consume your pride.

There is nobody to help or confide.

How can we protect the walls from the crazies?

— You are bound to go crazy and stomp on all the daises.

What labels to use, they’re all ripe for the taking?

— You are bound up in shackles of your own making.

Hey Kid, is that you, with that number on your face?

— # 10101001, such a disgrace.

I once signed a contract that said Above all, I shall do no harm.

Adderall, Xanax and Prozac — never any pain, works like a charm. 

I build all these walls to keep your freedom within.

And one day you will realize your freedom is, without.

You will build a hammer to free thyself from within.

And one day you will roam free and I will be, without.

Or maybe you’ll just keep on keepin’ on with that stupid fucking grin. 

On My Mission

Ever since childhood I have been obsessed with attending church and as a product of that obsession I have attended the church services of nearly 20 different religious traditions.  My fascination with religion was and is deeply rooted in what is essentially a deeply rooted fascination with the idea of death.  I remember as a child going to church, while sitting among the believers, I would see what I felt was completely obvious but it was not till much later in life that I realized how oblivious others were.

The connotation of church is usually a place of solace and hope and you think people going there would be happy and enriched by the process— in short, their happy place.  But, as a child I saw nothing that resembled happiness.  Casting my gaze across the pews and looking deeply into the eyes of each and every person, the only emotion I would ever see is a deep rooted state of despair.

I attended many different churches, as I was fervently searching for a religious tradition that differed from my past experiences— I wanted to find human happiness. And, no matter where I looked— despair was the only thing I witnessed.  It was later in my adolescents that I finally realized that the drive behind all of this was, in essence, death anxiety— they were deeply afraid of death and are simply and desperately latching on to anything with semblance of hope that perhaps death is not the only option.

I always found the idea of accepting, in a pure and visceral way, the finitude of life as altogether liberating.   Being free to live and free to die without reservation, pretense and defense is, to me, the way we are supposed to be.  Accepting responsibility for our own existence and living freely and blissfully in our own experiences.  The existential dilemma that I face everyday of my life is my process of perpetually contending with trying to understand what it means to exist.  Is my existentially-driven desire to accept and thrive in my freedom the reality of things, or is my ego just rationalizing my hedonistic Id into making me feel what I believe has value.  In other words, is my rejection of religion, ideology and dogma legitimate or is it just me mimicking my own personal variation of faith.   

Nearly every single day of my life,  as I lay down in bed to fall asleep at night there is and always has been, one single preponderance of thought that is the source of my excitement, happiness, despair, fear, anxiety and confusion— the angst of human existence.    I am not sure why so many people are fixated on trying to understand what it is to die, when we haven’t seemed to grasp: what it is to live, yet.  But, it is this deep thorn that has driven me to my task, my drive and my mission.

As I see it, I should question any and every system that implicitly or explicitly infringes on human freedom.  Every system that insists that life is easier or safer while bonded in a cave.  Every system that persists on controlling the hearts and minds of beautiful and autonomous beings under illogical and disingenuous motivations.  I have no intent to wave my finger, to dictate or to control.   If I explicitly expressed a path to freedom— that act, in of itself, would be to deny ones freedom.  As my path, may not be their path or your path.  I concede and accept that ultimately I know nothing, except what I have perceived as my own experienced reality— which, I will question, contest and reject until the horizon of my existence is cleared into a void of absolute nothingness.   With nothing behind me and nothing in front of me.  With nothing in my past, nothing in my present and nothing in my future— this is the spot where my existential resolve begins:  Motivated by angst, and reasoned with philosophy— I will hold your hand and be your friend, and deep within the void of existence we will discover our humanity together. This is my mission. 

Why I Didn’t Vote

Before I go into depth explaining why I didn’t vote this year, I think it would be helpful to explain why I did vote in the previous elections.  I am 35 years old and I have voted in every single election since I was 18 years old, and even participated in Kid Vote when I was 15 and 17 years old.  As a teenager I participated in the symbolic gesture of Kid Vote, because I held faith and hope in the political process— and I held that faith until now.

Historically, inclusive of my Kid Vote, I have voted for the winning candidate/proposition about 80% of the time— so, my resistance to participating is not because I am sore loser or because I think that my vote doesn’t count or is not heard.  It may sound like I am being pessimistic, but that is the furthest from the truth— my position is actually quite optimistic, of which I will explain.

The idea of voting or rather the idea of the democratic process is one of the greatest human inventions.  The notion that we can gather together as a group and dynamically decide how we self-govern ourselves through a process of perpetual forward progression has, in my mind, the semblance of utopia.   It is a system fundamentally based on the principle that nothing is perfect and we know that, so we can change it as we go — by voting.   The principle that each of us can retain our right of body, mind and culture — freely and without persecution.  The duality of championing both the individual and the collective in a simultaneous act.   On paper— we live in a beautiful society.

However, my point of departure lies in the discrepancy between the idea of America, democracy and voting, and the reality of things.  What is the value of my vote if the winning candidate will always be the candidate with the most campaign funding?  What is the value of my vote if the proposition with the most corporate sponsorship is the one that passes?   If we are going to champion the idea of democracy by taking part in this democratic gesture of voting, then why don’t we champion the ideas on the ballots?   The best candidate should be the one with the best ideas to promote the greater good, not the one’s who can pocket their values on a whim to say Yes Sir, May I have Another to any willing and well-funded lobbyist.

Blindly hoping that a congressional seat here and a senate seat there and maybe, just maybe, gaining majority leadership will grossly change the tidal forces of Washington is just naive.   Obama campaigned on the heel of the 2008 financial meltdown and preached Change, and what has Changed?  The people who gambled with the bank accounts of working-class Americans and caused our recession  profited off our downfall and, get this, they are all still in charge— NOTHING HAS CHANGED!   Think real hard to how much money you were making back in 2011, after the recession broke.  How does that figure compare to your income today?   Any better?   Maybe the next time you sit in traffic on your way to work you can ponder what you’d do with an extra 25% of income— as the Job Creators who destroyed our economy have increased their wealth by 26% from 2011-2014.  Has your salary gone up 25% in 3 years?  Do you feel the trickle down?   Is there less disparity?  How about the inflated costs of healthcare and education— is that resolved?

You may read this and think I am a jaded and have lost hope, but the reality is I have not.  For example, I would never give my wife an empty, unsigned birthday card that I selected without any thought or sincerity.   I would not do this, because the idea of getting her a present is completely useless if the contents of the idea do not contain any value.  I, as a patriot and an American,  pridefully back the ideas and principles that our country was founded upon, but if the contents of this idea begin to grow corrupt, superficial and automatic — then, what is the point?

I am optimistic that one day enough of us will stop and realize that the system is unjust, unequal and unfair and we will become awakened to the fact that we live in a fucking Plutocracy And after this realization, I hope the empty and shallow gesture of voting will be seen for what it really is— an illusion.

And what happens when the tool we use for promoting change in our society becomes the thing we need to change?  If my hammer grows weary and disfigured from misuse, it would be irrational to keep pounding in hopes that it may one day magically fix itself.  In the case of a hammer— I will replace it with a better model.   In the case of our disfigured and misused democracy— a new model of democracy will never appear on the ballot.

We are only free insofar that we effectively strive to free ourselves.  

Meditations on Futility (Elections)

A couple months ago I was sitting in a coffee shop in Palo Alto reading and in the booth next to me was congressional candidate Ro Khanna.

Continue reading “Meditations on Futility (Elections)”

The Long Con

I recently read an article about the how Virgin Atlantic is going to start offering unlimited vacations to their employees. Following the trend started by Netflix and many other high tech companies. This seems like a pretty good deal— on the surface. Continue reading “The Long Con”

Ferguson and the Modern American Slave

When you see the militant-like images of Ferguson Missouri and think to yourself that they could easily be images from a distant war— well, you are right, and to be blunt— welcome to modern America.

Continue reading “Ferguson and the Modern American Slave”