Equitable Peace Negotiator

What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love

I watch a LOT of news on television, and read the New York Times and The Atlantic every day. You could say that I’m pretty well informed.

But I can understand the impulse to withdraw from the world and avoid news altogether. I have a friend who I just learned has never heard of the musical ‘Hamilton.’ I could not believe it. She was also unaware Trump was being impeached or that he had ever been impeached a first time. Honestly, I’m surprised she even knew that Donald Trump was ever our President. She doesn’t vote.

“What have you been living under a rock?” is an expression perfectly suited to this woman.

She’s a friend, and we actually do have a lot of other things in common. I genuinely enjoy spending time with her. So yeah, I like her a lot.

Having said that, her lack of engagement with the world and a society she inhabits actually exasperates me. She has severe ADD and an anxiety disorder. I understand her not wanting to let the troubling news of the world make her overly anxious and depressed. That’s just good self-care and a fragile person protecting themselves. I get it.

But at some point, people like her are actually just as dangerous as these QAnon nuts. An uninformed, apathetic, and disengaged citizen is almost as bad for our democracy and country as a Confederate Flag-waving white supremacist. Both can do great harm to our nation.

My friend is a sensitive and compassionate lefty artist who teaches young children art every day. Which is awesome. She is a passionate dreamer and innovative and creative thinker. We need more people like her in the world. But at some point, that child she’s teaching may make some racist remark or say some sexist thing, because they heard their last President say it, and this young woman might not even know what that kid is talking about. Of course, she would redirect the child and turn it into a teachable moment because that’s what all good teachers do. And she is a good teacher.

Personally, I strongly believe that we also have to engage with the world around us. We must be in the world, not just of it. The only way racism is going to be solved is by entering into dialogue with others – those who share our opinions, and yes, even those who don’t. How will they ever learn?

Several of my radical leftist friends refuse to ever talk to a Trump supporter again and are now saying “FUCK them! They can all die.” I’m sorry, but that’s not helpful. Are they suggesting 74 million Americans die? Because that’s nearly a third of our country and the last time I checked, they were still our neighbors, teachers, acquaintances, coworkers, family, and friends, to name a few. Good for you. You’ll never speak to another person who voted for Donald Trump. Haha. Don’t make me laugh. As if you ever did before. These people live in a liberal echo chamber on Facebook where all their progressive liberal friends “like” all of their thoughtfully indignant posts about keeping immigrant children in cages and separating families at the border.

Great. I think that’s bad too.

I’m a liberal too. Or at least, I used to think I was. These days, I get in more fights with my radical liberal friends than my Republican friends who voted for Trump. I guess I’m more of a center Democrat, because some of these radicals come off as Maoists to me. I thought I was liberal, but I’m getting “OK, Boomer” vibes from half the people I know under 35. I want all the same things that AOC, Bernie, and Warren want, but I guess I’m not angry enough about it. Or I don’t talk about identity politics like I should. It’s not enough to support gay marriage these days. Now, I have to marry a man in order to be an ally.


Bur seriously, I hate the hypocrisy on BOTH SIDES. Our country is so divided, and both camps are so entrenched in their own ideologies that NO ONE is talking anymore. There’s no middle left in this country. And if there’s no middle, where the hell are we all supposed to meet?

The point is, I feel like the only way we’re ever gonna make this a “more perfect Union” is for all of us to actually talk to one another. And above all, to LISTEN. There is no greater gift you can give another person than your undivided attention. To actually listen to what they have to say. That is truly what it means to LOVE.

I have friends who I love who would vote for AOC or Warren for President in a heartbeat. I also have friends who would change the Constitution so that we could elect Donald Trump President for life. Seriously. No exaggeration.
And people of all stripes and everything in between.

Because I LOVE people. Not political parties. People.

I wish my friend would engage with the world more, and maybe talk to a Trump supporter sometime. But she clearly suffers from mental illness, and needs to protect herself. As she should.

So what’s your excuse..?

Righteous & Wicked: Two Ways the Bible Can Be Used For Or Against Society

I am saddened by the recent string of church burnings in the South. Sadly, it makes me reflect that we need to prepare ourselves for the fact that this is most likely going to get worse before it gets better. And I don’t just mean the burning of black churches. I mean, we’re at a crossroads here in America, and the country’s never been so divided. This is where the older status quo and traditional ways and values clash violently with the more diverse, young, and progressive segment of the population, in a battle for power and domination. One group feels its losing the rights and privileges it’s always known, and that society is becoming more wicked and dissolute as unwelcome outsiders and sinners destroy the fabric of America. The progressive side represents the future of society, and must battle for every inch of ground earned. They say they are just protesting and initiating legislative change to earn the rights the others have enjoyed since this country was founded, and really since the beginning of time. The left insist they are here to capture what is theirs already, and earn the exact same rights as those in power. Time will reveal whether the social progressives were committed enough to social justice to extend that same courtesy to those they unseat from power, or share the bench with. Will they be the bigger party, and treat their foes with the respect they often didn’t always receive themselves? Or will the slave turn around, and be the new master?
We live in two Americas, perhaps like two cojoined siamese twins, who have never lived apart, and don’t know if they can, despite always wishing for it. They are nearly mirror images of each other, and in opposite in nearly every way. When one feeds, the other can’t. When one wants to walk, the other is dragged and injured. When one wants to sleep, the other’s awake. And yet, they share many of the same organs, and effectively couldn’t live without the other. Yet, since they were born, one has been the dominant and aggressive one, while the other has stored up years of resentment, and plans the day he can unseat the other, and take control of his own destiny. If these two souls were separated, they would die. They literally need each other, even though they can hardly agree on anything. Even though they loathe and detest the other. America is just as clumsily tangled up with itself, as red states go blue, and blue states go red, and they all ostensibly become purple. We each have our triumpant strengths, and each have our fatal flaws. Each is good as something the other isn’t. I’m not going to take the time here to praise and assess the virtues and liabilities of the Conservatives and Liberals. It’s probably audacious enough to some of you, that I — a moderate liberal — would even suggest there were strengths in the other party, or anything worthy of praise. But we all know that’s not true. It’s like when you had to play that game where you stood across from another person, and you were forced to look at them, and your teacher told you to find at least one good thing to praise about the other person. And the kid was a bully, so the idea you could find anything was preposterous. But you had to keep looking, and eventually you came across something, and were genuinely suprised. Maybe they had the same kicks as you did. Whatever it was, the exercise was valuable, because it forced you to actually LOOK at the other person. To see them for who they actually were, and not as the grotesque monster you imagined them to be.
If the Left and the Right were to play such a game, we’d have to not only look, but listen. It’s the highest form of respect and the greatest compliment you can give another person…your time and your attention. Just listen. The point is, we are inextricably linked to each other…we have the same government, go to the same schools, sometimes even attend the same houses of worship, we work together, we are neighbors, we are friends, we are family. We have to find better ways to see each other….listen to each other,,,,and find ways we can work together. It’s not going to be easy, because we each have immovable values and dealbreakers that we won’t surrender, and won’t compromise on. But if we stay that committed to not compromising, and selfishly hoarding our demands, we will never meet in the middle. Let’s start by finding that one thing in common, and go from there. But before you even get in the room, you must bring your ears, your eyes, your good faith, your commitment to peace, willingness to compromise, and above all else, RESPECT. And sometimes it just starts with a willingness to look at that other person, and force yourself to see something good that you can relate to. And then when you speak, you might find you have other things in common. This is how negotiation works. It’s not easy. Israel and Palestine have been trying to do this for decades. The problem is, they not only don’t like each other, they despise each other, and most would probably tell you they’d love to watch the other die, and some would even offer to do it themselves. This is personal. This is so intractable and feels very hopeless, because each side refuses to look at the humanity in the other. They refuse to see anyone sitting in front of them but the suicide bomber that killed their sister. Or the IDF soldier that kicked their neighbor’s door down, and dragged out his family in a most dishonorable and inhumane way. One thinks the other treats them like animals, and that’s why they are forced to take such savage measures in order to be heard. The other sees their enemy as animals, and that’s why they do whatever it takes to defend their homes. You can’t negotiate with an animal, so why bother? If you can’t — or refuse to — see the humanity of your foe, the peace talks will have ended before they even began.
Could this ever be America? YES!
We’re not likely to turn into Israel anytime soon, and start blowing ourselves up in the streets of Pittsburgh, or launching bomb attacks into Atlanta. But we have some very deeply held beliefs, particularly when it comes to religion, and the separation of church and state. The Conservatives believe America is, and always has been, a Christian nation. They belief, as we’ve gone on, that America has become damaged by multiculturalism and by granting everyone the vote and other rights, They conclude that we have lost our moral way, and by thumbing  our noses at the Bible, we are resolutely walking the straight path to hell and damnation. Or even inviting  the Rapture, and End of Days. According to them, public schools should be teaching morality and scripture in the classroom. They fundamentally belief our Founding Fathers were devoted Christians, and that the Constitution proves it. This of course raises questions and arguments about teaching Evolution, sex education, dinosaurs, global warming, removing God from the Pledge of Allegiance and off our coins, school vaccinations, and much more. This religious war takes us out to the streets and governent buildings, and challenges plaques and monuments depicting the Ten Commandments in front of a public courthouse, and the flying of the Confederate flag over state houses, and whitewashing the legacy of whether the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, or a symbol of pride and Southern heritage. In all honesty, religion is the number one divisive thing separating Americans today, because it informs all their other views about race, immigration, global warming, marriage equality, guns and other civil liberties, war and defending your home, death penalty, prison reform, LGBT rights, sexuality, obscenity, and modesty, divorce, gay adoption, regulating big business, forgiveness and redemption, and many more. 
Just in case you had doubts about my objectivity, I am a self proclaimed moderate liberal, who firmly supports all social causes within the party. I would consider myself more of a fiscal conservative, and believe in more accountability, and thins like reasonable and fair welfare reform. I also am a very outspoken critic of fundraising, and believe in campaign finance reform. Despite the fact that I identify as a Liberal, I have many close friends and family who are religious, conservative, or both. I advocated peaceful and respectful dialogue, and am fully committed to teaching Conservatives and the faithful with dignity, compassion, and all the ways we wish to be treated. EVEN if in the past, they didn’t treat us with respect and empathy. To demonstrate how close I am to the Right, I will reveal that my mother and step-father are born-again Pentecostal Evangelicals. He went to Bible School, and became a pastor. They go to a very conservative church, and although I wouldn’t consider it hateful or violent per se, it doesn’t share my values, and it’s no place I’d choose to hang out. They still discuss things in the news, and undoubtedly speak out against them. I’m sure this week has been a sad one for them, but also filled them with indignant rage and renewed their committment to taking marriage back! I don’t go there, because I know myself, and I’d probably embarrass myself and my parents, and I don’t want to do that. That is there place, and I respect that. At my parents’ house, they pretty much have Fox News on just about 24 hours a day. When not Fox, they watch Christian programing with Evangelical pastors doing their thing. They watch good old Hannity, O’Reilly, Greta Van Sustern, and all the rest of those…people. I can’t stand it! And as you’d expect, they typically vote Republican, including Bush twice, and certainly John McCain. So for many liberals, my gruesome confession probably disqualifies me from the party! No wonder I’m advocating peace with the Right…I am one! Yeah, no. Once upon a time when I was much younger, and as hard as it is to believe, much more irrational and immature, I used to get into long and protracted fights with my mother, and we used to go round and round, and I would storm out, or she would, and nothing was ever accomplished. Because she was so committed to her faith and beliefs, and I was so wedded to mine, there was not going to be any way we could agree on anything in common. With the passage of time, I have grown more accepting of other people’s beliefs. That doesn’t mean I have to necessarily like them. It just means that now, I look at my mom, and just as I did with that kid, I look for all the good qualities she possesses. And I’m rewarded, because as many issues I disagree with her adamantly about, there are another ten or twenty we can agree on. For instance, despite being a Conservative, she cares very deeply about the environment, and is very concerned about global warming. I’m not sure how she’s able to still vote Republican then…but,,,,we don’t talk about it. And that’s the key. We don’t yell and scream and storm out anymore, because we realized there was so much more to keep us together, and other stuff to talk about. It’s a lot easier to preach tolerance when you’re talking about the Right having tolerance for us, and for LGBT Americans. But it’s got to go both ways. You have to find a way to tolerate them — even their most hateful views — because that’s what Jesus did….Ghandi did,,, MLK did…..all the great spiritual and cultural leaders. We must aspire to think, speak, and act like them.
I think withholding marriage equality is not only wrong, but it’s unChristian, and yes, bigoted. That’s the very definition of the word. The diffference is, unlike many of my liberal brethren, I am not here to demonize the Right, or shame them, humiliate them, or attack them personally. We have our flaws, and if any party deserves to be called hypocritcal, the Liberals might be it.  Many claim to be on the side of Justice, social equality, and tolerance, but then turn right around, and insult, scorn and patronize the intelligence of Conservatives. How are we any better?
I still get real hateful when I hear or read hate speech. I wrote on a conservative friend of mine’s post, after he went off about marriage equality. And I stood up for the left, and held my own. The guy who wrote on the wall directly after me wrote:
‘You sick pervert. How can that be right? Putting your penis in another man’s digestive track. and having sex with a guy stomach, and ass….That’s not Gods work. Its not supposed to go in there. Where do we draw the line? What’s next dogs? Cats? Just animals, or are you gonna have sex with a 12 year old? Or younger? A baby?”
How do you hear or read that, and hope to find any humanity in such a savage and ignorant animal? I quickly dashed off an angry response, matching his anger and hate, and eviscerating his patently absurd logic and insulting his small mind and skinflint heart. It wasn’t hard to pick apart his fallacious vitriol and irrational fears and beliefs. I think I brought up Jesus, and pointed out that he wasn’t acting very Christian. I ended it with HATER! And as I went to post it, I stopped, as my eyes crossed over the word ‘Hater’ and I second guessed the efficacy of the message, but more importantly, I realized that no letter written in haste and anger was ever better than one written thirty minutes later. I was acting from a place of hatred, even as I insulted him for the hate he directed at me. I didn’t end up sending the note. Some times you have to pick your battles, and save it for the ones that matter. The good fight. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have been able to look at him, hear those words, and find that thing we inevitably shared in common. He was so offensive and defiled not only my values, but the unwritten rules of engagement that govern debate and the use of well supported, rational and defendable arguments. His views were repugnant to me, and it was hard to restrain myself from posting. But that was not an argument I could have won, and he knew he was provoking me, and was just asking for a fight. “Be the bigger person.” I have to say to myself. If he had been in the same room with him, I might have wanted to punch. I would consider myself a pacifist these days, but when it comes to injustice and intolerance — especially when worded so cruelly and tauntingly — I sometimes feel my animal nature swell up inside of me. I want to say I hate bigots, but the irony in that should give us all pause. I don’t know that I hate anyone on this planet. That’s a very strong word. I believe in mercy, remorse, forgiveness, and redemption. Those four qualities come together to loosely form my mantra. They are the words that I try and live by. Not because I’m a saint, but because I’m a sinner. I have a done a lot of shameful things, and committed a lot of regreattable mistakes, and made too many enemies to count. And I have lost a lot friends along the way. But I have also gained back several too. And that’s because I appealed to their humanity and expressed my genuine remorse, then they decided to take a chance and let go of the bitter hatred they had for me, opening the door for them to learn to forgive me, and with that forgiveness, my debt was repaid, and I was relieved of guilt and could work on finding better ways to be their friend, and avoiding the kind of behavior that led to the breakup in the first place. This is the cycle of love we should all be initiating, and although it may use vaguely Christian terms, you could practically plug in any religion or non. Secular humanism? Sure! It’s based on the foundation of love and respect, and then built upon with the other terms. I firmly believe this is the only truly effective way to deal with our enemies, and get past the intense and toxic hate we each have in our hearts for barbaric and unrepentent bigots.
But how do you deal with the bigot amongst us? The person you work with? Your dad? Your very own spouse? Firstly, no bigot is ever going to acknowlege they’re a bigot. They’ll even begin sentences with, “Now, I’m no bigot, but these blacks….” and variations thereof. I have found that it’s best not to call them a bigot at all, even if the word is totally appropriate. If you start that way with a stranger, they’ll either punch you, yell at you, or leave the room. None of those possibilites involve sitting at a table and talking. If it’s a friend, you REALLY shouldn’t call them a bigot, bacause you love them, and even if their actions aren’t very loving, let yours be. Deeper into the conversation, you may venture to say, “I just think it’s bigoted for you to….” People seem to be more agreeable to hear it used that way, rather than as a title. When I implied it was going to get a lot worse before it gets better, I was also implying that we won’t see this end in our lifetime. That may sound fatalistic, but it’s really the most realistic assessment. There’s at least a generation or two that has to die off, and through attrition, be replaced by more tolerant and egalitarian people. But to think where we started, and how far we’ve come, just since I was born, it’s incredible. Especially considering the AIDS crisis was raging then, and the slurs and bigotry was tragic, and there were few to stand up and defend the gay community. Few wanted that stigma. Straight America was blaming AIDS on the gays, and had no idea the virus did not discriminate, and would shortly be attacking them. Being gay during the tough and contentious Reagan years was a real liability, and made even harder after the ’70s had been good to the gay community, as American values loosened and the culture became more accepting. Reagan’s administration reversed all that good will, and gays were forced back into the shadows. To think how hostile that decade was to the community, and to consider here we are. 35 years later, and gay marriage is the law of the land. It’s remarkable. Yet the work is not done, and that conversation with your friends and family, must be ongoing, and if they’re as smart and kind as you believe them to be, perhaps they’ll come around. But this is baby steps. Nobody changes over night. That’s why winning the hearts of the youth, as we have, is good, because they’re already more tolerant that we are, and they will teach their children, who will be more tolerant then them. And so on. Hpwever angry we may get at the other side, we must remember: no one is born a bigot. No one is born hating. People have to learn that. And logic would suggest that if they can learn it, they can unlearn it. 
And if they don’t?
You can’t change anyone, but you can create conducive conditions for helping someone come to kinder conclusions. Generally, the more ocntact people have with another race or orientation they dislike and distrust, the harder it is for them to deny the other’s humanity and civil rights. If someone’s worth loving, they’re worth fighting for. Christians talk about being ‘saved’ which makes many liberals cringe. In reality, we’re also trying to save them. To save them from themselves, and to save us from them. As much as I respect certain religions and don’t ridicule or make fun of them, I do hold the Bible accountable for being the cause of much of the misery and war inflicted on this world. More people have killed in the name of hate that they learned from the Good Book than any other source. My finger points in the direction of this divisive and powerfully blunt weapon, but carried in the name of God. The Bible is the blueprint or the framework – their Constitution — guiding the direction of the religion, and shaping all dogma. But in all fairness, I claim to blame the Bible, but in truth, I blame the men who are presumptuous enough to feel they can interpret it as God’s authoritative Word. I respect peoples’ right to believe whatever they want to believe, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to offer opinions and constructive criticism. Just as they are not shy about offering it to me. The difference is, my opinions of their faith doesn’t change anything. As much as they like to bitch and moan, they are not losing rights. Teaching scripture in school is a violation of church and state, and violates my child’s right to a secular education without proselytizing. None of us get to bring our faith into the shared public space. Whereas, the stus quo many on the Religious Right have withheld natural and inalienable rights form many minorities, and in this, gays and lesbians. That is not Constitutional. It may be condoned in the Bible, but your Bible has no place in the law. If you want to live in a country governed by religious law, move to Saudi Arabia, or another Middle Eastern country. Gays and lesbians are American citizens, and are protected by the Constitution, and guaranteed the exact same rights as straight couples. They were simply asking for what was rightfully theirs. I don’t care how many times it’s mentioned in your Bible, you can’t legislate love, and deny people of a right everyone else has. Conservatives and people of faith are wrong on this. And I’m not even arguing whether it’s morally wrong. I don’t agree, but I’ll let you have that. It’s legally wrong in the eyes of the law. Gambling is also illegal in the Bible, adultery, killing (death penalty), prostitution, a woman seen talking to another man, a woman menstruating and not exiled while she was unclean, slavery IS legal. Where do we draw the line? Why are these other sins permitted, but gay marriage is the worse crime. Jesus was far harsher on moneylenders and those driven by Avarice, yet the Right continue to serve the pckets of big business, effectively defying Jesus’ words and ignoring his other words about caring for your neighbor and providing relief to the poor. You can’t pick and choose, and punish with the Old Testament because it suits you, while ignoring the unmistakable ring of socialism in the policiies and behavior Jesus wanted spread throughout the world. You can’t spell Christian without Christ, but apparently you can be one without following his teachings.
As Miss Maudie says in To Kill a Mockingbird: “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in another…” I’m not afraid of the Bible per se, I’m afraid of the man wielding it, because I giuarantee, if that man doesn’t like me, he’ll find a passage to condemn me. Word are fluid, and they’re only as good as the person reading and interpreting them. Any passage has the capacity to be used for either good or hate. I’m here to listen and respect the faithful, but I have to also preserve my best interests, and sometimes that means saving myself from the petty tyranny of your Bible, being used to take away rights, spread hate not love, and justify bigotry. The Bible has the capacity for great good, but in the hands of a hypocritical moral crusader — most likely misreading and parsing in such a way that they extract and exalt the parts they can inflict on others and use to wield power and legislate. Meanwhile, they’ve somehow managed to conveniently leave out whole books of the New Testament and Jesus’ words of love and peace and his many sermons against avarice and the pursuit of wealth, attending to the poor, treating others as you would like to be treated, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, and all the other beautiful parables he bestowed upon the world.
Although I left the church by the time I got to high school, I did see all the wonderful things that religion can do, and the invaluable role a church plays in its community. I still have fond memories of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, or chanting in a large and cavernous synagogue. I also went to Catholic school and three different Catholic churches. I was baptized, received first communion, and even was an altar boy. I suppose I am more tolerant of many Christian’s intolerance, because I grew up a Christian, and know that in my experience, the majority of them are good people — even if misguided and deluded at times.  I wasn’t, and am not, willing to give up on a whole half of our country, just because right now they refuse to see the light of tolerance and how that is infinitely more Christian that preaching  exclusion and condemnation. It’s not likely I’d ever ‘save’ the man that wrote the vulgar post above, but I can still treat him with respect and dignity. What gives me the most hope and allows me to still maintain close relationships with people of all faiths or no-faiths is that the people I love the most are faithful and I know them to be good people. We all have subversive or unpopular viewpoints and things we should be ashamed of. But you don’t throw out a whole bushel of apples because you found one rotten one in the middle. No matter how ignorant their views might be, we should still try and understand their circumstances.

We on the Left seem to excuse away the violent crime perpetrated by a disproportionately large number of blacks, and even make excuses for welfare abuses, and other questionable behavior in the inner cities.  I do this. Because I think there is a direct corollary between a broken and completely underserving school system, high crime neighborhood, single parent household, no male role models, the allure of selling drugs and getting rich, lack of jobs, crumbling infrastructure, and many more things….and CRIME. Again, African Americans aren’t born criminals, because the vast majority are fine upstanding citizens. But even those that do, weren’t born that way. They learned it. From the mean streets of the ghetto. I think African Americans have been shafted in this country, and giving them the vote and other rights on paper, did not erase everything that came before or the grim future they had ahead. Having said ALL THAT, I would argue that many of this country’s worst bigots and grossly ignorant, are in poor, white, rural areas, many which have the same problems as the inner city. And neither has hope at all. I’m not excusing the actions of bigots, but trying to demonstrate that we can’t ask for tolerance, if we’re not ready to give it, and do our best to understand what made them bigots.

Apart from my close relationship with my Christian parents, I have several other religious friends — three of my best friends, in fact. And they are all artists, and very progressive people. Next to my parents, my best is very liberal and forward-thinking, while still being a devout Christian, and the son of an Orthodox Priest. Father Tim’s one of the coolest, most liberal, well-read, and cultured men I’ve ever met! And he also has deep faith. He is an intellectual, and believes in science, but also sees God in every divine thing he comes in contact with. I am still often conflicted about my beliefs. I know that I don’t belief in a wrathful God that would make mistakes, and then punish his creatures on earth for bloodsport. I know I don’t believe the Bible is meant to be read literally. I actually think it’s more powerful as an allegory, as it’s meant to teach and instruct, but not taken for fact. If it’s supposed to have really happened, it’s much harder to defend, and takes away from its moral message. We shouldn’t be thinking about where Noah’s Ark actually is, because it didn’t happen in my opinion. One man and his family construct a boat large enough to hold two of every animal on the planet? How do they even get across oceans? The ship would have to be the size of Texas! No, it’s better as an allegory. A wicked world, unrepentant, but one honest and faithful man, building something with his own two hands, to save his life, and carry him to the promised land. It’s a metaphor. The ship is Noah’s faith, and he symbolically carries the hope and future of the world with him, so he can start civilization again. To be BORN AGAIN. That is far more powerful than getting caught up on the logistical impossibilities of that ever happening Why is it sacrilegious to suggest such a thing? Isn’t it the same thing, and serve the same end? Kids are still moved and engaged by a story that is more than just boring and literal, but represents something bigger than a boat. anywhere.  
It’s a remarkable book, one way or another. And a dangerous one. Librarians often try and protect books from being banned, but because they love books, they’ll be the first to admit that books can be seditious, and are often the most dangerous things a person can own. Because its got ideas. If so, the Bible has to have almost more ideas than any other book ever written. But what makes it especiallly dangerous is that those words are supposed to be the divine word of God, so now these commandments are directives, like work orders from God himself. It’s like having a mandate from God to kill homosexuals if that’s what you think it says. Or to stone your wife. Or to banish a woman for a week while she menstruates and is unclean. Not to mention the fact that many of them contradict each other. The most glaring editing problem is the fact that the Old Testament shows us an angry and wrathful God and the New Testament’s protagonist is sort of this hippie guy, who preaches peace and love, and works his way around the countryside, spreading the message of tolerance and acceptance. Personally, I’d much rather follow Jesus around, like a Dead concert, then be forced to run laps by God. I know, I know…they’re supposedly one and the same, along with the Holy Ghost. In the Old Testament, God is vengeful and angry, and smites and punishes people mercilessly. Poor Job. And they’re all these little messed up tasks and tests of faith, like,”If you love me, Abraham, you’ll sacrifice your only son Isaac to me.” And then stops the man at the last minute. Lot saw no such kindness. Those are the kind of hazing initiation rites of passage fraternities have been doing for years. But these are far worse, and would cause serious psychological damage to a young man. The tests God puts his children through would be child abuse today. These moves seem sadistic and unnecessarily cruel, and if this were any book I picked up to read, I don’t know that I’d even get to the New Testament. I’d put it down, and miss out on all the cool Jesus stuff. God really alienates the reader early on, and I’d bet money this was intentional on the writer’s part, in order to instill the fear of God in people. And this is where me and the Bible part ways. Firstly, there’s a lot of the Bible I like, and can get behind, and other parts that are ugly and sow the seeds of hate, and cast innocent people as sinners and pariahs. I can’t say I believe fully, as I identify as Agnostic. I would never say God doesn’t exist, because there is no proof he’s not real. I prefer to think vaguely of a higher power — maybe that’s just my own conscience — but I am compelled and motivated by the words of Jesus, a man who is any could be the son of God, it would be him. As for much of the rest of the Bible…no thanks. If I do believe in a God, it is not an angry, wrathful one. Why would an architect put together a model perfectly, and then such scream, and tear it apart. If God is perfection, he made no mistakes. Including gays and lesbians. And every race, creed, heritage, culture, faith, gender, orientation, etc. We are ALL God’s creatures, and must treat each other with the dignity we each deserve. Each treat the environment as the precious creation it is, rather than our dumping ground and cesspool.

And as we consider global warming and climate change, it must be made clear that over 94% of all scientists agree that these crises actually do exist, and are have catastrophic consequences, if not addressed. That’s nearly 100% of scientists, and not only a majority, but nearly a unanimous opinion shared by all. That does not happen much. And yet, the Right would choose to employ their rogue (and ethically questionable) scientists to distort the facts, and declare it’s all just a scare conspiracy by the Left. What possible gain could be had from trying to save the world? Or if we were faking, what would the end game be there? Haha, it was all a joke. We duped you! This is too serious to ignore, and everyday we stall is a day closer to potential extinction of the species.

But this is a rivalry that has gone on for many decade….centuries, in fact. Scientists are like magicians, who pull rabbits out of hats, and Conservative and the rest of us are humbled and have no idea what it is scientists do. It is one of those professions your stumble into from a job’s wanted ad. These men and women are brilliant, their work is very esoteric and elegant. Too rigorous for our untrained minds. To some extent…that mystery…a job only they can do….it effectve;y makes them some of the most powerful people in our society. They create technology, cure disease, engineer things, and essentially are the engine of commerce and innovation since at least the Industrial Revolution. But this level of tech and science is much more recent….50–60 years. And the rapid rates of development, effectively launching the digital age, is only about 20 years This is an epic showdown, between the scientists, who essentially play God everyday, and create innovation that others simply can’t explain. On the other side, are God’s faithful soldiers, charged with upholding and maintaining the status quo, because they’re working from a playbook over 4,000 years old. And despite the odds against them staying relevant and useful, and about their book being able to address the needs of a 21st Century, they simply respond with ‘faith.’ They are naturally distrustful of each other. One can’t disprove the other. Sure, scientists can talk of the God particle and make huge breakthroughs in quantum physics and make leaps in understanding the Universe better. And yet, they have no smoking gun to disprove God.  And likely never will be. Scientists pretend it doesn’t matter, because the burden of proof is on the religious side, yet, they know that’s not entirely true, and the frustration is palpable. They would love to spike the ball in front of the faithful, and have that retribution for so many years of oppression. “This is for Galileo!” Society looks to scientists for answers, the faithful look to God. If many hold scientists accountable if they can’t provide a shred of evidence, the  faithful simply get to say “We feel God in the room.” and we are forced to take them at their word. Or not. We can’t prove that they’re wrong. The religious are almost certainly in the win-win position. If they pray and there is a God, they are fulfilling their purpose, but it they pray and there is no God, no one’s the wiser, and they’re still praying to God. And we can’t definitively say their prayers aren’t flying up to Heaven. Scientists must live and die by the scientific method, and test and retest hypotheses. By its very virtue, being a scientist is actually a numbers game, with terrible odds. Scientists ARE wrong MOST of the time. Because that’s how laboratories work. It’s tireless thankless and repetitive work, and it takes  a good deal of patience. Yet, no matter how many tests they run or experiments they conduct, most of the time, the scientists will come up empty handed. And it’s so frustrating, because they can rationally discredit God, and point to no valid and uncontested piece of evidence proving the existence of God, yet they can point to dozens, hundreds, thousands of examples that suggest God doesn’t exist. The faithful aren’t hearing it. They have faith, and faith is not a science experiment, it’s the Truth with a capital T.

My friends on the Left and in the arts who are Atheists, have taught me that they are good people, and that they don’t need the Ten Commandments or psalms of Jesus, to know the difference between right and wrong. It’s simple human decency. It’s secular humanism. It’s whatever. Jesus was a great dude, and his words are mostly right. These words have been picked up and reused and reworded by women and men such as St. Paul, Joan of Arc, St. Theresa, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and even our very forward thinking Pope. The most important words in the Bible are the ones all kind, loving, and decent people already know to use. The problem is less in the New Testament, with all the peaceful words of Jesus, but ALL the OTHER words and themes of hate, violence, intolerance, vengeance, justice, punishment, sexism, xenophobia, domestic violence, torture, rape, menstruation, masturbation, procreation, marriage, slavery, sodomy/homosexuality, creation, vs. evolution, attitude towards animals, stewardship/global warming, and more. Rather than embrace and exalt Jesus’ kind and generous words of love, many fundamentalist Christians have latched onto the Bible’s more ugly, hateful, and intolerant messages of hate. The point is, how do you pick up a Book whose newest chapters are nearly 2,000 years old, and its oldest are another 2,000 years before that, and hope to build law and justice, and the blueprint of a Church, based on hundreds of unrelated and contradictory stories written by scores of different writers over the course of four thousand years?
To put it in perspective, here in America, we have the Constitution, which is 228 years old. To us that may sound like a lot, but compared to the Bible, that’s like a drop of rain in Noah’s flood. And yet, in those roughly two centuries, we have found it necessary to amend the document twenty-seven times! That’s actually a good number of times, for a relatively short period of time. And how many times has the Bible been revised, amended, or edited in the last four-thousand years? None. The Constitution was drafted brilliantly, and allowed for changes to be made, and for laws to be revised or thrown out. As we progressed as a society, we learned  from the sins of our past and intellectually and socially evolved and have slowly become more inclusive. One of those amendments abolished slavery (still in the Bible), one granted blacks the right to vote (not even considered in the Bible), and still one protected the rights of women and gave them the vote (still oppressed by their husbands and cruelly stoned), And there are 24 more, most expanding civil rights and protecting individuals. Our Constitution was written so expertly, expanding it was not the hardship revising a messy and poorly edited book like the Bible would be. Because The Constitution was fastidiously thought out, and laid out in such a way, that it made revising it, less troublesome. And yet, the U.S. document was the work and craftsmanship of men — brilliant men, but still men. Not God. Why would he deliver a document so unwieldily? Our charter has grown, to open its arms to more people, as its definitions of what it means to be an American expand, and more rights and liberties are conferred. That’s because those of us in a civil society belief a document is only as good as the people it protects and provides for. If we hadn’t added those 27 amendments, we would have been allowing the document to enslave us, and not allow us to make provisions for those who we wanted to invest in our country. A document is living, breathing thing, and must evolve with its people, and be flexible and rigid enough to fit to the size we need it, but strong enough to weather whatever lay ahead. A document that sill advocate stoning and slavery can’t be one that can seriously govern a modern society. In my world, God invented Evolution, and man evolves physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally over many centuries. We simply aren’t the same species we were over 4,000 years ago, and we must not be expected to live by the same rules. We don’t stone women it’s wrong. Those people wouldn’t have had the faintest idea that they were doing anything wrong. Just as the bigots of today can’t see yet, but their prejudices towards gays and their right to marry ARE the same as sexism and slavery, but most have come to accept that those are morally unacceptable. We evolve. They must evolve. Or die. They’re on the wrong side of history. 
The Bible is a document with a central protagonist in the book named Jesus Christ, and though we don’t see him at all until the second testament, his presence is felt throughout the book. Unlike the confusing, contradictory, and sometimes hateful messages falsely interpreted by overzealous bigots, the message of Christ  is not murky at all, and reads as a crystal clear sea, spread wide into the distance, and inviting you to jump. The books in which he appears are also fairly consistent, and rarely contradict themselves, and then, only in minor ways. Jesus is a character who glows from each page, and is immediately likable. He goes after avarice and greed in the marketplace, turning tables and causing a scene. Imagine that? He stood up to the rich and powerful, and advocated for the common man. When did a Republican last do that? we can all relate to, Jesus, as this identifiable peaceful hippie, who hangs our with 12 dudes, who hang on his every word, and recognize him as the Messiah. But he doesn’t abuse them or torture them, as his father had in the first half. Jesus places his love and trust with them. They become messengers, and help spread his good Word. Rather than accept the invitations of the Pharisees and other rich and corrupt religious orders, Jesus prefers to spend his time tending to fallen women, lepers, the blind, the lame, the hungry, and most of all, the poor. Christ loved the poor most of all, once saying, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth.’ He performed alleged miracles, fed large crowds, walked on water, lived an ascetic life of poverty, often depending on the kindness of strangers, and ultimately Jesus Christ — who had only ever preached love and compassion — was sentenced to death for the crime of being popular and undermining the religion he was born into. Christ died by crucifixion, and interestingly, that became the symbol of the new religion. They chose to honor him, as the Rolling Stones once said “as he had his moment of doubt and pain.’ It was a cruel way to die, but Christians chose that moment, because Christ supposedly died for their sins. After years of C.C.D. class, Catholic school, and being an altar boy, I’m still not sure I fully understand what dying for human’s sins means because if that’s salvation then, and he did all the work for us, why bother living a good life? Why not sin, if Jesus already paid the bill. I know I’m reading that wrong. But it goes to the point that dogma is extremely difficult to understand and teach, and there’s a reason why there are so many denominations of Christianity, and they often look nothing alike. YET, THEY’RE ALL STILL USING THE SAME BIBLE.

Atheists will rightly scoff at the idea of dying for a civilizations sins. Even the word sin is probably not in their vocabulary. But again, I would possibly argue here for symbolism, rather than literal interpretation, but I also know even saying that is sacriligeous. I mean none of this as offense, although I’m certain most Christians stopped reading long ago. Who am I kidding? If anyone started reading this, they likely stopped after the first paragraph.  It’s important to point out that the prophetic civil rights leaders we cherish in the Left, were also deeply religious men. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy were ostensibly seen as saviors to their people, who were going to deliver them from the misery of their lives, and they each preached a message of love, passive resistance, peace, loving your enemy, and a fierce belief in God. We, as liberals can’t identify men like Ghandi, MLK, and RFK as our heroes and the symbolic fathers of social justice and equality, but then completely whitewash them, and divorce them from their faith. Belief in God cannot equate to lack of intellect or ignorance. We have to be better than that. If we’re asking the Right to accept homosexuals getting married (and that’s in direct violation of the Bible), we at least should do them the courtesy of not ridiculing or discrediting their faith. We have to meet somewhere in the middle.

It’s funny that the easiest part of the Bible to understand are the passages about Jesus. I don’t think that’s by accident, but by design. That’s the message in the book that is universal, and even though I am not faithful, it is the one that I can take away from the Bible. It’s hard to argue against Christ’s message of love. And that’s the most contemporary and topical message in the whole book. It’s the one that is timeless, and could be read another 4,000 years from now, and still be understood. Because Jesus is love, just as every great prophet since, and every religious person that lives by these rules, and even every Atheist, who lives a good life, and treats people as he wishes to be treated. Each of those three Civil Rights leaders were also martyred for preaching the Truth and a message of love that included everyone. They were certainly motivated by faith, but it wasn’t this hateful brand of it we often see today. It was the words of Jesus. and some of the only words in there truly worth paying attention to. No civil society can be built on hate, distrust, condemnation, bigotry, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, agism, classism, religious belief, or any other difference that makes us a powerful and diverse egalitarian society. This kind of love doesn’t have to come from Jesus or religion at all, We all have the capacity for it. But it starts with respect, remember, and looking at the other person. And allowing yourself to see them, and see yourself in them. Then find something you share in common. And words will come. What will the words be that you use? Like the Bible, we each have the capacity for great deeds and to share love, or to commit evil deeds and to spread hate. If the book you read spreads anything but love, it cannot be the Word of God, or anything divine worth following. Even when hounded like a dog, and abused at the hands of brutal oppressive whites who saw him as an instigator and race baiter, Dr. Martin Luther King, chose to answer their hate with love, knowing it was the only way., saying: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” I respect your right to believe, and even if you disagree  with everything I said, I will fiercely fight for your right to follow your faith. Just know that withholding rights guaranteed by the Constitution is not only bigoted, it is morally abhorrent, and illegal. You can still keep your faith, while opening up your heart. And never forget to ask yourself What Would Jesus Do? I think this world would be a lot safer if more people asked themselves that before they acted.

The Economy of Despair & Stewardship of the Soul


It’s occasionally frustrating to accept how out-of-step one person may be with the rest of the world, and how divergent their values and broad interests can be from the society they emerged from and were presumably shaped by. It is in lonely and isolating moments like this when I surrender myself to hopelessness and despair. In these times, I cannot help but be gripped by negativity and anguish during those moments we all have of uncertainty and self-doubt. Although infrequent, I find myself most often vulnerable when I seek validation and affirmation from my peers. The mind can be a lonely place, and inevitably ends up being a sounding board for various sundry complaints and criticisms  — both real and imagined, and both at the micro level (you) and the macro level (the greater society). In times of reflection and clarity, I find it useful to write and record my various griefs and grievances with our troubling world, and the various factions that inhabit it. It’s probably worth noting that although many of the questions ostensibly appear to be bitingly acrid and shockingly negative, they are in fact indicative of a deeply seated optimism and hope for the human race. Although obviously bitter and hopeless at first blush, perhaps it may help to keep in mind that I wouldn’t express such concerns so passionately, had I no faith they may some day be remedied. These items are by no means a complete or comprehensive list, but a sample of themes and obstacles I see as standing in the way of a peaceful, fair, and equitable world. Many betray my own distrust and disillusionment with the zeitgeist of our age, and all its many incarnations.
Is it possible to deplore the shifting values of your own generation, while not being labeled a lunatic or cultural heretic?

Can we move forward and inch towards egalitarianism, while abandoning common sense and that which makes us uniquely human?

Is it blasphemy simply to question the role of technology in our lives and suggest safeguards?

How does one embrace the inevitable zeitgeist, look to a more equitable future, and retain the curiosity, scholarship, and rigorous aestheticism of the past?

How does one make peace with diverse interests and curiosities in an increasingly specialized society of parochial common interest groups and homogenized learning environments?

How do we continue to work towards a democratic society that educates everyone equally, while not diluting the content, rigor, or meritocracy of scholarship and those who work tirelessly to excel, both for the virtue of acquiring knowledge and the urge to succeed?

How does a society effectively become smaller and more connected, while inversely becoming more hostile,  ignorant and disdainful of each other’s cultures?

How does a society assimilate new cultures without stripping color and cultural heritage, and neutralizing everyone into a dull, homogenous pablum?

How can a single adult navigate a world built for families and breeding, without fear of reprisal and scorn?

How is it more acceptable to allow a mind to wither and atrophy, than for a body to age and betray the inevitable ravages of time and neglect?

How can a society become ostensibly so self-obsessed and motivated by praise and attention, without losing its ability to empathize and protect our weakest members?

If time travel were possible, could a man ever find solace in the erudition and aesthetics of the past, while being forced to endure their primitive beliefs about faith, science and racial hierarchy?

How can one so repelled by the virtues and priorities of many of their contemporaries ever hope to enjoy any sort of life in the public sphere?

Can those afflicted by varying degrees of mental illness and depression ever find empathy and support in a nation terrified of ‘crazy and dangerous individuals’ intent on hurting and killing innocents unpredictably? Will those afraid of unprovoked and random attacks ever be convinced that only an infinitesimally small number of mentally ill are ever violent, and that they have a much higher and probable chance of developing mental illness in their own lifetimes than they do of being hurt by someone else who suffers from it?

Can an increasingly compartmentalized and loyal public ever embrace cultural pluralism and the virtues of curiosity and diverse interests?

Will we as a society learn to be less polarizing, and appreciate seemingly conflicting styles, pastimes, passions, and interests, recognizing that two superficially opposite things need not be mutually exclusive and consumed ‘either-or?’

Will we ever stop leaning towards extremism and absolute fidelity to a position, at the expense of compromise, good will, generosity, respect, and good sense?

Can art and sport ever peacefully coexist and ultimately attract devotees who enjoy both endeavors?

Is there a useful and valuable place for faith and religion in an increasingly secular, scientific, and faithless world? Can science and religious belief belong in the same universe, and not seek to disprove the other, but have ‘faith’ that there is something uniquely human and valuable in both systems of thought?

Invariably, there are innumerable other questions I grapple with, and things that challenge how I avoid/confront/attack the world in which I live. At this point in my life, I have received all the formal education I’m going to get, and for the first time since I first began school, I am adrift without the structure of education. I have three formal degrees, including a Master of Fine Arts, and several certifications. Until now, I have ostensibly been in school or teaching school for nearly 25 years, Learning and academics have fundamentally been apart of the fabric of my life for as long as I can remember. I have always thirsted for both knowledge and structure, and school always provided me with that. I have also spent over thirty years working as an amateur, collegiate, and professional actor, director, designer, and crew member in the theatre, and boast a resume of well over a hundred and fifty plays, musicals, and other live performances. My career was my life for much of my adult life. When I was performing on stage, I was learning how to in class. For various reasons, I no longer actively work in the theatre or are enrolled in any school or classes. My life has lost much of what defined me up until now, and much of my life is occupied by attending to my physical and mental good health and learning coping mechanisms to pursue other interests, diversify my loyalties and pastimes, and find new and productive ways to thrive in the relatively unstructured culture outside academia. I will not lie and try and convince you that I haven’t faced serious challenges over the last three years. I have. I suffer from debilitating depression, mania, and crippling anxiety, and am acutely sensitive to stress and other taxing realities of life. I continue to teach because it gives me great pleasure to educate others, but many of the more social aspects of my life have changed or been eliminated entirely. Although I’m convinced nobody reads my blog, I continue to write, as a way to reconcile myself with my demons, hopes, and desires, as well as challenge myself stylistically, intellectually, and artistically. With few opportunities to engage in the deep and rigorous intellectual debates and challenges to my thinking I once was exposed to in the classroom — and woefully took for granted — writing allows me to play the dialectical, and explore an idea, concept, or feeling with some degree of rigor and regularity. I have a complicated history with social media, and a few isolated instances of frequent and erratic posting, writing provocatively on other’s walls, and generally abusing the accepted standards and rules of the medium. Although not a regular or frequent occurrence, these isolated incidents have been problematic and hazardous to many a personal and professional relationship. I have since mended many fences, but I must be vigilante, and realize I have many of the same temptations a recovering alcoholic has towards drink. The chemistry of my brain demands constant intellectual stimulation and craves nourishing art, politics, sport, and other distractions to feel occupied. Only at the age of 35 was I finally diagnosed with severe ADHD and an overactive mind. Social media is a dangerous elixir, and there are endless conversations to engage in, and things to learn. Nowadays, with a safe and reasonable use of social media, no classrooms to deliberate in, and a an unfortunate absence of friends in my immediate vicinity, I must find healthier outlets to my intellect and imagination. In many ways, writing has become an acceptable substitute for the intrinsically more public and social art form of live theatre. I no longer crave the instant gratification I once did, nor feel as satisfied in the entertainment field. Some would suggest I have become more morose and withdrawn, and while that may be true, I have also become more reflective, accountable, and healthy in my approach to the world. As the list above demonstrates, I have daily frustrations with much of the state of the world, and my perception that much of our cultural and technological progress often comes at the expense of other things. I worry about the world, yet still engage it, in my own modest way, and believe it or not, have proud hopes for its future. But first, we must wrestle with just some of the many concerns I expressed above. I often wish I could find employment in a think tank, where I would be spoiled by constant stimulation and debate, while also serving a more practical and applicable function. My sensitivity often leads me to want to save the world from itself, and all its sundry ills. My epistemological, sociological, metaphysical, and ontological observations and thinking prompts are far fancier than my solutions and answers. My remedy and absolution of guilt stands at the center of most organized religions, and is nothing more than love, empathy, abstaining from judgement, communication, common sense, and faith in the intentions and good faith of others. I say that these are the backbones of many world religions, but the application and follow-thru has historically been fatally flawed, misguided, and corrupted by the acts and motives of humankind. Nevertheless, they are words and ideals to live up to, and with considerably more vigilance and commitment, we might be able right half this world’s wrongs. If we could only see ourselves in our foe, we may make more concerted efforts at peace and reconciliation, rather than empty promises and posturing.

I realize that I see the world in simplified terms, and perhaps have no business interjecting my thoughts. At the same time, I also know that somehow my mother raised me in such a way that despite my many given flaws, I have a unique capacity for empathy, forgiveness, and resolution through open and honest communication. I have damaged many relationships over the years, and some irreparably, but I never stop trying to repair past wrongs and look to within myself for lessons learned and chances for self-improvement. As such, I have a considerable number of friends and family, each from very different national, cultural, educational, vocational, and religious backgrounds. What they all have in common is me. Because for one reason or another, I have a sizable capacity to accept and tolerate a wide spectrum of beliefs and cultural value systems. I have always traveled widely, sampled foods enthusiastically, and greedily embraced new and foreign cultures. But that hasn’t always meant leaving the country. America is packed full of its own multicultural challenges, and these days, there are plenty of chances for cross-pollinating with ‘them’ and the ‘other’ than ever before. Sometimes without scarcely leaving your own hometown. Yet still, we are rigidly guarded in our beliefs and interests, and myopic in our stilted view of the world, and what it takes to peaceably coexist and even work in collaboration, towards one common goal. For some reason, although I have very firm beliefs and values about certain inherent rights and civil liberties, I make an effort to understand the motives and animus that fuels another person. I practice concerted empathy and do my very best to see the other person’s side. That may be surprising to some, given my aggressive debates on social media, and seemingly steadfast opinions on how things ought to be. And I still feel that way. Love, freedom, unconditional acceptance, and empathy are my guiding principles, and must underly every choice we make as a society. However, I recognize that as humans, we all more or less share the same feelings, wants, and needs. Sometimes educational inequities have stood in the way. For some, poverty and abuse were mitigating factors. Others are simply willfully ignorant and combative, but even for them, I try and hope that clarity and egalitarianism will one day knock on their door. However noxious their beliefs and ignorance may be, I’ll never accept that most humans are beyond saving. Having said that, I am also a realist, and at least superficially, a cynic and pessimist. Yet still, my eternal and deeply buried optimism will not allow me to deny someone redemption, the right to change, and opportunities for personal enrichment. I’d rather be called naive and unreasonable, than to stridently and emphatically deny someone their capacity for change and progressive socio-evolution. As I said before, though we may all talk a big game (myself included!) about acceptance, love, and a deniability of prejudice and bigotry, in practice, most of us fall far short of our stated goals and beliefs. In fact, most of us are intractably territorial, selfish, suspicious, and unyielding in our relations with others. Or rather, those who look and feel different than us, and who we presume holds none of our cherished morals and values. Therefore, most attempts at peace and reconciliation are ceremonial, at best, and neither party is a trustworthy negotiator. How could they be? When we bring all our grudges, prejudices, and inability to humanize those who sit across from us at the bargaining table, we betray ourselves as actors not in good faith, and essentially only present to uphold certain beliefs and ensure they lose no ground to their enemy. There is rarely an atmosphere if trust, respect, compromise, humility, or accountability for one’s own actions and culpability.

I am by no means a saint, or some charismatic figure of peace and social justice. I’m just a simple man who was raised a certain way, with perhaps a unique perspective, and the sincere desire to negotiate peace and understanding between all the valued and polarized groups in my life, and in the world around us. Although I fail quite often, I always attempt to see both sides, and find strengths and weaknesses in each tenable side. As a theatre artist, educator, and writer, I always strive to seek compromise and find common ground amongst cultures, and value the building of bridges, rather than burning them. That being said, many of my best laid plans and good intentions were thwarted by my own troubled mind, insecurities, stubbornness, and sometimes combative nature. More often than not, my abject failures have been impulsive and irrational outbursts of hurt and anger, and seldom ever premeditated. Invariably, time and distance provides me with empathy, understanding, and a renewed desire to make peace and find helpful solutions moving forward. If only I could always be successful in my application of collaboration and compromise, and if only our world’s most intractable and disingenuous community leaders, clergy, politicians, corporations, scientists, and other players could show an honest commitment to peace and negotiation. Perhaps we’d finally be able to live in a world where everyone can feel safe, supported, respected, and accepted. I firmly belief that once those needs are met, the rest more easily falls into place.

My philosophy and world outlook aren’t complex, but nevertheless, ask a lot of people. Such stark nakedness and vulnerability might frighten most people, and the trust and faith it takes to surrender beliefs and assets for the sake of compromise may just be too much to ask. And yet, I firmly believe that there is no other viable way. The cost of Peace is embracing humility, adopting respect, parting with those things that most likely divide you, and ultimately, committing to finding a way to put faith in your foes, and turning them into partners. It takes good faith and steel resolve. Only then can we ever hope to learn that we share infinitely more in common with out enemies, than the vexing thorns which have for too long kept us apart.