Living Lessons Blog

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Viruses as a Form of Communication

H1N1 just showed up (again) in the Philadelphia area.

I got this new flu because a young woman in my place of work, 22 years old, without health insurance became sick. She’s working two jobs, one of which involves kids in a public library setting. Despite working two jobs, Ms. X can’t afford health care, so she didn’t have herself tested or treated for the flu. She came to work not feeling well figuring frequent hand washing would do the trick, perhaps not appreciating the airborn nature of most UR viruses. Ms. X fell ill and while she did miss two days of work on Thursday and Friday, she had already exposed the rest of us and half of us were already really quite sick by the following Monday. I finished up a job for her which involved handling papers she’d touched.

Fortunately, it’s a small company with a handful of employees, but of those of us taken out of commission by this bug, the younger people are definitely not bouncing back as fast as one might think.

H1N1 is a new virus. A new life species. Which is really amazing when you take a moment to think about it. Where did it come from? What force of nature called it forth? Why now?

I’ve come to believe that  viruses are a fast acting communication between nature and the subset of animals which make up “nature.” Human beings are part of this animal group, despite our denial that this is the case. The communication is at a level our conscious minds wouldn’t be able to absorb, information we would refuse to believe. Like the news that a devastating earthquake or tsunami is on the horizon. Or that Israel might decide to attack Iran’s previously undisclosed nuclear testing facilities. In pre-emptive self-defense, of course. Screw the rest of the world. It’s all about Israel’s right to exist even if in defending this right, Israel takes out a significant portion of the world’s population as a result of escalated conflict in the Middle East. Not Israel’s problem, right? Hey, they didn’t start it. The Iranian’s did. This perspective is self-destructive in the long term while self-defensive in the short run.

Any leadership contemplating that a scenario attacking Iran as both rational and justified is hard to imagine.

Maybe this is why we need this new flu, so we can all be sick before such an event takes place and some of us can choose to check out with respiratory distress before being forced to breathe in more bomb-irradiated air. Not so good for the lungs, either.

Screaming, on the other hand, is excellent for the lungs.

Time for human animals to all give a mighty yell. One that will drown out the white chatter of media pundits, the General McChrystles, the Ayotollahs, the Sarah Palins and the Eric Cantors, the Netanyahus of our age.

Time for the human animals to scream bloody legalized murder, don’t  you think?

There were major flu pandemics either prior to or just after World War I and World War II. Millions of people died in these pandemics. Many of them young and seemingly healthy. Is Mother Nature is responding to our obvious, long-standing intention to kill each other in large number? Has Mother Nature decided, since this is our global intention, why should she and the rest of the living species which are more or less a peaceful part of her expression have to absorb the environmental fall-out of nuclear bomb tests and nuclear proliferation? More man-made shock and awe? Why not let mothers nurse their boys at bedside as their sons draw their last breath rather than never seeing their children again because they’ve been blown up in Afghanistan?

As the H1N1 moves under our skins, a rather frightful lottery begins. The timing is interesting. America can’t seem to wrap its arms around health care reform. What would a nationwide flu pandemic create within the failing structures of existing health care policy? Hospitals in the Philadelphia area are preparing to set up tents, and those sickened by the swine flu will be treated outside hospital walls. Tents filled with patients in winter time? Nursing staff are being instructed not to come to work if they become sick — which is common sense. So who is going to care for Philadelphians/Americans who are going to need more than aspirin, fluids, and hot baths to survive H1N1?

Here in the U.S., much of our work force has been displaced or down-sized thanks to globalization. Workers are expected to respect geographical, national borders when financial borders between nation states no longer exist and money moves around the globe in the blink of an eye. The American work force is doing more with fewer workplace protections in place since the systematic gutting of unions began in the ’80s. We workers are expected to stay put in our failing villages, neighborhoods and cities. Housing policies will ensure that we do. We are expected to keep on working harder, with two people doing the work four people once did. Domestic economic policies without tightened banking restrictions, financal market regulations and real, effective Congressional oversight will ensure we’ll keep on keeping on, just so. Obstruction of campaign finance reform will ensure that we will spend every last dime trying to stay alive in a capitalist, free market framework that requires we become paupers before we die, giving every last cent to a health related service or product, leaving nothing behind for our families to build and grow on. No helping hand up for our grandchildren. No bail outs for our sons and daughters. No health care reform for those who have worked hard all their lives or up until their first major illness.

American workers are stressed out about a failing economy where all the gold has been skimmed off the top by YOU KNOW WHO. They are afraid of being unemployed, so they are working harder and producing more, while receiving less for the exchange of their labor/time for money. With each passing day workers and retirees are less able to afford quality food, let alone quality health care. So these folks are more likely to get sick, and perhaps just sick enough to lose the job that can’t afford to pay their health care.

Since the financial markets and globalization have gutted our economy, and we no longer produce enough durable goods to balance out our deficit equation, then surely “sickness” must be the new American product? And, if sickness is the new product, it doesn’t have to be exported. We can keep all those dollars right here. No cheaper drugs from Canada, even though cheaper drugs are available.

Health care costs eats up one-sixth of our economy. Sickness must be what we all want since so much of our nation’s resources go toward the business of being sick. Right? I mean, where you put your attention and energy will expand. This is Universal law.

Could be time for another massive “die off.” This would be quite logical, naturally speaking. With a world-wide flu pandemic and significant death toll, there will be fewer displaced workers and wages will go up wherever the principle of supply and demand rules. The rub is the remaining workforce will be older, workers with (one hopes) historical memory and perspective about the good old days before the American dream became morphed into a dark, shadowy parody of itself. Before their children and grandhildren preceded them in death rather then being burdened by debt and no way out of indebtedness.

And, of course, it’s at this precise moment in history that Iran wants to be the latest member of the Plutonium Club.  

Nature may be saying with H1N1…hey, you want to kill yourselves by the droves? Okay, happy to help you out. Less wear and tear on the rest of the natural world if humans die of a new virus than contaminate more of my precious work with your…um…toys. New virus coming your way. Young people (no one to fight the wars), pregnant women — oooh, yeah — let’s cut life off at the well spring. Even more efficient. Fewer humans born to replace the ones who are intent on killing each other and the ones too selfish to take good care of one another when the fundamental resources are all in place (thanks to me, Mother Nature) and national health care is within reach.

This is the gist of the communication I got from the new H1N1 flu as I lay in bed, not quite sure myself this might not be a really good time to kiss it all good-bye.

Check out the timing between past flu pandemics and world wars between major world powers. Stock up on Vitamin C. Wash your hands, and then scream your digital lungs out at the Blue Dog Democrats and the No Ideas Republicans!

Election Backlash, Health Care, Climate Change

Growing pains. This is the phrase I’ve gone back to over the last few weeks, post the ‘post-racial’ saga of  Skip Gates and the Sticky Front Door. Poised in the brink of major involuntary change, America is going through severe growing pains. When I was a youth, making all kinds of bad decisions because I had some difficult lessons to learn growing pains is what the elders in the family would say, with sage nods of graying heads.

Every time I sit down to the keyboard and write a political essay  for this blog, I do it because I have become so agitated by our national story and the pock marks of confusion on the complexion of our society I am compelled to jump into the cultural fray with my know-it-all blah, blah, blah opinionated self. I write these essays because my perspective, insight and analysis are not the usual fare and are much needed — or so the people who continue reading these posts assure me, as they respond with generous thank yous and well dones.

So, here’s what I think is going on right about now.

Everybody — everybody walked on egg shells through the election. Nobody wanted to stand out as being opposed to Barack Obama’s’ presidency on purely racial grounds, nobody wanted to be identified as racist or risk being called a racist. Most Americans have evolved enough for us to comprehend such an attitude would be — well, shameful. We’ve been on our best behavior for six whole months through a great deal of national angst. Growing pains? Please. We did it! We crossed over, and there is no going back. Didn’t you know that electing Barack Obama president means racism, racial bias and prejudice in America is a thing of the past? It’s officially over.

You can’t unring a bell or unscramble an egg but you can revert to type. One can be a recidivist when it comes to racial bias and prejudice.  Those folks who have been hiding since the Inauguration, smiling and pretending to be “cool” and “down with it” have reverted back to type with their vitrolic outrage spewing again, and the single most important issue to the well-being of our economy and future long term economic recovery is being high-jacked by a post election racial backlash that erupted post the Skip Gates thang. A Black Man had the affrontery to use the word “stupidly” in reference to a white man’s actions within the context of a group action. Oh, my God. He used this word in public — in a press briefing. Oh, my God. He dared to lump white people together. Oh, Jesus save us! Everyone knows the cultural norm in America and the world where power is in play: only people of color are viewed as a monolith — where one person of color speaks or acts for all persons of color. Every body knows white folks are only and ever responded to as…individuals. If only this current backlash was actually about health care. But it isn’t.

We seem to have acquired a national version of ADD.

When we stood back and watched billions of taxpayer dollars going to bail out failing banks and insurance companies, we grumbled, but there was no talk of death panels for the captains of industry who had run the country into a ditch. There was no question but we had to do what we had to do. Suck it up and hope for the best without even initiating serious public debate (town hall meetings) as part of  substantially revising financial institution regulations, the lack of which that made the crash of the system not only possible, but sadly  — easy, inevitiable — and yes, profitable.

There were no angry mobs at town meetings around the country demanding better government oversight of our financial institutions and their unbelievably slick fleecing of the middle class and lower class aspiring to homeownership and relaxed retirement.  CEOs “earning” multi-million dollar salaries with borrowed money from you and I? No problemo. But when it comes to balancing the scales by providing a public, or God forbid, a single payer health care option for Americans who don’t ‘earn’ multi-million dollar salaries?  All hell breaks loose!

Once again, I am saddened by the confusion, fear and destructive trance of misinformation so many Americans fall into like a stampeding pack of lemmings leaping over a cliff.

I mean, I know the country as a whole has been intentionally dumbed down for the last thirty years, and so why should I expect an intelligent response from citizens whose emotional intelligence equals that of an average eight year old?

I mean, I know the middle class has been so unbelievably gullible, not recognizing the intrinsic value of an organized workplace, the right to organize, or unions.  And, believe me, I think unions can be problematic and just as corrupt as any other human organization.  Be that as it may be,  we working folks just sucked it up — again — when the multinationals were granted legal status as individuals  and set about gutting our hard good manufacturing base, leaving the economy to run on consumer credit until we hit the wall and can no longer afford to buy what we no longer make, and can no longer afford to keep ourselves healthy so we can keep on going to work every day — those of us with jobs in this recession — so we will continue using credit cards to keep on buying things we don’t need, don’t make, and can’t afford working three food service industry jobs per family.

This just isn’t a sustainable economic model. Ask Kevin Phillips.

Okay. Here comes Obama, and with him – ostensibly — the Democratic platform creating the opportunity to set right the balance between those using the free market to wreck the country and those holding this country together through honesty, basic goodness and hard work.  At last here is the chance for a legitimate and deserved PAY  BACK  for Joe Six Pack in the form of health care as a national commitment to our economy.  But instead of giving the same kind of  “yeah, it has to be done” acquiescence we gave to invading Iraq and bailing out the people for whom that war was really fought — multinational corporations — we turn against ourselves and some go so far as to  accuse President Obama of being “racist” — thank you, Glen Beck. Thank you, advertisers for dropping your sponsorship of Glen Beck’s radio show.

We accuse a black Congressmen of being a Nazi and communists in the same breath — obviously, dumbing down of the nation has led to not knowing the difference between facism and communism, or the fact that Nazis were all about destroying anyone who wasn’t pure Aryan white — so a ‘nigger Nazi’  is an historical oxymoron born of say, Oxycontin?  We seem eager to be  misinformed with vigor equal only to that of how  misinformed we were — intentionally — about the need to invade Iraq.

How dare any American not be able to afford private health insurance? How dare any American be so — so — so — lacking in personal responsibility! How dare any public assistance collecting, slacking, baby-mama, poverty-ridden free-loading SOB think they deserve the right to health care, or hospice care, or an organ transplant, or the right to counseling on what kind of end of life options they’d like to have?

The image of poor America has a black face on it. The marketing campaign to make sure this is how we continue to see people of color in this country was extremely successful through the70’s and 8o’s.

Let’s not forget it was Hilary Clinton, First Bitch, whose fault it is health care reform previously failed because she was just too — competent and strident about the issue. Now, it’s the racist Obama’s fault.

Oh, my God. If  we fail to take care of our best interests, it will have nothing to do with industry lobbyists, campaign contributions, or Blue Dog Democrats reverting to type?

Where is the outrage over the cost of free three squares and basic health care for all the black Americans and poor Americans who fill up the prisons we can’t build fast enough? That’s a single payer option system, and we’re the single payers. So, convicted and imprisoned felons have a right to basic health care. No problemo. Millions of folks contributing nothing but heartache to our society have access to better health care than say, someone like me. Who has none. Who has no permanent job, but who has contributed to fine young men to America who are not in prison, who are productive, responsible, hard-working and committed to the well-being of their local communities. One of whom is on his way into the MBA program at Yale on a full scholarship.

So aside from working most of my life and supporting public schools with my tax dollars even as my sons attend private schools paid for out of my pocket, even as I’ve made these two major human energy contributions to our society  I haven’t earned the right to coverage until such time as I am employed again in a situation where I would happily pay $400/month in health care — which, by the way, I have never used for a major illness as I believe in and practice  preventive medicine on my own body.

So, the curren emotionally charged conversation isn’t really about health care, or health care reform, or now, even health insurance reform. It’s about a race/class backlash we want to pretend isn’t happening. One black American man at the top is no more disquieting than Michael Jordan being a freak superstar. We can all handle that. We can handle subsidizing ridiculously inflated salaries within the financial sector,  and we will suck up bailing out AIG. If that money  had been given to individual Americans on a per capita basis, we could all afford health care for many years to come. But when we begin to share taxpayer resources so the average black American man flipping burgers at McDonald’s can have regular physicals and his mom can have a mammogram? Hold up.

Oh, my beloved country. How are we going to solve the complexity of climate change when we can’t see this forest for its trees? There will not be enough money to pay for the cost of the kinds and frequency of disease our grandchildren will suffer if we don’t curb in our excesses, perhaps making it possible for another generation or two to breath on planet earth — for free. The next health care rationing will be oxygen and who gets to breathe what. Way worse than how environmental toxins and proximity to same are being rationed at the moment. Not to mention mass starvation because our insect pollinators are dying off and we will not be able to replace them with robot drones.

Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, oh, amber waves of grain, for purple mountains majesty above the fruited plains.

America, America, WAKE UP!

Human Nature Now Has a Human Face: Michael Jackson’s U.S. Memorial

July 2, 2009: After a week of watching CNN and MSNBC, and NBC — mainstream media — I am completely disgusted with the coverage. I write a wild, impassioned rant to an email group I’m part of. I am so angry that I email  Anderson Cooper and ask him to look in the mirror, and change the man in the mirror, because by this point Cooper is pushing hard on the drugs and money angles of the story as the only angles worth focusing on. Even going so far as to send Dr. Sanjay Gupta to the door of a former treating physician of  Jackson’s who a decade ago, it has been verified, administered Diprivan to Michael Jackson in a non-hospital, non-specific surgical procedure setting. Dr. Gupta looked extremely uncomfortable in this new role, and I felt embarassed for him.

July 3rd: I turned on the news and there it was again — wild speculation about who would get custody of Michael Jackson’s children and control of his estate, even after a will had been found. And then I saw IT, I saw the beast so clearly.

I went to my email group and ranted. They listened, they’ve been replying all along to the thread I started about Michael Jackson’s life and death in our group’s exchange. One response was that  my thread shone a bright light onto the street gossip: “Only in America can a black man turn into a white woman.”  Several responses had that tone, you know, that ‘he got what he deserved and what his money would buy’ tone, that ‘he was nothing but a fubar junkie’  tone.

This reply in particular pushed me into a deeper truth masked by such wise-ass snarking to another layer waiting to reveal itself. Only in America would a black man ( black men being the most imperiled adult human beings in America on the planet) need to become a submissive white woman (statistically, white woman are the safest people in the world when it comes to survival issues like clean water, adequate food, and medical care) in order to feel safe. Feeling safe seemed to be Michael Jackson’s number one need in life, more than the money and the fame, or maybe because of the money and the fame.

More and more dominoes fell into place, waking me up inside the feeding frenzy trance produced by the white lens of mainstream media coverage. There is no kinder, gentler way to say this.

White mainstream media’s craving to determine who gets the money and who owns the children completely objectified  and dehumanized Michael Jackson and his three children. To be fair, the same thing was done with Anna Nicole Smith. But there was no effort to stray from the easily regurgitated old media talking points about Michael, The Child Molester, no juice from forging new ground into a more unbiased inquiry into who the man might really be and certainly that would mean there would be less writing to do.  Then Rev. Al Sharpton, speaking truth to power once again, chastised Anderson Cooper for lack of balance in his coverage of  Michael Jackson’s life storyon CNN when the Wonder Boy hadn’t yet been laid to rest.

Already angry beyond containment, I emailed Anderson Cooper challenging him to some in depth reporting on Michael Jackson’s humanitarian efforts, his philanthropy around the world. You know, who, what, where, when, why and with what result. Journalism 101. Which has nothing whatever to do with the white media storytelling lens of who’s in control and who owns what. Cover details about giving money away, about Jackson being the most philanthropic celebrity ever? Who would want to know that side of  Michael Jackson when we can keep on dishing speculation and dirt? I even went so far as to suggest perhaps Anderson Cooper needed Soledad O’Brien’s help gaining a bit more perspective and finding another lens through which Michael Jackson’s story could be told.

I’m sure Anderson Cooper was deluged with thousands of emails just ike mine.  The deformity in his coverage was so blatant, so twisted, so taking for granted that this is the only way to tell Michael Jackson’s story. Who cares about the truth? Or about Michael Jackson the man?

I had to take a time out. Sunday I fasted from the media toxicity and rejoiced in Michael’s music and his talent. Monday, I did the same, although I did continue to tune into Larry King Live, and Larry King’s tour of Neverland. Just shy of being patronizing, Larry King seemed genuinely surprised that a flamboyant-just-this-side-of-drag-queen-besequined pop star could have created  so beautiful, tranquil and understated an estate. By Tuesday morning, Anderson’s edge had softened and sitting there was Soledad O’Brian, fulfilling my vision of how news coverage could be transformed once such a decision was consciously made.

Larry King was similarly surprised by the elegance and good taste of Michael Jackson’s public memorial service in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the 8th of July.

July 8, 2009: It was as beautiful a memorial service as the core of brilliance which made Michael Jackson who he was to many of us — so far ahead of us, now forever. One by one, the people who knew, loved, respected, admired, mentored, and cherished Michael Jackson succeeded in humanizing him for those who preferred believing the worst, warming the chill of  the dark side of their human nature in the spotlights aimed straight at the “mess,” to quote Rev. Al Sharpton. Rev. Sharpton succeeded, once again, in coming up with a potent, brutally truthful one -iner. “There was nothing strange about your daddy. The stuff your daddy had to deal with was strange.” Amen.

A particularly poignant moment? Usher’s delicate, loving and soulful lullabye “Gone Too Soon” and the loving touch, the hand on the coffin. (Anderson Cooper asked Larry King if he knew what the coffin was made of because it looked expensive.) The most surprising moment?  John Mayer up there squeezing Human Nature out of his guitar, having had the good sense to leave the vocals an empty space. I imagined Michael Jackson listening to Mayer’s work at home on his stereo system and digging it. The sweetest moment? Brooke Shields remembering her dear, funny friend. The funniest moment? Magic Johnson being blown away by Michael Jackson eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. The most strident and political moment? The poke at Michael’s detractors from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and the King children laying out a refresher course in Michael Jackson’s importance in the scheme of changing the social landscape of the country, paving the way for Obama’s election with unifying messages like Black or White.

And there it was, the antidote to the toxicity of the endlessly spewing media Beast, Black American Culture unspoken testimony at the conclusion of the memorial service.  “He’s ours, now. Leave him be. We always accepted him. Gay, black, white, confused, lonely, eccentric because you forced him into the white American trap. We all know it, and you know it. He’s free now. You can’t hurt him, or twist him into something he’s not so hard he had to find a self-destructive way to ease the pain. He’s ours, always was; we see him, always did. You made him into your creature, but he was Wonder Boy who walked on the Moon, defying gravity and your determination to destroy him for forty years.”

The most tender moment? Of course Paris’s tearful affirmation of how wonderful her daddy was and how very much she loves him.

I’m posting the group email exchange which unfolded over these last two weeks up on my web site:

and will shop this post, my first post on Wonder Body, and the group email exchange as an article in its own right. It’s worth doing if we’re going to stand up strong in Michael’s challenge to start looking in the mirror and making that change.

July 12, 2009. Now Michael’s dermatologist and friend is spilling an awful lot of beanstalk beans. Do your HIPPA rights go out the window after you die?

July 14, 2009: Latoya Jackson may be making some dough on the Who Done What  To Who aspects of the undetermined cause of death. She’s Joseph Jackson’s child if she got two cents for that story. Rumor has it Joe Jackson is already scheming on how to “promote” Prince, Paris, and Blanket. Which is why he was left out of the will. Some folks can’t take a hint. None of this has been substantiated as fact, so the emotional manipulation of the American public continues at a slow, steady burn. Still good for ratings and ad copy.

Michael, now that you’re gone, your humanity shines back to with gorgeous, generous, innocent, greedy ferocity. At least to me. Thank you.

Michael Jackson: Wonder Boy and King of Pop YouTube, Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror 

YouTube, Michael Jackson, Human Nature, concert rehearsal — fabulous…

There is no way not to add my two cents about the sudden death of the King of Pop. I confess to going unpredictably, inexplicably wild for pop music every now and then. Boy bands? Be still my heart. Back Street Boys? N-Synch? Hormonal howling at the moon and at the heart, body and soul? Please. The Jackson 5 was the first boy band, and Michael Jackson was the Wonder boy. I’m a woman of color and knew way back what the Wonder Boy was up to, making it fun for us let go off a few more cultural barriers. How many of us said “Huh…whoah now” when Thriller showed up on MTV?

Thank you, Deepak Chopra, for contributing to today’s media buzz with an honest, loving tribute to the Wonder Boy and deeper insight into Michael Jackson’s lifestyle choices and behavior people were so quick to denegrate, eager to focus on the negative.

Michael Jackson died of a broken heart no matter what turns out be the official cause of death.

I’m thinking his soul just didn’t want to go through it again — that bliss wave that always gets lost in earth’s density, the comeback that wouldn’t have come back to Michael with enough real love. Even though Michael’s mind was willing to climb one more hill. You know the kind of love we need to actually change our lives and our world. The world Michael wanted to live in, and wanted for his children. For real.

I maintain that as much as Michael, the boy, was abused by those he loved and as much as Michael, the man, was exploited by many who both touched and invaded his life, Michael the creative genius — the ground-breaking cultural dynamo, the dazzling dancer, and loving father — had a purpose in life. He fulfilled this purpose, and like others of his ilke, Life demanded as much in return, if not more, than it gave him to live, sing, dance, share and generate the bliss living fully connected to his radiant, ecstatic, divine core. The bliss that  filled his body every time he performed.  This was Michael’s purpose. His talent was given to him in service of this purpose.

Living from your divine core and living on planet Earth is an extremely difficult task.

Robbed of his childhood in exchange for fame and money.  Robbed of being able to honestly express his sexuality and erotisicm anywhere but on stage. Robbed of the enjoyment of a life-long intimate partner (male or female) and being forced instead to confine his gift of personal, intimate love to the three children conceived through such unconventional methods. All the money, fame, privilege, celebrity, world travel, luxorious homes, and endless sea of adoring faces and fans never gave him the one simple thing he desired most: to know beyond doubt that he was loved (not adored) — by human beings taller than four feet.

Exceptionally gifted people know without doubt there is a creator and that your creator loves you, laying the world before your feet when you willingly open into your life’s purpose.

But a human need to feel loved in return for the love Michael Jackson gave so generously is what lay behind his perfectionism, the relentless drive to reach higher, faster, farther the next time,  the compulson to sculpt his image away from the body image connected with feeling that he was hated by his father, and becoming a slave to creativity when it became a Daimon.

Anyone who knew  him personally describes Michael Jackson as gentle, gracious, generous, deeply spiritual, and profoundly distressed by the state of this world that found him bizarre.

I never believed for one second that Michael Jackson had sexually abused a child. Post adolescence, in real life Michael’s sexuality had been completely subsumed, repressed, transcended — perhaps all three — so his need for human contact, physical (non-sexual) touch was met by the little people in his life he assumed could be trusted. The innocence of this dynamic is almost impossible to understand for people nowhere near as complex, energized, gifted and in touch with the divine as Michael Jackson was.

He was not one of us. Michael Jackson went so far beyond what 99.9% of humanity ever allows us to be. Fatally innocent, his life was weighed down by the projected dark shadow of evil to which this kind of creative, energized genius is always subjected.

Michael Jackson knew he had our admiration, respect, adoration, and our wallets but he wasn’t sure if all those nano-flashes meant what he needed them to mean. Or if those nano-flashes of impersonal love beamed back at him from thousands of anonymous lovers on any given night were connected to the real thing, or enough to stop the runaway circus train that had become his public life. After a forty year career, the collective energy Michael Jackson received from audiences and fans never matched the energy he gave out.

I imagine  he hoped someday, if the show was big enough and maybe if he worked hard enough, one day, the energy would be an even match and he would feel as much love coming in as he poured out, without ever discovering how to live any other way. He thought his talent bought him the right to just be himself. Wrong.

The last 24 hours?  Non-stop celebrations around the world, spontaneous eruptions of Moon Walking, outpourings of grief and accolades, and in all these minutes his music has been playing somewhere in the world or is being bought in affirmation of his formidable gift. The trash talk, the speculation, the judgment, the unjustified fear and loathing weren’t ever, and still aren’t, about you, Michael. The meaness, suspicion, envy, and doubt are all a mirror for us. Sad to say, the loathesome, vile assaults weren’t personal although I’m sure it felt agonizingly personal to you, hiding away in Never Land spending money as fast as you could —  the next best thing to being loved.

It’s just the way we roll here on planet Earth, in exactly the same we’re destroying the environment we can’t live without. Go figure.

Wherever you are, Michael (and I believe I know where you are and I may stop by and say hello), freed from your body I hope you can now feel you are indeed loved. Love is what you were made of, love is what you made with your soul, love is what you left us in every word and every note.

Thanks, Michael. The world was changed by you. We’ll miss your brilliance.

C’mon. Tell us. What is your favorite Michael Jackson album, or tune? Mine favorite album is Off  The Wall because it provided the first glimpse of what was to come from Michael Jackson, the solo artist.

Prince, are you out there? You owe a tremendous amount to Michael Jackson. Haven’t heard a peep out of you yet. What gives?

The Holocaust Museum Tragedy

Thank you, Officer Stephen Johns, for your service to your country.

Yesterday, you lost your life while protecting several thousand people inside the Holocaust Museum from the homegrown threat posed by James Von Brunn. It’s my hope more facts about your life and character will be broadcast louder and longer by mainstream media than known facts about the lunatic who took your life.

I, for one, want to know all about you. Where did you grow up? Do you have children who are mourning the shocking devastation of the loss of their father? Why were you known by your colleagues as a “gentle giant?” Where did you attend school? Who are your parents? Teachers? Friends? Who loved you, Stephen Johns?

Tough economic times bring the James Von Brunns of this country floating up to the surface like pond scum — the pond on which our leaky canoe of state is simply doing its best not to capsize. The Stephen Johns of this country are bailing as fast as they can, invisible, in the back of the boat only getting to see where it’s been still having so very little say about where the boat is…heading…if it manages to stay afloat.

White supremacists truly believe that by characteristics of  “race” alone — a completely artificial, man-made concept — whites own this world. Everything and everyone on the planet is here to serve their needs, desires, dominance and entitlements. Always have been. Always will be.

White supremacists are our homegrown version of a Taliban. Historically, white supremacy is rooted in and justified by self-proclaimed Christian beliefs.

I’ve seen nan0-splashes of hatred squirting out of my own family members when they perceive their financial well-being threatened by people they love. Being empathetic, I can imagine how feelings of fear and insecurity are easily and unconsciously projected out onto strangers inadvertently engaged in a silent power struggle for what appear to be limited resources.

With 600,000 people identified as out of work and thousands more unemployed but no longer receiving benefits,  with the dominance of manufacturing of hard goods in America a thing of the past and hard goods jobs outsourced beginning in the Reagan era, with California on the edge of an infrastructure abyss, we can expect to see more expressions of panic of the Von Brunn variety in a country where legitimate and sane gun control policies remain out of our collective reach and the racial divide is not healed but only tentatively bridged.

Jews running the banks? Negroes running the country? A white supremacists worst paranoid nightmare. I felt exactly the same sense of fear and loathing when Dubya was running the country and white male CEOs and their Wall Street accomplices ran our economy aground. The difference between struggling with policy course corrections while saddened, subdued and sane citizens swallow the bitter pill that America’s best days are forever a thing of the past and a homegrown American Taliban chief executing a plan for cold blooded murder at a public institution?

That difference is hate.

As in any great drama, there is a good guy and a bad guy. As in many great American dramas, there is a shoot out. A hero and a villain. Who is in which role in the shooting at the Holocaust Museum depends on your internal perspective.

What about hate? What about innocence? What about denial? What about the deeper questions? You know, the ones we didn’t ask when 9/11 happened. Every time hate comes riding in with an intent to kill on a red horse of denial and hate meets up with innocence we have an opportunity to see our bloodstained and distorted human nature more clearly.

Who are Americans really?  When are we going to understand that we are failing to nurture emotional intelligence in our schools, public and private? When are we going to have the national conversation about the pond scum? The ones among us who are so deeply polluted with hatred that what appear to be non-human outcomes are created by human minds, hearts and hands in the blink of an eye? When are we going to confront and take responsibility for our nation’s dark side?

Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, James Von Brunn — a distinction between these three men is only a question of degree. They are three branches reaching out from the same tree. Hatred gives license to torture prisoners of war, hatred roots for our President’s failure and hopes for more economic suffering in nation brought to its knees by hatred disguised as a love for democracy and the American way of life, hatred justifies killing for its own sake.

The news cycle will feed on this bizarre collision of national values for seventy-two hours, perhaps a bit more. Through Officer Johns’ funeral. Through Von Brunn’s medical treatment  and legal due process. Presuming he survives, which is going to cost us taxpayers a bundle, Von Brunn will get free medical care, a roof over his head and three squares a day for the rest of his life. Now that’s an entitlement plan. Will Von Brunn be water -boarded for information that will keep us all ‘safer’?

I want to know what our pastors, churches, school boards, principals and teachers are going to do following this tragic incident to flush out our homegrown white supremacist haters? James Von Brunn was once a child without a rifle, and like it or not, he is an American. He’s one of us.

Officer Johns was one of us. Most of us will find it more palatable to identify with the fallen hero in this drama. In my view, for that very reason, this is a uniquely American tragedy.

July 5th, Independence Day, the sequel, Sick Out: Iraqi F.L.U.

Here’s a post I submitted in February of 2007  on the Vermont Progressive Party Blog. It’s been slightly edited to reflect Obama’s election and my move from Vermont.

 The bottom line of the piece is that it’s time for a National Sick Out. For two reasons, both of which support Obama’s agenda for change. The first is: WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF IRAQ. COMPLETELY. NO PERMANENT BASES LEFT BEHIND. TURN THE EMBASSY INTO A MID-EAST REGIONAL HOSPITAL FOR THE TREATMENT OF WAR RELATED INJURIES AND TRAUMA. The second reason is: AMERICANS NEED HEALTH CARE NOW.

Love you. Mean it. Sad to say I no longer live in Vermont. Go Bernie! But there’s a bigger audience where I am. Tell people about this blog!

It was a beautiful day in Berkshire today so I went for a brief walk in the cold, crisp sunshine. Enjoying the crunch my footsteps made in the snow, I headed down the path thinking ‘what a great bunny slope for sledding.’ I imagined the raucous, good fun the child in my life and I could have, screaming with glee as our sled of necessity careened off the steep slope and into a snow bank before barreling smack into the middle of Berkshire Center Road and into harm’s way. I’d have to make sure we changed direction to keep us safe from on-coming traffic.

The child in my life is a bright, beautiful three-year old little girl named Nadja. Nadja doesn’t live in Vermont anymore. Her parents had to find better paying jobs, and my modest and uncertain financial life living paycheck to paycheck – or at times, no paycheck at all, means I can’t afford traveling to see her very often. Nadja means ‘promise’ in Arabic. Nadja is one hundred percent home grown American , neither of her parents being either Arab or Muslim, but she’s one hundred percent screwed in terms of the meaning of her name. On our present dangerous foreign policy course, America holds no promise for Nadja.

It’s been almost three months since the election, two months since the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group presented an alternative political solution to President Bush’s lack of a workable plan in Iraq, three weeks since President Bush purged his dissenting military advisors, two weeks since his new “strategy” of sending 22,000 additional American men and women to Iraq, a week since his State of the Union address in which neither Katrina survivors nor Iraq War veterans were mentioned at all. And it’s only days since President Bush insisted, despite sound advice and factual evidence that our foreign policy has incited civil war in Iraq, that his new ‘strategy’ in Iraq is imperative: we can not, must not fail, American can and must succeed (since we’re not winning and we’re not losing).

Now, as if to do us all one better for calling him out, remember when Commander in Chief  Bush issued a new directive: shoot to kill Iranians in Iraq. Our troops in Iraq already have no reliable way of distinguishing Shia from Sunni from legitimate Iraqi forces from Al-Sadr militia from Iraqi insurgents from Al-Qaeda operatives. How does such a deliberately provocative directive serve the goal of winning the war on terror? Have sufficient number of Americans come to the realization that we can’t win a war against a self-constructed ideology: President Bush’s perpetual state of Terror? Terror is an irrational emotion, not a nation state or a political organization.

President Obama needs our help. We need to make sure the Beltway isn’t running the show. We need to make sure the Pentagon isn’t running our foreign policy because guns, tanks and bombs are all the big ticket hard goods anyone will buy these days.

The promise once implied for Nadja — a future in America where all the children in our lives could expect to have a close, loving relationship with their families, attend reasonably good neighborhood schools, finish high school with decent grades, succeed at university in science of math and settle into jobs paying wages sufficient to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table — has been replaced with President Bush’s promise to bring democracy to the Middle East. Both promises are being broken along with our domestic economy.

I take small comfort knowing our Congressional Delegation and most Vermonters continue to resist the national trend toward selective amnesia about the war in Iraq. Do you remember the original chain of events that got us into Iraq – without the spin. Sure you do, although President Bush hopes his spinning out-of-control, deliberate distortion of the truth and fantasy will continue to be accepted as fact. Why? Because he said so. Because he’s the decider.

The facts are finally available. We know what really got us into Iraq. Fear, lies, big business and future non-sustainable energy interests. I’d love to see just one presidential hopeful speak the truth: We made a mistake in Iraq and our next step is reconciliation and diplomatic reparations. This is what mature adults do when our choices prove to be wrong and harmful — we admit we’re wrong, we apologize, and we make amends for the damage we have cause. Some of us even manage to change our future behaviors based on past experience. There is much deeper shame in leaving our young men and women in harm’s way and continuing to devalue Iraqi women, youth and children than admitting we were wrong in trusting the Bush Administration’s assessment of the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. Saddam is dead. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, only lethal weapons of mass deception here at home with no accompanying yellow, orange or red alerts. So why are we still there? Since November 7th, President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s true colors have been all too visible and they are not red, white and blue.

So, despite ‘the thumping’ the Republicans took in November 2006 and despite 70% of Americans knowing the war in Iraq can’t be won militarily, we are supposed to simply accept a spiraling debacle of violence (already supported for four years by our dedicated and excellent service men and women) morphing into an open-ended mission impossible. The new Orwellian logic from the White House? We can’t leave Iraq because we can’t give The Enemy the impression that we don’t support our troops or that we’re ‘soft’ on terror. After four years of combat (when the combat phase was declared over in 2003) and after being assured several times by Vice President Cheney that the insurgency was under control, President Bush wants the Democratic majority to take on the responsibility of coming up with a workable plan for a graceful exit instead of President Bush taking the responsibility for his deeply flawed and clearly failed ideological blunder. How do we make a graceful exit from a country we have destroyed with economic sanctions, irradiated bombs and a fabricated rationale? The answer isn’t 9/11.

The way forward is no longer about President George W. Bush. Finding the way forward falls directly into our hands and is now our responsibility as our President has clearly demonstrated neither he nor his administration is up to the task. It is time to reorient our attention away from the President’s state of denial and destructive impulses toward our real domestic necessities, our neglected international responsibilities, and the revitalization of a functional democracy at home – not left, not right, but whole. The newly elected Congress must not fall into the political and psychological trap of trying to win a hand in the game laid out to them by the Bush Administration. Congress has the support of the majority of Americans and it needs to change the game, or better yet to end this game entirely.

What must we do, now, to go forward on this one single issue? According to a recent poll, 70% of Americans now disapprove of President Bush’s mishandling of the Iraq War. It is not the job of the newly elected Congress to frame and/or adjust foreign policy; this is the President’s job. However, it is the newly elected Congress’s responsibility to have the courage to function as the checks and balances co-equal branch of our government it is meant to be. This is Congress’ charged duty under the Constitution which all members of Congress swear to uphold.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated her position on two extremely important issues: the first, declaring before the election that “impeachment is off the table;” secondly, she does not support Congress cutting funding for already deployed troop surge in Iraq. Madame Speaker, it is the American public’s responsibility to move you to reconsider these positions and use your excellent leadership skills to make sure we have the change in direction we voted for in November of 2006.

Is anybody else in America as sick and tired of this metastasizing disaster as I am? How much more are we good ‘citizen-employees’ going to take, as if we are merely the passive recipients of the downstream muck flow from bad corporate management? How much more will we take out of our children’s pockets when Vermont has nothing to offer our returning service men and women but gratitude? No jobs. No means to afford sky-rocketing housing costs. No federally assisted economic plan for a state losing its agricultural base and unable to fund the broadband infrastructure required for a technology enabled future. As of 2004, an estimated 40% of U.S. profits were generated by the financial services sector. The interest generated from our credit card, mortgage debt and banking fees is helping to finance outsourcing of jobs and the demise of our domestic manufacturing base. The financial services sector is an unregulated industry which has no interest in or obligation to invest in anything ‘solid’. History affirms when a nation reaches this level of ‘financialization,’ using money to make money, by-passing investment in physical plants, manufacturing related jobs, the tax base infrastructure supporting civilian services, or research and development of alternative energy technologies is simply the shortest straight line to ever greater unregulated profit for the finance and insurance industry while you and I are expected to pay for the war in Iraq as well as sacrifice the lives of our sons and daughters.

Our Vermont delegation heard us loud and clear on November 7th. They’re doing what they can in Congress to avoid our nation being pushed into a Constitutional crisis. On behalf of the children in our lives because we can anticipate the consequences and inevitable carnage to come following President Bush’s intransigence in ignoring feedback from his Congress, the electorate and the best of his father’s advisors it’s time for Vermonters and all Americans to take escalating action in our best interests.

Let’s help our newly elected leadership show Mr. Bush the way or the door. Or else. Think about the signal such leadership would send to the world: Americans are smart enough to resolve our most pressing dilemma and we have the back bone to do whatever it takes.

Let’s give our outstanding Congressional delegation the additional political muscle they need to lead the nation out of darkness by staging a sick out on July 5th, 2009.  Just don’t go to work. Even our shrinking middle class can afford one day. What better day to begin organizing the Legislature initiating criminal proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney? Perfect day to call or e-mail Senators Leahy and Sanders, and Congressman Welch and tell them we are behind them all the way. Let them know we expect their support of any and all Congressional commitments based phased withdrawal and redeployment within three months. With no negative or punitive impact on our National Guard base. Or else.

Town Meeting Day is the perfect day to call or e-mail Nancy Pelosi and tell her impeachment isn’t off the table. Ms. Pelosi doesn’t decide that, the electorate does. Call or e-mail our state legislature and Governor Douglas. Tell ‘em Vermont families can’t afford another lost life. Our failing economy can’t afford permanent national corporate tax cuts or another dollar diverted from our pressing domestic concerns. The Global Economy is passing Vermont by.

I urge all Americans but especially women with children in their lives to call in sick to Congress, the Democratic Leadership in the House and Senate and President Obama on July 5th, 2009. Let them know you’ve got a serious case of the Iraq F.L.U. (Iraq free, liberated and united in deciding its own destiny). What’s the or else? A nationwide general strike if Congress hasn’t set a date certain for phased redeployment out of Iraq.

Having a “voice” and having power so you are heard and responded to are not the same. We’ve vented, we’ve whined, we’ve discussed the Iraq war issue and have reached a political impasse that’s heading toward an Iranian cliff. It’s time to use the power we, the electorate, have to move this country in a new direction while 60% of our nation’s profit still comes from our going to our jobs every day.

No real change in direction backed up by action rather than words? No work. No peace? No work. No sane federal energy policy? NO WORK.

I intend to keep my promise to Nadja: I will do everything in my power to leave her a better, safer world in which to live. This is a promise every mother in Vermont and in America  makes in her heart,  no matter her station in life. This is the promise every mother of a serving son or daughter wants kept.

Living Lessons Blog and Living Lessons Library

If you’d like to leave a comment in response to interview with Lisa M. Harrison (and I thank you for wanting to) you probably want to visit Living Lessons Library website.

Here’s the link:

You’ll find a more advanced level of information relating to energy healing, spirituality, DNA upgrades and activation, and high woo-woo.

Schedule an in person healing or self-care empowerment session in Philadelphia by clicking here.

Or schedule a personal healing retreat in a rural setting outside of Philadelphia near Lancaster county.



Anaiis Salles


Farm to Table featured restuarant November 2010

Fracking the Marcellus Shale, Severance Tax, and PA Legislators Asleep at the Wheel

By Anaiis Salles

The last Tuesday of the month is our regular committee meeting night for Green Sanctuary. This past Tuesday, however, we had an opportunity to support a NIM sponsored event at the Germantown Jewish Centre. We rescheduled our meeting for next week, and five of us attended the screening of “Split Estate,” a documentary by Debra Anderson, highlighting the consequences to two Colorado communities where subsurface mineral rights super cede surface property ownership rights.

You know the story. Small community unknowingly ravaged by big energy corporate interests and players. Residents of small community put up with being too close to ponds, wells, streams that are contaminated by the process of “making” energy. Carcinogens, neurotoxins in the water and air, while mining and drilling companies assure everyone there is no danger, despite the fact that the stream on your property can be lit with a match. We saw Erin Brockovich, right? And the remarkable and painful story of how Erin helped expose PSE & G, and their callous disregard for human life, playing the acceptable risk percentages. Profit versus really expensive lawsuit. Profit versus the high likelihood of not ever being held accountable in a legal proceeding.

We saw that movie. And what about Love Canal? Or the very expensive fight with General Electric over PCBs in the Hudson River, and the price tag of remediation?

Well, those of us sitting in the auditorium were getting a preview. What’s happening in Colorado now, with an additional 10,000 wells poised to be drilled without sufficient regulation to protect the citizens of Colorado from having to suffer, and pay for, the staggering costs of illness, treatment, and loss of quality of life, or life itself? This is what Pennsylvanians have to look forward to, in addition to “gaining industry jobs.”

Drilling and fracking have already begun in the Marcellus Shale. Given that Marcellus Shale is one of, if not the biggest, underground depositories of natural gas in the Northeast, given that peak oil is behind us, given that profits from the big energy players are not being channeled into research and development of practical energy alternatives — well, I guess Vermont can kiss its aquifers good-bye. These aquifers, already being depleted to supply drinking water in plastic bottles that leach BPA, these aquifers will be sucked dry by Nestle and other bottled water companies who will have a ready market when Philadelphia residents worry that our water supply is safe. Vermont’s aquifers are below the surface and are not protected by state regulations which apply to ground water use or contamination. Neither are aquifers supplying safe drinking water owned by the public or by the state of Vermont. Another interesting example of “split estate.”

Rep. Gregory Vitali, of Delaware County, is doing what he can to fight the environmental fight in Harrisburg, but he doesn’t have the clearly expressed will of Pennsylvanians supporting his David v. Goliath efforts. If Toomey is elected, we can forget any regulatory protection or tax income to offset the additional and ignored cost of more environmental toxicity. What’s the real cost of natural gas when you add in pain, suffering, medical bills? Is it still clean and cheap?

Rep. Vitali suggested we consider the future of support for a severance tax on drilling if we have a change in Governors. He also reminded us that Americans want to be able to turn on their lights and TVs, millions and millions of kilowatts of energy, 24/7.

Here’s a different perspective: The two documents by which Americas steer its ship of state, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, were both penned by candle light.

Sure, use this quote…just give me the attribution. Thanks.

I videotaped to post-screening discussion. These segments are posted and numbered (Part 1, and so on). Search USG Marcellus Shale.

Compression and Expansion

What a month February has been! There is the sensation of intense compression following the devastation in Haiti: slightly more than one month after the massive quake, U.S. cable networks have moved out and on. There is the odd sensation of expansion as the sky has fallen, and fallen, and fallen dumping more than four feet of snow in Philadelphia since the end of December.

So many living lessons in such a compressed period of time — Dr. Gupta choosing to put being an MD ahead of being a journalist; he crossed the line between objective reporting and emotional engagement; neighbors digging each other out; friendly chats in long supermarket lines; knowing Haitian people were making do with so in little material goods in a tropical environment as they make their way through so much pain made shoveling that last two feet of snow at the end of my driveway that easier to finish. As I said to my brother, less talking, more shoveling.

Compression and expansion deepen the comfort I find each day in being grateful for the simplest things.

Wendy Ann Has Oughtism

Wendy Ann Has Oughtism

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