Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Wheels on the Bus

(go round and round... all through the town)

I've been without an operating vehicle for a little over 24 hours now. It feels like forever.  For me, the car equals freedom.  Without it I feel imprisoned.  I can't go where I want, when I want.  I'm trapped.

There are, of course, alternatives.  They're alternatives lots of people use, whether or not they actually own a car.  There's the bus.

And today, I relieved some of that sense of being imprisoned by buying a monthly unlimited bus pass.

There are things I HATE about the busses in Santa Fe:  The bus nearest me is a half mile away over an unpaved road with no sidewalks. The first time I walked it (yesterday to go to Walgreens) I ended up with sandals (and feet) full of goats heads.  Today my feet are still pretty sore, but I wore sneakers and socks to protect them.  The other thing I HATE is that the busses on this route only run every 50 minutes or so. That means that if my bus coming home misses connection, I'll be sitting in the mall parking lot for nearly an hour.  The bus shelters on Cerillos, especially around St Mike's, smell like urine.  They don't operate very early in the morning or very late at night.

There are things I LOVE about the Santa Fe busses.  They're not crowded, the seats are sideways rather than packed row after row like other city busses.  The bus up and down Cerillos runs every 15 minutes or less.  A monthly bus pass is only $20, $10 if you're under 19, disabled, or a senior.  The bus routes are short, typically less than a half hour from end to end.

I'm worried about the walk with my school supplies. Worried about getting home after night classes (if I catch the bus, I'll be walking down that unpaved road in the dark, alone)  and saddened that there's no Sunday bus that I can hop on to get to services at the Unitarian Church.  I'm still limited more than I would be with the car, but I don't feel absolutely crippled.  If anything, I have a sort of martyr's pride in being able to handle it at my age, in my physical condition.

I know I need to carry water and sufficient sugar pills (and food) whenever I leave home and take a bus, that I can't stop where I want, that there's going to be walking in the extreme New Mexico heat involved, and that I have to carry things farther than I would if I were pulling up to a parking spot in front of my building.  I can't bring home big things, loads of canned goods, or anything I can't carry... and on some days, I can't bring home anything I can't carry without keeping a hand free for an umbrella.

I'm not going to be able to afford a taxi.

and, after all, this is only a temporary setback... I think... I hope... because I hope to be able to take the car in for repair at the end of this week (it'll take a few days, the part will need to come in from California) and hopefully by Labor Day I'll be back on the road again, and the wheels on the bus can go round and round without me.

How Many Acres are in the Kingdom of Heaven?

I'm sick of the news.  I'm sick of the hate, the killing, and the vanity it all involves.  We'd like to think this is clear cut, that it's one nation defending itself against another nation, or one race defending itself against another.  Yet no one agrees who's right and who's wrong, who should stand down first and take the risk of being overrun.

And it's all so stupid when it comes right down too it.  And so needless.  Even with disagreements, even with the history, it should be possible to come to an agreement, or at least recognize that both sides of every conflict have a reason, have a concern, have a fear that drives them to do as nations or ethnicities what they would never do as individuals.

What people forget, what they CHOOSE to forget, is that for centuries, for tens of centuries, all land has not been found empty and filled by people granted that land by God.  Not Salt Lake City.  Not the USA, not Israel.

I've posted this video made about the history of Israel several times before, but one could be made for ANY nation on earth, because nations are not built out of freedom, which is something we love to tell ourselves, but out of blood.

These nations haven't existed throughout time. Israel has only existed since 1948, before that it was Palestine. Is there any wonder Palestine wants it back? If the UN had given New York as a Jewish Homeland, if they'd given Ireland... if things had gone differently, if Britain had no bone to pick with Palestine (as if there haven't been centuries of "religious" war, the Crusades) would there be another enemy trying to exterminate the Jewish Homeland?

Borders are formed by politics, by building divisions under centers of power, by saying "these people are different and less than we are.  They are different/ inferior/ not chosen by God, and that they are not entitled to the resources of the land beneath their feet, and the water that flows by their homes... WE ARE."

It's not just Israel... or Palestine.... It's the US annexing acre after acre and displacing the indigenous nations who now live on reservations, not much different than Gaza except that they have the "freedom" to leave.   It's every nation that's ever come into a land, planted a flag, and subjugated the people, in every single continent where people have lived.

It's Cortez and Columbus, it's Andrew Jackson.  And it's all in the name of THIS people being superior in some way, more entitled to the land and resources, than that people.  Whether it's a promise from God, some sort of manifest destiny, or the belief in their own innate superiority, conquest has resulted from the idea of separateness.

And yet, far back in time, we were one people.  No one could be discerned as being from one group or another by the amount of melanin in their skin, or the curve of their nose.  And yet those became the distinguishing factors between the "them" and "us" in every war.

The people who lived "there" looked different.  They say that the land God gave us he also gave them ... which means we have different Gods, because they are not us.  And they must be wrong because we cannot be.   And that is the foundation of these wars... both on a national and civil level.

That's not to say there aren't legitimate reasons for fear and distrust, especially among peoples who have been subjugated for centuries... people who have been victimized by the "us vs them" mentalities and who now believe their only resource is to fight back, to hold on to the lands or liberties that were hard won, regardless of the morality of their current actions, whether they involve burning and looting the stores in their home towns or exterminating citizen children who may grow up to join an organization bent on the destruction of a nation.

The idea of "here" and "there" which gave birth to the idea of "us" and "them" is a false one.  Because  there is no God of Borders.  No hand came down from heaven and built the Great Wall of China.  Nor did it draw maps on the earth with red lines cutting through the dirt to denote where this nation ends and another begins.  No divine power built border fences and appointed guards.  There is no scripture ordering the establishment of homeland security forces.  And even those scriptures that talk about lands involve war and conquest, even when the Jews walked into the "promised land".  There were people there, and they were conquered in the name of God, no different than just about every other nation.

We are, after all, one race, the human race, and we have one set of resources, our planet Earth.  Battling over those resources are only a sign of greed, not of survival.  It's a sign we don't see our unity, our common humanity, but are judging worthiness and humanity by other means: by the way our neighbor looks, by the way he describes the Holy, by the philosophies he ascribes to.

And the funny thing is, for all those who believe that their God gives them the right to this land or that, they are all (supposedly) working for the approval of their God in an afterlife, some reward, some freedom of need and want... and some sense of peace.  So how many acres are in the Kingdom of Heaven, that they won't feel the need to fight for it in the afterlife?

Or is what we have our heaven, our haven, and we only fail to realize it in our need to possess more at the detriment of those who we falsely see as other than ourselves?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Why are people so upset by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

"As of Friday, the ALS Association said it had received $9.5 million in donations, compared to $1.6 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 15), adding that the contributions have come from existing donors and 184,812 new donors."  [Seattle Times]

I have friends who steadfastly voice their opinion that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge isn't such a great thing. That it's vanity. That it does nothing to promote the cause. And that if people were serious about ALS they'd be giving everyday, or doing something publicly (as if they aren't?). They're sick of people pouring ice water on their heads on video. They don't want to see it on their Facebook pages. The list of complaints about the challenge goes on and on.

And often these are the same people wearing red clothing on Go Red for Women Day (heart health awareness) or Pink shirts when they do a breast cancer walk, or run a 5K for any number of causes.  Maybe you took a virtual walk for Eating Disorders Awareness Week.   Or gone to a gala or dinner or dance benefitting some research program for some chronic or terminal illness (do you want a link for ALL of the organizations that do this? It'd take my whole blog!).  Maybe you've grown, then cut off your hair.  Maybe you've shaved your head for cancer research. 

The point is, there's a HUGE number of different promotions organizations have used to promote their cause,  and to generate donations.

The thing is, this one is more successful than most.   This one has caught something in the public imagination. This one is working.

After various St. Baldricks Day events, I don't think I've EVER seen a public outcry on Facebook or Twitter or in print media that the many men and women who are shaving their heads for cancer research are doing it just to attract attention to themselves. No one complains that the donors to cancer research who engage in the activity only give once.  No one worries that the message is being lost, or that this is detrimental to cancer research.

I've never seen an outcry after the annual MS walk that people are doing it for the wrong reasons, that they aren't generating awareness, that it's just a fad.

And I've never seen anyone after running a race for some cause being challenged for running and NOT being serious about the cause (except once)...

And perhaps they weren't.  But they did generate the funding and awareness, no matter what they thought.

Do people do this for the "wrong" reason? Absolutely.  Does it still help? Yes.  No one doubts it would be better if everyone's heart and soul was in the cause 100%, and that there was never any ego involved.  I actually had a brush with that two decades ago when my son and daughter ran for brain research, in an event held by the Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

There were a number of serious runners at the event.  They brought in a lot of money, and a bit of ego.  Medals were given by age group.  My son was probably about 10 at the time.  There was an after party and award ceremony in the parking lot of a local church, and everyone had gone there, the finish line packed up (except for one judge, who waited with me for my son, who still hadn't come around the track)  He wasn't only dead last, he was dead last by about an HOUR.

and if you read this blog regularly, you'll know my son suffers from schizophrenia and autism, and this race was, in part, for him. 

He came home with a medal... second place.  Not because he raced well compared to the other racers, but because he was one of two racers in his age group.

The young man who won first was enraged. His father brought him over to talk to me, and they told me that my son's medal diminished their accomplishment.  They encouraged me to give it back.  And they never seemed to understand that finishing was a big accomplishment for my son, and asked them if they even knew what they were racing for.  The young boy said medals, and the father, who seemed to get the point but didn't yield, walked him away.

So there were two people who didn't get it.  I get that. But I also get that they contributed to the cause and the awareness of the cause, and even if they didn't get it, they were also part of what  made it possible for other people to get it... and part of the funding that went to the research to help people like my son.

the ice bucket challenge demonstrates a very specific, narrow use case where viral activism can legitimately do good. Maybe it’s not raising real awareness about ALS, as Will Oremus points out at Slate. (“Few of the videos I’ve seen contain any substantive information about the disease, why the money is needed, or how it will be used.”) And certainly, many challengers are little more than social media exhibitionists, masquerading as something a little bit nobler. (Wrote Kara Brown at Jezebel: “[it helps] those participating feel very good about themselves and all the good goodness they’re doing.”) 

But “awareness” and “exhibitionism” are squishy, unquantifiable concepts. Money, on the other hands, is concrete. And the ice bucket challenge has generated lots of it. [Washington Post]

You can find flaw with anything, and you can doubt the intentions, or the ego, or the depth of commitment of the participants in any of these events.  But, at least for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, you can't find flaw with the numbers.