Friday, January 20, 2017

The Day America Died

The Day America Died

January 20th, 2017 will be a day I will remember as the day my country died.  A day when we traded all that we cherish and hold sacred for the ugly, ignorant, and vulgar.  Today is the day when the Orange Man begins his four years of tyranny and we the people, and the rest of the world suffer as he denigrates the greatest country on earth.  It may seem that I’m bitter about the outcome of the election, a sore loser if you may, but I’m not.  I’m angry that America chose such a poor leader, and that our prestige in the world has dropped so low.

The Orange Man will not make this country great again (for the record it already is great).  You cannot put hope in a narcissist to inspire his people or lead them in any great capacity. I had hoped earlier for a silver lining, but now I’m convinced there will be no silver lining. We will be mired in ineffective leadership for the next four years.

So, what’s left to do? Fight. Fight to keep what shred of decency is left in our government from letting us fold into tyranny.  Keep the government on their toes and in line with what we the people, all of us, want, and take on the smugness of those that think because they have the majority that they can do what they want.  This is a wake-up call for all Americans to make sure our government remains our government and we hold accountable those who we trust to make the laws.  Complacency is not an option.  Ignorance is not a value to be upheld. There is a thin line between democracy and dictatorship and we’ve finally reached that point.  We will not go to the dark side; we must keep our balance toward enlightenment.

I was in Senegal during the presidential elections.  When the results were final, everyone was in shock.  The saddest thing a Senegalese said to me was, “Now you’re just like us.”  It hurt to hear that because I know what he meant.  For the entire world America is the beacon of hope that everyone looks toward.  We show the way for so many, and represent a decency that all aspire to. In America, you can be who you want to be without being beholden to anyone.  You can dream big, and with hard work and determination, live big too.  The sad part is that many Americans are so fearful and ignorant of the world that they don’t see how we are perceived in the rest of the world.  This was our greatness—that we as a country can inspire others to dream big and have the confidence to make changes in their lives despite the odds.  But not anymore.  We are just like the rest of the world now to many.

The title of this posting is “The Day America Died,” and I know this is a temporary death.  The values that make us great need to be in the forefront to drown out the bombastic crassness of the Orange Man and his flunkies, and to remind Congress of their duty to represent all Americans and fight for what we know is right.  My Senators will know my name, my voice will be heard, and ignorance will be taken on, not just brushed aside.  As I spend most of my time outside the U.S., I will continue to show others the great side of our country and even though we are going down a rabbit hole for four years, the values we cherish are still there.  I will continue to inspire my students to dream big and to teach them that anything is possible. 

We will get through this I know.  From this death will come new life and we’ll be greater as always, not again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Father's Day

Father’s Day
Yesterday would have been my father’s 90th birthday, today my parents 57th wedding anniversary, and tomorrow 17 years since he died.  Three major life events in three consecutive days in January.
Quite the coincidence and convenient for us living to remember and celebrate the life of someone who 
gave me life. Each year during this time I wear his King’s Point class ring that he devotedly wore until
his last day, and commemorate his memory by having a nice steak dinner, something he always enjoyed 
and that I treated him to each year as an adult.

    My father was not the ideal father; no parent ever is really.  We have expectations for how they should be based on some grand ideals we see portrayed on television or comparing them to other parents, but parents never quite live up to that.  Inherently they do love and care for their children, it’s instinctual, but for children it’s not always enough in some ways.  My father was a workaholic, spending most of my childhood at Rosecrans Realty, selling houses all over San Diego.  He was an alcoholic, which put much strain on my parents’ marriage and gave our home a sense of unpredictability and looming fear at what would be when dad would come home drunk.  It wasn’t an easy childhood and I was thankful when my mother decided to get a divorce, something to this day she has pangs of regret about, but as I tell her, was the best thing she could have done for herself and her family.
    For many years, I didn’t like my father.  I never wanted to spend time with him yet he insisted on continuing to be our father, taking us out to dinners, spending holidays with us, going fishing, etc.  Some of these events led to him getting drunk and leaving his sons to feel ashamed or in a dangerous situation when they were far away and he was the driver of the car.  All of these things experienced as a child stay with you and you carry them around into adulthood. The anger, disappointment and shame I felt toward my dad was inside me until my early twenties.  As I came into adulthood and came to know who I was, I realized it was time to make sense of my past, my feelings toward both my parents. When I compared my upbringing with other people’s, I concluded that I did not have the terrible childhood I imagined, that there were others out there who had it bad.  My father, despite his flaws, always provided for his family, we always had a roof over our heads, clothing and food.  It was thanks to him that he opened my eyes to the world and instill in me the sense of adventure when he took me to Europe for three weeks when I was 14.  So, when I was 23 or 24, I forgave him and my mother for our less than perfect upbringing, and I thanked them for all they had done for me.  This may sound trite, but it helped me make peace with the past and move on in life, as well as learn to love my father and have a relationship with him.  Not many children can do that, hanging on to anger and disappointment and manifesting it into their own lives.  I was lucky to be able to let it go.

    My father and I never saw eye to eye on many issues: me being gay, politics, race, etc.  He was not an easy person to deal with, but I had the courage to confront his opinions and hold my own in our continued debates in the times we had together.  He had his rigid, conservative opinions, but he was open to seeing other ideas.  He loved people and was always cordial and friendly with everyone. He could talk to anyone and did.  He didn’t like that I was gay, and never acknowledged that part of me.  Being gay is just one aspect of who I am, and he chose to look past that and focus on the other aspects of me that he could take pride in.  That said, he never disrespected any of my gay friends and always enjoyed meeting them and talking with them at great length.  Parents never like to envision their children as sexual beings so they aren’t comfortable always addressing the issue of their children’s sexuality.  When their child is gay, it makes it more uncomfortable for them to deal with.  That doesn’t mean I hid from him who I was, we just found other things to talk about.

     I woke up this morning wanting to write about my father as I looked at his class ring on my finger.  It’s a little tight, it’s bulky, but I wear it for these three days to remember the person who was partially responsible for me being here. My last words to my father, on his 73rd birthday in the hospital were, “Dad, you’re a pain in the ass but I love you very much.”  He looked at me and with his vivid blue eyes and told me he loved me very much too, and I knew that he truly meant it.  That was enough for me.  In the end, despite all the shortcomings and dashed expectations, I was loved by my father, and that’s all that we need to know.  There was nothing more to say, feel or do.  I left the hospital, got on my plane the following day back to New York, at peace with my dad.  Early the next day, as I was going to work, he had a heart attack and died.  I was sad of course that my father was no longer, but at peace knowing that I was loved by him, and that’s all that mattered. 

Happy Birthday Bernie Toomey, wherever you may be.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

New Year, New Thoughts

There’s a certain joy in waking up early. No sounds except the words in your head clamoring to get out.  It has been awhile since I blogged, or written for that matter, and 2017 is the year I take it up again.  Writing is like the tides that ebb and flow, and it seems now that the words are swelling up inside of me and ready to leap on the page.  Who knows what I will accomplish as a writer this year—the main thing is that I am writing after a long dry spell.

With a new year come promises to making ourselves better and accomplishing more in our lives.  For 2017 I have made some resolutions, four to be exact, and here they are in no specific order:

1) Find a boyfriend/husband;
2) Continue a healthy regime, add more cardio and muscle building;
3) Limit my time on social media, make posts and pictures more succinct;
4) Get my book I finished three years ago published

I could add one or two more, but four is a manageable number.  Being politically involved and keeping our politicians in check is too important to be a resolution and is part of my civic duty to keep the shenanigans of the Orange Man and his posse from destroying this country.  It is something we all should be involved in.

Finding a mate is something I’ve never prioritized, but I feel it’s time that I share my life with someone.  We aren’t getting any younger and this year I’m open to the idea of settling down.  My ideal man is Indian, so that’s what I’m manifesting. This year I’ll be spending a few months in India so this goal has some potential of working out. I’m open to men from other backgrounds too, as long as he’s stable (emotionally and financially, independent, and open). Let the hunt begin!

I consider the three important H’s in life are: Health, House, Husband.  I got the house (two actually) so in 2017 we’ll focus on the other two H’s.  More yoga, more healthy eating, toning this body of mine, etc.  A standard resolution many of us have, so you know what I’m talking about.

Social media is a bit out of control in our lives.  Why I would say it dominates a large portion of our days.   I feel the need to minimalize my time on Facebook and the rest, and limit pictures and posts about the mundane.  While I do lead a very interesting life compared to many people online, I feel like taking a step back and making posts more succinct. Can I get through 2017 without posting a food photo? No that’s a challenge.

I wrote the book about my work with Afghans, some of which I may post here on my blog, but it needs an edit job and then get published.  Most likely I’ll self-publish initially, but hopefully it’ll take off and be picked up by a publisher down the road.  We don’t write to be famous authors, we write because we have stories to share.  It’s time for me to share this.
2017 will start in the U.S. on a murky note with the inauguration of most likely the worst president of our lifetimes and plunge this country, and the world, into four years of horrible leadership.  I’ve tried to see the silver linings in all of this but as we approach January 20th, there’s no way of seeing anything optimistic about a Trump presidency.  Leadership is something I teach to young people all over the world.  We look at qualities of effective and ineffective leaders, and search inside ourselves to find our leadership qualities.  For the next four years we have to live with poor leadership in the White House and in Congress, and I will hold the people who represent me in government accountable to ensuring checks and balances continue to work, and the Orange Man is kept in his corner where he can do little harm (well as minimal as possible). 

I have spent most of my life overseas and I have come to understand why America is a great country.  It isn’t that chest-beating, ignorant great that stupid white people declare it to be, it is still the land of the free, where you can come and be who you want and do whatever you wish (within constraints of the law of course) and fulfill those dreams of yours.  The rest of the world looks to America as a beacon of hope, a higher ideal to strive for.  After the elections in November, people in Senegal told me that now America is just like the rest of the world. That was a sad comment, but true.  We can still be great and we will continue to be great, but we need to fight for that greatness.  I’m going to fight the ignorance and fear held by many Americans, the intolerance and unfounded hatred of diversity, and educate people and encourage them to keep their minds open. 

So, that’s it for my first posting for 2017. There’s more to come, maybe not every day but now on a regular basis. I leave you with a New Year’s poem by W.S. Merwin.

To the New Year
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible