Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Frozen: My trip to Orlando, Florida

    When you fly into Orlando and your plane is coming down out of the clouds, the very first thing that you see is total greenness -- and lots and lots and lots of lakes.  There are lakes everywhere in Orlando, even mini-lakes right in the middle of downtown.

     After arriving at the airport, the first question I asked at the information counter was, "How do you get to the Pulse nightclub?"

      "You take an Uber."  Can't do that.  Gotta have an iPhone to call an Uber and all I have is a bedazzled go-phone.  "Well, then you pay $60 for a cab."  Can't do that either.  "Then you'd better take the # 38 bus."  Done.  And it only took me two hours to travel ten miles.  But it was worth it.  Totally.  You have to actually be there for the immensity of this tragedy to really sink in.

     The police had just opened up the crime-scene street the day before and already there were hundreds of balloons and bouquets of flowers on the site.  So sad.  Such a waste.  I'm not even going to go out on a limb here and mention my conspiracy theory that the increase in homosexuality in America, like the increase in autism, is chemically-based, happens to us when we are babies and that somehow Big Pharma is involved.  Because this horrendous crime isn't about homosexuality.  It is about hate.

      I'm just going to say that hate and haters have no business spewing vitriol all over the shirts, pillowcases, skinny jeans and towels of America.  Haters need to take their dirty laundry someplace else.

     I wish that the Pulse nightclub massacre had never happened.  And that no other such useless, unproductive and scary massacre in America will ever happen again.

     Then I went off to Walt Disney World.  Disney has four kingdoms in Orlando.  Which one to choose?  I wanna go to Small World again!  I'm an idealist.  That's the kind of world that I want to live in, not the real world -- where we have two forms of fascism to choose from in November, each one worse than the other.  Clinton or Trump?  Has America really been forced to come to this?

     Anyway, I decided to go to Epcot because I'd never been there before.  And it's a good thing that I did -- because otherwise I'd never have gotten a chance to meet Elsa, the Snow Queen!

      But, unlike Elsa, America has now become frozen with hate.  But there is hope.  Elsa was able to change.  Perhaps America can too.  But we all have to work at it.  It's so much easier to kill than to be nice.

Monday, June 20, 2016

 "Welcome Home Soldier."   

    This article was originally published in the St. Anthony Messenger, in November of 2013.  I am republishing it here because I think it is an important assessment of America's veterans suffering from PTSD and moral injuries -- and I also don't want it to get lost and fall out of the American dialogue solely because it doesn't have a URL.

Welcome Home, Soldier
     By Richard B. Patterson, PhD

     I wasn’t a very good soldier. I was referred to as “Hawkeye” which may give you a clue about my attitude.  I was a child of the 1960s and had marched in peace demonstrations.  There is even a picture of me in my college yearbook wearing my ROTC uniform and sporting a peace button.

     I’d thought about claiming conscientious objector status but didn’t feel that would be honest, given the frequency of fights I’d been in.  So I entered the Army and served as a psychologist. I enjoyed my work but didn’t like being a soldier.  After 4 years of active duty, I was glad to get out.

     Now some 30 years later, I am ministering to many warriors.  I consult with several seeking healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and have evaluated many more in terms of their therapeutic needs. More than a few of these warriors shared not only the horrors they experienced but the spiritual questions and struggles those horrors created.

     When I first started meeting with these warriors, I would often end our conversations with a standard “Thank you for your service.”  Several were honest with me and let me know that they disliked this common comment.

     One soldier observed “It makes us feel separate, unconnected from everyone back here.  Like what we did has nothing to do with most Americans.”  And indeed, if we in turn are honest, we really don’t want to know what these men and women have gone through.  We’d just as soon not listen.  It’s much easier to distance ourselves with a “Thank you for your service” and then be about business as usual.  But our thank yous miss the mark.  It turns out that many warriors aren’t as interested in gratitude as they are interested in understanding.

     Back in the late 1960s, we had a much greater investment in peace. That investment was known as THE DRAFT.  We males were all faced with the possibility of entering into combat and so our thinking about war and peace was far more personal.

     For many of us today, war is more theoretical.  Something that others (primarily people from lower economic strata) participate in.  News reports now censor the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan [and Libya and Syria and Ukraine] and so those actions feel even more foreign.  It is easy to take an attitude of separateness from these warriors. Thanks very much and have a nice day.

     I have heard much about burned bodies, children fired at or run over, battle buddies blown to pieces before a warrior’s eyes.  I have sat with men and women who can’t forget the smell of blood or burning flesh.

     Out of such unimaginable horror have also come dark nights of the soul for many warriors.  Some can’t forgive themselves, such as one warrior who voices guilt because he came back with all his body parts.  He says that, whenever he sits next to a veteran missing an arm or leg, he feels guilty.

     Other soldiers feel out of place now in churches where they once felt at home.  Thus, another soldier told me “I can’t go to Mass anymore.  I’ve killed and the Church says ‘Thou shalt not kill’”.  Some feel beyond God’s forgiveness, believing they have done things that will never be forgiven.   Others simply don’t care anymore, having left the God of their understanding on the battlefield.

     I‘ve talked to several soldiers who nonetheless seek comfort in spiritual communities, wanting more than anything some solace and a sense of belonging.  The reception they receive is not always helpful.  One man told me that, upon entering a Catholic Church, another parishioner who knew him slightly walked up and asked him “How many people did you kill?”  Such appalling insensitivity reflects a type of voyeurism.  Some people want to hear the stories but not the pain.

     What are some of our warriors’ spiritual struggles?  Many struggle with the WHY question.  Why did I survive and my friend didn’t?  I recall the anguish of a man who did not go on a mission because of being sick.  His friend took his place and died in an IED explosion, sitting in the exact spot where the young soldier would have been.  He is haunted by the thought “It should have been me in that seat!”

     Some who hold to a belief in God may tell themselves that God must have spared them for a reason but then struggle with discerning what that reason is, feeling that somehow figuring out that reason is a way to atone for a death for which they feel responsible.  In that regard, one senior NCO with whom I spoke had a healthy attitude.  He’d been on five deployments to Iraq, had been blown up numerous times, had been electrocuted once, and was still here, believing that God had kept him alive for a reason.

     When I asked him whether figuring that reason out was becoming a problem, he said “You know, if something I tell some young soldier keeps him alive when he’s over there, then I figure that was the reason.” He wasn’t looking for some great world-changing purpose but rather just touching a few lives in small but significant ways.  Sadly, many surviving soldiers don’t have that NCO's clarity.  They either rack their brains trying to figure out that purpose or feel guilt because they simply want to be left alone.

     Some soldiers who ask WHY are trying to make sense of senseless horror such as seeing a child run over for fear of a trap or watching a friend be burned alive in a flaming vehicle.  How indeed can a loving God permit such things, one soldier asked.

     Many soldiers carry a great burden from having killed.  Be aware that most of these soldiers know that it was kill or be killed, etc.  For some, they find no comfort in such notions.  I recall one soldier telling me that he had to inventory the belongings of a man he’d just killed.  He still remembers the photos that man had of his wife and children.  In that instant the man wasn’t so much an enemy anymore.  I have met only a very few soldiers who took pride in having killed the enemy.  But they are left wondering what kind of person they are now that they have killed.  Some fear no longer being loved in God’s eyes.

     Finally, as noted earlier, some soldiers come back from combat no longer believing in God.  As one man told me “After what I’ve seen and done, the idea of God just doesn’t work anymore.”

     How then can we help these spiritually wounded warriors?  Most of the warriors I’ve met are tough, hardened individuals, even those I’ve met who were barely out of their teens.  These people are not looking for pity.  They are first of all looking for confidence that they still have value and can still contribute.  Many simply want to find a job.

     Most warriors feel very much out of place upon their return.  They have had a level of experience which causes them to feel very disconnected even within their families.  Many turn to religious settings, hoping to find  at least a spiritual home.  Spiritual communities then are faced with making our soldiers feel welcome without overwhelming them.

     Most soldiers don’t want to be fussed over.  Many simply want to quietly slip into a church service, usually towards the back, and often leave early to avoid crowds.  That desire to slip in and slip out, however, relates more to the effects of trauma and should not be taken to mean that they don’t have a need to connect.

     What these soldiers have taught me more than anything is that they have a great need for people to listen to them without passing judgment.  Some of these soldiers may indeed need professional help but, first and foremost, they simply want to tell their stories and be heard.  For many, the experience of meeting someone who is willing to let them talk is new.

     Listening is hard for many of us.  We want to fix things or set someone straight or tell them that if they only pray or think about something else or go for a long walk, everything will be fine.  But most of these warriors aren’t looking for advice.

     If you take the time to listen to a veteran, you may also hear things that are horrifying and hard to hear.  I think of a man weeping as he told me of seeing his best friend on fire in a vehicle and being unable to do anything to help.  I think of a soldier watching an Iraqi man walk up to a camp gate and set off a bomb such that all that remained of him were scattered body parts.  I think of a soldier coming upon the body of an Iraqi boy he’d befriended, that boy apparently executed because of suspicion of helping the enemy.  These warriors know such stories are horrifying.  Thus the power of finding someone willing to listen.

     What then can listening accomplish?  I’ve come to see that, through listening, soldiers can experience a conversion.  The conversion may be the realization that they are more than their war experiences.  The conversion may be finding some forgiveness and, through that, the realization that they have seen enough of war.

     I’ve come to see that listening can help these soldiers face the need to grieve.  I don’t believe anyone can go through combat and not experience some sort of painful loss that needs to be grieved.  There is clearly the grief for lost comrades.  For others, there is grief over a lost idealism, even innocence.  And many grieve for the person they were before deployment.  Some even may grieve for a lost faith.

     Our wounded warriors have much to offer to us as well, especially in spiritual domains.  I find that my belief in non-violence has grown since engaging in these conversations.  I’ve long had a theoretical belief in the evils of war but having heard much about its impact on human body and spirit, I’m convinced at a different level.  What war does to people in body, mind, and spirit cannot be tolerated any longer.

     Yet I have also learned that there is no place in a Christian ethic for judgment.  I’ve dealt with many Viet Nam veterans, men who were judged harshly for their participation in that war.  These are people who came home hoping to heal, only to be judged as baby killers and shunned.  Many suffered the traumatic after-effects of war privately and with shame.  

     In contrast was a man who recalled returning from Viet Nam as a young Army captain.  No welcoming committee.  No yellow ribbons.  He was walking through the Phoenix airport alone and an elderly woman stopped him, shook his hand, and said “Welcome home, Captain”.  He burst into tears as he shared this healing moment with me.

     Finally, I’ve been taught some powerful lessons about faith.  Not every soldier lost their faith on the battlefield.  Some found it.  Others drew upon that faith to get them through both war and its aftermath.  One man whom I deeply respect summed it up for me as I expressed concern about how he was doing.  He looked at me, patted my shoulder and said “As long as I have my Bible and a good friend I can talk to, I’ll be OK.”  Such simple straight-forward clarity given what this man has been through is truly humbling for someone such as me who spends a lot of time arguing with and questioning God.

     So I encourage both individuals and spiritual communities to reach out to these wounded warriors.  Help them feel welcome.  Help them feel like there is a place for them in your spiritual community. And if they indicate a desire to talk, take the time to listen to their spiritual struggles.  Just listen.  Don’t try to fix.  This will be a far more meaningful way of saying “Thank you for your service.”

Friday, June 17, 2016


Omar Mateen & the US State Dept: Two peas in a pod?

    Here we go again.  The American military-industrial complex is once again dropping really broad hints that stepping up its illegal "war" on Syria would be really really nice.  They are hoping that it might be a lot nicer than their recent illegal "wars" on Libya, Iraq, Ukraine and Afghanistan -- but don't hold your breath.

     In a charmingly blood-thirsty article in the New York Times entitled, "51 U.S. Diplomats Urge Strikes Against Assad in Syria," we are told that almost the entire U.S. State Department is rooting and hoping and praying for a chance to bomb the Hell out of Damascus.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/17/world/middleeast/syria-assad-obama-airstrikes-diplomats-memo.html?_r=0

     That idea sounds just about as stupid as the one that Omar Mateen recently had.  Apparently someone at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando truly pissed Mateen off.  Mateen went out and bought a bunch of guns.  Mateen blasted the Hell out of that nightclub in Orlando.  Mateen killed a whole bunch of innocent people.  Problem solved.

      And apparently someone in downtown Damascus has truly pissed off 51 State Department "diplomats" too.  51 State Department "diplomats" are now planning to go out and buy a bunch of guns.  51 State Department "diplomats" plan to blast the Hell out of President Assad's government.  51 State Department "diplomats" plan to kill a whole bunch of innocent people.  Problem solved.

    But guess what?  Killing innocent people never solves anything.  Duh.  Plus what if the come back as zombies?  Or even brain-dead "diplomats".  http://www.cbs.com/shows/braindead/

Sunday, June 12, 2016

If you're going to Orlando, wear purple flowers in your hair...

      How convenient for America's deep state that Muslims and gays have become such targets of hate.  "Better them than us!"  Logically, Americans should all be totally hatin' on the new surveillance state and the new billionaire state and the new  police state that America has degenerated into -- but Americans have been conditioned to hate Muslims and gays and women instead.  How convenient.

    On June 22, I leave for Orlando, Florida in order to attend the American Library Association's annual convention.  To paraphrase that old 1960s song, I will be wearing purple flowers in my hair.  And a hijab too!  Plus I'm already a woman.  http://2016.alaannual.org/

      But I'm sure that I'll still be perfectly safe in Orlando.  Why?  Because the media and the cops and the FBI won't be after me because I won't be fitting their profile for what a mass shooter would be like.  http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/03/steele-every-single-terrorist-attack-u-s-false-flag-egged-intelligence-services.html

     Unlike Lee Harvey Oswald, Omar Mateen, Mohamed Atta, etc. I don't have a history of working for the military, the CIA or any other top security agency or defense contractor.  Nor have I been highly-trained by professionals in the fine art of effectively firing deadly weapons.  I leave that to Blackwater and the Marines.  http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-12/orlando-shooter-worked-security-company-which-tranports-illegal-immigrants-deep-insi

    Unlike that guy who killed John Lennon, I don't have friends in high places.

    Unlike September 11, 2001, Boston or Sandy Hook, I haven't announced any military drills or fake "exercises" to take place while I'm in Orlando.

    Unlike the Columbine, Sandy Hook, Red Lake, Virginia Tech, Charleston, Aurora, Navy Yard, etc. shooters, I won't be taking any prescription-drug anti-depressants approved by the FDA.

     Unlike witnesses' descriptions of multiple shooters involved in the San Bernardino, JFK, MLK, RFK and Paris shootings, I'll be traveling alone.  http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/06/12/orlando/

     Unlike the American deep state and Israeli neo-colonialists, I won't have a strong motive and won't benefit from either a terrorist attack or any other type of act that deliberately stirs up hatred.  I'm really a pretty peaceful person, really.  https://www.sott.net/article/320084-Another-FBI-patsy-Alleged-Orlando-shooter-Omar-Mateen-was-known-to-FBI-for-3-years

      So I think I'll be safe in Orlando next week.  Especially if I wear some purple flowers in my hair.

PS:  With regard to the Orlando fatal massacre, Clinton has just vowed to keep "war" off the streets of America -- hopefully not in the same manner that she has kept "war" off the streets of Libya, Palestine, Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Kosovo, etc.

PPS:  Even if all the things I named above might not have happened the way I described, it is still a very sad commentary on America that millions and millions of Americans also think along these lines too.  It shows how little we trust the media, the corporatocracy, the CIA, FBI, etc. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Whack-a-Mole: Old school politicians vs. the new voter revolt

     First we Americans got stuck with McCarthyism, wherein out-of-line voters had their lives completely destroyed if they even thought about speaking up.  American voters were shamelessly intimidated.  The RepubliDems were large and in charge. 

     Then came Chicago back in 1968 -- when rioting police basically beat all out-of-line voters to a pulp. 

     However, the RepubliDem old-school political machine did learn to become a bit more subtle after that -- but not by much.  Ronald Reagan, their next fair-haired boy, was called the "Teflon" president because no matter what kind of crap he pulled, he always got away with it.  Why?  Because Wall Street and War Street and the mainstream media always had his back.  And their propaganda machine, instead of the cops, now beat out-of-line voters to a pulp.  And that seemed to work even better.

     Reagan would do stuff that looked and smelled like dog dookie, but a fawning press would rush to assure us voters that the crap we were being forced to swallow was actually candy and cake.  And even to this day, Americans are convinced that Reagan is a god -- not the devil incarnate that he actually was. 

     And most Americans wanted Gore or even Nader for president in 2000.  But we got Bush-Cheney shoved down our throats instead.  Of course there were a few whimpers here and there back then (I myself whimpered a lot) but the Republican high command told us that this new line of bull-crap was all for our own good.  And the Democratic high command bobbled their heads in agreement.

     And then the MSM told us that 9-11 and the "war" on Afghanistan and the "war" on Iraq weren't Bush's fault.  And of course, most Americans still believed the MSM.

     Then along came Obama, ready to play ball.  "No more war," he told us, fingers crossed behind his back.  And we believed him too -- because, in America, words speak louder than deeds.  http://mycatbirdseat.com/2016/06/94852-democrats-are-now-the-aggressive-war-party/

     But what about the 2016 election?  American voters are finally starting to wise up.  "All that glitters is not gold," they are finally noticing at last.  The next generation of American voters is no longer drinking the Kool-Aid.  And so the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee are now being forced to join hands and start playing "Whack-a-Mole" -- attempting to suppress voter revolts as they spring up, again and again, first in one place and then in another.  

     Trump wins the nomination on an anti-war platform that includes making peace with Russia and letting Syria work its own problems out?  "How can we take it away from him?" screams the RNC.  "What war-mongering party hack can we put in his place?"

     Sanders, that peace-loving man of the people, is about to win the nomination?  "How can we stop him from that?" squawks the DNC.  No problem.  Just ask the voters in Arizona, California and New York how the DNC did it.  They just cheated, lied, committed election fraud and cut Bernie entirely out of media access.  Voila!



     And now Whack-a-Mole has been activated yet again and Clinton is being shoved down our throats too.  But here is the real  question -- just exactly how much longer can the RNC and the DNC keep playing Whack-a-Mole before American voters really really revolt?

PS:  Here's a comment from my son, posted on social media the night that the MSM, Wall Street and War Street whacked us California voter-moles over the head in order to give Clinton her big win: 

     "If Hillary is going to get even a fraction towards what this world needs in a leader, she's going to have to pull out some sh*t that she really hasn't shown yet, because all I've seen so far is glad-handing, false face, pandering (oh damn girl, what's that in your bag, is that f*cking HOT SAUCE? OMG, sold!), selling out, unyielding war-mongering, reinforcing a RACIST SYSTEM and BUILDING ON IT.  She has shown me nothing that makes me feel like politics are mine.  Or my generation's.  Or my children's generation.  It's f*cking bad-ass that she's a woman.  But she is the wrong woman."

     I'm with him!

PPS:  Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president,  just schooled us Americans with this obvious home-truth:  "The two major parties want to offer voters a choice of the two most disliked politicians in America.  Lesser evil gets worse every election."  https://twitter.com/DrJillStein/status/740936884004761601?s=02

    If we want a woman in the White House, then why not one who will actually be a good role model for our daughters -- such as Dr. Stein or Elizabeth Warren? Instead of one who gloats about killing Libya and keeps illegal e-mails in her basement so she can avoid getting caught?  And we all know that Bill will run the White House anyway.

      I'd rather have Sanders -- or even Trump -- in the White House than that.

PPPS:  Electing RepubliDems again and again is the very definition of insanity:  Doing the same thing over and over, always getting the same crappy results -- and yet still expecting good results.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

"America's bombing the shite out of the Middle East," sez Madam Jane

     "It's not easy being the world's greatest psychic," Madam Jane confided to me over coffee at her place this morning.  Madam Jane is our neighborhood's resident fortune-teller. 

     "The New York Times claims again and again that it is the Russians who are bombing hospitals in Syria, that it is the Taliban who are blowing up hospitals in Afghanistan, and that it is ISIS that is blowing up hospitals in Iraq," sighed Madam Jane, "but the New York Times can't see what I see."

     Okay.  I'll bite.  "What do you see?"

     "Doom!  Doom and death!  And rivers of blood.  I can't sleep at night.  These images haunt me."  Actually, M.J. did look a hot mess.  Circles under her eyes.  Aged before her time.  "I just keep seeing women and children being blown up in the Middle East by American bombs."  http://chasfreeman.net/americas-continuing-misadventures-in-the-middle-east/

     "What?  Are you saying that the New York Times got it wrong?"  Again?

     "It is what it is," replied Madam Jane. "And for every bomb that America clandestinely drops on mothers and babies in the Middle East?  Each of those bombs also represents yet another American child who won't have a school to go to, or yet another American bridge that is rotting from the inside, or yet another library without books or...."

     "Madam Jane!  Get some sleep!  Please."

PS:  According to journalist Patrick Cockburn, "The Iraqi army backed by Coalition airpower recaptured the city of Ramadi from Isis last December, but more than 70 per cent of its buildings are in ruins and the great majority of its 400,000 people are still displaced....  The notorious remark of a US officer about the town of Ben Tre in Vietnam 50 years ago – that 'it became necessary to destroy the town to save it' – could equally be applied to Ramadi."  http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/air-strikes-isis-iraq-and-syria-city-ruins-ground-troops-alternative-a7052481.html

PPS:  According to brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor, the left side of the human brain has a tendency to produce a whole bunch of angry thoughts.  By nature, none of us are Mother Theresas.  But the good news is that each of our angry thoughts only lasts 90 seconds.  90 seconds of venting is very common in our left brains and we humans really do need to let it all out -- but anything over 90 seconds of expressing anger is just plain wallowing in it and is a total waste of our time.  http://drjilltaylor.com/book.html

      So the next time we feel really angry, just let it all out -- and then move on to something else.  Do you hear that, Pentagon?  Stop wallowing and grow up.  Just let it go!  https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight?language=en

PPPS:  Why is America sending troops to attack Syria right now?  But not sending them to attack Libya or Saudi Arabia -- where ISIS and al Qaeda are actually coming from?  The narrative of America's foreign policy seems to have been designed by blind men.  Libya is a major source of weapons and terrorists right now -- and so is Saudi Arabia.  Turkey and Israel are also running terrorist rat lines.  Yet the United States is sending troops to attack Syria -- the main country standing up to ISIS and al Qaeda right now?  The people who design our foreign policy seem to be either completely in the dark or really, really bad at their jobs.  http://yournewswire.com/dalai-lama-putin-is-right-u-s-created-isis/

     Their blindness and/or inefficiency is putting America at risk.

     That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  But what is their story?