Religion isn’t always moral.

The hurricane emergency in Texas isn’t just a natural catastrophe. It is also a moral crucible by which religions are judged and national leaders are held up to the harsh light of their actions.  That they are found wanting more often than not is not a new phenomenon.  That their followers continue to cape for them in spite of all evidence of nefarious doings is also not a new phenomenon. What IS new is the fact that social media brings all this into our homes, available on our commutes, digested at our leisure over drinks.  In print media heyday, people would hang around newspaper stands for the latest edition with breathless, sometimes stellar journalism available for our consumption.  Before newspapers, broadsheets were run off by hand with the most purple prose ever written, indicative of the book styles of the day.  Even the power of one strong voice to mesmerize a nation via radio while entire families listened together showed that people are hungry for validation for their feelings and beliefs, for reassurance that everything will be OK, especially if those beliefs are dominant in the prevailing culture.  Now, we come to two very different situations where spiritual and national leaders were found wanting in times of great distress.  Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, a self-styled “godman” was found guilty of rape and sentenced to two decades in jail.  His followers rioted, at least 17 people were killed, and more than 120 people were injured in clashes between believers and police.  At this writing, he has a pending murder investigation. We shake our heads at this senseless violence and decry the fanaticism of his supporters.  Really, who are we to dismiss violence halfway around the world that has nothing to do with us in the US, when we have at least two cults of personality in the news here?  Two weeks ago, violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters resulted in several injuries and three deaths, one as a direct result of domestic terrorism.  The president did not address the violence and deaths for hours.  The nation needed a strong voice to reassure us that the dominant beliefs in our nation were just and right.  That he refused to denounce, firmly and without reservation that white supremacy beliefs are wrong set off a firestorm of protest.  He validated Nazis by his silence, his first statement, his campaign rally and his immediate pardon of a notorious racist.  His leadership skills are mob-style strong-arm tactics.  “We will do it my way . . . or else.”  The most recent moral failing of a self-styled prosperity gospel guru in the Houston emergency strikes just as deeply at our psyche.  A 16,000 seat megachurch sat empty for four days while thousands of people evacuated, or tried to.  Those of us without religious leanings were horrified and angered, not only at the egregiousness of inaction but also at flaunting, once again, of a leader’s tax-free wealth not being used to uphold every religion’s admonishments to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the stranger, welcome the poor.  Those of us who are trying to live according to whatever religious tenet commands us were saddened by the deafness of a so-called leader to the cries of anguish.  The fanatical followers made excuses, of course.  Like all fanatical followers, their belief that Dear Leader can do no wrong rendered them blind to his behavior.  This is a human failing that reaches across all races, religions, cultures, and points to a commonality of several things: cults are inherently closed systems with sociopathic leaders.  Sociopaths generally don’t rise to positions of power in healthy, open systems.  People who are whole, integrated into society, engaged in self-examination and engaged in making others around them better tend to see sociopaths as they are:  soul destroyers, mind controllers, intent on making outsiders “the others”.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of the psychopathology of followers, and don’t have the chops to do it justice.  What I do know is that thinking for oneself is very hard and thinking well even harder.  I also know that most people are lazy.  They may work hard, play hard, go balls out on everything they do-except thinking.  It’s even easier to not think with instant social media telling us what the news is, how we should see it, what we should be enraged about, what we should celebrate.  This is not to say that social media and social influencers are inherently bad–most of them aren’t. Mainstream media is bound by cold hard cash.  They have a vested interest in what they print, post, pontificate on.  There, too, there are literate, thoughtful voices that give us information with as little bias as possible.  There are thoughtful social media voices that strive to give of themselves and appreciate the gifts they possess to inform the rest of us to the best of their ability.  They tell their stories, they give their experiences, but they strive to be as honest as possible: “This is me, this is my being.”

Hate is easy.

Hate thrives on fear.  We fear losing our identity, our being.  Why do we fear loss?  Why do we fear “the other”? What is the worst thing that can happen?  Remember, nobody can make us do something we don’t want to do.  The law compels us to certain standards of behavior.  Fear of consequences will keep most of us out of jail, out of lots of things.  However, I cannot be compelled to not murder, except by fear of consequences, or by my own desire to not murder someone.  There are so many people who commit murder-suicide, thereby sidestepping the fear of consequences and a desire to not murder someone else.  The level of hate required to murder someone is sadly, one I understand from experience.  Fear of loss is the greatest murder motivator there is.

Thinking is hard.

Once upon a time, I believed everything I was told.  I rarely questioned anything until puberty.  Because I didn’t have trusted adults to talk to, I went into an extended rebellion that only recently became a force for good, like popping into adulthood from another dimension. Now that I have fewer tomorrows than yesterdays, it behooves me to think even more critically and only pass judgment borne of experience, not emotion.  This is my investment in facts, in truth.  There is no relativity in facts. The greatest leaders in history were thinkers.  It’s no accident that maturity in thought and deed comes later in life.  For people who don’t think, life can be a series of difficult tasks and uphill battles.  They ascribe blame. They feel comfortable in their beliefs until something earth-shattering happens.  They can go two ways, then:  retreat into familiar, or sit with the discomfort of not knowing anymore.  Most people retreat, because thinking is damned painful.  It is constant,  it evolves as new information and experiences are processed, and it evolves more.  Those rare people who are predisposed to thinking well know that they are on a journey of discovery every day of their lives.  The rest of us can be content to listen to them, learn from them, and pass on what lessons we can learn.

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I’m beginning to understand that facebook is not only an evil spouse but a draggy, boozy, hateful floozy that should be divorced posthaste, but my enabling ass keeps hanging on, making excuses for the egregious behavior in the hopes that she will turn herself around, see what she has turned into, make herself into a good, uplifting place

That ain’t happening

That crazy bitch is getting crazier because she is encouraged by all kinds of anonymous instigators, aided and abetted by a system that makes it impossible to weed out the hate without deleting wholesale entire pages and that just pisses me off

The system makes it hard to weed out dumb shit

I believe she has a learning disability, really

The girlfriend looks more enticing every day because her threads are in real time, happening within seconds because she knows what I like, what I crave

She gives me the news I want, not necessarily in an echo chamber because there are always drive-by haters that make it interesting

is it a bot or a troll?  Is this real news or fake?  Are there enough characters to say what I want?  Better tighten it up

She’s a great editor, the best, and I love her for that, haters and racists and apologists, all

There’s a lady in my neighborhood that walks around the block and waves when she sees me

I like her in a neighbor way

One night, she knocked on the door and I saw her scalp glistening under the porch light and the sweat making little streams down her face and she was carrying several sweating bags

She said in her quavery voice that her husband is a deacon at the church and they got produce and would I like a bag of carrots?  I said yes, thank you and as she handed me a bag of cold carrots, she asked hopefully if I wanted anymore because she had plenty of them

I said no thank you.  My mama taught me to never take more than I need, but she offered again, and again, I said, no, thank you.  She walked away in the darkness and I was stricken with guilt

A terrible, middle of the night guilt that wakes me up in a cold sweat

I should have taken all her bags of carrots and not allowed her cancer-stricken, frail kindness to walk all the way around the block in the dark with the sweat running down her face

I saw this sign for a subway line in Manhattan

And I remembered a time in life when I was certain that New York was a magical place, full of beautiful people, glamorous restaurants, excitement around the clock

And in my small town southern mind, I was

sure this Oz was the pinnacle of achievement but I grew up and got jaded in the ways of big cities and the myths of their magic

That subway sign reminded me of the smells of vomit and piss, the sight of a junkie drooling, his pants unzipped obscenely in a sad, not sexy way

I didn’t KNOW these things, mind you

It was another myth with just a grain of truth because the magic is still there with the reality and the woman going home after her day job is just as real with her sore legs and her choice of joints to have a cocktail and a burger that those of us in the rest of the country won’t know because we don’t have the mythology of New York in our cities, which makes us just a little jealous