“Till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too-all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides-made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions… Suggestions from the State.”
Brave New World
“Goddamn it! Nooooooooo! Not now, not here!”
I tried to grab my car door as it was shutting, but missed.
I’d locked my keys, phone, credit cards, cash – everything except a notebook and a pen – inside my little red Escort at a park in the middle of white, middle class, north Seattle, about 30 miles from my house.
If you are not connected—the way most people are these days, in the acceptable, electronic way—it puts one at a considerable disadvantage.
On top of that, I had been unemployed for going on a year and living off of my declining retirement savings, cashed out early, with no hopes of the inheritance that my father had promised me nor wishes to work for destructive corporate America, so I did not have money to blow on locksmiths, or towing. And I didn’t have one single phone number memorized. This is what it’s like to really be on your own—without any family to turn to.
I began asking football parents for help. They were coming and going from the parking lot to the football field, escorting their blank-faced brats that were glued to their sides—waddling in their pounds of padding and protective gear.
No one would help me. I could see the looks on the faces of the people I approached. They actually pretended like they didn’t see me. One woman literally rolled up her window and drove away as she watched me plead for assistance.
“I need help!” I cried, as her blue and green face disappeared behind the tinted glass of her half-ton driver’s door window, the enormous vehicle plastered with Seahawks colors – so very original.
Seriously? I was just talking to you ten minutes ago, and now I’m invisible?
Two puffed-up football dads went through the motions of helping me, but both were easily stopped from completing their ‘humanitarian’ missions by nonsensical ‘roadblocks,’ such as not knowing what to say or do. Not one original idea between the two. Both drove off in their big-ass SUVs, most likely forgetting all about me as I disappeared into their rear-view mirrors.
When I approached the field where his sheltered son was playing football, yet another stick-up-the-ass football dad escorted me back to the parking lot as he searched for the Seattle Police Department’s non-emergency number. He kept his distance, silently walking me back to my parking lot where I belonged—away from the impressionable ten-year-old boys.
I was crying. I had been walking around the park, calling out for help and was feeling like a leper as people walked away from me.
Boys should not ever see tears. Emotional individuals are dangerous. I was ushered away like I was contagious.
The Seattle Police Department desk jockey told the expressionless football dad with the phone that instead of using a Slim Jim to open my car door that
“The only thing that we can do is break the window.”
Thanks, SPD. Which glass company kicks back for breaking car windows? Oh, there may be a ‘rational explanation’ for this asinine answer to lock outs, like there’s not enough funding for cops to spend time actually doing some good instead of just driving around, responding to crimes, shooting black people. . . .
But when you are the person who is experiencing the stupidity and laziness and the ‘I can’t’ mentality of Americans, the reasons offered up are neither helpful nor desired. And corruption and greed are so often the root causes of stupidity in government and society, it’s hard to take rules seriously for those of us who are thinking. And it’s not even a secret any more: the stupidity and apathy is commonplace and never questioned, just explained.
Jesus’ blind sheep never question authority. And good girls, (especially girls) always keep quiet.
The suspicious, white, football dad held up his phone so I could hear the cop’s robotic, uninterested reply, and when I heard the monotone, authoritative voice coming from the phone, I realized that I was not going to get any help at all. It was getting dark and felt like rain and I was beginning to feel the panic that overwhelms me often when I’m in the city. . . all these people around and no one to help you. . . .
They look down upon you if your car isn’t as nice as theirs or if you aren’t wearing green and blue and have a big-ass number 12 flying from your monster truck. I can’t even begin to explain how stupid it looks: matchy-matchy, every single Seattleite with his and her ‘Twelfth Man,’ Brave New World uniform. . . .all as one, all as one. . . .consume consume consume. . . .
And if you are different, you are not to be trusted.
Like me, in my own family.
I know what my mother would say if she saw an ‘artsy’ person with a battle-scarred, fifteen-year-old Ford Escort who was crying and needed help:
“Who knows what kind of stuff she’s into, she looks kind of weird . . . better roll up your window. . . .”
This very type of I’m-better-than-you attitude from football dad annoyed me almost as much as the cop’s uncaring, unthinking response. I yelled into the smartphone, to the counter cop’s suggestion:
“YOU CAN KISS MY ASS!”
Which completely shocked and offended football dad. He backed away like I had Ebola. He was worried because it was his phone . . . and he fled the scene, kowtowing to the cop on the line as he skulked away.
I could almost hear the wheels of his tiny, malnurished, two-track mind:
“Police gooood, crazy woman baaaad . . . run away, run away. . . .gotta get to the game!”
Spineless, entitled wimp.
I crumpled onto a curb under a tree and broke down crying and wasn’t even trying to hide it because my heart was broken. It is true that I should have a spare key, or better car insurance, but it’s pretty hard when you don’t have much money. And I couldn’t afford a new window.
People walked by me like I wasn’t even there.
And it’s true that I should have some phone numbers memorized so I could call someone for help. But aren’t I entitled to some basic human compassion?
I thought about walking a mile or so to a strip mall in the hopes that I could find a pay phone, and someone to give me change.
Except that there are no more pay phones in the Not-very-united States of America. The NSA.
I was sure that they could see me right now, from one of their many satellites. I flipped them off, my arm suspended in the air above my head. I must have looked insane. Maybe I was.
Maybe I am. But what does that mean? What is insanity? Not thinking the same way as everyone else? Not believing in the same things, the same way?
But who knows what anyone is actually thinking? We are not communicating; everyone is keeping her twisted thoughts to herself because they are too depressing for good people to hear. . . .
Good people like my mother.
I was in that wooded parking lot for over two hours, walking around, trying to find someone to help me.
The only man-made place in sight was a small white building across the road from the park, a Christian church. I ran across the busy road and knocked on the door. A woman peeked out and I asked her to use a phone because I was stranded and needed help.
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you in, there are children inside; this is a day care…”
Before she could finish, I cut her off as I turned and walked away defeated,
“Really? You can’t even get help from a CHURCH?” I shrieked.
My countrymen and women are so fearful and distrusting and judgmental that adults are not allowed to be in the same room as children. Have you been to your library lately? Not the children’s section, not if you are an adult . . . yes, I know, I know there are reasons . . . there are always reasons for all the multitudes of laws we have that leave people cut off, left out, excluded; but reasons don’t make our debilitating rules right. Does anyone ever think that there may be alternatives to the way we have set up the rules?
And did we even really set them up or have we been guided into our way of life, herded, like sheep through a field?
I went back to my curb and really lost it. I was sobbing so profoundly, I could barely breathe. What the hell has our society come to? What the hell was I going to do?
I was rescued by the woman who had opened the door at the church. She had been the only adult there when I had knocked and she couldn’t legally let me inside because she was running a day care.
Whenever I talk to or look at a child I am glared at with suspicion and fear.
Kristine was the name of the woman who, after all the parents had come and gone, drove over to the parking lot where I had collapsed into a puddle of tears. She got out of her car and came toward me. I had stood up and was walking away because all I knew is that a strange car pulled up next to me and I was startled—I just wanted to hide under a rock and die at that point. I felt like I had always felt around my family; like the unwanted dog that the family tied up under the back porch, and I tended to snap at any hand that came toward me.
I had a hard time following her words because I was an emotional wreck. My thoughts were very dark, and those old, pesky, suicidal ideas were tugging violently for my attention. . . . I was angry at injustice and inhumanity and evil and was venting my pain.
And even though I was a wreck, we talked (in a crazed fashion) and I learned that she had had a horrific childhood, and had justifiable reasons to hate her father, but that she didn’t. She had learned to forgive him. I’m glad for her. I hope to conquer that battle one day, but I’m still working on anger. . . .
And although I was practically rabid at this point, she did not give up on me like all the others had. And unlike the others, I didn’t have to corner her with my pleas for help, she came to me.
But I snapped about the church, because beside a handful of true Christians that I have known over my lifetime, my opinion of church and churchgoers was pretty damned low.
Kristine defended the church by explaining why she had not been able to let me in to use a phone. And I understand, but I also know that every time I confront anyone about anything unjust or unchristian, I am talked down to like a child, always given an explanation as to why things are the way they are, which never makes any sense to me:
“They removed 200 trees and built a parking lot in South Park because they had to have a place to park the buses.” Period. We just had to rip up every single tree. We just had to use standard, toxic materials instead of thinking of reusing tires or other less damaging materials, and we didn’t stop to think of all that run-off that will spill into the ailing Duwamish River through storm drains, or than maybe school buses shouldn’t be based in one of the neighborhoods with among the worst air pollution in the nation. . . .
“It’s just the way things are, Christine, you can’t have rich people without poor people,” dad would explain to me when I complained of injustice.
And I feel like a child who doesn’t understand why we have become so apathetic and fearful and incapable of doing anything at all, and why every law seems to support Those Who Have, and if you are broke and struggling, it is extremely difficult to get any help, from anyone.
I snapped hard and practically bit poor Kristine’s hand right off. I don’t recall much of our conversation, but I heard her say something about terrorists and America, the kind of soundbites heard on conservative talk radio and Fox News . . . that kind of fear-fueled talk that keeps our attention off our real problems; that acceptable—if not expected—patriotic kind of fear; that good old, American Pie, Us versus Them kind of fear.
We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, how about YOU?
A variety of the fear that kept my father from having garage sales because people would only come by to ‘case the joint,’ the fear that made dad threaten to kick me out of the house at sixteen because I was dating an eighteen year old black man.
fear makes us literally blind to anyone who is different; especially if they are less advantaged than we are, and we idolize them if they have more than we do
It’s fear that justifies my South Park neighbors’ collective decisions to call the police and report the families living in their campers on the street~
“They’re so dirty, leaving garbage all over!”
It’s fear of The Other that escalates to the erection of walls around entire countries to keep out the riff raff—because they’re not really human, not like us.
I was deep inside my pain, which is the pain of the world. I was feeling sorry for myself, but more so for all the homeless living in tents on the sides of the roads (especially the women and children) and along the railroad tracks and in the green belts all over Seattle. My mind went to Europe, to the hundreds of thousands of refugees: the abandoned, the forgotten, those who we don’t concern ourselves with. I’ve heard hatred and fear against the Syrian refugees right here in Seattle; an Estonian woman I met complained that the “refugees are mostly young men who are raping women and demanding Halal food!” She made up her mind, based on an online photo and post, that the refugees were no good; not worthy of assistance.
She sounded like my mother and sister, sitting snug in their large houses with their cocktails in hand, deciding who is worthy and who is not. . . .
Jesus, how can we wake up your lethargic followers? Why is everyone ignoring you and the Buddha and Muhammad and John Lennon and all the other visionaries? How can we get people to give a shit about anything at all other than their own shallow, cookie-cutter, football-crazed, fast food lifestyles?
I lashed out, in my crazed state of mind, and Kristine unleashed counterattacks, defending her good intentions and the policies of her church.
I told her how anti-Christianity I was. I told her about some of the garbage that was crammed down my throat by my uninterested, uninformed parents. Kristine pointed out the obvious to me, only it had never been obvious to me before because I had been in the middle of it; I had been a part of it. But,
It was the way that I was taught Christianity that was wrong.
I wasn’t taught anything about spirituality, or soul, or heart or love; not one single notion. My parents’ version of religion was to believe, obey and not to ask questions.
That’s not spirituality. That’s thought control.
Not only that~
I never understood how my parents could call themselves Christians; how they could believe that they were better than non-believers or believers of other faiths. They often acted like complete hypocrites with their entitlement and destructive behaviors and oft-disregard for people who they knew nothing about.
I remember my father yelling at the television at African Americans—although he called them something else—demonstrating (how dare they act up!)!
Or about welfare mothers, especially those of color, the Reagan-era “terrorists.” My father despised and feared them and other “enemies of the state,” just as he was trained to do by American media and its corporate bosses.
We were not very Christ-like. My alcoholic household was emotionally deficient and verbally abusive. Liquor played a key role in all of our lives, but really kicked the shit out of my father and me. Our emotional instability—probably our chemical makeup as well—made us more potentially volatile than the others. To make matters worse, neither of us had an “off-switch.” We drank until there was no more left to drink.
And when dad and I were in the same room, it could get very loud and extremely vicious.
Our family pain, that underlying, unspoken tension that all families possess, included secrets that we never even hinted at: the embarrassing truths that evaporated with the fumes of whiskey and vodka; stories of murder and insanity and incest and even attempted rape; horrifying memories of war that bubbled to the surface, often erupting from the deep recesses of our darkened, shared memories with anger and fury~
shared, thanks to daddy; the one thing he was willing to share.
All of us hide truths that are too painful to consider, which is not difficult in my family because our pickled clan can’t— or won’t—remember any unpleasantness. Our mismatched memories dissolve like ice cubes in our gin and tonics. Any transgression is forgotten as long as you laugh and toast the next stupid joke about republicans or terrorists or unmarried pregnant neighbors or whomever it is that you hate that day…and don’t act sensitive or moody, or bring up anything politically incorrect or you are O. U. T..
We were suspicious of others yet ignorant of all of our own asinine behavior. We never gave a shit about the results of our actions, or even noticed the mess or hurt feelings that we left behind in our wakes . . . we didn’t notice because we were always distracted by finding new ways to avoid our pain. New reasons to “celebrate.”
Booze is the standard go-to in my family.
Even though I hurt Kristine’s feelings—because I say what I think and I wasn’t thinking straight—she still helped me by calling AAA. She bought a brand new membership for herself on the spot so that they could come and unlock my car.
I know that she does not have a lot of money either; she works multiple jobs and day care doesn’t pay squat and she still bought triple A to help a perfectly crazy stranger.
I was a raving lunatic. I wasn’t thinking and blurting my tortured thoughts, but still,
She didn’t leave me.
It was getting dark and it began to rain.
We sat in her car.
She told me about homeless people she tried to help in the past. She actually opened up her home to someone who was down on his luck. It did not work out well and she was robbed.
Maybe hand-outs aren’t the best way to help others . . . empowerment is much more effective than charity . . . giving a man a fish keeps him dependent, teaching him on the other hand. . . . Handouts don’t ease our fear or give us a chance to take care of ourselves.
But she tried. She opened up her heart and offered her home to another human being. Who wound up stealing from her.
My mind was exhausted and as much as I wanted to talk to her about religion and spirituality and the differences between the two I just didn’t have the energy or focus. I wanted to explain to her that I can be just as spiritual as she is without belonging to a cult, and that shamanism, which I am interested in, has nothing to do with witchcraft or devil worship or whatever negative thing that she seemed to assume without knowing one thing about it (it is not the opposite of Christianity . . . funny how it is acceptable to slam paganism or shamanism or anything but the number one organized faith in our country), but my emotions were raw and all I could think about was getting home and into a hot shower to try and wash the sadness and emotional pain from my body, smoke a bowl, and go to bed.
The fast and friendly triple A guy (AAA is the bomb) that arrived on the scene opened my car door in less than three minutes with his Slim Jim—and the apathetic cops would only break the window: wasteful, stupid, lazy—and I was grateful and relieved,
but still angry at the laziness and apathy and fear of so many human beings
which seems to be everywhere I look.
After several weeks of thinking about what Kristine said, I’m convinced she’s right. Everything that I was taught about Christianity (and pretty much everything else) was wrong.
Which makes me very nervous, because what about all the Christians out there that aren’t as stubborn as I? The millions who did as they were told—like all of the Christians I knew growing up. Those who believed without really doing much real thinking? Why is thinking so unpopular? Or reading, or being curious, or asking questions, or pointing out something bad. . .?
Just like mom and dad, my good, patriotic, Rotary and country clubbing, pillars-of-the community, church-going parents who obeyed and bought and never questioned anything rich, white men told them to believe. And they only saw the world in black and white:
If you go to church, you are good, and if you don’t, you’re bad. Married good; not, bad. Employed good; not, bad. . . .
I was bad at life, according to my parents’ narrow, judgmental, and misogynistic points of view.
Organized religion can’t be accused of being logical. You are not encouraged to actually think.
No wonder I could never get anyone at my corrupt places of employment to do anything when we were being treated badly. No wonder people kept their mouths shut and were fearful of unions . . . I actually got myself fired for defending other people, but I still have only met two or three individuals who had the balls to stand up for themselves . . . and this explains why I was always so miserable at all my restaurant gigs and at the university and everywhere else I worked:
the majority of human beings do what they’re told and never question or talk back.
They are literally incapable of speaking their minds, no matter how power-hungry and controlling and stupid our bosses were.
Americans are frozen stiff with fear and nearly incapable of straying from their cookie-cutter, stamped-by-approval conversations and routines. Much of this, I believe, is learned in church. If not, then why are churches filled with young families with children? Parents always say things like, “well, I want him to get a good, solid, moral foundation.”
Yeah? Then run as fast as you can from organized religion and spend 40 days or so in nature. Nature doesn’t lie, and it doesn’t need a two thousand year old storybook to tell it what to do.
My biggest problem with Christianity is that most Christians don’t seem to ever consider: could their viewpoints be skewed because of their own understanding of god, and of life, and of themselves? Do they really have all the answers? Is that what makes them feel that they have the right to decide how others should live their lives?
Of course they don’t. But many believe they do, even people in my own family. And those types scare the hell out of me. They are easily persuaded into just about anything, accompanied with the right bible quotes or charismatic leaders.
And I have witnessed the linear connection from the belief in God to a belief in our public officials. No one seems to question his or her leaders anymore, no matter what they do, which is frightening because those at the top have become completely disconnected to real people and are interested only in their careers and making money. They dream only of acquiring more money, more cars, more planes, more houses. . . .
and I have been noticing a new programmed response from unthinking, lazy liberals online, updated from I believe in God to:
‘I believe in the Science.’
Really? To which studies are you referring?
Anyone who is truly Christian should be calling out these lost and evil individuals who have lost any sense of compassion or true connection to soul...
Even worse: we don’t question ourselves. Never. We avoid thinking about our foibles. We only defend ourselves or lash out at those who question us.
And some people can justify absolutely anything in their minds. Think: GW Bush, Father Gabriel from The Walking Dead, Hitler. . . .
We need to stop worrying about terrorists and start worrying about the human condition, beginning with our own hearts—love is the answer, not war—there is so much suffering across our planet, I don’t understand how anyone can go about their daily routine without taking some kind of action. More than half of Americans don’t even do the bare-ass minimum by voting; and many don’t even understand the first thing about the issues or the candidates.
A television celebrity was elected as President of Guatemala because less than half of the population voted.
And we are doing exactly the same thing; allowing the rich to take control of our system . . . placing evil, cartoon puppets like Bush—or Trump—to do what they’re told to take the rest of our social safety net away and hand it over to the laughing rich on platinum platters.
Since the religious seem to always brings these issues up, I want to add my two cents:
We need to stop worrying about controlling women’s bodies – as if our wombs are merely an issue!
‘Pro-lifers,’ ask yourselves:
Are you anti-war? Are you against the death penalty? What have you ever done to stop genocide or murder or rape? What have you done this week to make a positive impact on the world? Or are you more interested in just controlling—and condemning others? Where will you be when all of these women and girls are forced to carry out unwanted pregnancies? Now women are having babies deformed by a virus which is transmitted by genetically-modified mosquitoes, or more probably, a chemical fertilizer that was used by their own Brazilian government.
We need to stop worrying about the mirage of the importance of the American economy (why the hell should we care how much the billionaires are making?) and pull our money out and pool it together and buy back our power.
Blind-faith Christians need to get over their misled fear of Muslims or liberals or socialists or other entire groups of people they know nothing about (are we so enlightened and all-knowing that we can’t learn from others?) and do something about real problems in their own communities.
Stop listening to Fox ‘news’ already…and find many sources of information, not just one…
Let’s start confronting evil – let’s start by helping the disadvantaged, the homeless, the sick…let’s start actually acting a little more Christ-like. Let’s make an effort, step out of our comfort zones, and get to know people of color, people of different faiths, people from different classes…
In the meantime, I am destined to continue my mission:
To make the uncomfortable comfortable and the comfortable uncomfortable. To support whistleblowers and to promote the outing of immoral individuals, whether from elected office or the pulpit.
The time for niceties is long past. If we don’t pull our heads out of our selfish asses and find our compassion and empathy and find our lost souls that were repressed as children, I’m quite certain that we’re headed back to the era of the Wild Wild West (or Mad Max) – not the cinematic version; the blood and guts and lynching version. I know that the houses around me are stockpiled with weapons and fear…
and overpopulation and homelessness and the extinction of public services in favor of war and walls . . . and it continues to spiral . . . and the football moms and dads don’t ever notice because it would take away from their busy, busy lives.
But thank you, mysterious guide or higher power or god in the sake of simplicity, for sending your assistant Kristine to me on that crazy sad, tear-filled day. We were meant to meet, if only so that I could see that there actually are good people left in the world.
On that particular day, I had lost my faith, and I needed to be shown that there is still a reason to go on. There are people who walk the talk. Not many, it seems, but they are out there.
I love you, Kristine. Keep walking the talk, and always stay curious.