I’ve got a piece on display in an art show hosted by the Ventura County Arts Council. You can check it out at the Atrium Gallery in the Hall of Administration at Government Center, 800 S. Victoria, in Ventura, M-F 8-5. There will be a reception and awards presentation there on January 26th 5:30-7.
Welcome to my first ever video blog. I’m passionate about doing everything I can to help improve the quality of our lives. Sometimes I’m not sure my writing conveys that the way I want to. I want you to take the content and apply it. I want you to take it personally, so this is my attempt to show you I’m doing the same. I don’t know if it will be a regular thing or not, I guess that’s mostly up to your response. Thanks for checking it out.
I got my first visible tattoo recently, and interesting assumptions were made. Assumptions about my lifestyle, my priorities, the salvation of my soul, you get the idea. Few of these concerns were voiced directly to me, of course, but the ones that were all mentioned how I’ve “changed”.
There was a time I would have felt tortured by this and compelled to delve into every facet of that comment, but I’ve been relieved of that impulse because now I realize it doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m still the exact same person I was when I got my first and second tattoos, the only difference is they are under my clothes. I’m still the same person I was when I had no tattoos at all. What they really mean when they say I’ve changed is that I’m different from their perception of me.
That got me thinking. There’s a lot of pressure on us to “find ourselves”, as though we’re not really living, but merely existing in some kind of holding pattern until we can tick off the right boxes.
I’d like to propose that the real you has been there all along, it’s just covered by a layer of gunk like expectations, misinformation and false obligations. As you begin to live consciously, and get honest with yourself about what you want, how you feel and what’s important to you, all that fake stuff will begin to fall off, and the person you were meant to be will shine through.
For example, my tattoos are deeply meaningful to me. They feel like badges that represent aspects of the real me that I’ve come to love and respect. In a way, I feel like getting them revealed a bit more of my most authentic self. It feels like they’ve always been there, and I finally gained the wisdom to knock off what was hiding them. The reason others will think you’ve changed, is because some people just haven’t developed what it takes to see through your shell yet. They actually think that’s who you are!
We don’t have political problems, Friends, we have human problems. We are privileged with the responsibility of choosing our own leaders, so doesn’t it stand to reason that our leaders reflect the kind of people we are? That should scare the hell out of you right now.
The overt hate, selfishness, ignorance and general shamelessness that permeates American politics right has so many of us pointing fingers at our neighbors. The powers that be are well served by the distraction created when we turn on each other instead of turning toward them to see where the blame truly belongs.
What we must first do is turn inward, and evaluate the moral and ethical shortcomings within ourselves that not only allow this wretched state of the Union to exist, but nurture it like a favored parasite.
We have to get really honest with ourselves about the lies we’ve decided to get comfortable with because they support a prejudice or a grudge that we want to justify.
We have to jump off the bandwagon of discrediting the experiences of people who are of other colors, ethnicities, religions and social classes, and own that our denial of the well-documented, systematic injustice and that holds them back makes us complicit in their oppression.
We have to acknowledge that America does have a class system, and that what we think we know about those different from us, may be based on a convenient lie.
We must stop pretending that our hatred and prejudices are some kind of code of ethics, and realize that morality is something we are to measure our own character by, not something to impose on others and then excuse our bad behavior with their perceived failures.
We have to stop degrading our neighbors who depend on government assistance, as though they don’t pay taxes or have anything to offer society, as though everyone in this country actually has equal opportunity to improve their situations, and that sexism, racism and greed never contribute to poverty.
We must discard the notion that our country is inherently superior, and realize that it merely has the potential to be. It’s up to us to insist that potential is reached. This self-delusion will only make us blind to the problems that will ultimately destroy us, like doting parents ignoring the misdeeds of a beloved, spoiled child. It’s easier to be defensive or offended than it is to admit you just don’t want to acknowledge there is something wrong.
Those of you who are still insisting that this country was founded on Christian principles have to get serious about the glaring discrepancies between what you honestly know of Christ and the policies and politicians you support.
The only way things will ever get better is if decided to be better people, and take responsibility for making sure our policies, and the people who make and enforce them reflect that.
Unless you’ve been under the same rock some of our lawmakers undoubtedly crawled out from under, you can’t help but have a strong opinion on the state of the healthcare system. I’ve got a lot to say about it myself, but for now I want you to see this video. It’s not an easy watch, but it is important
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) June 22, 2017
It’s not unusual for the police to restrain protestors, but what’s the equivalent of handcuffing or shackling a wheelchair user? I suppose I removing them from their chair gets results, but it’s NOT the same. It’s not restraint, it’s dismemberment. It’s excessive force, and a gross abuse of power to further reduce our weakest citizens, especially when they’re exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble. I thought the GOP was all about the Constitution! Denying the poor and disabled access to healthcare is just slow genocide.
Sometimes the things I want to say to you are so important to me that it’s paralyzing. I’m so desperate to string together the perfect words to make you act, that I don’t even know where to start. It’s a heavy burden.
It’s ok though, because I SOLVED ALL THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS!
As I sat drawing at my kitchen table (and continuing to avoid writing), I realized that there’s really only one word you need to understand. One word could repair the fabric of our society the way no legislation, politician or protest can: DIGNITY.
If everyone started honoring the dignity in everyone else the way we deserve just because we exist as human beings, and if we conducted ourselves with the dignity we all posses by the same virtue, all of this ugliness would dry right up.
Here’s how it works: There’s no way you can mistreat someone if you aren’t willing to drag yourself down to that level, and you can’t be sexist, racist, homophobic or discriminate against anyone (or allow your elected officials to do so) if you consider their quality of life first, and how it erodes their dignity (and yours) every single time. The less you’re in touch with your inherent dignity, the easier it is to rob someone of theirs, perpetuating the cycle of mean people creating more mean people. Don’t be mean.
Sounds too simple you say? It really IS simple. It’s the other stuff that’s convoluted. All the ways and reasons we use to hold each other down are only constructed to perpetuate a false bottom. You see, we are all equal. That is a fact. No one starts out any better or more deserving of their dignity that anyone else, but some folks can’t stand not being at the top. You can’t have a top without having a bottom, so the bottom was created one stereotype and one ignorant assumption at a time.
It won’t happen overnight. Maybe it won’t even happen in my lifetime, but it starts with us being cognizant of the way we act, and teaching that to our children until there’s an entire generation that doesn’t remember anything different, and respect is the norm. They will read of our ignorance and prejudices in their history books and be appalled. Can you imagine!?
I come to you from my recliner, where I’m researching bohemian clothing (or curating my ideal wardrobe on Pinterest, whatever). Mike is watching a comedy in which two well-known actors discuss writing a screen play about super heroes who can control the world with their minds, and it occurs to me we all have that super power.
The world we live in is a culmination of every single thought we choose to act on, and the ones we don’t. The impact you have on the world around you, and often it’s impact on you, reflects what’s going on in your head. The contents of our minds manifest into our behavior.
Every moment of every day, you get to decide if you’re going to use your powers for good or evil. Are you going to be the villain or the hero?
I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot of “buttons”, triggers that set me off, and apparently society has a lot of fingers with which to push them.
Recently, I was involved in a conversation with someone was obviously trying to bait me into saying how inspirational a certain wheelchair user is. Feeling a bit of pressure, I proceeded to explain all the ways the person is inspiring that have NOTHING to do with physical ability or the lack of. That exchange is still gnawing at me. I’ve been reminding myself how the misuse of people with disabilities as the warm, fuzzy, puff pieces of society is a particularly sensitive button of mine, the person I was talking with probably doesn’t have the life context to understand that, and I have to take responsibility for my own “issues”.
I’ve often been called reactionary and sensitive. I’ve taken a lifetime of mostly good-natured teasing about it and been routinely dismissed because that’s just “how I am.” In the middle of making excuses for myself, I realized if “how I am” is “sensitive” to the fact that people in this country are being marginalized to the point of near invisibility, being “accommodated” as though it’s a special favor and not a legal right, and summarily subtracted from public life as though their tax dollars don’t fund it, then I’m proud of that. The same goes for sexism, racism and every other kind of discrimination humans inflict on each other.
Trying to make someone feel bad for reacting to their own mistreatment (or the mistreatment of others) is a proven, documented tactic of abusers and bullies. It’s wrong, and it’s REAL. Anyone who tells you otherwise is benefitting from the status quo. They might be perfectly good people who are so blinded by their own privilege, they sincerely don’t see it. Have a chat with those folks about empathy, but don’t accept the excuse. Even the most innocent misconceptions contribute to the problem. It’s unacceptable, it’s dangerous, and it’s systemic. Call it out!
I made you a list of excuses (some of you call them “reasons”) for racism that seem to come up a lot. It studying these ideas, I’ve been consistently shocked by the number of otherwise educated and intelligent people who subscribe to them. I’m left with the conclusion that haters are gonna hate because that’s what they want to do. There’s no reasonable, logical basis for it. They just want to hate, or be superior to someone bad enough to forego all their common sense to do so.
- You’re elderly, and back in your day it was just the way things were.
Trust me, I know it can take a lifetime to deprogram the lessons we absorb in our upbringing. However, how much common sense can it possibly take to know that treating human beings any differently, especially cruelly, based on NOTHING but the color of their skin is immoral. Just because it was common doesn’t mean it was right. It’s not and never has been. You need to adjust.
- That’s just the way it’s always been done.
See #1. History has gotten a lot of things wrong. Beating one’s wife, shunning divorcees and persecuting the mentally ill have all been common practices in this country. None of them are fair or humane, and now we prosecute people who do those things. The same should be done with racism.
- That’s just the way it is where you’re from.
(I’m beginning to see that #1 really sums things up) It’s way past time to look around and see who does what differently and why. Maybe everyone else is onto something and you need to get on board. There’s nothing wrong with loving your home, but make sure you really have something to be proud of. Recognizing that we have some problems to fix doesn’t make you unpatriotic. It means you love your country (or state) enough to want to make it truly worthy of your pride.
- You just don’t know anyone who’s a different ethnicity from you, so you inadvertently say racist things out of genuine ignorance but would never hurt anyone.
Being from a small, rural community, I know a lot of people like this. This excuse might have held water at one time, but now we have reliable vehicles, good roads, phone service, the internet…It’s never been easier to get connected with anyone from anywhere. Go make some new friends.
- You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, and they can too.
This one could be its own book. I’ll sum it up by saying that if you are not a person of color, a woman, a disabled person or an immigrant, you already got a head start. There are people in this country who have achieved great things by overcoming obstacles so far from your experience that your brain doesn’t even have a place to process them. Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not valid. No one is saying it’s your fault, but your willful blindness is a luxury the world can no longer afford. Being part of the solution starts with appreciating the advantage you were born with and being empathetic to those we weren’t.
If you’ve been taught, or managed to convince yourself that there’s any acceptable degree of, or reason for racism just remember this:
Ray Charles attended a SEGREGATED school for the BLIND!