Here’s a quiz:
Please define the group about which this paragraph refers.
“I wish they would just keep to themselves. No one wants to see them in public. They’re not welcome here. Good people cannot allow that type of people to live in our neighborhoods, teach in our schools, or be around children.”
Of course, few people will admit out loud or in a comment to this blog that a group immediately came to mind when they read this paragraph, which is a conglomeration of things we’ve all heard said about various groups over the years. We’ve heard this kind of judgmental, exclusive, and unkind language since the beginning of civilization. Because this type of language has existed since the beginning of our human history makes it neither right nor contemporary with how we should treat others.
So, if a group did come to mind, let that be a message to your inner voice that you, along with all the rest of us, still have a little more work to do in becoming an inclusive, loving, and accepting… and perhaps, even celebrating… community of humankind.
There are many clinical components to depression including hormones, enzymes, physical manifestations, and emotional experiences. They can be objectively and subjectively assessed, categorized, and treated. What about the personal experience of depression? How would one describe that?
For each person, depression is a deeply personal event. Each episode is varied and unique in its expression. For me, today, it is a lethargy, a dark shadow cast over everything and everyone I see. No matter how much I love those around me, these momentary glitches in my brain chemistry leave me feeling very much alone, inadequate, and sad. These dips in my otherwise healthy emotional state, are surprises to me, even after nearly 40 years since receiving my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, then called manic depression.
I hated the medications prescribed for me. Some made me feel like a zombie. Others gave me hives. Others caused me to go to sleep. None of them truly helped. I chose a more spiritual path in my treatment. I chose to look at the disorder as something that was present irregularly or mildly because I am fortunate to have a less injurious level of bipolar. Some of my peers, with a more serious condition, could not afford to take the path I take because it could lead to severe and deleterious effects. I suppose by some accounts, I am lucky.
Today, though, most feelings of good fortune and joy elude me. They are memories in my past and hope for my future. I don’t usually talk about my depression much because most people are afraid of that word. They fear it for themselves and for their families. They avoid the possibility that someone they love could experience such deep sadness for no reason other than the body disconnecting with those chemicals that would heal the weighty malaise. So, most don’t talk about it.
The funniest part is when some people whisper like chattering monkeys, “She must be depressed because she’s not very strong,” or “He must not have very good tools at his disposal if he’s giving into his depression.” Anyone who knows me knows that my personal, emotional strength is abundant, and that my tools are many. It simply is a fact that I have a medically psychiatric condition called bipolar. That’s all. In the same way as someone with high cholesterol or mild type-2 diabetes tries to keep his numbers down through diet and exercise, I work very hard at staying mentally healthy. Most of the time I am effective. Once in a while, like now, it gets away from me.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that silence magnifies my condition. Isolation adds fuel to the fire of sadness. So, here I am telling the truth about how I feel. Acknowledging that I am struggling with what has become a lifelong difficulty. Quite honestly, I feel better for doing so.
I share this information with you, dear reader, not because I need your sympathy or pity, because I don’t. I simply want to share with you my process. I want you to understand that perfectly normal people, strong people, wise people, happy people, sometimes have a condition that can, on occasion, get out of control.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one-quarter of all adults in the United States are diagnosed with one or more mental disorders. That’s 75 million people. 2.6% of the adult population have severe bipolar disorder. I am not the oddball by any stretch of the imagination. Many go undiagnosed because of the stigma of mental illness. Sorry, but that’s just plain stupid. If one had cancer, phlebitis, alopecia, or gingivitis, one would not have a stigma applied to those conditions or diseases. So, why should mental illness? There is no reason except that people are afraid that they will succumb to some mental insufficiency.
Again, fear plays out as judgment against a group of people. So, to face that fear, I speak out against the ugly stigma, tell the truth about my disorder, and share with you what happens for me, at least. And I’m one of the lucky ones. It doesn’t strike very hard, even at its worst. For others, it hits harder. It is debilitating. It is overwhelmingly lonely. It can even be deadly. Yet because of the stigma, they cannot reach out for help, even to professionals or programs that would certainly assist in diagnosis and treatment.
I reach out to you so that perhaps, somehow, you will find a way to reach out when you sense someone close to you is having difficulty with mental illness. Speak honestly and without harsh judgment. Avoid terms like, “buck up,” or “toughen up,” or “don’t worry, this, too, shall pass.” Would you say that to someone with an obvious tumor on their head or bleeding profusely? Not likely.
Thank you for reading this message. I will feel better more likely sooner than later. For those who need you, don’t be afraid. They are simply the same people you love when they are healthier as when they are feeling worse. They may reach out to you verbally, or by a change in their interactions with you. They are not trying to drag you down in the darkness with them. They simply are reaching for the light.
“Xenophobia – A fear of or aversion to, not only people from other countries, but other cultures, subcultures and subsets of belief systems; in short, anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While some will state that the “target” group is a set of persons not accepted by the society, in reality only the phobic person need hold the belief that the target group is not (or should not be) accepted by society. While the phobic person is aware of the aversion (even hatred) of the target group, they may not identify it or accept it as a fear.” ~ Wikipedia (Oxford English Dictionary reference)
In research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1994 , and research in Belgium in 2000 , scientists found a strong correlation between authoritarian personalities and groups described as conservative, and xenophobia. Those identified in various ways from conservative, authoritarian, or fascist, genuinely believe that they are morally, genetically, or otherwise superior to those toward whom they express their extreme fear.
Certainly not all who express strong beliefs in one area or another should be considered xenophobic. Honest, good people from all walks of life are encouraged, and even obligated to participate in their governmental processes. Their views may be diametrically opposed; yet, their divergent views maintain a healthy dialogue in our country. There are those, however, whose extreme views teeter on, or fall over, the boundary of constructive exchange.
With the aforementioned research to consider, those who are more open to other cultures, races, and groups should exhibit compassion for those who have the psychological challenge of xenophobia, in part because the research also describes that some who exhibit the xenophobic behavior suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. In addition to compassion, though, we must also recognize the symptoms of this condition and listen to the message with an educated ear.
As we follow the political machinations of the 2012 election process, we have an opportunity to assess whether groups exhibit this xenophobic-based authoritarianism, and if so, how the larger population should respond. There are few tell-tale signs of this condition. Their rhetoric includes correlations to:
- cultural conservatism;
- a desire for social dominance; and
Additionally, those who exhibit these xenophobic qualities also are found to have a negative correlation to empathy, tolerance, communality, and altruism. Do we see those qualities exhibited in national politics today? If so, how?
Fascism, authoritarianism in its extreme, is defined by Merriam-Webster in the following way:
“A political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
None of our candidates have suggested that a fascist government is what the United States needs; however, some aspects of fascism are becoming increasingly visible, including the stated desires of “severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” by those who believe their traditions and values are most important. These beliefs would relegate certain populations in our society to the status of invisible. This, too, may be indicative of the growing xenophobia in our country. A vocal, if not large at this point, group of citizens sympathetic to these views are listening more attentively to candidates and public figures who espouse these exclusive behaviors. The research indicates that those who suffer from xenophobia rarely recognize themselves as sufferers. They simply see themselves as correct in their views.
Although as a people we will likely choose to ignore these evident signs, the xenophobic underpinnings of contemporary politics are nonetheless apparent. These fears can be ameliorated in part with compassion, a focus on inclusion, support for those who value all aspects of American culture, and those responsible to the entire American population, rather than only to their closed, isolated group.
A welcoming, inclusive community for all is the antithesis to xenophobia. How do we view America today? Our leaders are saying it best. I suppose it just depends on to whom we listen.
 Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994) “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1994, 741-763. doi: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.111 Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/67/4/741/
 Duriez, B. & Van Hiel, A (2000) “March of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritariansim.” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, pp 1199-2013. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886901000861
My husband loves ridiculous reality shows. It’s his guilty pleasure. During one program, I found a correlation between the perceptions seen in the show and how some politicians may be viewed during this election. Could these perceptions foretell the outcome of the presidential race in 2012?
One of the programs my wonderful husband enjoys is ABC’s “Wife Swap.” The program is about spouses from two different families that live with the other family to see what life there is like on the other side of the fence. The producers routinely select two homes from extremely different backgrounds. In the episode we watched the other day, the two groups included a family headed by a loving, liberal, lesbian couple, and a family led by an biting, self-righteous, and evidently emotionally injured couple. It was a train wreck!
At one point during the week the heteroamorous wife lived with the lesbian woman and her two children, the angry woman began spouting off about how she thought being gay was a birth defect, that she didn’t like Mexicans, and that she would abort a Down’s syndrome baby, and many other unkind views. Now, admittedly, she is entitled to her beliefs and views; however, to spew this vitriol in the home of a lesbian woman who has Mexican friends, and another friend with a Down’s syndrome baby was a mistake.
The lesbian woman threw a party and invited the aforementioned friends to meet the extremist woman. During the course of the evening, our lesbian partner, in a startling feat of passive-aggressive behavior, began relating the angry woman’s viewpoints to her unsuspecting friends. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.
As soon as the angry woman’s views were subjected to scrutiny by those with whom she didn’t agree, she felt attacked and betrayed. During the remainder of the show, though, she slowly recognized that her views put her in the category of “monster” (her word, not mine). She had an epiphany that caused her to shake and weep at the thought that she was so bad, her family wouldn’t want her back. Let’s just say, her family was very kind to her by keeping their thoughts to themselves. Well, actually, they shared their thoughts on camera, but not to her upon her return. All three of the angry family’s members said they were going to miss the temporary lesbian mom that had resided there for the week. They said they sort of wished she didn’t have to go because she was so kind.
Currently, the Republican party is in the process of whittling down their numbers. As of today, the day of the South Carolina primary, we see three front-runners, including Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich. They have eaten through several of their colleagues already, but more meals are ahead for the eventual nominee of this party. Once that feast is done, then it will be onto the Democrat-Republican battle. The commonality I suspect we will see between the show and the election is that when we have Obama vs. whomever, both sides will appear extreme to the other party.
Rick Santorum is likely the most extreme of the Republicans. He states that it will take a far-right wing Republican to win the race. A moderate will not get the votes. I have to wonder. As with all bell curves, the smallest numbers are on the outside of the arc. The statistical mode of the members of the Republican party are not likely to be found in the outside of that arc. When faced with public scrutiny over extreme views, the Republicans may find themselves having an epiphany similar to the angry mother’s on “Wife Swap.” Consider that Rick Santorum eventually won Ohio, Mitt Romney won New Hampshire, and Newt Gingrich has a good chance of winning South Carolina. That’s not good news for the Republican party. It indicates a division in viewpoints in three distinct areas of the country.
Regarding President Obama, it’s likely that the same division may occur. Many Democrats wonder what they should do as an alternative to the chicken who is willing to work so closely with the foxes on important issues. Many democrats may end up seeing Obama as too moderate, and not strongly convicted enough to democratic principles.
Both Democrat and Republican candidates will be under a level of scrutiny that we have not seen for many years in this election. A candidate like Ron Paul, if he were to run as an independent, is not likely to be elected because of his Black & White, Libertarian opinions. He is also not very presidential. He seems more like an cranky hardware store owner sitting on the porch pontificating about how the country is going down the tubes.
We will see a real horse race this year come November. The truth is that I have no idea whatsoever who will come out on top regarding the Republican nomination. I suspect it will be Mitt Romney. We must remember, though, the surprise during the last presidential primary when Barack Obama received the nomination over Hillary Clinton. We can’t assume anything at this point. What we can expect, however, is that both candidates will be dissected into tiny parts by the public and the media. Someone’s going home crying.
We have seen the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 pass in the both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without habeas corpus. We have seen basic human rights ignored and denied by our fellow Americans through bans on gay marriage. We have seen basic health care and housing denied to our population because they haven’t the money to care for themselves. We have seen corporations evolve into entities that are considered individuals deserving rights. What this all means is that we have forgotten who we are. Any society, Roman, Ottoman, Egyptian, or any other, that forgets what it is, is doomed to reduction into oblivion so that something more aware and healthier can take its place.
When we removed ourselves from under the rule of King George III of Great Britain, we codified several facets of the lives we wanted into two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
United States of America Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Most people discuss the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” part of this sentence. A word at the beginning is much more intriguing – “self-evident.” They could have used the word “clear,” or perhaps “obvious,” but they chose “self-evident” in this beautifully-crafted statement. The authors made it clear that we as individuals are supposed to assume that all members of our society are equal and deserve the same treatment and benefits as every other citizen in our country. These rights are not issued with discretion by any other citizen; they are a natural part of being a citizen of this country. Not only are they a natural part of being American, we cannot be alienated or separated from those rights in any way by anyone or any entity, including our own government.
This first section is the part we all know; however, there is another part of this paragraph that we tend to forget:
“— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Most people discuss the rights identified in this section as pertaining to themselves, missing the broader picture. Individuals have the proclivity to protect their own land, property, families, and rights. It may be an instinctual process; however, by focusing on one’s self alone, one misses a larger responsibility as a citizen of the United States – to protect our nation as a whole. We rightly value those who serve in our military as protectors of our liberties, yet we forget that we, too, have a weight on our shoulders as well. We must assume the rights of all citizens and fight to correct anything that disallows members of our society from their freedoms.
In the Preamble to the Constitution, the first words, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union,” reiterates what we found in the Declaration of Independence. The authors said again that we as a whole must come together to work hand-in-hand to achieve the most unified citizenry and society we can. It didn’t say, “We the governors…” or “We the few…” or “We the wealthy and powerful…” It says “We the People.” All the people. Everyone single one of us inclusively has a role to play to elevate ourselves toward the hopes of those who began our country.
Preamble to the United States of America’s Constitution
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The question for us becomes this: Which single individual in our country deserves less than everything promised in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of the United States? Which person out of the millions born in our land or who have chosen our country as their homeland, requires or deserves fewer freedoms than any other? Any thinking person will, of course, respond that there is not one person that deserves less. Some might say non-Christians, gays, Muslims, the disabled, the mentally ill, or those born in other countries deserve fewer freedoms. Certainly those who would say this are wrong according to our nation’s establishing documents. They are acting contrary to our national intention. And who is responsible for defending these individuals who have lost their voice and their first-class citizenship in our country?
In the same way as our founding fathers intended, each one of us is responsible, wholly and without abjuration, to ensure the full and irrevocable rights of all American citizens through word and deed. Anything less is contrary to who we are as a people. As we’ve learned in other fallen civilizations, we must remember who we are if we are to survive as a nation.
February 20, 2009 is the day I started Powodzenia’s Blog. “Focus Like an Independence Day Sparkler,” was the title of that first entry. It was brief and clumsy. It was sprinkled with mild neediness and confusion. I remember the day I wrote it thinking, “How do I start? And even if I do, who the hell is going to want to read this?” Today, with 50,000 visits to my site, I have the answer.
I could write until my fingers fall off, but if no one read my work, it would simply be a personal journal. That has not been the case. My readers, friends, family, and strangers, have visited my site 50,000 times as of today. Two years, ten months, and nine days, it has taken to see this number roll over. By the standards of major blog writers, this is a drop in the bucket; a day’s number of hits. That’s great for them. This is great for me.
My 256 blog posts have been picked up by NBA.com, StumbleUpon, politicians, comedians, and businesses. They have been linked to, cited, quoted, and copied. One day, on May 9, 2010, I had 914 hits. That was shortly after I wrote, “A Child’s Voice.” That month alone, I saw 7,711 people visit my site. The post that has been visited more than any other, with 2,921 visits, has been “Governor Schwartzenothing” that I wrote on August 18, 2009. This piece foreshadowed the disastrous results of that particular budget on California. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the level of success I have with my little corner of the blogosphere!
Just like an automobile odometer or watching the ball drop in Times Square, the landmark really isn’t a landmark at all. It is part of a continuum that will move forward long after this moment is lost to history. I suppose it means something special only to me and those closest to me who understand how hard it was to write that first blog.
As one who spends his career helping others find their voices, I was challenged in trusting my own. Now, however, that has all changed. I have my blog and it has its own Facebook page. I love that. Fewer than 20 people populate Powodzenia’s Blog on Facebook, but that’s fine with me. Those who do are genuinely interested in reading my work. I have worked very hard to ensure that each piece is as thoughtfully constructed and well written as I can offer because I value those of you who read my blogs.
So, thank you, dear readers, for this truly amazing gift of 50,000 visits. I am honored and humbled by your willingness to spend time with my words, and by extension me! This truly is a site that has my heart and spirit and life permeating its paragraphs. You have each been a gift from God to me, and for that I am overwhelmingly grateful!
May blessings of untold abundance be yours always!
James C. Glica-Hernandez
January 1, 2012, is simply another day in the long string of days that have passed during the multiple millenia of our history. Of course, this is true, but is there more to the story? I suspect there is more.
As a civilization, we, along with our planetary brothers and sisters, are learning new things about ourselves. We are discovering we have voices and hearts and minds that must be recognized and valued by those in power. We are anticipating a major shift of spiritual consciousness. We are trying to find our ways back toward intimacy. Is this because the calendar reads, “2012?” Is it solely because the Mayans said there would be a shift of some sort in November of the coming year? Probably not.
The likeliest candidate for this awakening is that after tens of thousand of years, our evolution has insisted we grow. In the same way as plants, in order to survive, become larger or smaller, depending on their environment, we are ready to raise the bar on our consciousness. It’s simply time!
Everyone will have a different suggestion on how to do this. Prayer, meditation, thought, action, or stillness. My vote is for stillness of the mind. I suggest we simply listen to the wind as my ancestors might have said. I call it, “Openly Sensing Life.”
Have you ever had a sudden distraction and thought, “Oh! I need to call so-and-so immediately.” You had no reason to think that thought, but when you called, you realized that person needed you in some way. You intuitively responded to that voice within. Most parents can share examples of this happening about their children more than once. You openly sensed your Life with a capital “L.” I suspect that is where we find ourselves at this point. We are anxious and feeling fidgety about nothing at all; but is it about nothing at all?
Every single one of us is capable of listening and openly sensing life. It requires us to set aside what we so righteously “know.” It requires us to be humble in those moments when we open ourselves to that life sensation. It requires us to set aside our historical and cultural knowledge so that we may be surprised by what we hear. It requires us to breathe peacefully, allowing all the troubles of our lives with the lower-case “l” to dissipate if only for those few minutes.
My suggestion is that this action is not just for one’s own well-being. It is for the global well-being also. When we open ourselves to the forthcoming message from within, we are better able to receive that message. It may help guide us to the growth we seem so ready to embrace.
Some will call this listening for the voice of God. Some will say it is the vibration of global consciousness. People will have many things to call this process. It doesn’t matter how you name it as long as you participate. When a majority of us open ourselves to this voice, we will likely hear how we fit into this important process of growth, and may even discover how we can become more actively involved in this shift.
Of course, there will be people who reply with, “Phooey!”
That’s fine. You who choose not to take part are certainly entitled to express your free will anyway you want. Those who do participate will find answers to questions we may never have known were there. We may find new ways to love and new ways to welcome others into the process.
However one chooses to look at this process, know that it is happening with or without him or her. We will see these changes happen whether we drag our feet, join hands with others who encourage this process, or simply stand by and watch.
So as we approach 2012, listen to what the wind tells you, and as you do, I wish you a happy, abundant, and productive New Year, full of unity, good health, and joy.
I simply want to wish each reader and family a happy holiday season, no matter what or how you celebrate. Whether you…
Welcome the increasing light each day with the advent of the Earth-old Winter Solstice by dancing around a bonfire…
Remember the rededication of the Second Temple during the Revolt of the Maccabees in the 2nd Century B.C.E. with the Festival of Lights, Chanukah…
Celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, in Bethlehem 2,011 years ago…
Celebrate the dynamic strength of family, community, and culture with Kwanzaa…
Or, simply enjoy the jolly old elf, Santa Claus, and all he represents,
Our family wishes you and your family a season full of joy enough to make your face hurt from smiling, laughter enough to make your belly ache, love and unity enough to make your heart and life feel radiantly warm and incredibly abundant, and peace enough to freely enjoy all of the above in their fullness.
Blessings and Love to you all!
The Glica-Hernandez Family
Yes, I stole the title of this piece from a paraphrased quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but no other title fit more profoundly. A recent study shows that self-described straight men who, by their answers to certain questions, can be identified as homophobic, respond to gay male pornography by growing increasingly tumescent. In other words, when they look at nekkid men, their willies grow as hard as the rocks they throw at gay people.
Specifically, the abstract from the study by the University of Georgia, and published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, states,
“The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.”
If their results are correct, what can we assume by these new data? Should we estimate the number of gays in the country by adding the number of homophobes to the count? If so, that would make the percentage of gay folk in the United States enormous.
Of course, the last line of the study is an important one. Those men identified as homophobic are clearly in denial of their sexuality or experience a complete lack of awareness that they are subconsciously attracted to other men. Whether in denial or unaware, these men require our compassion because they are either deluding themselves or completely self-unaware. Either way, it’s a challenging way to live.
So, to those men who shout at the top of their lungs epithets and derision toward gay folk, carry placards decrying the end of American culture because gay people can be seen in public, or excoriate homosexuals from the pulpit or political platform, just know that we hear you. And, after this study, we hear you even more clearly now. In a way, every time you exhibit your homophobic rants and rages, you’re coming out just a little bit more to the rest of us, aren’t you? Welcome to our world… grrrrrl!