Saturday, January 16, 2021

Assembly of People Into Giving a Sh*t: When to Forgive?

I'm terrible at forgiveness.  I'm great at excusing away behaviors that are not helpful.

"Oh, he grew up with a dysfunctional family.  His father abused him and his siblings."

"Oh, she grew up in a family that never encountered people of other races."

"I understand that in a society of bigots how bigotry is just normal."

"We only have to show people a different way."

This is also the way I treat people who do me personal harm.  I excuse.  I understand.  I explain away all the hurt...

BUT - BUT when someone crosses a line that I did not even realize I had and are just plain-out mean and selfish, I have an impossible time forgiving.

We've seen this at the Capitol in Washington.  People - newscasters - explaining all the bizarre behavior from people who blindly follow Pres. Trump and who hold to the QAnon conspiracy theories.  But on the 6th of January the line was crossed.

6 January 2021 - breaking into the Capitol - Shutterstock licensed photo

Many have called for healing in the nation.  Many have called for ignoring what happened and moving on.

But here's the rub.

There can be no healing unless the blood-coated bandage is ripped off and the wound cleaned out and treated.

There can be no moving on until there is accountability.

Forgiveness starts with confession.  To receive forgiveness we have to first acknowledge our guilt.

The word "guilt" has gotten a bad rap by people feeling laden down with the burden of guilt.  But guilt can be good.  It can serve as a catalyst for change.

Society can say to a person, "What you have done is wrong" and "Whether you think so or not, we find you guilty."

Change is the next step.

But society as a rule doesn't forgive.  When society finds a person guilty it wants revenge.  And with revenge, change never comes.

Revenge is a vicious spiral downward into the depths of hell.

This does not mean that I think that accountability should not be applied.  It should.

Good parenting teaches consequences for certain actions but with love and forgiveness.

Can you imagine a good mother or father exacting revenge on their child?

Working for change is redemptive.

In college when I realized that "yes, I am racist in many ways and yes, I had profited all my life by being white and yes this was wrong", I felt tremendous guilt; a heavy burden of guilt rested on my shoulders.

To ease the burden I began to change my ways - my assumptions - my actions.  Real change relieves guilt and I've felt the forgiveness of many people of color.

So why is it so hard for me to forgive?

For a long time I thought that my "excuses" of others were forgiveness, my "understanding" or my "empathy" were forgiveness... until my line was crossed.

And the first time it happened the anger in me grew and grew.

I couldn't and didn't break relations with the person, but over the years the anger ate at me.

Finally with no confession from the person... no hint that they thought they might be wrong, though we had talked often... one night as I lay in my bed... I felt the grace given to my hurt soul to forgive.

And I understood forgiveness was mine to give and not only receive.

It is still hard for me to forgive... but I do now know that that is the only way to live without anger and hate.

The only way.

- Kathleen

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Future Fridays: Small Steps WE CAN Do!

2021 is a year for getting serious about climate change.  What are we doing here in Nicaragua?

  • With help from so many of you, we are implementing the digital record-keeping system in the Nueva Vida Clinic that will save the world 8 trees a year in paper. 

  • We have installed a personal bidet in our main bathroom to cut down on toilet paper use - every 3 seconds a tree is cut down for toilet paper.

  • We are leasing fuel-efficient and less-polluting vehicles to run the multitude of errands that must be done, instead of using our heavy, diesel-guzzling ambulances.

  • We compost and are drastically cutting back on trash and trash bags.

  • We use reusable bags for shopping (when we remember to take them) and are buying fresh local produce from a grower who grows organically and uses paper bags to deliver the produce.

  • Now we are working towards the goal of raising $35,000 to install solar panels both at the Nueva Vida Clinic and here on the office property. We will need two bi-directional meters to feed excess generated energy back into the grid.

Rogelio and Solar company engineers testing energy use

Besides creating renewable energy for us and the nation of Nicaragua (77% of its energy is already from renewable sources), estimates are we will cut our electric bills in half.  Electricity is expensive.  It is our highest utility bill.

But most importantly we vote and/or support government leadeers who make climate change a priority.

I have five grandchildren. I want them to have a lush, green world to enjoy and protect when they are adults.

- Kathleen

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Monday, January 11, 2021

Banana Republic? I think not.

Pres. George W. Bush made a rare public statement that the attack on the U.S. Capitol this week was reminiscent of “Banana Republics”. He said, “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic”.

Finally, on Sunday on the PBS News Hour, they interviewed an expert on these so-called “Banana Republics”. Lucia Dammert, a Peruvian academic who has studied political unrest and security across Latin America, talked about what WE, ourselves, have seen over and over in Central America, watching the politics in Nicaragua since the 1980s and living here for the last 27 years.

“…in most cases, when we had coup d’etats, the American embassy was involved in some of those situations,” Dammert said.

A U.S. State Department paper, Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN), was leaked last year, detailing how the U.S. plans for involving itself in this year’s Nicaraguan general election. It spelled out how the U.S. AID was going to use the opposition, the gangs, and other measures to create an unproductive year for this Nicaraguan administration.

State Department Secretary, Mike Pompeo, has met with the opposition in Costa Rica several times to get them to unite behind one candidate and to quit arguing, but to focus on the upcoming November elections. 

Mike Pompeo 2021 - Shutterstock licensed photo

The leaked State Department paper, RAIN, also lays out how, if the current Pres. Daniel Ortega wins again, there are plans to overthrow him and his administration through gangs, NGOs, and any means possible.

Nicaragua has increased its GDP by 35% over the last 11 years. It is one of the safest countries in Latin America, but the U.S. government, used to being in control, HATES its success and its socialism. It ABHORS the reality that the Nicaraguan government is determined not to be a U.S. puppet in the region, but to be its own sovereign nation.

Let me remind you that Nicaragua is a democracy. Their supreme court did away with term limits and Pres. Daniel Ortega has been elected three times, and is poised to be elected a fourth time.

Doing away with term limits do not negate democracy. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in office for 11 ½ years.

Trying to limit the overthrow of a government does not negate democracy. Nicaragua has just passed laws that mirror those in the U.S. regarding consequences for acts of violence, the attempt to overthrow the government, and sedition... some of those who just violently attacked the Capitol may face those charges.

Pres. Daniel Ortega will win because HE has, through his leadership, made Nicaragua safe and increased its GDP by 35% over 11 years. 

This government has also made education free and accessible…not only providing tuition for all, but also books and supplies, housing and food and toiletries for university students too poor to provide their own.

They have expanded electricity access, now reaching 98% of the nation, up from 54% under previous administrations...and have made 77%  of the electricity renewable. 

Wind turbines - photo

They respond quickly and efficiently in times of natural disasters as they did with two category 4 hurricanes that hit Nicaragua just this past November in 2020 in just two weeks.

They have provided health care and have built 24 hospitals and dozens of health clinics as well as increased the number of doctors and nurses educated. They have established new testing facilities and equipment, more dialysis stations and machines, cancer treatment centers, and have decreased by 68% maternal and 61% infant mortality by establishing houses where pregnant moms can come for care and to be closer to hospitals. They have established new chemical labs for making medicines here in Nicaragua instead of importing all medications. They have established a lab for making vaccines. They have a robust vaccination program that is free.   And they have started alternative healings like acupuncture, herbal treatments, and massage.

Hospital Fernando VĂ©lez Paiz

They have acted to get potable water into 91.8% homes, up from 65% in 2006. 

They have rebuilt the infrastructure of the nation and have greatly improved electricity, sewage treatment plants, and roads.  They have paved 600% more roads than were paved before.

They have created more parks and improved the already existing ones. Internet is free in the parks and other places. 

Renovated playground in Managua - photo

Remember Nicaragua is poor and yet, all the above has happened. The second poorest nation in the hemisphere and yet… 

So of course, Pres. Ortega will win! Really, how could he not? Unless someone interferes.

The opposition has never stooped to involve the poor in their decisions, but instead has run to the U.S. State Department and Congress to ask for interference. They exclude those living in poverty while the current administration does not. And when those who are living in poverty or on the edge of poverty vote, who do you think they will vote for? And since they make up the majority, who do you think will win?

Unless someone interferes.

Nicaragua grows bananas. It is true. But its current government identifies itself as a Christian, Socialist Democracy. “Banana Republics” is a racist term and like all racist terms simplifies and demonizes the societies and people with whom we disagree, allowing us the self-given authority to interfere.

This has got to stop.

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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Assembly of People Into Giving a Sh*t: What is Truth?

In the United States, when someone goes before a court to give testimony they have swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” But what is the truth? Surely when people give testimony, they are only giving testimony to what THEY and only THEY know as the truth, because as an eye witness, it has been proven over and over…when we see something or someone it goes into our brain and our brain interprets what we see using all the experiences we have had during our lifetime.

It is the job of the lawyers to try to get at the truth with questions, and for the jury to try and pick out appropriate data.

Truth is elusive.

It took humans thousands of years, until the ancient Greeks learned that the earth was an orb, not a flat disc.

It was only in 1543, when Nicolaus Copernicus laid out his radical theory that the earth and other planets rotated around the sun…that some realized the sun did not rotate around the earth. It still took over 100 years before it was widely accepted.

When all you can see is flat or a sun that rises in the east and sets in the west…when you don’t go very far from your home, your truth is that the earth is flat and the sun does the moving around the earth, but we have learned a different reality with the help of many.

With telescopes we see nebulas, novae, stars and even other galaxies thousands of light years away. We are just beginning to see and adapt our minds to the greatness of the universe. The fact that our lives are brief and tiny amidst the enormity of the universe is frightening, unsettling, but it is also freeing.

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8)

Many of us hide from the truth and we do not want to see reality.

In my lifetime, lesbians and gays hid their sexual preferences…and some still do in open societies... while in closed societies, like Russia, these people must hide or be tormented and jailed. But when gays and lesbians started coming out and being truthful about who they were, those of us, straight, saw that they were our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, our parents, our friends, and our leaders. What we might have thought before in our ignorance was sinful or unhealthy; we now begin to see the truth…the normality.

And now those of us gay and lesbian and those of us, straight, are moving freely in a dance of welcome and love. The truth will set you free.

With the Capitol breach and riot, we as white people in the American society now begin to see the truth in a stark bright light. White supremacy is alive and well and growing. For awhile the KKK, the neo-Nazis hid in the shadows of the shame of a free society; but now, we who are white can see for ourselves that while they stayed in the shadows, they grew. And many of us have been shocked. 

6 January 2021 - protestors breaking into the Capitol - shutterstock licensed photo 

It is good to see the truth…to see reality. We now see the rage of people afraid that they may be disenfranchised of their privilege… rage caused from fear stoked by so many of our leaders….rage caused by hearing lies about how they, the white people, are being oppressed.

Now, many of those people who ransacked the Capitol will say that my…Kathleen’s…truth is backwards. Gays and lesbians should hide. Their political bias is correct. So how could I…Kathleen…justify my truth?

It is a legitimate argument…because like I said above, we all interpret what we see and hear through our brains and our experiences.

I try to interpret truth through love and grace.  I know that it is easier for me because I have felt so much love and grace from so many and yet...despite that I fail constantly

My truth includes a Divine that spreads love and grace to all through our actions. I read the Hebrew and Christian scriptures with questions of how to better love and spread God’s grace, not the literal words written thousands of years ago.

I have had a wealth of experiences with people of color, with people of different sexual preferences, with people living in poverty, with refugees, and with people of different nationalities, religions and opinions. They tell me their truths and help me see with their eyes…and is that not what faith and humanity is all about?

Learning the truths of others with open minds and hearts. Hearing their painful experiences and trying to understand and eliminate their pain. These are ways to broaden our experiences so we see the truth.

We can listen to all sorts of people’s views of facts and news…it all comes down to how we listen to hopefully learn the truth.

Do we listen with only “us” as important… or do we listen with grace and generosity? Do we listen with fear… or do we listen with love?

The more we cling to ourselves and our fear, the more the “facts” and “realities” frighten us. The more we reach out and open up, the more we understand how the “facts” and “realties” affect others, not just us. And the more we practice love and grace instead of fear and selfishness, the easier it will be for our brains to interpret the facts and realities in ways for us to do good and heal our world. The truth indeed sets us free.


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Saturday, January 2, 2021

Assembly of People Into Giving a Sh*t: It's a New Year!

I’m the world’s worst at procrastination. “I’ll start that on Monday.” “Come the New Year, I’ll get right on that.”

Well, it is the New Year and as societies we have procrastinated long and hard on issues that needed our attention yesterday, last year, decades ago, and forever. 

We knew back in the 1950s that coal and industries polluted the air so horribly that people wore coverings over their faces when they went out. Hospitals dealt with lung disorders. In the 1960s Los Angeles was a city that was blanketed in smog. We knew. We did little bits and pieces depending on what administration was in state or national offices, but we never actually set our minds to addressing the problem.

Now we have an extinction-level climate crisis.

We have known for hundreds of years that keeping the poor in poverty and not addressing their issues can lead to pandemics and epidemics. We know that borders do not keep out pathogens…the Black Plague taught us that. Sanitation, good food, shelter are all the things needed to keep society as a whole healthy. But we ignore our brothers and sisters who are poor, who are homeless, who eat whatever is available, and who live in filth because sanitation is not available.

Now millions have died in a pandemic and scientists and health professionals say that pandemics will be more prevalent.

We just keep postponing and postponing.

I had a friend whose car was acting up. “What do the mechanics say is wrong?” I asked her.

“I don’t know. I’m hoping it will fix itself,” looking sheepishly she replied.

Not too long after that her car broke down completely and she had to buy a new one.

Well, when it comes to our climate and our health we cannot wait until it collapses completely and go buy new ones.

The prophets of the Hebrew scriptures called for the Israelites to address the problem of widows and orphans and the poor right away. They continually announced that Yahweh would judge them on how they treated the poor and would condemn them if they did not.

Jesus called for his followers to address the problems of society right then…heal the sick, touch the untouchables, free the imprisoned, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and befriend the outcast. And he did.

Those were millennia ago and still the poor are with us and growing in numbers with COVID-19 and climate change.

When will we stop procrastinating?

A friend of ours asked me if we tithed. I said yes. She shook her head and said, “I want to tithe but I don’t have enough money…but you have less than I do. I don’t know what to do?”

I told her what my mother taught me growing up, “If you wait until you have enough money, you will never have enough to tithe. Giving back to the poor 10% of what God has given you is easy as long as you remember it is what God has given to you.”

The Divine entrusted us with this planet. In Genesis, God told Adam and Eve “I give you dominion over the animals that move…” In other words, “I am trusting you…don’t f**k it up.”

Well, we have.

There was a great line on a TV series, True Blood, “We need to regroup and come back and unf**k this situation.”

And that is what we have to do now. We have to FIX IT!

We cannot wait until the pandemic is over and we are all vaccinated…the poor need us now. The climate needs to be addressed now.

It’s 2021, time to act.

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