Bipolar Disorder in a Time of Hate

Faces

square836Shortly before my hospitalization for a mixed state came the 2004 election. I crashed and crashed hard after the results. Politics is a fascination of mine but obsessing about it is not my friend. When my expectations are high as they were in 2004 and the hope I feel is unrealized, I take it very hard. The mix of anger and disappointment plus certain medications I was taking for depression at the time pumped me up into a mixed state. One day, when I had enough of it and of other life issues, I texted my last will and testament to my wife and sat down on a log to study my veins for the right place to cut. A timely phone call from my psychiatrist saved me.

The 2004 election was cordial compared to what has happened since 2008. Elements on both side but especially the right have been whipped into a frenzy by their respective leaders. We hear stories of blatant racism and sexism, two faults that have been hidden until the recent elections. We see them not only in the political arena but also in the news media and on the streets of our cities. Some such as Fox News are instigating their viewers to greater and greater heights of denial and fear while others just give the demagogues air time by covering them without comment. We see black men strangled or shot dead with no justice leveled against their killers. And respect for the police — even the good cops — sinks lower and lower.

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The Real Depravity of 2012

square781Let me get this clear: I am not gay. But according to the Radicals of the Tea Party (who really don’t care about gay marriage except to excite the fear-driven) I must be homosexual because I support same sex marriage. And I have supported it for many years — about 24 to be precise.

To tell you the truth, the idea of sleeping with a man repels me. I much prefer checking out women — adult women. But I accept that there are people who are drawn to their own sex and that it is innate to them, not the result of rape or poor parenting or whether they drink lattes at Starbucks. I do not accept marriage as a child-producing union, though it is probably a better idea that you have a partner when you start having children. This idea categorically places Lynn and I out in the cold, yet we have remained partners for 25 years.

Marriage is about choosing a person to be a relative that transcends blood relations. It cannot change facts of fatherhood: one DNA test can undo the presumption of parenthood. But what it does is ensure that my wife and I can form a financial corporation of a sorts together. It lets me say that Lynn can make medical decisions for me — recognize the fact that I trust her before most of my own blood relatives in these affairs. When I die, it ensures that my share of the wealth generated by our household goes to her. Where do there need to be children in this?1

Why not let people of the same sex have these same contracts without resort to legal legerdemain? Homophobia — which is hatred and fear, nothing more — just isn’t a reason.

But let’s get back to the real issues: we have a candidate for office who is a corporate raider. To hide his moral depravity, he trots out this issue. He has put people out of work, destroyed companies, and wrecked communities for the purpose of amassing wealth. Mitt Romney is a dangerous man and he is playing a dangerous game by playing the gay card.

Focus on him for what is he is: the champion of the 1%, the man who picks your pocket and wrecks your home life with his financial manipulations and favors to the rich and corporations.2



  1. Though marriage does help recognize children and preserve family wealth for them, too. []
  2. And if you are religious, God does not like the rich. And He expects the state to protect the poor. Read the prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the minor prophets. To believe otherwise is heretical and unChristian/unJewish/unMuslim. []

Amygdala in Overdrive

square707My [[amygdala]] has been in overdrive. Every morning between 7 and 7:30, I wake up with my breastbone trying to break out of my chest. My thoughts immediately turn to politics and the Tea Party. I don’t think this is paranoia because I don’t look out my window to see if [[John Boehner]] and [[Eric Cantor]] have dispatched minions to watch my condo. The future is my topic. What will become of [[Medicare]]? What about the [[Social Security]] trust fund that my wife and I have paid into all these years? Will the Republicans find a way to steal the next election? Will progressives be stupid and sit this one out because they have not received a perfect package for their pains? Wave the bloody shirt and I am on Twitter screaming about it, trembling.

Recent studies suggest that our fears never go away: they are merely masked:

Fear is commonly investigated in mice by exposing them simultaneously to a neutral stimulus — a certain sound, for example — and an unpleasant one. This leads to the animals being frightened of the sound as well. Context plays an important role in this case: If the scaring sound is played repeatedly in a new context without anything bad happening, the mice shed their fear again. It returns immediately, however, if the sound is presented in the original, or even a completely novel context.

Deep in the amygdala, there are two groups of cells — one that generates the fear response and another that suppresses them. It’s a classic example of evolution’s shoddy engineering. When the suppression mechanism goes to work, it does not operate by stopping the fear response: it merely prevents it from being transmitted to other parts of the body. The fear is still there, waiting for the cells dedicated to suppressing it to drop their guard — as what happens when the sound is played in a novel context in the example above. Then the same old dreads run the show all over again.

I cannot help but tie this finding to another article I read recently about the amygdala. Scientists have discovered differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives. Your typical liberal has a larger [[anterior cingulate cortex]] which lets her pull concepts together and not be distracted by conflicting information. Conservatives have larger amygdalas, which researchers say makes them better able to “recognize a threat”.

My experience suggests that this is a politically correct way of saying that conservatives are often panic at the slightest implication that they are being threatened. Witness how they can be made to vote against their interests by campaigns based in racism or other types of hatred. Witness how some hoard guns beyond what they actually need to defend their homes1 . Witness how they allow military spending to overwhelm the federal budget even when specific programs prove to be unmanageable, unworkable, or a boondoggle2 . Witness how they will stream to the polls if an appropriate [[robocall]] or commercial tells them that they are being threatened — even if this goes against all reason. Conservatives are eminently controllable by their fears. This has proven true in election after election.

The trick relies on a simple tactic: move conservatives out of the safe zone of discipline that they have surrounded themselves in to prevent their emotions from running wild. Conservatives are often better behaved in environments where they are taught to do as they are told — such as the military. Control of the emotions is vital. But change the context and the conservative is once more his old, fearful self. He might be a nice guy to everyone around him because he has been conditioned to be so, but remove that environment through bright flashing lights and loud voices preaching doom if the…3 are allowed to get the upper hand.

So liberals need to develop tricks to fight these tricks that turn good people into reckless fools. Sometimes we will need to use the fear. Sometimes we will need to train conservatives to ignore the lights and sounds, to become the true masters of their anxieties, their souls, and their political and economic destinies. The best society is one where the problem-solving power of the liberals and the threat detection power of the conservatives coexist to serve the whole.

This post is in response to Day 10 of the Health Activist Writers Challenge: “Post Secret



  1. I don’t own a gun nor have I ever needed one, even in some of the rough neighborhoods where I lived as a young man. []
  2. If it is for “defense”, they’ll buy it. The amygdala doesn’t do well at discerning frauds. []
  3. Fill in the blank. []

Executing Christiana Green

“It’s ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a leftwing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as ‘they’ say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly.”–Tina King (teabagger on Sarah Palin’s FB page)

square673The preceding is protected under the free speech clause of the 1st Amendment. It means that I cannot ask my government to put Tina King or Sarah Palin in jail for being vipers. But there’s something they can’t do, either. They can’t ask the government to protect them from my free speech right to call on others to condemn them for their barbarism. They would like us to think that they can proceed without receiving criticism, but they are wrong. They may say that when their First Amendment right fails to move — yea even irritates — others, they can fall back on threats to employ the Second Amendment, but nothing excuses murder or the threat of murder.

This blog article is also protected under the First Amendment. Just as I am not obligated under the terms of the Bill of Rights to allow missionaries to force their way through my front door and deliver their spiel, so, too, am I not required to sit silent when the Tea Baggers make our country foolish. I have the right to deliver scorn, to point to the hypocrisy of a movement that on one hand thinks that a underdeveloped fetus must be preserved at any cost, but which celebrates the death of a nine year old who had done no one any harm. I can say that we’ve had enough violent rhetoric, that it is time to stop it and to get on with civil discussions about the way our country is headed.

What Tina King has said about Christina Taylor Green reeks worse than the bio-waste of any abortion and if Sarah Palin doesn’t go past deleting it — if she does not repudiate it, she has demonstrated that she should not command any respect from the Republicans or any other American. And if the Republicans don’t start using their power of example to police this, they do not deserve our confidence as voters, they do not deserve the peace of statesmanship but only the severe criticism due to demagogues.

Laughner and His Cloud of Unknowing

Laughner may be as crazy as a fox.

square672Where I am now is that there is the usual cloud of unknowing that follows an event like this. Some say it was the Left, some say it was the Right. I reacted as I did because I have seen time and again threats to kill progressives, liberals and moderates here on the Web. Now I have to say that I don’t know what we have in this person.

Laughner loves Mein Kampf. Paradoxically, he’s listed “The Communist Manifesto” as a favorite book1 , too, along with Alice in Wonderland and Fahrenheit 451. He is a gold standard enthusiast. He thinks the government is controlling us through our grammar (shades of accusations of political correctness?). He may be mentally ill.

In this Internet-powered world, it is the first step of news agencies to look for what the person was saying online. I suggest it is possible that Laughner understands this all too well and wrote his Myspace and Youtube descriptions with a mind to confusing the issue. No true Leftist believes in Mein Kampf. It is only the Right wing that insists this is true, so I believe Laughner could be trying to confound us.

I do not condone eliminationalist rhetoric regardless of the source. We have heard a lot of it from the Right here in America. That led me and countless others to rage against Sarah Palin. She is still in the wrong for posting her “target sights” hit piece.

Rachel Maddow wisely says to wait for the truth. I didn’t, but neither has World Net Daily. In the meantime, it is fitting that we mourn the lives of those who were killed in the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gifford.

Rhetoric of violence has no place in American society. We must repeat this so that all hear it.



  1. Anyone who has read Mein Kampf knows that Hitler calls for the elimination of Communists as part of his program []

Rude and Barbaric

square687Many of us are paralyzed into non-thinking when someone invokes “freedom of speech” or “freedom of religion” as the reason why they believe as they do. When you translate this, it means “I can say what I want and you can’t criticize it.” It’s a common rejoinder from the Right — especially racists — and from extremist believers aka Fundamentalists among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. When the American public buys into this, it leads us to a place where only the corrupt and vile can speak.

The First Amendment was never meant to operate so. And I think free speech is closer to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said about ethics: ethics aren’t there to excuse what we do but to make us reach for something better. When we let the racist or the fundamentalist go unchallenged because “it’s his opinion and he can think what he wants” we let society down. We allow it to fester in fraudulency and evil. It is our duty to say to people who voice ugliness that they are ugly. We have these rights to make a better America, a better world. And part of that means using our voices to confront wrong.

If a Muslim cleric says apostates must be executed, we have a right to say “Well, that is just barbaric.” If a skinhead says he has a right to hate foreigners, we have a right to say “That is backwards and bad.” They scream that it is their free speech right, but they cannot silence us with their insistences that they can say anything — and do anything — they want without us challenging them because of free speech. That alone deserves admonishment. They live in America and they cannot put a stopper on their fellow citizens.

They are rude and barbaric. And I think they realize it, but don’t want to admit it.

Hitler’s Pagans

From A History of Pagan Europe:

It is often written that Hitler’s regime in Germany (1933-1945) was Pagan in inspiration, but this is untrue. Hitler’s rise to power came when the Catholic party supported the Nazis in the Reichstag in 1933, enabling Nazi seizure of power. Many churchmen of both Protestant and Catholic persuasion were committed supporters of the Nazi regime. The belief that it was Pagan in outlook comes from propaganda during the Second World War. As anti-German propaganda, occultist [[Lewis Spence]] wrote:

The ancient faith of Germany and Scandinavia, popularly known as ‘the religion of [[Odin]] and [[Thor]]’, has been the subject of many a literary ecomium. To myself, as a student of Folklore and Mythology, it makes an appeal no more gracious and stimulating than any other religion of the lower cultus, and very much less so than those even of Polynesia or old Peru.

It is, indeed, only the fact that it is being resuscitated by extreme Nazi fanatics which makes it important at all, and, even so, it is worthy of notice only in a temporary sense, for with the downfall of Hitler and his caucus it will go the way of all artificially revived heterodoxies.

Himmler and Hess, two ‘extreme Nazi fanatics’, seem to have been active followers of an [[Ariosophical]] mysticism, promoting the future rule of the super-race. But Hitler himself said in 1941: ‘It seems to me that nothing would be more foolish than to re-establish the worship of Wotan. Our old mythology ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself.’

Spence wrongly connected National Socialist ritual, derived from Prussian and Austrian military custom, with Paganism, as ‘The Nazi Pagan Church’. Recent research by John Yeowell has shown that, far from being influential in Nazi Germany, Pagans were persecuted. Leading Pagans were arrested by the Nazi regime. For example, in 1936, the noted runemaster [[Friedrich Bernhard Marby]] was arrested and spent the next nine years in concentration camps. He was not alone. In 1941, on orders from Heinrich Himmler, many Pagan and esoteric groups were banned (including the followers of [[Rudolph Steiner]], the Ariosophists and followers of the religion of [[Odin|Wotan]]). Like other victims of Hitlerism, many Pagans subsequently died in concentration camps. (pp. 218-219)

The War for OIF

Hitler knew he ruled a nation of cowards, and knew he had to spend the money to make the new war something cowards could fight and win. He decorated his troops with regalia to make them proud of themselves, further trapping them in their self-image. Hitler copied the parade regalia of ancient Rome, to remind the Germans of the defeat of the legions at the Tuetenberg Forest. Talismans were added from orthodox religions and the occult to fill the soldiers with delusions of mystical strengths and an afterlife if they fell in battle. Finally, knowing that it takes courage to kill the enemy face to face, Hitler spent vast sums of money on his wonder weapons, airplanes, submarines, ultra-long range artillery, the world’s first cruise missile and the world’s first guided missile, weapons that could be used to kill at a distance, so that those doing the killing need not have to face the reality of what they were doing.

square073A sound analysis except for the insistance that Hitler staged the Reichstag fire and Bush staged 9-11. What happened, in both cases, was that an external element committed an act on a massive scale. Instead of limiting it to the parties involved (BTW, where is Osama Bin Laden?), the two tyrants exploded them into more than they actually were. Incompetence explains the World Trade Center well enough. We have yet to have a fair investigation into the 9-11 affair. I doubt, however, that we will discover any Administration complicity: there’s plenty of evidence for excessive obsession with the War on Drugs and knee-jerk rejection of any suggestion Clinton made to his office-purloining successor to explain why the sons of Reagan were caught sleeping.

We should always question our anger, take time before we react which is precisely what the American people did not do after 9-11. I told chat room friends “Don’t give Bush a blank check.” And they did.

The only reason why we appear to be stuck is that we are addicted to Glory. We salivate for the flags, the boys and girls in uniform, the belief that we are saving the world despite all evidences to the contrary. Bigger, better, faster — deadlier. More remove from our victims. Glory isn’t glory when you kill innocent civilians, torture POWs, and lie to get a war. Now that the horror returns home, the so-called liberal media waves the flag harder than ever before, trying to blame it all on a few young soldiers who were stupid enough to photograph their sanguinary antics in Abu Ghraib prison. It feels like we failed, but we don’t have the guts to march on Washington and tell our largely unelected power brokers that enough is enough.

Greg Palast said that contrary to media reports, the objective of the Iraq War was achieved:

Bush and his co-conspirator, Dick Cheney, accomplished exactly what they set out to do. In case you’ve forgotten what their real mission was, let me remind you of White House spokesman Ari Fleisher’s original announcement, three years ago, launching of what he called,

Operation
Iraqi
Liberation.”

O.I.L. How droll of them, how cute. Then, Karl Rove made the giggling boys in the White House change it to “OIF” — Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the 101st Airborne wasn’t sent to Basra to get its hands on Iraq’s OIF.

Operation Iraqi Freedom. The majesty of unchaining a country that was oppressed despite having the highest per capita rate of firearm ownership in the world eggs us on. Now that the reports of returning soldiers indicate that we are oppressors,too, we stall. “Well, we didn’t know better then”, which is the excuse many a parent makes to her/his adult survivor of childhood abuse. We know better now. The past is no excuse for action in the present.

I disagree with theories that hold that Americans were docile lambs led to slaughterhouses made of shrapnel and spent uranium. Americans did know — at least if they were reading the Internet. People like me tried to warn them and — well, we weren’t “official sources”, so even applications of common sense were rejected.

We’re still talking and Americans still ignore us. We don’t realize our individual and collective power to change this scenario. Back in the 17th century, a jury voted to acquit a young man accused of “preaching a tumultuous sermon”. The judge did not like the verdict and imprisoned them when they would not deliver the one he desired. “Do not give up your franchise!” cried one of the defendants as the jury filed off. Eventually the jurors were freed by a higher court and the principle of power grounded in the People was recovered, for a time.

We should remember that in these times of arrogant, quasi-dictatorship. “Do not give up your franchise” — your power to make the government obey your will. If you make a stand for your right, the tumultuous William Penn might tip his hat the next time you visit Philadelphia.

Clinging to the Bumper

I never understood how to address this issue — this wimpiness that leads people to post these “ribbons” on the back of their cars. They’re just too cowardly to say “Let’s kill more Iraqis” because that would show others and themselves just what they’re really supporting.

Manica corrupted the corrupted.