Thursday, November 27, 2008

Appreciation and Intervention

Today is Thanksgiving: I still cultivate the spirit if not the myth of the Pilgrims sitting down to eat with the Native Americans. I honor the idea of the Native Americans receiving appreciation for helping the Pilgrims to cultivate corn, squash and such -so that everyone could survive through the cold New England winter. As it turned out, the Native Americans were swept down the river and landed in the desert to receive a thorough drying out. And I'm sorry about that from both sides of the genetic fence; genetically being part of the "victor and vanquished" blood-line (-as Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy would say about Mariah). The holiday's irony is heavy on my mind today and I woke up thinking about the Dalai Lama.
Have you ever wondered how the Dalai Lama can continue to fight for his country's culture-it's continued existence in Tibet- while the Chinese continue to destroy any remnants of Tibetan autonomy? (He is pictured here at a World Peace ceremony.) If you listen to him speak on his feeling/thought toward the Chinese, it takes great attention to comprehend his practical philosophy. I hold onto his words with intense focus and just miss the action part. I want to know what he means because I think that I have lost my mother to the same community apathy that caused Tibet to fall; or that allowed the genocide of the Jewish during WWII. How do we as a human community resist violence without triggering more violence? I have had this question on my mind since I was in the US Navy many years ago, and it continues to return again and again to my thoughts. When my mother was murdered in Flatrock, Michigan no one intervened; and I have pondered about the silent and spoken support James Brooks, the murderer, received as he contemplated killing the lesbian couple down the street. When my husband was attacked in Condado, Puerto Rico no one came outside in answer to my screams until all danger had passed. But there was one police officer who doggedly searched the streets until the criminal was apprehended and finally convicted. When my car was knocked off the highway by a young, intoxicated, undocumented Mexican in the desert near Needles, California; it was a truck driver, who said he was Richard, who came to my rescue. Richard reported the accident (which happened on purpose) on his CB radio, waited with me while I was trapped in the car for the jaws of life/death to arrive -that's the machine used to remove people from smashed-up cars. He put aside worry that he might be caught in the possible fuel triggered flames and he stayed with me, a total stranger, in the abandoned sandy darkness. I was rescued, flown out in a helicopter to a Las Vegas, Nevada hospital and I recovered. Richard was my human angel who surpassed the ordinary and became the archangel Michael or Gabriel in response to a stranger's need. How many of us would have done the same?
So much has happened lately; there's upheaval in the world because of the bombings in Mumbai, India, yesterday. Deepak Chopra said on Larry King Live that we must take action to 'remove the cancer from our family'-he was refering to the Muslem family. (Yes, he used a medical metaphor that pointed to his doctor-MD- ethos-even though most people think of him as a contemporary spiritual healer/leader) I was impressed by his position of strength that validates necessary action while at the same time, I wondered how would this work out? What kind of action is necessary? Some of you may not know that Deepak Chopra was a student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement. I mention this fact because mediators are often thought of as passive people who take no action as they sit in their "Rocky mountain high" caves and meditate. Chopra meditates. Chopra acts. I often think of the Bhagavad Gita and it's reported conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, where a reluctant Arjuna is encouraged to fight against his cousins because they are taking what is not rightfully theirs. It's in chapter eighteen, verse 59-60: If, clinging to the ego, thou sayest:, "I will not battle," fruitless is thy resolution:...thine inborn nature, will force thee to fight. ...shackled by thine own karma, inborn in thy nature, what through delusion thou wouldst not do, thou wilt helplessly be compelled to do. He decides-is compelled-to take action. As a people, we, too, are honor bound to take action to protect each other.
Yesterday, I had a personal disturbance to my own harmony with humanity; my son was robbed at a Bayamon bus stop in the daylight-in the sunlight- in front of all the other awaiting passengers, and no one intervened to help, comment, or stop the strolling bulk of Puerto Rican youth from going on his comfortable way. Though my son was threatened with death, I am thankful that he is safe. What I want to talk about is reaction/action. When my son went to the police station to file a report, during the course of collecting information about the crime, the receiving officer recommended that he lift weights to build muscle. Let me clarify, he suggested that my son put on weight-that he change his physical form- so that he is not victimized again in the future. I ask myself, would he say that to a girl? What about my petite daughter, would the police officer say, "Well, you have to start lifting weights, gain about five or six inches in height-then you won't be victimized by strangers on the streets." Would he tell someone confined to a wheel chair, :"Just get up and walk-then things like this would not happen anymore." My son is not usually a victim of crime but lately he wants to be independent and move around without his parents-as he should be able to as a member of the human and Puerto Rican community. There is no need to explain to the police officer or anyone else the medical reasons for his small stature because all human beings of every shape and size are part of humanity. I thank the universe for keeping my son safe, but I call upon people to react. We must protect each other from the takers/killers who exist in our human families. We must assert together that it is not okay to harm others on whim or to fulfill a covetous desire. We must be sure in our hearts of our love for humanity and take action to protect the innocent. Not crazy action, just necessary action. Show compassion. Offer assistance. Confine those who cannot live without violating/killing others. Assert every one's right to stand outside in the sun and be a part of the human community. And when someone is violated within your space, do something! Help them! I send blessings to all the Richard's of the world who intervene in times of crisis; who find Arjunda's courage to stop, interrupt their day, and offer solace and strength to those who are innocently victimized. Let us use our Solomon's seal of collective resistance against gratuitous bully violence as a protective amulet we wear in society. Together our consciousness must change so that we extend our heart-love to those in need; so that we learn to have compassion while we discover a cure for the violence-cancer that propagates within our inert human societies. Let us take a solemn vow to protect and love each other, always. Namaste


  1. First of all I hope Alex is safe and sound. Many years ago my car was stolen only to find it parked in La Puntilla three weeks later. I was with a friend and we decided to call the police. Four policemen arrived swaggering around their pistols. We explained our situation about my stolen car. We heard one of them say: -"Oh!, they are faggots" and laughed. At that moment my friend and I froze solid. We've heard of so many accounts of police brutality directed towards gays. The policemen accused us of lying about the car being stolen three weeks ago in order to cash on the insurance policy. We demanded to talk to the sargeant in charge of the police station a few blocks away. They looked at us and decided to take us to the station. Everything was resolved but I felt indignant and powerless. Some people in my life still do not understand my inner rage against injustice. I just think they have not been exposed to life outside thier little boxes of safety. On another occasion my brother Alfredo was hanging to dear life, test found that his three main arteries have collapsed and he was on the verge of a massive heart attack.We rushed to the scene. He was half naked in a stretcher three men surrounded him. They took turns in insulting him. "See what you've got into , keep eating you fat slob" This was one of the male nurses. The anestheologist came in enraged because my brother was overweight, 32 years old and a smoker. My brother was in tears I demanded that he be treated with respect. It was total chaos and degradation.
    We have to understand that these people come from homes and institutions that are the equivalent of cut throat neighborhoods. I feel society as a whole has disbanded. We no longer know our neighbors, our family members are distant, and many of our "friends" flee at the first instance of trouble. We have lost the community and its goodwill. We are afraid, freightened of each other. We have isolated ourselves to such a point we no longer feel we need to communicate. It is a question of trust. We must trust in the same way we hope for a better future. We must be engaging with each other, peacefully. The word goodwill should be held sacred in our lifes. We must first admit to ourselves that we are desperate, confused and frightened of each other. Our isolation has resulted in the obvious loss of community, of communion with our fellow man. Insensitive people have support systems composed of other insensitive people. They feel empowered to be cruel and nasty by their social meliu. We must break this cycle with education, trust, unrelenting compassion one day at a time. We cannot answer violence, being physical or emotional, with more violence. It will only complicate matters. Our best line of defense is being loving and peaceful. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this important issue. We must talk, express our worries, fears, and frustations. We need to heal. We need to act.

  2. Cynthia, I’m truly sorry to hear about what happened to Alex and I thank God that he was spared from any physical trauma. I know all too well this pattern of violence not only from living in Puerto Rico, but also from when we lived in the Bronx, New York. It was one of the reasons Wendell and I found ourselves drawn to things like gangs when we lived in New York, or why we decided to take up Boxing and the Martial Arts later on, but deep down I knew these were never the solutions.

    When violence strikes, it can sometimes take you by surprise and although you may be prepared to some extent physically, no amount of training is ready for a gun or an unseen attack (and your gang will not always be with you).

    One of my Martial Arts instructors always used to tell us, “When you are approached by someone who has a weapon and is only there to rob you, the best thing to do is to give up your possessions because no one’s life is worth it”. “On the other hand, if the look in his eye is to cause you physical harm, then fight for your life right then and there”.

    He told us that no amount of Martial Arts training could make a super human out of us, but would only give us a slight edge. That all physical combat is about timing, and if that your timing was off by a microsecond no matter how many years you had trained over your opponents, you would fall in battle. Yet the mantra that he always stressed was, that we not fight…if possible.

    It angers me when those who are sworn to uphold justice and protect the weak make such absurd statements as what that policeman made at the precinct. What kind of reasoning is that? There is an enormous lack of education and a world of ignorance in that statement. Truly sad when I hear this coming from that part of society in whom we’re supposed to trust.

    I remember a friend of mine who once told me why he needed to keep a gun at home although he was sort of against the idea of owning one. He stated, “Ed, when it comes to my family I believe I am the first line of defense. I will not put my trust in policemen for that because they always arrive after the crime is over”.
    I had to admit, I truly understood and agreed with what he meant.

    Humanity still has so much growing to do and sadly for a true change to make a difference in our world, it will take 100% of us to agree with what Love, Peace, Patience and Community would bring to our overall happiness and growth as a human race. A world where words like Hate, Anger, Jealousy, War and Greed could be obliterated from our human language and worldly existence.

    Someday, I pray…someday.

  3. How disturbing from the flow of universal harmony these ordinary violent life experiences can be. I always need to separate myself from others by walking outside, meditating, or chanting for a while in order to begin to feel the assuring resonance of life again. I send all of you (and myself)healing vibrations of love and support. May we all find a way to live together without violence. Om Haum Jum Sah (-a call to the energy of transformation)

  4. Yes, thank you all for your comments; reading about your life experiences makes me know that we must shift our collective consciousness so that we understand our supportive role in each other's lives. namaste (My spiritual presence honors the spiritual presense in all of you.)

  5. Actions like being robbed stay with you for a long time. The next month, the next year suddenly the memory appears again, perhaps less real, but at times a short painful blast of sensations and emotion. I also thought that the story of the car theft and the policemen's reaction was horrible. On the other hand one of my neighbors had a nervous breakdown and the neighbor came out to tell the police that the woman had friends who were architects and made a few limp wrist movements to tell the police they were gay. The police gave her a look like she was an idiot and she wilted her evil self back into her apartment. In a society that has so much unfairness between rich and poor, weak and strong, powerful and powerless, it is hard to find any justice.
    I would like to write on, but I have to return to papers. Cynthia, I did not know this happened to Alex. Mark


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