It Happened Last Night


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copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

It happened last night.  As I reflect, I realize it has happened all along.  Each day, in most every moment I have an opportunity to look at life and learn.  Yet I become consumed with more immediate concerns.  He said. She said.  The system, situation, or some other entity supplants a deeper assessment.  Years ago, I came to understand that I create my own chaos, calm, or shades of what will be.  As an Educator, I speak of this often.  My students often quote me on the subject of choices. Yet, until yesterday, I never fully grasped how true my words might be.  I am unsure why the events of the evening took me where they did. I share the story.

I received a mail from a magnificent man, someone who has achieved much and is well-known beyond the circle of my life.  This gent is a Scholar, an Educator, an esteemed and prolific Author, a Sage.

Indeed, over the years, Mister B’s published works have helped me grow by leaps and bounds.  I never imagined I might become acquainted with him as a person.   Yet, accidentally, we met.  Minutes after Michael presented as part an expert panel, he and his spouse made way for the auditorium exit.  I was on my way back into the lecture hall. Unexpectedly I had an opportunity to introduce myself, which I did.

His mention of a bad cold earlier, whilst he was on stage, led me thoughts on my miracle cure.  Delighted, he turned to his wondrous wife and asked her to take notes. The two he said would purchase the ingredients before the day was done.  It was obvious to me that Michael and Joslyn are quite close.  Caring exudes from each of them. Surprisingly to me, Michael hugged me for the help I offered.

Over the many months since, Michael and I have spoken, not often, but also, not infrequently.  The conversations are expansive.  Mostly we discuss personal philosophies, experiences, and just enjoy getting to know each other. Through electronic mail, at a distance, we have worked on a few endeavors together. Mister B has become more real to me.  His relationships with family, friends, life, and living are beautiful to behold.

Then it happened.  After weeks of unanswered calls and emails, I asked was there trouble. Unusual for Michael, he had not responded to my communications. He wrote back and said all was well.   Michael was and is rebuilding the front entrance to his home.

Once I learned that the lack of responsiveness was not a reaction to what I had said, done, or been, I was relieved. The real story led me to inquire.  Was Michael doing the work himself?  I discovered he was.  This spectacular specimen of a human being was not solely a Scribe, an Academic, an Educator, and an authority on pedagogy. Michael B is an Artisan, a Craftsman, a Draftsman, a Reformer, Dreamer, a Builder, Rebuilder, Mechanic, and a man who transforms what most think of as truth.

Mister B was kind enough to share a link to a webpage that showed his life’s less noticed path.  As I perused, my mouth was agape.  Thirty years earlier, Michael built his own home.  He used no sub-contractors or Contractors.  All the work was done with his own two hands, assisted only by a mind intent on a mission. That gray matter was also his own.

He and his wife Joslyn reside on a river. During the construction, the two lived in a small duplex, on the dock.  This dwelling today is attached to the main abode, and serves as a guest quarter.  The house that Michael built stands stately in a wooded region, overlooking the same waterway where he and his spouse watched him give rise to his vision.

The home is three-stories high.  Some of the windows are floor-to-ceiling. The rafters reach for the sky.  Balconies abound and surround the abode.  A very large round window appears in the uppermost floor.  In another photograph, an interior shot, Joslyn is comfortably seated.  Her body fits securely in the window frame.  Joslyn obviously has much room to move about.  The portal is huge!  It, the house as a whole, is beautiful; but the dwelling’s exquisiteness is nothing in contrast to the lesson I learned when I probed further.

Overwhelmed with this vision, initially, I did not do, as was my impulse and call Michael. Instead, I rushed about in an attempt to leave on time.  I prepared a hurried breakfast, inhaled my food, or began to, and then, I picked up the telephone. I dialed .with the expectation that I would speak to a voice mail machine.  Mister B was likely working and my being rushed, I thought that fine.  Much to my astonishment, Michael answered.  My words were as a white light.  All I said was uttered in haste.  In contrast, Michael’s voice was calm and reflective.  He shared stories.

The domicile took three years to complete.  Plumbing, masonry, milling, electrical jobs were all his, as were all other aspects involved in building.  As he worked on the edifice he also composed and published a book.  Michael kept a notepad close at-hand during the construction.  Prior to the actual endeavor he designed, plotted, planned and developed his thought.

When he felt overwhelmed, or stuck, Michael would step back and work on another undertaking.  He immersed himself in some effort that freed his mind for further reflection.  Mister B might fix a machine, or make one.  The possibilities are endless for someone such as he. Michael understood then, as he does at present, his own learning style, his likes, and all that he loathes for himself.  Idle hands or head, these are not habits Mister B embraces.

The circular window is but one example.  This porthole was once a Union 76 gas station sign. Michael asked if I was familiar with the expansive logo in the form of a light fixture that scrapes the sky in many a gas station.  I am.  Mister B found an old oversized signet on sale. He purchased it for $45 dollars.  Once hollowed out, the frame would serve as his window on the world. Plexiglas was also purchased for just over $100.  Michael fixed the two together and voilá.  A place to peer out was born.

The structure survived five bad storms over the three decades since its birth. One was directly overhead. Yet, the building stood the test of a tempest and time. As has Michael B.

Prior to our conversation, I knew that Michael began his career in 1952. This was near the same year my Dad started his. I had wondered in the past; were the two close in age.  I searched and found the answer.  Yes, they are, as are many men and women. All sorts of people are born within a generation. This truth does not deny that we are all unique.

Still, these two men, in many ways are identical. Daddy too is extremely precise. Just as Michael, he is an Artisan, a Craftsman, a Draftsman, a Reformer, Dreamer, a Builder, Rebuilder, Mechanic, and a man who transforms what most think of as truth. My Dad loves to build. He envisions what others do not and acts on his farsightedness, or did when I was younger.

“Logan” [my father] is a scholar. He received rewards for his brilliance when he attended school. In his professional calling, he was a Professor, a Lecturer, called upon to train Medical Practitioners, Lawyers, Social Workers, Preachers, and Teachers. My father wrote and spoke on Education as Mister B does, although never so broadly.

When  I was a teen, Daddy was on the School Board for an Independent School.  “Logan” was looked upon as a pillar in the community. My Dad worked as a Public Planner for a very respected worldwide Leadership and Support Organization. Later, respected in his field, Daddy established his own firm.  Up until a year ago, my Papa still worked each and every day.  He drove to his office and counseled others; however, he was never able to console himself.

Just as Michael B, “Logan” had big plans.  While he always worked to execute exactly and in a timely manner, much changed.  In retrospect, I understand that Daddy had hesitated even whilst he moved forward.  No one ever seemed to notice this.  My father kept any self-doubt well hidden. Indeed, he seemed quite confident in his every enterprise.

For all practical purposes and by appearances, Daddy was a success!  “Logan” was as Michael, he dreamed and then, built as he imagined. That is, until the day . . a turn of events did my Dad in.  What occurred all those decades ago, popped the bubble that was Daddy’s triumphant existence

Choices Create What Comes

It was Mother’s Day, near a score in the past.  While waiting for Daddy to return home from a day of fishing, the telephone rang.  It was  Logan. He did not call to say he would be late for dinner; he already was.  Instead, he asked, would we pick him up? My Dad was in jail!

In this exposé, I will not share the depth and details.  Suffice to say, murder, mayhem, and money played no role in the crimes. We arranged for his bail. Mommy, my beau Eric, and I drove miles to the Police station.  No one said a word.  I recall no conversation once we arrived either. From minds to mouths, all seemed frozen in time.  Perhaps, we each were numb with disbelief.  I know I was.

Indeed, I only remember a tall man with impeccable posture, a gent who normally stood six feet four inches tall, slumped over.  Daddy’s stared straight ahead as the four of us walked to the car. He was alive.  He looked as well as could be expected, but I could tell my Dad had died inside.  Never did I imagine that the death would be permanent. It was.

Certainly, everyone, at some time believes they have seen the end.  Frequently, a way of life, superficially  concludes.  This veracity was and is no less true for Mister B. I have heard him tell and seen . . .

While Professor B pursued his potential, he traveled down delicate paths that led to delicious delights and also his demise, of sorts.  As all human beings Michael had a number of serious falls. I smile and think of a tome Mister B published.

Just as Daddy had in the course of his life, Michael stood strong and spoke up when he felt policies were wrong.   For doing so, he was placed in precarious predicaments.  Finally, his own words and deeds strangled him.  In a teaching position, at a local College, after twenty-five years Professor B was handed a pink slip.  His contract was terminated.  The case went to court.  While the job was lost, Mister B was born once more.  His choices kept him alive.

Throughout the ordeal, the Scholar and Scribe never lost hope.  Guilt for compensation lost, a career, nay with his reputation in question Michael did not blame himself.  He did not allow himself to be consumed by what he could not change.  Professionally, Michael’s identity was transformed.  The agreement Professor B had with his family, friends, fellowship, and with himself remained solid.   He would be true.  His sense of strength could not be terminated. Then, and still today, Michael thrives.

“Logan,” on the other hand, found that task impossible to achieve.  Granted, the choice that led to his demise was one society could not accept.  More importantly, my Dad could not tolerate what he had done.  The question I now ask myself is would Michael ever have chosen to “commit” a professional, let alone  a physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual “suicide.”  My Dad chose each of these.  However, in practice, he decided to forego one of these self-destructive travels.  In a corporeal sense, Daddy lives.  Sadly it seems, life can be defined in many ways.  Not all are what we would think of as living.

Life Lessons, Losses Seen as Growth and Gains or Rain

As I recognized more than a decade ago in my own life, my or our choices create what comes.  My personal narrative and the lessons learned was nowhere near as profound as what I see in the lives of these two.  Perhaps, it is easier to understand what is separate from self.  I know not for sure.

I am only certain that the man I know as Daddy was replaced on the day of his arrest.  Ever since, a shell of himself stood in his shoes.  Outwardly, slowly, “Logan” regained respect.  A Governor’s pardon was awarded. He rebuilt his practice, and by appearances, his life.  However, he was never truly the same.  His relationships suffered. The man I was once so close to, for so very long, emotionally moved away from me.  Try as I might, and I did, and do, Daddy, only infrequently welcomes rapports with anyone.  In a meaningful manner, “Logan” separated himself from everyone, except perhaps, his wife.  

While his marriage to my Mom did not last long after the arrest; Daddy wed again. I had long believed that, his marriage would be as Michael’s and Joslyn’s is, a lifetime of love.  Better yet, my hope was the two liked each other.  They had been through more than most relationships endure.  Not in so many words, Daddy implied that my want for him was true.  However, in retrospect, that assumption seems an erroneous one.  From each of them, I heard. I saw.  In time, I began to question whether Daddy was authentically connected to his life partner, or more importantly, to himself.

Often, my Dad speaks of regrets, all he never accomplished and could have.  Manuscripts were  not published, though written.  Programs designed and developed were not implemented.  Post Graduate work woefully waned.  Daddy lost his will and his way when he was but a man in his forties.

Barely middle-aged “Logan” became his guilt.  For a very long time, this thought was but my theory.   I understood all I surmised was speculation.  We can only ask and hope the answer will serve as a window to the other’s soul.  Hence, months ago, I inquired.   I wondered aloud whether  “Logan” had reflected on what I observed, a change in his well-being.

Often, in conversation Daddy speaks of his physical health, or lack thereof.  For my father, it seems nothing compares with the agony that has been his corporeal existence.  Since, that dreaded day, “Logan’s” body has been racked with pain.  He has survived various  bouts of cancer, multiple heart attacks, permanent back injuries, and irreparable damage to his inner organs.  My Dad has struggled through physical miseries  He never had before.  

Mentally too, I detected a change.  Actually, he speaks of this often as well.  The person who taught me to live as Don Quixote, to never say die, to believe that in the next millisecond, it will be better only showed himself in rare moments, and only after he and I chatted alone for awhile.  A year ago, I mentioned what for me was this oddity to my Dad.  I asked him, how could this be.  Where had my Daddy gone?  

My Teacher, my Mentor, my Muse, was my Dad.   His truth was my truth.  In my experience, our shared philosophy has always proven itself accurate.  Today, I think of Michael B and trust he embraces as my Dad did and I do.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  Whence I forget, I realize I only need to only open my eyes.  I will see again; rainbows are a spectrum of colors.  Shades of pretty pink can be seen within the band of blood red.

One that day I proposed the question, what happened? Might it be that the fittest man, one whose health never faltered when I was younger changed the day he first chose to do what landed him in jail?  “Logan” admitted, indeed, he took his own life.  Verve, energy, an authentic excitement, all that he was and encouraged was gone. Yes, all those years ago, he killed himself in every way he could.  His chosen weapon was his woe.  Vigor was a void left behind near two score now.

Daddy said the only reason he remained on the planet was to take care of those who needed his physical presence. At the time he shared, I understood.  I could do nothing else. His pain, physical and emotional is palpable.  Yet, today, as I ruminate on the house that Michael built I realize there is much more to ponder.  Are any of us here or as is said, “there” for others when we are barely present.

It is vital that we give rise to the best of our being. Houses are not built on hurt.  Soreness does not allow our relationships or us to soar.  We must reach for the stars, our stars, and not the rays of light others think bright.  We cannot give what we do not have.  A window, round, large, or square is not constructed without a strong, preferably steel frame.  Beams able to withstand any storm, even one directly overhead, need to be sturdy, straight, and able to hold great weight.  

If love is not within us the gift of such a treasure cannot grow.  Dreams fulfilled or death delivered, each happens. My understanding of these  verities happened last night.  Today, I hold dear a broader belief; in every moment the choice is mine now and forever.

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I Resolve . . .



Something Could Change

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Come 2009, I will commence on a new path. I will exercise regularly, smoke not at all.  A healthy diet will become my regime.  On Monday, January 5, my life mission will be realized in my work.  The opportunity to inaugurate again, to give birth to me at my best will inspire a rejuvenation.  Today, I resolve to . . . not make a single New Years resolution.  In truth, I never have committed to change.  Yet, the person you see before you is not the same being that might have appeared on any other day, of any other year.  I have evolved, and so do we all.

As the New Year approaches, I reflect on a reality I see and hear everywhere.  People far and wide seek a novel strategy, one that has never appealed to persons such as I.  Most everyone is ready for a new reality.  Individuals are intent.  Now is the time to begin anew.  Resolutions are rampant.  

No matter where an individual might reside, the calendar motivates people to review, reflect, and revise schedules that did not work as well as once envisioned.  Pages in an almanac pass, and people presume, surely, these sheets of paper were meant to show signs of progress.  Most ponder; twelve months of misery or mindless maneuvers.  It is time for a change.  Yet, the mantra few admit to on January 1st, is the one individuals maintain throughout their lives, ‘people do not change.’  Experts espouse there is evidence for this belief.  

Dr. Edward D. Miller, Dean of the medical faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, refers to the more than 70 percent of coronary bypass patients who revert to unhealthy habits within two years of corrective surgery. Although two-thirds of Americans believe they weigh seventeen pounds more than their ideal weight, few are able to shed the pounds.  In a recent study, nutritional specialists at Duke University affirmed that two-thirds of dieters gain back any lost weight within a year.  

While more than seventy-four percent [74%] of the Americans who are willing to confess, they smoke express a desire to give up the habit, 67% of these say they are addicted to cigarettes.  Even the most sanguine studies state “20 to 40 percent of participants are able to quit smoking and stay off cigarettes for at least one year.”  For nearly everyone, a New Years Resolution is no more than a trial declaration.  People propose; “I will try.”  Rarely do individuals voice a determined decision to do.

As I said, I never did.  My fear of failure secured my silence.  Personally, while it appeared that I battled with unhealthy habits, these were not my genuine challenge.  My fear for the change I thought would never come, a career that fosters contentment, a close connection with a compassionate someone who would not suffocate me, a personal sense of fulfillment were the greater challenges.  

Severe trepidation told me I could not achieve as I believed best.  Even if I thought the impossible probable in time, I trusted that a resolution would not help me realize a transformation.  Some might have said I was resistant, resigned to life as it was.

Certainly, Marion Kramer Jacobs, a Clinical Psychologist in Laguna Beach, California could concur with such a conclusion.  Doctor Jacobs offers the decree, defeatist yearn to hear.  “We’re hard-wired not to change quickly.”  She declares; “Think of what chaos would ensue if you could snap your finger and change instantly tomorrow. You would be one person today, someone else tomorrow.”

The author of “Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life . . . One Scene at a Time,” is cited amongst those who contend the challenge to change may have evolutionary origins.  She and other experts in human behavior surmise, mankind is accustomed to hierarchies.  Rules, regulations, [even traditional resolutions] inform us.  Societal structures require us to know our roles and perform them dutifully.  Oh, how we do.

Governments guide us.  Policymakers pass laws.  People obey.  Entrepreneurs employ us.  Bosses bark of business strategies.  Supervisors boom orders to subordinates.  Laborers walk in lockstep.  Families flourish when parents lead the little ones.  Therefore, the accepted theory seems to be a person cannot change without assistance.  Community, career, and domestic counselors count on this conviction.

Constituents are elated change has come in the form of a new President, Barack Obama.  

Small business owners are advised  if they follow a profound plan, they too will be transformed.  “Clarify and Simplify,” create an action plan for your workforce, soon all will be well.  Certainly, a focused staff with will reap fiscal rewards.  

Experts also seek to assist employees.  Articles and airwaves are filled with plans,  Again Americans are presented with secrets for success.  Follow this strategy and realize your dreams; secure your resolution.  Persons accustomed to being told what to do read essays such as, What says ‘hire me!’ to employers.

Dieters are delivered dictums.  The plump are given programs to eliminate the excess pounds;  5 small changes to help you lose weight.  Yes, fat persons, just as those fit to be tied by debt, an addiction to cigarettes, alcohol, or other penchants, are ready to follow the steps anyone might present.   The hope is they might avoid another year of harrowing habits.

“Most of us think that we can change our lives if we just summon the willpower and try even harder this time around,” said Alan Deutschman, the former Executive Director of Unboundary, a firm that counsels corporations on how to alter business agendas.  Mister Deutschman, author of “Change or Die,” declares in his diary, while most people have the ability to alter behaviors and attitudes, they rarely do.  “It’s exceptionally hard to make life changes and our efforts are usually doomed to failure when we try to do it on our own.”  

Perchance that is why most turn to friends or more frequently family for moral support.  Authorities who admit a personal life is not as predictable as supposed facts, figures, and formulas might pretend it to be, give parents recommendations that provide greater flexibility.  As 2008 exits, and 2009 enters, Moms and Dads are invited to resolve that they cannot solve every problem. This is the truth most people believe.  Good intentions, while admirable, do not achieve results.  Yet, men, women, and children never stop trying to transform others or themselves.

Perchance, rather than accept the rituals, adopt our roles, or obligate our selves to rules that dictate a future of failure, we might resolve to recognize that change comes slowly.  Transformation travels from within.  Growth is a process.  Dreams are not realized in an instant.  

As infants, we did not walk or talk.  Toddlers have few tales to tell and narrate none exceptionally well.  Children can make choices; however, by the time they are teens the decision to run out into the street, against traffic, may not seem wise.  Little humans change constantly, as do bigger-in-mind-and body beings.

Young adults will assess all they knew again and again.  What a woman or man, in her or his twenties, thinks is best may not be what the same individual at thirty would advise.  Resolve, as I have, no matter the day or eve, New Year, or old, that rather than bemoan the research that elucidates why eighty percent [80%] of people will not successfully embark on self-renewal projects, embrace that you are, just as I am, not as we were.  Tomorrow, we will not be as we are.

I resolve to remember change is a constant.  My path is well traveled.  At times, I tripped.  I fell from the healthier course and then I picked myself up.  Harmful habits went by the wayside with help from me.  Friends, family, and experts may have lent a hand.  However, they could not do what only I could achieve for myself.  On this, the First day of January, I resolve to recall that I have evolved.

Resources for Resolutions . . .

September 11; A Crisis of Terror, Affirm Life


Suheir Hammad – Def Poetry

On September 11, 2001, with the pain of death abound, a poet asks us all to affirm life.  As she walks, watches, waits for what, she knows not . . . she realizes she is certain.  While others see the differences, although they cannot accurately identify these, Suheir Hammad accepts there are none. 

The rhapsodist reminds us, in a revision of First Writing Since,  we are one, fractured, and flawed, we are all alike.  Therefore, we must affirm life if we hope to live together in peace.

Crisis of Terror

By Suheir Hammad
New York, New York

Suheir Hammad is the author of “Born Palestinian, Born Black” (Harlem River Press, 1996) and other books.

First Writing Since

1. there have been no words.
i have not written one word.
no poetry in the ashes south of canal street.
no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna.
not one word.

today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.
evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.

fire in the city air and i feared for my sister’s life in a way never
before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.

first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot’s heart failed, the
plane’s engine died.
then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.
please god, after the second plane, please, don’t let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.

i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.
i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger
i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen.
not really.
even as a woman, as a palestinian, as a broken human being.
never this broken.

more than ever, i believe there is no difference.
the most privileged nation, most americans do not know the difference
between indians, afghanis, syrians, muslims, sikhs, hindus.
more than ever, there is no difference.

2. thank you korea for kimchi and bibim bob, and corn tea and the
genteel smiles of the wait staff at wonjo the smiles never revealing
the heat of the food or how tired they must be working long midtown
shifts. thank you korea, for the belly craving that brought me into
the city late the night before and diverted my daily train ride into
the world trade center.

there are plenty of thank yous in ny right now. thank you for my
lazy procrastinating late ass. thank you to the germs that had me
call in sick. thank you, my attitude, you had me fired the week
before. thank you for the train that never came, the rude nyer who
stole my cab going downtown. thank you for the sense my mama gave me
to run. thank you for my legs, my eyes, my life.

3. the dead are called lost and their families hold up shaky
printouts in front of us through screens smoked up.

we are looking for iris, mother of three. please call with any
information. we are searching for priti, last seen on the 103rd
floor. she was talking to her husband on the phone and the line
went. please help us find george, also known as a! ! del. his family is
waiting for him with his favorite meal. i am looking for my son, who
was delivering coffee. i am looking for my sister girl, she started
her job on monday.

i am looking for peace. i am looking for mercy. i am looking for
evidence of compassion. any evidence of life. i am looking for
life.

4. ricardo on the radio said in his accent thick as yuca, “i will
feel so much better when the first bombs drop over there. and my
friends feel the same way.”

on my block, a woman was crying in a car parked and stranded in hurt.
i offered comfort, extended a hand she did not see before she said,
“we”re gonna burn them so bad, i swear, so bad.” my hand went to my
head and my head went to the numbers within it of the dead iraqi
children, the dead in nicaragua. the dead in rwanda who had to vie
with fake sport wrestling for america’s attention.

yet when people sent emails saying, this was bound to happen, lets
! ! not forget u.s. transgressions, for half a second i felt resentful.
hold up with that, cause i live here, these are my friends and fam,
and it could have been me in those buildings, and we”re not bad
people, do not support america’s bullying. can i just have a half
second to feel bad?

if i can find through this exhaust people who were left behind to
mourn and to resist mass murder, i might be alright.

thank you to the woman who saw me brinking my cool and blinking back
tears. she opened her arms before she asked “do you want a hug?” a
big white woman, and her embrace was the kind only people with the
warmth of flesh can offer. i wasn’t about to say no to any comfort.
“my brother’s in the navy,” i said. “and we”re arabs”. “wow, you
got double trouble.” word.

5. one more person ask me if i knew the hijackers.
one more motherfucker ask me what navy my brother is in.
one more person assume no arabs or muslims were killed.one more person
assume they know me, or that i represent a people.
or that a people represent an evil. or that evil is as simple as a
flag and words on a page.

we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.
america did not give out his family’s addresses or where he went to
church. or blame the bible or pat robertson.

and when the networks air footage of palestinians dancing in the
street, there is no apology that hungry children are bribed with
sweets that turn their teeth brown. that correspondents edit images.
that archives are there to facilitate lazy and inaccurate
journalism.

and when we talk about holy books and hooded men and death, why do we
never mention the kkk?

if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is
feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.

6. today it is ten days. last night bush waged war on a man once
openly funded by the
cia. i do not know who is responsible. read too many books, know
too many people to believe what i am told. i don’t give a fuck about
bin laden. his vision of the world does not include me or those i
love. and petittions have been going around for years trying to get
the u.s. sponsored taliban out of power. shit is complicated, and i
don’t know what to think.

but i know for sure who will pay.

in the world, it will be women, mostly colored and poor. women will
have to bury children, and support themselves through grief. “either
you are with us, or with the terrorists” – meaning keep your people
under control and your resistance censored. meaning we got the loot
and the nukes.

in america, it will be those amongst us who refuse blanket attacks on
the shivering. those of us who work toward social justice, in
support of civil liberties, in opposition to hateful foreign
policies.

i have never felt less american and more new yorker, particularly
brooklyn, than these past days. the stars and stripes on all these
cars and apartment windows represent the dead as citizens first, not
family members, not lovers.

i feel like my skin is real thin, and that my eyes are only going to
get darker. the future holds little light.

my baby brother is a man now, and on alert, and praying five times a
day that the orders he will take in a few days time are righteous and
will not weigh his soul down from the afterlife he deserves.

both my brothers – my heart stops when i try to pray – not a beat to
disturb my fear. one a rock god, the other a sergeant, and both
palestinian, practicing muslim, gentle men. both born in brooklyn
and their faces are of the archetypal arab man, all eyelashes and
nose and beautiful color and stubborn hair.

what will their lives be like now?

over there is over here.

7. all day, across the river, the smell of burning rubber and limbs
floats through. the sirens have stopped now. the advertisers are
back on the air. the rescue workers are traumatized. the skyline is
brought back to human size. no longer taunting the gods with its
height.

i have not cried at all while writing this. i cried when i saw those
buildings collapse on themselves like a broken heart. i have never
owned pain that needs to spread like that. and i cry daily that my
brothers return to our mother safe and whole.

there is no poetry in this. there are causes and effects. there are
symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, and information we will
never know. there is death here, and there are promises of more.

there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting,
but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will
shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the
rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.

affirm life.
affirm life.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
affirm life.

It is September 11, again.  On this the anniversary of unbelievable carnage, we, each, and everyone of us, can choose to affirm life for Americans for those of Arab descent, for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Conservatives, Liberals, the Right, the Left, and yes, even those that “wronged” US.

  • First Writing Since
  • Suheir Hammad
  • We Are All Born Free and Equal. We Have Rights.


    Youth For Human Rights – We Are All Born Free & Equal

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert.

    This tiny introductory treatise is written as an apology.  Belatedly, I was informed that, unintentionally, and might I add unknowingly, I penned a persuasive piece that advances the cause of an “applied religious philosophy.”  After viewing the most glorious video presentation, I inscribed what was thought to be a global truth; “We all have rights, equally.”  I still endorse that message; however, I do not embrace the practices or philosophies of an organization that on occasions is divisive.  Sadly, I experience most assemblages are.

    I am a very spiritual soul.  I trust that man is basically good.  For me, there is no sin, only a slow evolution.  As we walk on our life path we error, repeatedly, and frequently.  However, humans have the capacity to learn.  That is our blessing.  As we travel the planet and experience a physical existence, we realize there is more.  Earth is as a school.  We are here to study.  We reflect.  We ask ourselves, what have we done.  What will our actions cause?  Ultimately, we understand that we can change what comes and what will be.  Free will follows us and leads us on this journey.

    As a pious person, I am overwhelmed by the duplicity of organized religion.  People of one religious faith or another war and have for centuries.  I do not understand this.  Rigid religious affiliations are not mine.

    After ample research, I have come to believe that all religions value similar “truths.”  Honor, love, respect, peace among men is the foundation of every faith.  Yet, nevertheless, people battle.  They have for centuries.  It seems few if any flock is exempt.

    Some conflicts ignite solely on the basis of religious differences.  Much of what we witness in parts of the Middle East can be correlated to differences among congregations.  One faction or another will fight to the death for their idea of the ideal, G-d.  People pose as though they are holier than thou.

    My belief is religious “realities” are neither right, nor reasonable; these traditions rely on our ability to suspend belief.  Blind faith in an external force determines what congregations think.

    Alas, religion is not the only source of derision.  Race, ethnicity, creed, hair color, age, body type, even food choices divide us.  I am often slammed and damned for I do not eat meat.

    Nonetheless, I submit to you the essay that prompted a sorrowful reflection.  My intent to was not promote a way of life or advance a particular “applied religious philosophy.”  I genuinely hoped to further the assurance “All men are created equal.”  My desire continues.  Perhaps we can communicate a message of love without religious convictions. 

    Please ponder; reflect upon the paradox.  As humans, we agree; we are born free and equal.  We each have rights.  Love, peace, parity among [wo]men is vital.  Yet, we argue.  We are split.  We divide. 

    May we contemplate the concept and honor as we claim to believe.  I present the original observation . . .

    At times, verbiage enhances the visual.  A photograph may fill the screen and our hearts; however, the words whispered as an accompaniment makes the message more meaningful.  I believe the essence of a communication can be captivating.  It can cause us to cry.  It may touch our soul.  Perhaps it will help us to think more deeply.  When the verbal expressions advance the beauty of a presentation, that is glorious. 

    Consider the times you saw an individual.  You observed the image he or she presented.  Then they spoke seriously.  This being shared his or her soul, their life story.  Their words wowed you.  They warmed your heart.  The spoken language clarified, it corrected a misimpression.  Your heart and mind opened.  What you thought you knew was not as it appeared to be.

    In this production, the gentle language helps us to remember the innate longing for equality.  The reflective nature encourages conscious thought.  We cannot avoid what we know. Throughout the globe, we witness injustice, and there is no reason for such divisiveness.

    We are born innocent, without hatred or bigotry.  However, we learn.

    As our faces age and harden, so too do our hearts.  Naiveté is fleeting.  Purity fades too fast.  Goodness does not leave our body; the flood of hurts cause great harm.  We forget.  Virtue is still within.  Might we discover it again through empathy.

    We are all born free, equal among men, women, and children.  Each of us has rights, for we exist.  Dignity is due to us all.

    Please embrace the avowal and the endeavors of Youth For Human Rights International.  My hope is their mission will be ours.  Worldwide and individually, we will actively acknowledge the value of every entity.

    Do you know what Human Rights are?

    Every person is entitled to certain rights – simply by the fact that they are a human being.  They are “rights” because they are things you are allowed to be, to do, or to have.  These rights are there for your protection against people who might want to harm or hurt you.  They are also there to help us get along with each other and live in peace.

    Many people know something about their rights.  They know they have a right to be paid for the work they do and they have a right to vote.  But there exist many other rights.

    When human rights are not well known by people, abuses such as discrimination, intolerance, injustice, oppression, and slavery can arise.

    Born out of the atrocities and enormous loss of life during World War II, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created by the United Nations to provide a common understanding of what everyone’s rights are.  It forms the basis for a world built on freedom, justice, and peace.

    In my family voices were not raised loudly.  Slight tonal changes spoke volumes.  A look could cut through the skin.  When my Mom felt hurt, she made this known.  She voiced the statement, “I have rights.”  We all do.  Yet, at times these are denied us. 

    Another righteous soul might react in a manner that suggests they are superior.  Their behaviors seem sanctimonious.  Often, this smug attitude is a reflection of fear; nevertheless, such an approach creates havoc.  People are hurt.  Relationships are harmed.  Often, these do not recover.

    When we witness contempt, or recognize that we are engaging in a way that disrespects another, we must recall, “What we do unto others will be done unto us.” 

    Human rights, civil rights must be granted to us all if we are to live in peace and harmony.  Wars do not just happen people start them.  If I aggress against my brethren, I can expect he will attack me.

    Poverty is not a given; it is a man-made construct.  Man learns to set limits. If I hoard, I ignore the needs of my fellow man.  If I hold on too tightly to all that is mine, I can gather no more.  My hands are full; I do not have the capacity to grasp what is beyond.

    Discrimination is deliberate.  I choose to determine whether race, sex, religion, or status matters.

    Please be aware of what you, he, she, I, or we cause.  Consider what you, he, she, I, or we create when we do not honor every human being equally.  Look upon your brother and your sister as a child would before they learn to hate.  They have a right to be, just as you, I, or we do.

    Elizabeth Edwards; “Decency Costs Nothing.” It is Priceless

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Last evening, when I first heard the news, Elizabeth Edwards might be in trouble, I wrote of my concern.  Could it be cancer, again?  I shared what I knew and what I thought throughout our cyberspace community.  I received many a beautiful comment.  Scarce shared Elizabeth Edwards CBS Free Speech.  Missus Edwards spoke to me.

    I believe in interdependence, in equality, in people of every race, color, and creed.  Much to the dismay of many, I act on my faith.

    I have been teased, misunderstood, and stared at, for I speak to everyone, no matter where I go.  In restaurants, I chat endlessly with my servers.  The person that cleans the table or delivers the water is no less important to me than the people I am sitting with.  I often befriend restaurant staff.  Many have become part of my life.

    When I shop, I get to know the associates.  I ask for their advice.  I trust their taste and value their opinions.  I perceive their sense of style.  As a customer, a passer-by, as a person that cares for my surroundings, I pick up merchandise or materials that have been carelessly tossed about. 

    Over the years, in many neighborhoods, I have befriended my mail person. 

    While walking, I meet the glance of those crossing my path.  While in a line I will converse with those waiting with me.  These persons may be employed in service jobs.  They might be without a work.  Their careers could be crashing, or they may be profoundly professional.  It is difficult to tell who is who when people are casually dressed and doing their chores.  It matters not to me.

    I speak to bow-wows and kitties, birds, and squirrels.  I love life.  Actually, those that know me well will tell you, I believe nothing is intangible.  What others define as objects are living souls to me.  They too have an energy, an essence, and are essential.  We are all sharing this planet together. 

    Elizabeth Edwards understands this.  She said . . .

    Did you buy groceries today? If so, who was your cashier?  Who bagged your soda? 

    They have names, you know – and chances are they were even wearing their names on their shirts.  But did you notice?

    Sadly, as a country, Americans have gotten used to treating those in service positions as if they were part of the cash register, part of the conveyor belt.  They aren’t. 

    They are mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons working hard to provide for their families.  And they are working harder and earning less than most Americans who work behind a desk.

    Everyone in America who works hard deserves our respect.

    But too, often we fail to realize that each of us is connected to the other.

    Too often, we fail to realize that each of us has a name, a life, a dream.

    It is the first step in civility to acknowledge our fellow citizens, to use their names, to look them in the face and thank them for making your life not just easier but possible.  The second step – which is also too rare – is to treat each other with respect and even tenderness.

    I have had hard times.  But my life has been easier not just because of my splendid family or my incredible friends.  But because I had support from unexpected places – from Edward, my mailman; from Drew, who works at my children’s school; from Sam, who bags groceries at my supermarket.

    My life has been easier because the people I have treated tenderly have returned the gift.  Decency, it turns out, costs nothing.

    Elizabeth, I relate.  Friends and family, those close to me, have often said they think my life was hard.  Yet, I was and am happy.  I experience as you observe.  “Decency costs nothing.”  The returns are phenomenal. 

    I have never felt alone.  Support surrounds me.  I give from the heart, for I honor all life.  I receive more than I might imagine.  Tender talk, a soft touch, and perchance a slight smile, treating others as though they are as important as they are, that is priceless.

    Refer to references. . .

  • Elizabeth Edwards CBS Free Speech.  YouTube.
  • John Edwards to Discuss Wife’s Health, Campaign, and Country, By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org. March 21, 2007
  • Free Speech: Elizabeth Edwards, Advocate Speaks Out About The Importance Of Decency In America.  CBS Broadcasting.
  • It is Possible!

    Terra Naomi’s New Official “Say It’s Possible” music video

    They may say that you are not all right.  You may say the same of yourself.  However, while everything is possible, what is probable is that what you choose to believe you can and likely will create.  You will succeed.

    Please paint your sign, visualize, conceive, and work to originate your dream.  It is possible.

    “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
    ~ Shakespeare: Hamlet, IV, c. 1601

    Be-Think ©


    May I introduce the being and thinking behind this blog. I am an educator, an author, and a student of life.

    As a mentor, I massage learning, facilitate discovery.  As a scholar, I endeavor to energize minds.  As an essayist, I explore.  As a pupil, I devour wisdom.  I am a person that chooses consciously not only to be; I choose to think.  I am as you are, traveling towards enlightenment.

    As a person that is choosing to investigate a site titled “Be-Think,” you too may be interested in the value of being and thinking. Possibly, you are probing, searching for a treasure. I believe that the treasure of our being increases when we contemplate our own thoughts [as well as the thoughts of others.]

    It is my belief that our thoughts are the catalyst for our actions; for "As we think so shall we be." I wonder, "What will we be? Please explore with me, for  . . .

    We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

    ~ Shakespeare: Hamlet, IV, c. 1601

    As we explore, we might acknowledge that, sadly, soooo much of what we think is not as we say, or even what we say that we believe. Our truest beliefs are buried beneath the surface. How often do you say that you will succeed and yet you suspect that you will not? How often do you find that while you state the affirmative, what you believe is less than? How often have you spoken of yourself as though you knew your self and then discovered that you did not? How often do you believe that you know what you yourself are thinking then, later discover that you were in error? You did not truly admit to yourself your own inner thoughts.

    What we truly believe is learned. We learn to think, to be, [to say, to do, to feel], and to believe as we do when we are very, very, very young, before we realize that there are other options. Sadly, some of us never reflect and realize that the truth for others is what they learned to be true. Nor have we reflected and realized that this too is true of us.

    In this site, I hope to offer opportunities, open minds, stimulate thoughts that avail other options, options beyond those that you, I, or we might already know. I hope to travel beyond, to travel together, to take us all on a trip that is never ending. My desire is that our expedition is intellectually, emotionally, physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually expanding.

    Mike Pinder, of the Moody Blues offers, as I believe. In 1968 he wrote . . .
    "Thinking is the best way to travel . . ."

    From “In Search of the lost Chord”

    While thinking is the best way to travel, at least it is for me, I know and trust that what we think and what we do with these thoughts affects our being. I offer a thought that affects me eternally. I believe that it is one of the most meaningful thoughts ever expressed. It is written by Horace Walpole; he is the father of the Gothic Novel. He lived in the 16th century, yet, for me, his wisdom is timeless. His father was the first Prime Minister of England and he himself was a Member of Parliament. He writes . . .

    For those who think, life is a comedy.

    For those who feel, life is a tragedy.


    ~ Horace Walpole [Father of Gothic Novels, Member of Parliament]

    I believe that we all feel and if we choose to think through the feelings, we will find such folly, funniness, and fun. Therefore, I ask you to please journey with me, think, and be better, and better, the best, and then even beyond! For, as Copernicus states . . .

    To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”

    ~ Nicolaus Copernicus  [February 19, 1473 – May 24, 1543]  Astronomer, Mathematician; Proponent of Heliocentric Cosmic Model.

    War in the Wind, Blast Buries New York City Building ©

    9/11 Photograph, By Ted S. Warren, Associated Press.
    WABC News. Photograph July 10, 2006.

    A building in New York City is buried.  Fires are blazing.  It is highly possible people were killed or injured.  The public speculates.  Could it be a bomb blast, an act of terrorism, homegrown or international?  Might the cause be a gas leak or an electrical explosion?  Perhaps, it is a crime of vengeance.  Early on, suicide was not considered.  For me, while the cause is important, it pales in comparison to the fact.

    War is in the air; it blows with the wind.  Acts of violence travel.  They cannot be isolated or contained to lands far from our shores.  If we accept war anywhere, we consent to it here.  Warfare is not a concept; it is concrete.  Combat comes easily to the minds of men or women in conflict.  Witness today, yesterday, and everyday.  We as a nation are at war.  While the struggle is far from our shores, it looms large in our collective psyche.

    Our leaders reassure us, and on the surface, Americans accept the façade they present.  [Some] Americans love when Bush bellows and Cheney chants, “We will confront them overseas so we do not have to confront them here at home.”  Americans applaud this non-sequitur logic.  They surmise war can be isolated and they are insulated.  In 2004, that was the battle cry.  There were no terrorist attacks on American shores since September 11, 2001.  Therefore, the theory was proposed, President Bush and his hawkish policies protected us.  Many accepted this as true.

    They then cast their ballots for this magnificent man.  They gave the Bush, Cheney team their mandate, or so that is how the Administration framed it.  Again, and again the Emperor exclaimed he had capital to spend and he spent it.  Thus, we have the cost of war.

    Causalities abound; the numbers are climbing.  Iraqi civilians are raped, maimed, murdered; yet, they do not count.  They are merely collateral damage.  Citizens of the United States remain safe, sane, or so it appears.  Thus, we support our President and allow him to continue in office.

    However, in our heart-of-hearts, we know; America is not out of harm’s way.  We recognize war is in the wind.  When a building explodes or implodes in New York City, we all panic with reason.  Citizens understand what they never wish to express.  As long as we accept war is an option, we are admitting that it can and will touch us, just as it affects our “enemies.”  No one is sheltered from the scars combat causes.

    King George II cannot protect and defend America from farther feuds; nor can Cheney or Rumsfeld.  These lovelies created what comes closer.  With thanks to our beloved President and his Cabinet, the possibility of war within the United States is real.

    For now, the prospect settles only in the recesses of our minds, and on drawing boards elsewhere.  Still, we all know the threat is valid.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can rant and rage about States rights; yet, she too has no power to guard against the aggression she helped to promote.

    Once the notion is placed on the table, the tremors will be felt throughout the globe.  No man is an island; nor can any of us ever be insulated or isolated.

    After receiving many replies to this treatise, I realized that what might be so obvious to me, the writer, is not apparent, to many a dear reader.  Perchance I was not clear in my communication.

    Possibly some are so offended by this Administration and the ample accusations; terrorists are everywhere, they missed my message.  Those persons, and admittedly, typically I am among these, distrust Bush and the Bunch so much, that they see any talk of terrorism as a means for distracting Americans from the real issues.

    There are those that awoke hours after the initial blasts.  They already read and heard the theories.  These individuals knew the explosion was likely a suicide attempt.  Therefore, these bookworms thought I was telling tales.  I was stirring the National Security soup of the day.  For these persons, I was making an issue of what was nothing more than a “normal” event in the course of any day.

    Numerous persons are concerned even consumed with an exit strategy.  They want us out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  An event in a single day is not their focus.  These individuals might not question the entrance into war per se.  They struggle with the constant loss this conflict brings.  They may think stuff happens; hostilities occur, related to Iraq or not.

    I am repeatedly reminded, that as a whole, most people think war is an option, the one of last resort; however, the alternative is often considered acceptable.

    Conceivably, that may be the challenge.  When I wrote this treatise, I was speaking of my truth.  For me, “War is not an option, not now or ever!”  I do not think terrorism is a reason for combat.  I believe slavery, genocide, homicide, rape, and racism were not the causes of wars in the past.  Economic power and the desire for supremacy are, in my mind, the rationale behind battles and bickering.

    For me, the blast was a reminder of where we have been.  It is where we still are.  On this planet, war is in the wind!  It has been for centuries.

    For those that rose hours after investigations began, they could again sink into the comfort of complacency.  For the many that bash-Bush, more power to you.  I was not denying the validity of your beliefs.  I share these.  My only question was and is, why is war an option, ever?  I believe that if it is in the wind in the East, it will be in the air traveling westward.

    We can sit in the comfort of our cushy chairs.  We can profess how terrible the terrorist are or how awful the insurgent Bush is.  However, as long as we, Americans, allow for and accept war as an option, on our shores or on those aboard, then we can never know with certainty where the next strike will hit.  I think this is why those on the streets at the time of the blast were shaken.

    When I penned this missive, I was speaking to the stress exhibited by those there, near the building in New York City.  I was also addressing my own eternal anxiety.  Why is violent behavior ever an option?  Even now, believing the cause of the blast was an attempted suicide does not ease my mind.  Why do we aggressively strike out and hurt others or ourselves?

    I hope this communiqué helps to clarify my intent.  Perhaps, those that felt confused will re-visit the message.

    Please Peruse the Possibilities When War is in the Wind.

    Four-Story Building Collapses on East Side of Manhattan, New York Times. The Associated Press. July 10, 2006
    New York building collapses, burns, CNN News. July 10, 2006
    At least 11 injured in Manhattan building collapse, By Wil Cruz, Lauren Johnston and Chick Benett. Newsday.com. July 10, 2006
    UPDATE 2-Building collapses in New York City, Reuters. July 10, 2006. 9:59am ET
    President Bush Discusses Progress in the War on Terror July 12, 2004
    Policies in Focus. National Security Strategy, The White House.
    Cost of War.
    Causalities
    Iraq Body Count.
    Bush has a big agenda for 2005, By David Gregory, Chief White House correspondent. NBC News. December 30, 2004
    President Holds Press Conference. “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” November 4, 2004
    Iraq insurgency in ‘last throes,’ Cheney says, CNN News. Monday, June 20, 2005
    Iraq: Collateral damage, By Ashok Mitra. Rediff.com India Limited. March 25, 2003
    Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11. Book Says President Called Secrecy Vital. By William Hamilton. Washington Post. Saturday, April 17, 2004
    How Many Dead Iraqis? Guessing about collateral damage. By Fred Kaplan. Slate.Tuesday, February 25, 2003
    Strictly Confidential. Likely Humanitarian Scenarios. United Nations Document.  December 10, 2002
    Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?, By Tim McGirk, Baghdad. Time Magazine. March 19, 2006, PDF version
    The Promise of Democratic Peace, Why Promoting Freedom Is the Only Realistic Path to Security. By Condoleezza Rice. The Washington Post. Sunday, December 11, 2005
    Remarks at the American University in Cairo, By Secretary Condoleezza. Rice Cairo, Egypt. June 20, 2005
    “America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, and to make their own way.”
    The Iran Plans,
    Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? By Seymour M. Hersh. The New Yorker. April 17, 2006
    North Korea missles rattle European markets, El Financiero en línea. July 5, 2006

    Honoring A Humanitarian ©

    The passing of the Pope has become a world event. People from all walks of life are converging to extend their condolences. Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Protestants, and even atheists are uniting; they are coming together in Rome to honor the passing of a great man and humanitarian. All are welcome; none are excluded from this experience, or are they?

    A man also known for his humanity and strong faith, former President Jimmy Carter, will not visit Rome. Initially, President Carter did wish to pay his respects personally; he stated his desire aloud. However, he was informed by the current administration that he could not attend, or at least he could not be part of the official delegation. Our current President chose to limit the number of American “dignitaries” to five. I do not wonder why; I am only sad for the state of our affairs.

    CBS News touches on the tale.
    NBC Nightly News did an exposé.
    The Today Show also discussed this dilemma, reminding us that Jimmy Carter was the first American President to welcome a Pope, this Pope, the people’s Pope, to the Whitehouse. Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Carter frequently worked with Pope John Paul II; both were interested in pursuing world peace. Please view the video.
    The Manila Bulletin offers this report.