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  • Thomas Lawrence Toscano

Three - Três


Brené Brown, in her most recent episode of her podcast Unlocking Us with Brené Brown, entitled Brené on Words, Actions, Dehumanization and Accountability brings up the very important point that - Dehumanization has existed in ever oppressive movement throughout our history. It’s that very dehumanization that allows us to kill each other and think of them lesser beings, not fully human. She speaks eloquently about the importance of words and how we use them, and the importance of accountability.


I was alerted to her podcast by one of my local facebook friends, Michelle Dufort and found it quite spot on.


There is a great tension around all our lives at this moment, as we all watch the realities of January 6th unfold. Investigations are ongoing through the efforts of the FBI in identifying and arresting the perpetrators. There is also the reality of the impeachment, the possible trial in the Senate, not to mention the climbing death rate from Covid, deep economic challenges, vaccine distributions and of course, the inauguration in three days. More than 20,000 soldiers are in the capitol and clearly many people are quite concerned as to what’s about to happen.


Yes, when the transition happens, there will, hopefully, be a sigh of relief and perhaps a new direction will enliven and assure us all, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The great divide, continues to loom and as Brené pointed out, shaming others will not help bring about accountability. We must act in appropriate ways in order to effect change and follow the principles we all claim to live by. That is to say, the rule of law.

Yesterday’s blog spoke of change. And how one way to take ourselves out of the fear of the changes going on in the world at this time is to change ourselves. The more we do so, the less the fear of external changes will paralyze us, or at least hamper our actions. Yet, fear is not the only issue in this process.


Humanity and sober action is very much required as well.


Now, what am I getting at. Accountability is very important. We cannot just let things slide. No amount political speeches or back peddling from those who have enabled, directly, the current situation will help create a unified country. And, more importantly, UNITY is not the appropriate focus, JUSTICE is.


I’m rather confident that many of us have had those situations where we had to decide whether to get along or stand out, stand up and take exception against the crowd or current trend. This of course brings various experiences. Sometimes our efforts are successful and sometimes they are not. We can often be dismissed from posts, lose jobs, become ostracized within the structures we live by, if we dare speak out. Each time one has to make this decision it’s not necessarily an easy task.


However, I’ve had some examples of non knee jerk behavior that quite surprised me. Over our recent Holiday season I watched Emily in Paris. I was curious about what the hubbub was all about and after ignoring it for some time decided to get involved. Well, was I surprised. First of all I thought it was wonderfully done and simply hysterical. More importantly, I was very impressed by Emily herself. The actress, Lily Collins, is just wonderful and I was so impressed when I compared her performances in that series with her work in the films Mankiewicz and Tolkien, all available on Netflix. Her three portrayals are stunning. What a talent. But, again, it was Emily the character that got my attention.


Why?


Well…I don’t know about you but, when I’m faced with ridicule, mean statements, teasing that’s gone beyond and a boss who truly doesn’t want me around, for many reasons, I get defensive. However, Emily did not. Each time she countered the ridicule, or harsh criticism with a calmness and an ability to simply deflate the larger percent of what was thrown at her. I of course, was astonished for in some similar situations many wild emotions ensued, on both sides. She however, was so very facile at getting out of those situations, sometimes she would agree with the not so kind assessment. She’d counter recognizing her faults and yet would then counter with how she could and would continue to be a valuable member of the team. Her poise, her self awareness and her ability NOT to take it personal or allow it to define her was refreshing and inspiring. As a counselor I worked with once advised me on day, “…you don’t have to accept what someone says to you. You can simply listen, understand it’s not you, and move on from there. Or recognize the truth in it, discard the rest and grow through it. Becoming offended is NOT required.”

So, it would do us all a lot of good if we could face a few facts.


1. This is not happening in a vacuum. When Joe Biden said “ this is not who we are”, I understand what he meant, but, don’t agree. It is who we are. It is happening and it’s quite a large section of the population. That said - it’s not ALL THAT WE ARE. We are and can be more. We have the structures and the basic intent to live in a democracy and, as stunningly imperfect and manipulated by insiders as it is, it can bring results.

2. From where I stand, much of what is happening to us, as a country, has to do with karma. We have, for too long, rode the wave of arrogance and complacency. We have allowed too much to be distorted. Put up with too much inappropriate behavior. Given people the benefit of the doubt. And, fell into that age old excuse that we simply didn’t want to “rock the boat”.

3. When I speak of karma I include, how this country was formed, how many souls were killed, whole peoples exterminated, how many treaties were broken by our government. How many slaves were brought here, how many families destroyed, the whippings the mutilation. And the rest of the history which we STILL haven’t reconciled nor fulfilled our promises from 1876 until now. The hangings and enormous destruction on our natural resources ( animals, plants, soil, etc. etc. ) How much damage has been done to Latin and South America and many of the islands of the Caribbean. How many times have we supported dictators and caused much suffering in so many countries. ALL of this has to be examined, owned and frankly we, as a country must adjust. Part of what we are experiencing is the great resistance to that required adjustment and eventual transformation.


Personally, I became so tired of the typical American response. “America, Love It Or Leave It”.


When I was a teenager and my friends were going off to war, Vietnam, I did not. I saw it for what it was and refused to get involved. Even though it was against my father’s wishes. Thankfully, a lottery was instituted and I had a high enough number that I was allowed to remain in school. Further, I had a student deferment. Often, when I would give my response to those who were in favor of the war, I would hear in return, … “if you don’t like it, go live somewhere else”. The phrase, “America, Love It Or Leave It” began to appear everywhere, even on bumper stickers.


I have a really simple way of dealing with people who get angry at me when I point out problems in our society or government. When they begin to come after me for my critique, I listen and then ask the following question.


“So, tell me, when you bring your car to the mechanic do you tell him or her - Don’t you dare say anything against my car?”


They always scoff at me and say “of course not!”


“Why not?”, I reply.


Their answer “ Because, I want it to be fixed!”.


My response - “Well, then, if that’s true, how can we fix our country if we don’t recognize what’s wrong with it, and correct those problems?”.


There is something else that has to change. We HAVE TO BEGIN TO GET REAL!!!


The Pentagon’s budget is ridiculously large, it continues to drain our society, so much of it disappears with no ACCOUNTABILITY, and we continue to pay for all of this abuse. Further, recently some have begun to declaim that “there’s never money for health, or education, or infrastructure, but there’s ALWAYS money for war.” Do you notice how often people just gloss over that fact. Often, ignoring it as if it was illegal or would offend GOD to say so?


Are you truly aware of how many people we kill each day around the world? Either directly or indirectly. Are you aware of what’s happening in Yemen? (Just one example) How many women and children die from weapons made in this country? How many lies we’ve told, how many manipulations? This fallacy that America is perfect, that it’s the best, that we are the world’s police force is simply neither true, nor necessary. And, that’s where the great American arrogance comes into play. Is there any society more arrogant than us? Not sure, perhaps some are close. But, we are exceptional, right? We are Camelot, that shining city on the hill.


That picture, that image, is truly distorted and has been for many decades.


In short. We have to wake up. Be real. Stop hiding. Take responsibility. First for and about ourselves and as we are doing that -( it can last a lifetime) we have to see what and who we really are.


We are, in the best sense, a dream, that our forefathers and mothers continue to dream.


It’s our time to carry out the facets of their creation.


We are the change.


WE CAN BE the solution.


In order to succeed, we must see through our humanity, not through our fear of scarcity. Not through dehumanizing others. Not by shaming others. I will speak more to the absurdity of this tomorrow.


I will leave you with the poem that I wrote on the afternoon of 9/11. In part because, the alt right and the rioters are suffering in their lives, sometimes, as much as every one else. They too have been lied to, they too have been abused and manipulated. If we can’t recognize their pain, understand it and accept it, we will never truly fulfill our potential.


Of course, none of this can happen, without accountability, an appropriate reckoning and the subsequent consequences of their actions.


I wrote this poem here below at around 2pm after I had witnessed the events of that day from my loft with no obstruction between my 10 windows and the Twin Towers. The buildings fell down and the debris, dust and toxicity billowed and billowed into an enormously round expanding cloud. Then, it cleared and the smoke plume rose in an erect column from the fire, up and up into the blue sky until it encountered a southeast wind. That current bent the plume and sent that toxic material to the Red Bank area of Brooklyn and beyond. I might not be alive today if it had come straight at us in Greenpoint. Again, there were no barriers to protect myself or my neighbors since we were on the banks of the East River and the Newtown Creek.


As always, Thank you ALL for being here with me today.


Slow Winds to the Southeast - (Written 9/11/01)


Flight Ninety three.

Black Smoke Billows

A volcano has erupted


So often seen around the world -

Streets, filled with ash, debris, bloody people

running, walking, bodies falling.

Pictures, of children - families, gliding down

(to where once there was pavement, but now are only holes) like leaves.


In the blink of an eye, our world has changed

Now is the beginning of a new moment

Will we finally learn or continue with the same mistakes?


I know what I'll do but what will others

Talk and talk and talk, " I can't believe it" they say.


The symbol for wealth has been destroyed

the message has been put on the table.

You can't put people after profit forever,

Without consequences

Did you understand, Yet ?

© 2001 Thomas Lawrence Toscano

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