A Very Dark Moment Where One Too Many Moral Offenses Got the Best of Me

This morning, I got an email from a reliable source stating that ICE raids in Santa Fe yesterday hit Sonic and Blue Corn Cafe, arresting workers, workers who are likely parents or sons or daughters of other Santa Feans. It was the straw that broke this camel’s back, until.

When you write a progressive political blog you are constantly tracking the internet for information. And in this day and age, you rarely find anything positive to report. That can become a problem. My mind is constantly mulling moral and ethical offenses related to the environment, poverty, racism, or sexism. Or I am considering how our Democratic leadership is betraying us left and right….and then there is Trump. At the end of the day, Roxanne and I often ‘unplug’ with a glass of wine and Democracy Now! and no one can pack more human misery into five minutes better than Amy Goodman. In this context, I have moments where I just sag beneath the weight and wonder if there is any purpose at all to resisting, the forces are so insidious and strong, how do we persist?

Lately, I’ve been reading a good deal about immigrants….not immigration policy, the abstraction and not immigration statistics, mere data. But about immigrants, people, farmers, restauranteurs, parents, children. I had just read an article about how the Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, had warned the Bay Area about an imminent and large ICE sweep that was coming. No doubt her announcement saved many immigrants from deportation.

But still 232 immigrants were detained in just two days in the Bay Area. I was sitting at my desk pondering that statistic and the reality of what it meant. 232 people had been grabbed from their lives, their wives, their kids, their parents. Those not grabbed, the relatives and friends, will hear from someone that they thought their dad had been arrested. And a seven year old girl’s life will be devastated. Multiply that by 232 families torn apart. And that is only the Bay Area. So I was thinking about that.

And then I got an email about ICE raids in Santa Fe and it got closer to home. And I hit one of those moments where enough was enough and I slammed my fist down on the table, startling Quilo our cat.

What is wrong with us?

  • How did we become a country that severs the lives of thousands upon thousands of neighbors? How did we get to where some view other humans as something other than human, something that can just be wrenched from their lives and sent away?
  • How did we become a country that denies health care to millions, leaving them to choose between rent, heat, food or live saving medication?
  • How did we become a country that shutters away millions of Americans, many on minor offenses, often for years and years in squalid cells?  And then we expect them to transition to ‘freedom’ in a world that will not hire them or house them.
  • How did we become a country that utterly destroys our earth and the futures of our grandchildren, consigning them to dystopia?

How do we somehow allow this to happen? All of these thoughts flooded through my head and I really was headed into a very dark space. And then an odd thing happened. I had been a mental health consultant in the Bay Area before moving here. I saw an email come in from a former colleague and could see that he was sending me a report on a program I’d been involved in launching that treated early psychosis with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). An oversimplification of how CBT helps those with psychosis is that it is a means of training you to redirect your thinking and take control of where their mind goes.

It struck me that I needed to deploy a bit of CBT on myself. I had a choice: I could focus on the bullets above or upon the workers on Cerrillos who had been arrested, or I could focus on Somos and the Dreamers who are heroically fighting every day for the rights and lives of those immigrants. And so I forced my brain to go into the sun, into the world where a sustained movement driven by thousands and thousands of committed activists, persists and persists and persists until a tipping point is achieved, and that which we’ve dreamed of for decades begins to sprout. I thought of my friend Mariel whose slogan, “seeds beneath the snow” resonates so strongly with me.

So maybe tomorrow Rep. Lujan won’t take the lead on banning AR-15s or advancing single payer healthcare. But I’ll keep scattering the seeds and hope the snow thaws soon.

In solidarity,


Categories: Personal & Collective Action

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10 replies

  1. Hold fast Paul. You are correct with all of your assessment and questions. These are such dire days that we cannot even keep up with all that is taking place to harm American families, regardless of color or ethnicity. Yes, we have lost our government and the one political party that could be said to have done some things for people and whether we can take back that party, remains to be seen. But the ultimate push may come when we least expect it because there are more and more people saying enough! In my opinion, the kids in Florida who spoke the words of truth and not the couched words of the machine, hold the key to our eventual freedom. They and others like them are fresh and scared because they are the ones doing the drills in schools everywhere.

    While this may not be the “heady” 60’s where there was a single focus point, they are not blocking the streets with tanks yet. The Dreamers are one thing and they must, like the rest of our country, persevere to the end. They have no choice, but America citizens do and as more of them are seeing what is happening, more are reacting. God forbid, but if one more slaughter were to occur, every grandparent in this country will come out of the closet! All you can do, as you are aware already, is to keep up your work and try your best to not seek the outcome. That is always out of our hands. But it is the process that counts and that is what we do because that is what we have to do. Good luck!

  2. Thank you for this, Paul. A compassionate, heartfelt, emotional moment, but your emergence from the darkness into the sun is an inspiration to me, and I know ,to others, as well. A few hours ago, I was seeking advice and information about CBT to learn if it might be an appropriate process to relieve anxiety experienced by a person close to me. And you just mentioned it as a means to relieve your anxiety about the current state of our country. We have to care for ourselves so that we have the energy to take care of others.
    That’s important.

  3. THANK YOU, Paul — for this extremely well-expressed post, and for your persistent hope and work. As Rev Gail (Marriner, Unitarian Universalist Congregation; Interfaith Alliance, etc.) says, “just do the next right thing”. I see your ‘remembering the seeds under the snow’ as part of that. And, yes, Faith, our greatest hope is to pull together, all help each other, and keep raising hell, in public whenever possible.

  4. Dear Paul,
    First off when you and Roxanne unplug with a glass of wine, PLEASE replace Amy Goodman with your cat Quilo, or a funny or uplifting video instead. I find Ms Goodman very depressing indeed.

    I have wondered how you two can keep it up and you just answered the question – sometimes you can’t.
    I have to turn to nature (trying hard not to worry about wildfires); and the deep love I share with my husband of almost 50 years; and my cats; and a few upful friends. We can gently call each other back when we travel too deep into the darkness.

    As you well know, along with the awfulness, there’s a lot of hope afoot in the land. It’s fascinating to me that we’re not discouraged and giving up, but instead are persisting, fueled by outrage and by love. I’m as outraged as you at the mistreatment of my immigrant neighbors. I really like these people and wish them the best. If I can help them, I will. The same with our irreplaceable environment, never mind our judicial system. But thousands and thousands, probably millions of American people really care and are really willing to fight for democracy, not the least being the excellent Florida teenagers.

    I think the US of A needed to be shaken up and that’s what is happening right in front of us. None of us can do it alone and none of us need to.

    In service,

  5. Solidarity, Paul. We are in good company, resisting together. History provides this lesson again & again. Now it is our turn to decide where we stand. To organize and to protect each other, to defend progressive values. We are born for this time, called to witness, to act, to oppose, to refuse cooperation with fascism, oppression, with cruelty. We chose. In good company.

  6. Paul n Roxanne. In any conceivable end, we finish our one life alone, but most often forget that this one life has been made possible by the collective sacrifices of all the rest of life and matter. So chill. If the sutras are correct, most will die n be reborn in amnesia. This is the worst we can do. Probable outcomes are more favorable. Buddha always reflected on attachment, which is not so complex. It usually dwells within the fear that there is no other time but now, as if we mortal humans have some semantic ownership of this finite grasping. Not so, logically. We all do our thing. It is always enough, at any point in time n space, even when there is more to do. Separation from the whole is not possible, regardless of the delusions of dualism. Live until you cannot go on, hit the jump to light speed, take a nap, n wherever you end up, there you are.

  7. Paul & Roxanne, I spent some of this afternoon with a dear friend reviewing her options and responses if she didn’t make it home today without getting caught up in a traffic check. Word had spread within the community of the ICE action and she calculated she had enough food to not have to go to a grocery store for a few days, and wisely went by the co-op to get eggs, taking care to avoid Wal-Mart or other stores where ICE might be patrolling. We reviewed how she could call a friend who had internet service and could monitor the Somos Un Pueblo Unido facebook page to perhaps confirm if the rumors spreading rapidly through the community had any basis, so that she could hopefully not fall into that space of being so fearful that she would not even go out to her house-cleaning appointments. And we reviewed the information card that Somos has produced (and that she carries) which informs her of her rights, and what she can say and does not have to answer, This is her every-day reality.
    Yes, as Christy said in an earlier reply, this is a time to organize and to protect each other; called to witness and to act.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings, Paul. And yes, we chose. Yes, in good company.

  8. Keep up Paul. We all have those same moments. When I am overwhelmed by it all I remember what a tiny speck we are in the universe, and the inevitability that we are going to die, even our beloved planet and every living thing on it. It is all Maya, as they say in the East, and even though we must fight for what is right because we are all connected, we also have to learn to breathe, to feel the sunlight, to know that everything is temporary, including all the pain and suffering we are fighting against. The arc of the moral universe bends towards justice!

  9. Paul, you and Roxanne are doing good. You are helping! Keep reporting! And, thank you both.

  10. The US is my 3rd country. Its people adopted me and I adopted them. I hold the outsiders’ and the insiders’ perspective and experience/s. But first I need to THANK both of you, Roxane and Paul. You are in a class of your own. Your dedication to the future of our country is almost unique.
    Paul, I get depressed even though I do not invest myself, I do not immerse myself in political work as deep and wide as you two do. Like you I used to ask myself questions like: how did we become this or that…….or, what is wrong with us???
    But not now. Now I remind myself that ‘we were here before’, that ‘we were always like this’, that this is what and how we are and were, from the very beginning. I tell myself that we are just becoming. I also remind myself that I live now a mythical America. I also lived in a mythical Argentina and in a mythical Israel. Most of us, Americans, Argentinians or Israelis live a life of lies and myths sharing a collective unconscious full of contradictions that can be reconciled only once we ACCEPT that we are living a myth created especially for us, a lie sold to us by the gatekeepers of our culture, society and economy. I did blindly accept social, national and religious lies and myths as reality and I do not really know how I got were I am today. But i also know that it was natural to live the lies and myths because I was born into them!
    As I said, like it or not American born citizens were born in an Empire, not in a Democracy. Take the Myth of Democracy. As far as I know 20th century Americans were taught this myth, that we are a democracy and that thus we go around the world as ITS moral and democratic compass teaching ‘third world’ countries democracy and fairness. Elevating them, helping them, teaching them to become as morally and democratically correct as we are. Well, guess what? All of Latin America has known otherwise. Most of the world has known for a long, long time, that YOU inherited the earth from the broken down British empire.
    (1833: Buenos Aires, Argentina. October 31 to November 15. A force was sent ashore at Buenos Aires to protect the interests of the United States and other countries during an insurrection). Democracies do not go to the other end of the continent to ‘protect its interests’. Only empires do this.
    Introspection alone can reveal many truths to willing white Americans who wish to know themselves. I would say the same about Israelis and Argentinians. The same goes for males growing up in a patriarchal society like ours.
    So, to end this piece, I believe that we need to reassure ourselves that we were all manipulated and lied to in more than one way. And that we were never told our full national or religious, or racial, and even our family history/story.
    We should not blame ourselves for our ignorance and blindness about those realities kept hidden from us, from our parents and grandparents. The truth is that because we were made to believe lies and to be ignorant of many truths we should not be totally surprised that the Trump Era has been in the American cards since the beginning. And that the democrats, together with Obama and the Clintons, among all the others that came before them, gave us The Times of Trump. Maybe it is the necessary challenge to help America mature!?

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