Prizes, Patriotism and Peace

Prizes, Patriotism and Peace

Random Thoughts On Acceptance And Change

The first prize I ever won for writing anything was in elementary school. The American flag was the topic. Innocent, and far beyond my immature imaginings, I wrote about what I thought were my father’s feelings for the American flag. As a Russian refugee, his patriotism was both sincere and strong. And even though I won the first prize, my father dismissed the whole event by saying I was too young to write about anything. In many ways, of course, he was absolutely right (but I did have to start somewhere).

The next thing I knew, people around me were burning that same flag and wearing it as clothing. Although I didn’t burn flags, or even wear any, for that matter, I did protest and I marched. Civil rights and the atrocities of war were the things I foolishly believed I could do something about back in the 1960s. My life was not atypical of young people then. I went to college; took a leave from college; ran away to foreign countries; learned some life lessons; went back to school; graduated from several schools; and finally, became an upstanding citizen in the real world. Those who did not make this transition successfully became lost souls, often left wondering whatever happened to peace, love and understanding, the Beatles and Ram Dass.

A flowering: Innocence, or optimism?

Recently, I saw the exhibit of this period of time in New Mexico at The New Mexico Museum Of History in Santa Fe. It was funny to see the photos of Placitas, where I now live, and the folks who believed in communal living back then and who tried so hard to make it work here. We all had the same funny notion that we could beat greed, just overcome it, on a universal level. We would learn to share, to love one another. We were “the flower children.” We actually believed these goals to be achievable. My own innocence astonishes me now.

No, I am not a cynic. I like to think of myself as an optimist. On an individual basis, human beings are capable of great generosity, kindness, intelligence and creativity. I have seen this so often in my life and in my work with my patients. But collectively?!? Something inevitably goes haywire. And I do believe that what goes haywire is hardwired. If not, how can we explain where we are now in this world? Are we incapable as a species of learning from experience?

In the 1950s, I too, ducked under my little wooden desk amidst a classroom of other elementary school children who obediently ran under their own little wooden desks to safety from nuclear holocaust. We laugh about it today and we who write, all write about it today. How foolish was that endeavor? And as if it never happened at all, we are circling the same drain all these years later.

Finding the peace within

A lot of what the Buddhists say I believe to be true. There is a certain amount of acceptance and detachment that one must surrender to in order to live a life that is more inwardly peaceful than not.

Sometimes I have tried to imagine how awful it would be to have the mind of a schizophrenic, all of those pressing impulses crowding and pushing against each other in an overtaxed brain. It is more difficult for me to try to imagine the inner life of a Donald Trump. How did he have the audacity to believe that he could run this country and how did he drag so many people along with him in this psychotic thinking?

It could never happen here? Well, it already has. And the question I hear from all around me is: What can we do about it? Surely the Founding Fathers had some trick up their sleeve just for these circumstances? Well, out with it, please! Congress—ah yes, our Congress! The Congress—they are there for just such a situation. Hey, Congress, we have a man who is not in his right mind circling the halls of Justice, threatening to push the button down on all of us. And just what are you going to do about it?

The Women’s March, Santa Fe, NM (January, 2017)

The Women’s March, Santa Fe, NM (January, 2017)






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