St. Nicholas and the Tanks

A poem from On Driftwood and Oblivion Children’s smiles spread to the menWho presented joyAfter a long nightmare’s sleepTo the girls and boys. Tanks, raged as a floodAcross the snow-covered fieldsNow stained with their blood. This is a Seguidilla based on a true event that …

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It’s Complicated

The largest study to date concludes that human sexuality is complicated. I will alert the media.

Pretty much since the beginning of studies, we have, as a species, been trying to figure out human sexuality and same-sex attraction, and many, along the way, have sought to demonize it. Is it genetics? Is it a lifestyle choice (a “wrong” choice as Dan Quayle once asserted)? Is it a “mental disorder”? Can it be “corrected”?

Before delving into the study, I have always been a proponent of common sense takes on issues, so here is mine. Of course, the human body, and in particular the brain, is extremely complicated and well beyond the scope of full human understanding. I think it probably always will be. There seems to be an infinite number of possible gene/DNA/environmental variants that could determine who we each are, as an individual. It would stand to reason, then, that there are many possible degrees in human sexual orientation, making the Kinsey scale seem outdated and oversimplified.

Those additional environmental and social factors further complicate matters, but here is the bottom line: sexual orientation is and has always been varied throughout our history. We need to stop judging and marginalizing others based on faulty biases and misunderstood (both innocent and deliberate) interpretations of religious texts.

Now for something completely different: a scientific study. In the largest study of its kind about human sexual orientation, researchers analyzed the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people. For generations, there has been the quest for the single “gay” gene, but that is not what they found. Not surprisingly, what they found is that sexual orientation is much more complicated than a single gene can determine.

Their study suggests that there are at least five genetic variants that could be related to same-sex behaviors. I will predict, right now, that future studies will undoubtedly find more. The researchers also found that environmental factors play a role and that no one single factor can determine someone’s sexual orientation. Our human experience is so much more complex than what can be identified, even by large and well-executed studies, as this one seems to be. As with most advances in scientific knowledge, we continue to learn that the more we know, the more we realize that we don’t know.

As with prior studies, there are already concerns with this study that its findings will be cherry-picked for items to exploit for political gain or bigotry and hate. Unfortunately, those behaviors from small people will exist with or without studies attempting to better understand ourselves.

While I generally prefer common sense over scientific studies, I completely agree with its overall conclusion, as expressed by its lead author, Andrea Ganna, European Molecular Biology Laboratory group leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland. The conclusion is simply that same-sex behavior is “a natural part of our diversity as a species.” Makes sense to me. I would add that our diversity is something to be embraced and something we can all take pride in.

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Why All the Hate?

As Marianne Williamson might say, hate has no place in our hearts or our country.

While the argument goes on in a senseless never-ending drone as to whether hate crimes are on the increase or rather it just looks that way because more agencies are reporting them, a very simple point goes ignored: even one hate crime is one too many.

But, why do we hate? Psychologists point to many factors including the fear of others or cultures that are different; fear of aspects of our own selves that we project onto others; our family and cultural histories, portions of which get passed down through generations; lack of compassion, and the need to belong or to fill a void in our lives. Many times, it may be a dangerous combination of some or all these factors.

I also think that there are other contributing factors to the underlying “hatred,” and that each hate crime needs to be analyzed individually to obtain a better understanding of their origins. The speed of societal change may be a contributing factor. For example, there have been great strides over a comparatively short period of time in LGBTQ rights which may prove jarring to some. A majority of people, fortunately, deal with such rapid changes in a manner of acceptance, or at the very least, they keep their biases to themselves and go about their lives. However, the dangers come from those in society that are disenfranchised and irrationally see such rapid changes as threats that need to be combated.

Religious hatred has been around since the beginning of religion, but in this country, it has ebbed and flowed throughout our history based sometimes on world events. For example, I can remember as a kid during the Iran hostage crisis, the hatred spewed irrationally against Iranians in this country who fled the revolution and were very pro-American. The same goes now that, after 9/11, some feel that those of the Muslim faith are trying to destroy the United States from within.

Racial hatred has also been around, unfortunately, for far too long and will take us all, collectively and diligently, to battle the abhorrent ignorance of the belief, held by too many, in some racial superiority fantasy. It is the responsibility of all of us to help raise a generation that can one day be as free as possible to move beyond our racially unjust legacy.

Economics also plays a role in hate crimes. One group has more and wants to keep it or wants more and plans to take it. Too often this can lead to said group demonizing another group irrationally as the reason they don’t have what they “deserve” in terms of possessions or wealth. This twisted economics bias has led not only to individual hate crimes but to genocide as well.

What can we do? We can start by standing up for, helping out, befriending any person who is marginalized or hated because of their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I may be a dreamer, but hopefully, I’m not the only one.

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Sign of the Times

When we can’t even manage a Woodstock 50th Anniversary concert, you know peace and love are out with today’s generation.

It sounded like a fantastic idea in these times of protests, political attacks, talks of wars, racial tensions and cyber-bullying – a major concert event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. You know, the event that defined the era of peace and love; where, for a fleeting moment in time, we all seemed to get along, or at least tried to get along. In that moment, music united instead of divided us.

The impact of Woodstock is hard to overestimate. Not only was it a pivotal moment in music history, but Woodstock also helped define the counterculture generation, and it is still widely talked about today. The site of what has been called “3 days of peace and music” has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Joni Mitchell said it best while commenting on the festival, “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half a million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.”

It sure would be nice if we took a few lessons from Woodstock in our current environment. Today, with the help of politicians (including the President) and the press, we are accentuating what divides us to increase those divisions. Music was a unifying force in the sixties and that force attempted to spread love vs hate and togetherness vs tribalism.

Enter the original organizer of Woodstock, Michael Lang. Perhaps trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice, he set out with the goal of organizing a 50th Anniversary version of Woodstock.  What a wonderful idea it was. Unfortunately, the problems began almost immediately for the second go-round. The chief financier of the event pulled out quickly and even went so far as to announce that the concert was canceled. This was disputed by the organizers and of course, lawsuits followed.

Lang then tried multiple attempts to shift the venue and revive the concert, but, alas, no one seemed to want them. Lang still planned to hold the event at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. I know the venue well as it was a prime concert location for us Washington DC teenagers. Another issue was that all previously locked-in acts had been released from their contractual obligations, and there were no confirmed bands performing. In addition, the concert was then listed as being free – Deja vu. And now, the organizers have thrown in the towel and Woodstock is dead.

All in all, the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock’s failure is analogous of today’s political environment – worthy goals, not being achieved, because of in-fighting, divisiveness, lawsuits, and lack of true leadership. Perhaps in today’s environment, we are not only tired of too much “winning,” we are also tired of music, peace and love.

Maybe it’s not too late to save the day. I believe it is time for Michael Lang to call on our president to take a break from winning. Together, they just may be able to make Woodstock great again. I know what you’re thinking: what have I been smoking?

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Winds Across Pamlico

A new Poem from On Driftwood and Oblivion

A haunted wind through his ship’s hull ground
Brownstone horses in the sand danced ‘round
Wisdom worn footprints sought, never found
In the shadowed moon, her thoughts were bound
As the tidal clad laughter crept alone
Silence swept across Pamlico Sound

Order my new poetry collection today.

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Broken Pieces

“Fuck it, I’m done with you.”
Flew out of her mouth
Like a bird finally escaping
A long-caged existence
And I, dropping my head
Did my best invisible man
Pretending not to notice
The tear streaming down her face
As I hurried by
Out of the office building
And into the cold stillness
Permeating through hurried souls
Scattering as ants
With a purpose

A rescue squad tripped the lights
Screaming on its somber way
In a rush to save someone
At the meeting place
Of answered and unanswered prayers
Pensive people waiting
For news from the front lines
White’s pureness
Meets red’s murky afflictions
In medicine’s arena
Stats, meds and tears
Collide on the merry-go-round
Of mortality’s doorstep
Hoping the door remains closed

A homeless man
Simply working his median strip
Collecting funds for life
Or rather a simple pleasure
To forget about life
At least, just for a while
Now harassed by the cops again
There can be no such display
Creating discomfort
For capitalism’s commuters
So off to a jail cell he goes
While his sign screams in vain
“Homeless vet, needs work.”
A message lost in traffic

On the home stretch
An old woman pushed along
One wheelchair wheel bent
As if to agree with her
That something’s not right
When he is gone
And she remains
Stoic and lonely against time
As children play
The carefree laughter
Echo’s to the heavens
Her hand stretches out
Touching the breeze
Hoping to feel once more his warmth

And I, like a stranger
In my own country
Step in through the door
As a lonely traveler
Entering a bustling hotel lobby
Weary from the day’s loathsome tribulations
Skeptically eyeing those that seem so at home
Comfortable yet aloof
And I close my eyes and pray
For some magic glue
That could put back together
The broken pieces of everyday life

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