The Man in the Mirror

I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, but I have to be inspired to write anything for my blog. My inspiration appears to come from my Muses. That’s what I call them. I don’t know who or what they are, but without them I probably wouldn’t be able to write anything except my name.

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I’ve written about my Muses before. They’re loosely based on the nine Muses of Greek mythology. I sincerely doubt that any of the mythic Muses are the actual source of my inspiration. I just like the idea of scantily clad hot babes frolicking around inside my head.

I have also written about my experiences with thought insertions. These can be fairly random experiences for me, except when I write. As far as that goes, I seem to become a vehicle for whomever or whatever it is that wants to be heard. In my blog. That hardly anyone reads…

I know, right? You’d think they would’ve been smart enough to pick a better vehicle.

Case in point, I’ve been trying not to write this post for at least a month now, but the only ideas I get about writing revolve around a subject I’d rather not touch. In the past, my Muses have tended to throw me under the bus in these circumstances. That’s my primary reason for not wanting to write this. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to be able to avoid it, so I might as well get it over with.

* * * *

One of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning is look in the mirror above my bathroom sink. The medications I have to take are in the cabinet behind the mirror.

I take something for hypertension so I don’t have a stroke. I take an aspirin a day to prevent a heart attack. I take Omega-3 to slow the progression of dementia, which I may or may not have. The definitive diagnosis of dementia is done at autopsy, and I’m not ready for that yet. And I also select a variety of analgesic meds depending on my level of pain.

And that’s when the music starts.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Me: I suffer from Involuntary Musical Imagery Syndrome. There is always a song running through my head. This condition is sometimes referred to as an earworm. It’s a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind.

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Today, it’s The Boston Rag by Steely Dan. On the bright side, the DJ inside my head seems to have good taste in music.

* * * *

I’m fairly certain everyone has had this happen to them before, but I don’t know if it’s a daily occurrence for most people. Like unto the ringing in my left ear, most of the time I don’t even notice it. I’ve gotten used to it. Sometimes it’s annoying as hell, like the time I had a McDonald’s® jingle playing in my head for over a month.

* * * *

Man in the Mirror is a song by Michael Jackson. It was released in February 1988 from his album, Bad. It was his tenth number-one single, and Jackson said it was one of his favorite songs. It’s one of the few songs Jackson recorded that he didn’t write, and it’s especially ironic when you consider just how weird of a human being Michael Jackson was.

The song is about making a change and realizing that it has to start with you.

The phrase …you should look in the mirror, isn’t usually meant to be taken literally. It’s more of an allegory to suggest that you need to take a long, hard look at yourself. You need to do some soul searching. You’re probably going to have to do some agonizing reappraisal. It’s a process that’s probably going to suck. A lots.

* * * *

rac·ism
/ˈrāˌsizəm/
noun
  1. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

* * * *

Racism. It’s the other big headline in the news this year. Racism isn’t new. It’s been around since, well, forever. In and of itself, racism doesn’t sound like an ugly word.

Puke. Crepuscular. Smegma. Those words sound ugly. But if you want to make 9 out of 10 people feel uncomfortable in a conversation, bring up the topic of racism. I’m not even talking to anyone, and I feel uncomfortable writing about it. Almost everyone has some racial biases lurking somewhere deep inside of their souls. Almost none of us are proud about it.

If you ask someone from my generation if they’re racist, they’ll probably stumble all over themselves when they try to explain themselves. At best, you might get this response, “Well, I used to be…” At worst, you’ll hear this answer, “Oh hell yeah.”

My dad was a racist. He wasn’t an in-your-face racist, he was more of a behind-your-back racist, which tells me he wasn’t proud of his beliefs either. I’m sure he inherited his biases from his parents, and right or wrong, he passed them on to his children. 

* * * *

No one knows when the concept of racial superiority first emerged, but it appears that pretty much every ethnic/cultural group of people on the planet has at one time or another thought that they were superior to every other ethnic group of people.

The US has been the hotspot for racial tensions recently, but it’s hardly the only place where race is a major issue. The English feel superior to the peoples living on the European continent. The Germans feel superior to the peoples of Eastern Europe and Russia. And the French feel superior to, well, everybody.

I’m sure there have been a lots of studies exploring the origins of biases and discrimination. If you’re interested, you can look it up on the Google®. For my money, they originate from ignorance and fear because that’s where all of mine came from.

* * * *

Knowledge can be defined as information you acquire as you grow. Wisdom can be described as as the application of accrued knowledge. Ignorance is the absence of knowledge. Stupidity is the absence of wisdom. 

These aren’t the actual definitions of these words. They’re my definitions.

* * * *

In the 1600’s, scientific racism, sometimes termed biological racism came into vogue in Europe. At best, it was  a pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence existed to support or justify racial discrimination. In other words, it was a bullshit philosophy. There isn’t any evidence to support this line of thinking.

Despite that, racism is alive and well on this planet. And it’s not just racism that afflicts the human race. There are a plethora of biases that you can choose from if you want to discriminate against others.

People may discriminate against others based on age, social status and class, height, criminal record, weight, religion, physical appearance, disability, intelligence, family status, gender identity, gender expression, generation, genetic characteristics, race, marital status, nationality, profession, color, ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation, political ideology, dietary preferences, and personality.

See? I told you it was a long list, and the list I just detailed is by no means complete. The most ironic form of discrimination is based on religion. I believe in God, but the idea that the invisible entity someone else worships isn’t the real Invisible Entity is just… crazy. Additionally, Jesus Christ repeatedly said that you should love everyone, no matter what. I’m not sure how some of the people who claim to believe in him missed that integral part of his message.

The Apostle Paul believed that the love of money is the root of all evil. Maybe that’s true, but the misuse of religion is the root of the greatest evil. You can quote me on that. In my opinion, the only people who should be able to discriminate based on religion are atheists, and they’re probably the only people that don’t.

* * * *

I’m not sure who came up with the idea that people with white skin are superior to all of the people that aren’t white, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the person who did –was white.

I see this concept as a combination of Creationism and Evolution — two schools of thought that mix together like oil and water — but it goes something like unto this: white people are superior to everyone else because they’re the children of God. And all of those inferior darker-skinned people — they descended from apes.

* * * *

When I was in nursing school, I met John. He was a patient at the St. Cloud VA. John was an older black man who spent hours in the bathroom staring at his reflection in the mirror. The thing I remember most about him was the look of shock and…horror…on his face as he stared at his reflection.

“I don’t know what happened to me,” he said in a voice so low it was almost a whisper. “I woke up yesterday, and I was…black!”

“Um, I don’t know how to say this, but isn’t that, you know, normal?”

“Hell no it’s not normal! I’m WHITE!”

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* * * *

I went to a lots of Catholic schools when I was young. I received an excellent education, and I was taught to be a morally upstanding person, something that would take decades to take root inside me.

I was taught to love everyone no matter who or what they were. I didn’t. I’m not sure I even liked many people back then. I spent a fair amount of time living in small towns in Minnesota when I was very young, and again after I was discharged from the Army. These were towns where a racially diverse neighborhood meant Swedes and Norwegians lived on the same block.

I was around ten years old the first time I remember hearing the word nigger. I had no idea what the word meant, but I remember I laughed when I heard it. I thought it sounded funny. 

I’m pretty sure I thought all of the common racial slurs were funny. Wop. Chink. Beaner. Kike. Gook. They all cracked me up. I can’t remember when I realized that none of them were funny. All I know for sure is it took a helluvalot longer than it should have.

Once I got to know people of color, I discovered they didn’t fit into the preconceived ideas I had, so something had to change. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet a real, live black person face-to-face until I was in high school. I hope I didn’t look at him like he was some kind of animal that had escaped from a zoo, but I probably did.

And I hope I didn’t call him a nigger out loud, but I know I was thinking it.

It wasn’t until I was in the Army that I was exposed to a lots of people of various colors, races and creeds. The black guys were all so damn cool. They could dance, and talk shit gooder than anyone I’d ever met, and they were funny! They had a sense of humor and style that I didn’t possess. They didn’t fit into any of the misconceptions I possessed. They actually made me feel inferior to them.

I suppose I could have hated them for that, but I’m not sure I’ve ever felt superior to anyone. That whole not being good enough thing was something I was very familiar with. Come to think of it, I probably still feel that way.

Added to that, it was Basic Training — black, white, brown — it didn’t matter, we all felt a sense of unity because we were all being made to feel miserable, and in the Army there was only one color that mattered.

Olive drab green.

* * * *

Two of my best friends after I got out of Basic Training were Hispanic. Johnny Gonzalez and Raoul Sanchez. They were two of the smartest guys I’ve known, and they taught me so much about how the military worked. I probably wouldn’t have survived the Army without them.

They were so proud of their heritage. Both of them were from Texas, and they took me home to meet their families more than once. I learned to love Mexican food because of them. And I also learned to have a very healthy respect for Hispanic women because of them.

I’ve written a few stories about some of my adventures with Raoul. You can check them out if you don’t have anything better to do.

* * * *

The Army taught me that I didn’t know everything, and most of the things I thought I knew about people were wrong. But there was one group of people that I still couldn’t abide.

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For the longest time, I really didn’t like gay men. I didn’t hold any ill will against lesbians, so sexual preference wasn’t my issue. I had been sexually abused by my uncle when I was a kid — that was my reason for hating fuckin’ queers and faggots.

I was probably the most homophobic person on the planet when I was in my twenties. I hated Richard Simmons. I didn’t like Elton John. It wasn’t until I became a psych nurse that my homophobia finally subsided. 

Many of my patients were gay. Because I was their nurse, I had to talk to them. And I discovered that most of them were decent guys. Two of the nurses I worked with at the Minneapolis VAMC were gay, and they weren’t just decent guys, they were damn good nurses.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Nurses and Nursing: it’s a profession where your performance determines what kind of person you are to other nurses. Seriously. You can be the sweetest person on Earth, but if you’re a lousy nurse, your co-workers are probably going to think you suck.

From my point of view, if you’re not a good nurse, there’s almost a zero chance that I could ever be your friend.

Conversely, you can be an absolute disaster area of a human being, but if you’re a good nurse, your co-workers will probably love you, at least some of the time. In this aspect, nurses are a lots like unto cops. Cops judge other cops in a similar fashion.

* * * *

It was only after we moved to Arizona that I worked in a very diverse workplace. The Psychiatry Department of the Minneapolis VAMC was about as vanilla as it could be. The was one black psychiatrist, and one black nurse. I can’t remember working with a single Hispanic person, but there were three Native Americans on staff.

Everyone else, was white.

Arizona was a whole ‘nother story. I wish I could say that by this time in my life I had gotten past all of my biases based on color. But in all honesty, I’m sure there are times when it still happens…

It doesn’t happen as often now, and I catch it faster, and tell myself to get my head out of my ass.

In my mind, Phoenix and Minneapolis are probably equal when it comes to racial diversity. I’m not sure how to explain the differences in staffing when I compare the hospitals in the two states. One major difference was funding. The Federal Government has a lots more money than any hospital does. As a result, the VA hired only nurses to work the floor. There was no separation of duties at the VA. You were a nurse. You did everything.

The healthcare system in Arizona was vastly different than the system I was used to in Minnesota. All of the hospitals I worked at in Arizona employed Registered Nurses and Behavioral Health Technicians. The majority of the BHT’s were people of color. The BHT’s checked vital signs and basically controlled the environment of the unit while the nurses passed medications and did paperwork. A whole lots of goddamn paperwork.

It didn’t take me long to realize that a good BHT was worth twice their weight in gold, and the color of their skin was their least important attribute. Our patients were much more marginalized than the relatively benign guys I was used to at the VA. It could be a much more dangerous climate in Arizona.

* * * *

Some of the nurses I worked with in Arizona rarely left the nursing station. One nurse didn’t have any idea how to even use the blood pressure machine!

“That’s a BHT job.” she said.

I fuckin’ hated working with her and her lazy-ass attitude. The really weird part about this is I also worked with her in Minnesota, at the Minneapolis VAMC. I expected better things from her.

* * * *

I was seriously injured only once in my career as a psych nurse. I’m not sure I’d even be alive right now if it weren’t for the BHT’s in Arizona. Those guys saved my life more than once. So, thank you Bob. And James. And Anthony. And Devon. And Luis. And Antonio. And anyone else that I’ve forgotten.

You are among the best people I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and you are some of the best men I’ve ever known. I’m a better person because of my association with all of you.

I hope you all can say the same about me.

* * * *

Hatred. It sounds like an ugly word, but the sound of it fails to adequately describe the depth of its hideousness.

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you’ll know that I do not like Donald Trump. One of my friends went so far as to say that I hate Trump. His comment hit me like a slap in the face because that’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lots of late.

Can that be true? Do I really hate President Trump?

My first response was, Hmm, I’m not sure that’s possible…

However, upon further review I realized that I hate Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham — and William Barr — so I’m clearly still capable of hating other human beings.

There’s a reason for that. Those three crepuscular blobs of puke and smegma have bartered their souls to support Donald Trump. There’s no doubt in my mind that all three of them know exactly what they’re doing, and that they also realize the full extent of how much they’ve compromised their principles in the process.

I don’t know how those three cocksuckers can look at themselves in the mirror.

Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, misogynistic, slob of a pig of a human being who is also the most corrupt and criminal President that has ever sat his fat ass in the chair behind the big desk in the Oval Office of the White House. And yet, I don’t think that I hate him.

There’s also a reason for that. I’m not sure that The Donald has complete control of his mental faculties anymore. I think he might have dementia, and because this is clearly a matter of national security, I think the best thing to do is perform an autopsy on him immediately, and settle this matter once and for all.

Come to think of it, we should also perform an autopsy on Mike Pence, just to make sure he actually has a brain.

* * * *

There are over 400 types of dementia, and they all suck. Dementia is a group of conditions characterised by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgement. Common symptoms include forgetfulness, of course, as well as limited social skills and altered thinking abilities that can be so significant that it interferes with daily functioning.

And there’s another thing you should know about dementia. It’s terminal. Yep, it’ll kill you to death and you’ll probably be so fuckin’ out of it that you won’t even know you got dead.

* * * *

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If, and only if the dementia factor is real, then Donald Trump suddenly becomes someone who is more far deserving of pity than he is of scorn and contempt. That said, it doesn’t acquit him of the criminal activities he has committed as President. When it comes to that, I think he knew exactly what he was doing.

Nor does it excuse his inflammatory words and discriminatory attitudes. That’s his baseline. Unfortunately, if he does have dementia, it’s only going to make those qualities worse.

And, he’s also a narcissist. So I’m sure this is what The Donald sees when he looks in the mirror:

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* * * *

I had been working as an RN for about a year when I was assigned to work with my first dementia patient. He was old white guy named Del who spent a lots of time standing in his bathroom staring into his mirror. One day he called me into his bathroom to tell me something important.

“Look! My friend is trapped in there, and I can’t get him out!! You’ve got to do something!!!” Del pointed at the mirror on the wall and his “friend.” And I had no idea what I was supposed to do. There’s nothing in the textbook that covers this.

Seeing how I had no idea what I was supposed to do, I did the stupidest possible thing I could have done in that situation. I tried to explain to Del that he was seeing his own reflection in the mirror. His “friend” wasn’t trapped in a parallel universe. His “friend” was him. And he was looking in a mirror.

While this might appear to be a reasonable response, Del looked at me like I was speaking to him in Chinese. And I was just standing there, not doing anything to help Del or his “friend.”

Seeing how I wasn’t going to do anything, Del reached up and ripped the mirror off the wall with his bear hands. It’s not an easy thing to do because the bathrooms on Pysch Units are designed to withstand being hit by a small nuclear bomb.

That’s when I did something. I took the mirror away from Del and turned it away from him so he couldn’t see his reflection anymore, and pointed at the wall.

“Look! You saved your friend! Damn! That was amazing, Del! Good job, buddy!”

* * * *

I have no idea how to end this post. It’s time to cue the music and let the band take us home. Fortunately, I have a song in mind. Today, it’s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young:

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

For All Have Sinned

I was raised Catholic. I attended parochial schools most of my life. I was an altar boy. I went to Mass every Sunday. And as a result of my Catholic upbringing, I’ve been pretty sure of one thing.

I am going to Hell.

It used to scare the piss out of me, but it doesn’t make me lose any sleep nowadays. I’m not as evil as I once thought I was. And I’ve made a serious attempt to change my attitude and my behavior. I’m at peace with what I’ve become. I can only hope that God is good with that.

I don’t have a lots of options. If Satan is God’s prosecuting attorney, I’m sure he has an open and shut case against me. My best defense would be to plead for mercy, and hope God is as merciful as He claims to be.

I’m not a righteous man. I do not walk with God at all times. I cannot say I have a lots of faith. Most of the time I wonder what God is up to, and hope that He knows what He’s doing. I’m confident that God would have plenty of reasons to be disappointed in me if that’s what He chose to feel.

Based on what I learned in school, I am a sinner. And based on what I learned about sin, I’m evidently quite good at sinning. If lying were a sin, I might be more better gooder at sinning than I am at anything else.

A sin can be defined as any immoral act that can be viewed as a transgression against God. That covers a whole lots of territory. And anything with a definition that vague is going to be open to a wide variety of interpretation.

Something that I perceive as no big deal, like homosexuality, might bring out howls for eternal damnation by my neighbor. Someone else might look at dancing as the Gateway to Hell, whereas I think dancing is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, even if you do it naked in front of a bunch of people you don’t know.

Which of us is correct?

When Jesus spoke about sin, he didn’t seem to have any issues with homosexuality or dancing. He mostly spoke about loving wealth too much, and infidelity. And he often said, “Your sins are forgiven.” so he clearly didn’t need to got dead before anyone’s sins could be forgiven.

And while just what a sin is can be debatable, almost every Christian can agree that the wages of sin is death. It says so in the Bible, and most Christians tend to think if it’s in the Bible, it has to be true, whether they understand it or not.

I would like to point out that the only person in recorded history that didn’t sin also got dead, so I’m trying to think of anything where the wages aren’t death. And the only thing I can think of is death itself.

But, Jesus died for our sins!

Okay. What does that mean?

Um, that is one of the mysteries of our faith!

Great. We’re back to that.

It’s questions and answers like that that made me walk away from organized religion. And for those of you that don’t question these things and simply believe, I don’t know if I admire you, or feel sorry for you. I can only speak for myself. And for me, I have to a better answer.

Seeing how almost anything can be viewed as a sin, thankfully, there are a lots of ways to atone for one’s sins. When I went to confession, I had to say a lots of prayers as penance. Three thousand Our Fathers and another three thousand Hail Marys, something like that.

The Jews used to sacrifice animals at the Great Temple in Jerusalem. A whole lots of animals. The Jews were apparently quite good at sinning, too. And then the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. I’m not sure what the Jews do now to atone for their sins, but I’m sure they haven’t stopped sinning.

I’ve often wondered if the Jews somehow were able to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem, would it once again be the House of God, and would He reside in it as He once did. And would the Jews resume animal sacrifice like they did in the olden days?

But, I digress…

And then Jesus came along and died for our sins, but that didn’t eradicate sin any more than the Great Flood eradicated evil. So, just what was God’s purpose in doing these acts that seemingly didn’t accomplish much of anything? Sin and sinners, evil and evildoers are not extinct, so what gives?

Christian theologians have argued that Jesus’ death on the cross purchased eternal life for those that believe in him.  I’m sure the Jews, and the Muslims, and the Hindus, and every non-Christian would beg to differ on that account. And for all I know right now, they could be correct. Nothing in regard to this has been proven.

From my point of view, there’s only one way that Jesus’ death could actually save us from our sins, and that would be if our sin was being separated from God.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus said that to his followers just before he died. I’m going to guess that just what Jesus meant by that has been widely debated, only because almost everything he said has been widely debated. But this is what it means to me.

Jesus was a man that became God. He was accepted into the Family of God based upon his perfect service to the Father. And because that door was opened for one of us, it can potentially be opened for all of us.

And perhaps that is God’s ultimate goal, a population of perfect people living in harmony for once, and forever. I’m guessing. It’s all I can do. I haven’t heard any voices in my head telling me this. I have been hearing a buzzing noise in my left ear, but it’s only tinnitus, and it’s probably from getting my jaw broken almost a year ago…

As near as I can tell, God is the only entity that has eternal life, unless Betty White or Keith Richards dies. And if you would like to join Jesus hanging out in Heaven with God and the angels, he’s the only way in.

Such a great privilege isn’t given away, it has to be earned. And the rite of passage to attain it is pretty much a bitch. Unless you happen to like being scorned, and mocked, and threatened, and beaten, and flogged, and crucified.

There probably aren’t a whole lots of people that would endorse those as some of their favorite things. And I’m not sure one has to endure all of those things in order to achieve this exalted status. There might be other ways, and then you have to wonder why Jesus did it the way he did.

So many questions, so few answers. And none of them are universally accepted as the Truth. If I hadn’t quit drinking, I’d probably have to get drunk.

The ultimate answer to my questions lay somewhere before me, and hopefully they’re somewhere along the path I’m on. I really don’t want to have to come to the realization that I’m just as lost now as I ever was. That, would totally suck.

But aside from loving stuff more than God, or being unfaithful to your spouse, there’s only one other thing that I know to be a sin.

Remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

So, don’t do that.