Why Democrats Loose

A HOUSE DIVIDED

A Primer for Democrats on How to Win Elections

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Catherine Miranda, Prominent Democrat, who  openly supported Republican Doug Ducey for Governor. The kind of cynicism that turns voters away.  Plus, we had a good Democrat running.

 

I experienced an episode yesterday that illustrates why the Democratic Party fails and the Republican Part gains votes. It is essential that we as “true Democrats” and “True Progressives” prevent our Democratic Republic from turning into an Oligarchy.

The Arizona gubernatorial race between Doug Ducey, Republican, and Fred Duval, Democrat, ended in a victory for Ducey.  One feature that made this race “disturbing” for me was the fact that Catherine Miranda, a Democrat publicly supported a Republican instead of a Democrat.

On Facebook, I had made a point that seems to have “irritated” Miranda.  She replied with a comment, “Who are you?”

For me, this sounded rather rude. Granted etiquette on the internet differs from other types, I took this to be a bit impolite.   She could have instead replied with a “Thank you for contacting me, can I clarify a point with you?”  Instead I was greeted with a stark “Who are you?”

This can easily be taken to mean that you need to know my rank, position and status before engaging in a conversation.  Either way, it comes off as highly unprofessional.  A political figure is a public figure.  Part of the job is knowing how to communicate with people, and how to let them know that your concerns matter.

Some time ago I ran into a similar issue within the Democratic Party.  I had to “school” a figure on how to treat local active community figures.  When I was a writer writing for a LGBT magazine, not one Democrat would even respond directly.  However, the one Republican on my list made a point of engaging me in discourse.

I was also treated to a pleasant exchange with another Republican that centered around basic concerns and possible solutions to long time issues such as education, social services, health care, housing and police protection.

I do not want to paint the picture that all Democrats are ill versed on manners. My point is that we as Democrats must be “inclusive” and not so determined to being class conscious or deciding only those with deep wallets merit respect.

What has harmed the Democratic party time and time again is this inability to connect with working people who are not Wall Street Bankers.  Rather than directly deal with people of all backgrounds, the party ends up insulting the very people it so desperately needs.

When Hillary Clinton referred to Trump supporters as “deplorable,” that was a generalization that did little to encourage a change in voting.  I am not here to bash Clinton.  She has been active for important causes for years.  She was also subject to some very harsh treatment.  However, this does illustrate the Democratic Party failing to reach out to those that need the party the most, working people of all kinds.

Another issue that hurts the party at the polls is the inability of party members to stay on task with the pillars of the party. That inability to support fellow Democrats is a HUGE problem.

Miranda supporting Doug Ducey illustrates perfectly the fear of being on the wrong side of a victory.  It also shows a certain lack of spine to being a true Democrat.  Arizona is clearly a Red State.   When someone in the party refuses, and even publicly declines the party’s candidate, it has horrible consequences.  It certainly did not help DuVal’s candidacy and may have cost him the election.

Democrats who just can’t stand to be part of the party’s platform, usually called, DINO’s, Democrats In Name Only, are of no real use.  This last election has made it clear that there is a profound change in the political climate.  The days of the candidate, who appears to lack authenticity, a connection with the people and a stated set of beliefs is over.   The days of the bland everything to everyone candidate is dead.  If you lack a distinct identity, you will lose an election.

Time and time again Democrats go to great efforts to being so banal and scared to say anything controversial least they lose a vote. The Republic Party has no problem standing behind their platform. Their unity is their strength.  

Democrats on the other hand, along with some progressives, just can’t get organized without having a falling out and fracturing the party further.   The recent  Presidential election may be changing this since we are seeing, the ultra-progressives mobilize in mass.

We must realize that we have to put back “small differences” in order to be a unified party.  If the Democratic Party cannot embrace the enthusiastic idealistic powerful youth vote, the ones who are far left of center, and working people, the party faces such divisions that will be ineffective.

The fracturing of the Democratic Party is a huge liability. It can only harm the party further.  We can have differences, but we cannot apply a hard line purity test to candidates. It is realistic to expect them to support the “MAIN ISSUES” of the party.  It is realistic to expect each and every Democrat running for office to support EVERY Democrat running for office.   On this, we MUST have agreement.

If there is a “class difference” in the Democratic Party, that has to end.  Sadly, even amongst the liberal left, there are those who are “backdoor racists.”  They are not asking for lynching’s, just  the desire to live in expensive housing with those like themselves.  They like diversity, as long as it is over there, not in their manicured backyards.

vote-democrat

The party of working people.

The Democratic party cannot afford to be an airliner with first class seating.  We have to be an Egalitarian party that accepts all people and sees all people as worthy of respect.  It means overcoming a history of “socially acceptable fragmentation” in order to see a real party that stands for “WE THE PEOPLE.”

The legacy of racism and social economic separatism has been a highly effective tool in preventing Whites, Latinos, Blacks and others to see that their shared interests are not different, but in fact are the same.  We have lived in the culture of divisiveness for too long.  It has harmed society and created a drug problem, a poverty problem, an education problem and the destruction of the very planet we call home.

We have to work together and see past the constant racial and sexist imagery our culture embraces, and start to see our nation as one collective.  America should never be a nation where the motto is “It’s A Dog Eat Dog World.”

Some right wingers, some left wingers and assorted scared people have benefited from keeping the various races that make up America scared of each other, hating each other and hoping to kill each other. 

Abraham Lincoln said that, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We The People have to be We The People.  For too long those with  wealth and powerful have seen America as place for enriching themselves at the expense of others.  Their power plays have robbed us of power.  They have pitted citizen against citizen.  They have stopped the very cooperative nature that can solve our problems and create a Nation where everyone is productive, fed and free of the pain of poverty.

We have the resources right now to reduce prison populations, reduce crime, heal the ill, employ the unemployable and create a country where everyone’s child is safe.

For me, the only party that can bring the Privilege, the Poor and those who struggle to succeed is the Democratic Party.  This is the party that should welcome all and refuse none. We are the Party of Liberty, Freedom and ultimately Hope.  We are the makers of dreams. 

As long as we fight, bicker and hate those within our ranks, our divided Democratic Party will be a house that has fallen from the many walls that keep us locked in rooms from which we will never be free.

 For information, check out this article on Catherine Miranda

For information on Doug Ducye, read this link.

If you wish to support me, or see my art.

After Shock: The Triumph of Trump

 

GOP 2016 Trump

                                                                                                                                Donald Trump, The wealth populist

From the moment Donald Trump was on the podium with the confederation of dunces that comprised the nominees for President by the Republican Party, I knew he was not to be underestimated. Once the race started, I knew it was going to be close. Not unlike everyone, I thought Hillary Clinton would have a victory. So many of us did.

If you look at the actual popular vote, Hillary Clinton won. She had the majority of the votes. Had it not been for our outdated electoral college, all the pundits would have been accurate. In the after math of this disaster, everyone is scratching their collective heads wondering where they went wrong.

How could someone so unlikely, so raw, so brazenly offensive rise to the point of dividing an entire nation and ultimately becoming its President? It is a scenario that defies the imagination.

In another time and place, anyone spewing the rhetoric of Trump would have found their bid for public office extinguished. While the politics of the past was nasty, it was never a brutal vulgar disgusting blood sport on the same level as a roman gladiatorial fight. At the very least, those had some entrainment value. Watching our drawn out election cycle was like viewing a boring, dreary overwrought play that repeats itself until It can no more.

,… there is truth that Middle Class White America is vanishing. They are in legitimate pain and no one really gives a damn.

Interruptions, name calling, fuzzy logic, truth bending and outright open lies are the lingua franca of political discourse. Civility has become a quaint idea from a bygone era. The semblance, even the veneer, of being in an enlightened society has been shredded. Our Republic has demonstrated that it can dummy itself down to the lowest common denominator.

Amid all the deception and boorish behavior, one salient feature that most missed was the United States, for all of its political correctness, has a dark blood soaked heart that takes joy in the suffering of others. In spite of having a real African-American President, prejudice, hatred and bigotry are not dead. They are alive and well. Slavery has ended. The brutality has not.

Much ink has been spilled about “The Donald” tapping into the frustrations of a White America that feels it has been served a raw deal. While the Left hates hearing this, and the Republicans just give it lip service to secure votes, there is truth that Middle Class White America is vanishing. They are in legitimate pain and no one really gives a damn.

 

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                                                                                                                Bernie Sanders, the idealist the Democratic Party betrayed

Low wages, higher prices, home foreclosures and sky high tuition have drained Middle America of its strength. It is true. White Middle Class America is in anguish. So is Black working class America, Native American Middle Class America, Hispanic Middle Class America and on it goes.

Certainly, White America has a gripe. Now that they have found a voice in Donald Trump, who points blame at immigrants, a supposed welfare state and opportunity given to others. He has acquired a populist sentiment that hit a cord with the states between New York and L.A.

The reality is that the woes of the White Middle Class have been the result of the greatest White on White crime in history. Somehow everyone missed the mark in focusing the blame where it really belongs, abuses in the capitalist economic system, money corrupting politics and good old avarice . The hubris of America is that it is often blind to both reflection and self-criticism.

One dividing line in America that this race to the bottom made perfectly clear was that class divisions do exist. Minus titled nobility, we do have an educated class, an educated upper class and the uber wealthy, who do not see their privileged status as difficult to obtain. Our working class is stuck in the belief that one day they will be boorish billionaires.

Bernie Sanders, the most authentic of the crew, was able to round up enthusiasm and support. Unfortunately, he was undermined by a Democratic Party too insular to read the hand writing on the wall.

The American working class saw Hillary Clinton as an incomprehensible intellectual looking down on them from an Ivy League tower or Elitism. Oddly enough, the richer you become the better you are. The more educated, the more you are perceived as a snob.

This abhorrence to erudition is the undoing of a Democratic Republic. The less educated the populace, the more likely they are to make poor decisions. Even our founding Fathers and Mothers held this fear.

“The Donald” is revered because he has the “common touch.” What he has is a rudimentary command of communication that fits well with an audience dulled by poorly funded public schools and a society that is skeptical of those who think. The ugly face of America is that stupidity is considered a virtue. Erudition is not.

As the blame games begin, it is clear Hillary Clinton was far from being even remotely an ideal candidate. She carried the baggage of Bill Clinton’s failures. That was a history that was just too heavy to toss away.

But most of all, Clinton lacked both a concise message and a charismatic personality to promote her case. “The Donald,” from all his experience in front of the camera has an instinctive sense of how to sell himself and his ideas, no matter how silly they are. A gullible America was willing to buy into his fictions. They were also too eager to overlook his vulgarity and common deportment. Trump was perceived as an outsider coming to clean house in D.C.

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                                                                                                                                Hillary Clinton, the people’s choice.

Bernie Sanders, the most authentic of the crew, was able to round up enthusiasm and support. Unfortunately, he was undermined by a Democratic Party too insular to read the hand writing on the wall. Sanders could have beaten “The Donald.” The D.N.C. failed. They failed in a big way and they carry the blame of even allowing Clinton close to the campaign trail. It was an act of arrogance to think Clinton, for all her abilities, could do well in a country that was looking for a fresh face.

The true tragedy is that the disgruntled “Bernie or Bust” crowd were too depressed from disillusionment to care. Some may have gone to Trump as a screw you vote, or drowned themselves in a dose of indifference to reality and the consequences of non-participation.

Americans, as a rule, are not political people. This is a huge problem in a developed industrial power where no part of life is exempt from the influence of politics. Pericles said, in so many words, “You can ignore politics, but it will not ignore you.” It is a truth refuted on these shores out of fear, loathing and profound ignorance. We have been told to despise Government, the very cure for social immobility.

Apathy, the favorite sport of the lazy, has reared its head again. The participation was up, but the there were far too many Americans who just remained at home. Our voter turnout rate is a national disgrace.

As the blame games begin, it is clear Hillary Clinton was far from being even remotely an ideal candidate. She carried the baggage of Bill Clinton’s failures. That was a history that was just too heavy to toss away.

Then again, our wonderful system does not make voting easy. When the Supreme Court refused to support Voting Rights Acts, it basically sent a signal to the States that they had permission to do whatever they can to stop poor people, working people and any other type of people from voting. It is as if we are back to the days when only landed White men could vote and women remained home.

Our media has some blood on its hands. From abnegating coverage of important events to not so subtly pitting White American against Black America and everyone else on the planet, they have created a climate that is not only artificial, but dangerous. Any type of civil discussion of race, gender and class is turned into one big street fight.

The fact the world is complex, nuanced and requires intelligent solutions to problems does not sell. We demand quick solutions. Thinking is a demanding task that makes weary a populace with short attention spans.

The reason for the “Triumph of Trump” is surprising still. How could someone so awful, so trashy, so unfit for any public office be the Savior of lower income White America? It seems like an impossibility.

As you start to really look at America, from the most elite parts to the most downtrodden to everyone in between, the reality of America is that this was just waiting to happen.

The reasons why this travesty took place becomes clear when you do an inventory of what is wrong with America. Slavish devotion to material possessions, worship of the rich and famous, vapid values, poor judgement, lack of decent public education, low wages, gun happy police departments, politicians using race for advancement, lack of ethics, lethargy, racism, sexism, xenophobia and perhaps the worst of the lot, laziness. The important things we discard and ignore. The trivial we glorify and adore.

In spite of all of this, the ascendance of Donald Trump is a jarring thing to behold. It is a surrealist idea that gives credence to the idea that you are living in an alternative reality. One wakes hoping that this is all a nightmare. The glaring reality that this is real makes it even more unreal.

The reason why people are in a state is because so many of us believed that we operated on a higher level as a collective group that we really do. The one thing you could count on was that the system, for all of its glaring flaws, would never super nova. There was no preparation for an event like this that rocks core believes in integrity.

The fact the world is complex, nuanced and requires intelligent solutions to problems does not sell.

Idealism has been given a brutal beating. Hope is extinguished. Never has cynicism been so blatant. There is such a hollow feeling in the words, “Lets Make America Great Again.” Everything about that collection of words is trite. It is ignorant of the progress we have made, and could make. It feels like a sales pitch, not a call to patriotism. It is a marketing idea masquerading as a political one. It also overlooks one important point, “WE ARE THE RICHEST NATION ON EARTH.”

Behind the curtain, do we have a clown who will turn into a statesman, or do we have just a buffoon ready to seek vengeance? Are we are getting what we did not want or need because everyone checked out of civic responsibility?

In a Kingdom of the Blind, the one eyes is King, so the old expression goes.

Our future is a big question mark. We will see.

Selling Enlightenment

Oprah’s “The Life You Want Weekend Tour” by Oprah Winfrey

Oprah

Oprah Winfrey, Success and Self Help

 

Déjà vu struck quickly when I read about Oprah Winfrey’s recent U.S. and Canadian Tour. The wildly successful talk show host, actor, producer, author and media mogul mounted a tour to bring enlightenment, hope and her signature “feel good” vibe to her audience in person.
The common thread that connects this event with the past can be found in one significant self-help movement of the 1970’s. And it all began on the West Coast, specifically Northern California.
San Francisco has been a long time destination point for those hoping to either find themselves, or simply be themselves. Some arrived desperately escaping lives they would prefer not to remember. Such was the case for one John Paul Rosenberg.
Rosenberg would be much better known to the world as Werner Erhard. Armed with a new name and a desire to start over, San Francisco would be home to his new beginning. His new found identity however did not include either his wife or children. They were left to fend for themselves in his absence.
When people move to the west coast, there is the expectation that the move alone will solve all, it not most, problems. If you are in San Francisco, it only follow happiness will naturally follow. The promise of California, the place where stars live, dreams come true and the sun always shines, turns out to be more myth that reality when you live there.
Culling ideas from pop psychology, Buddhism, Dale Carnegie, Scientology, western philosophical thinking, self-help books of the era, and almost anything else connected to self-improvement, Erhard cobbled together “EST.” This would be something of an answer to those seeking what was absent in their lives.
EST was going to provide the turn key answer to human fulfillment. In short, it was constructed around the idea that we are all responsible for the direction of lives. If your life was not working, clearly there was something “wrong” with you that needed to “fix.” Once enrolled in the program, at some point you would have a “Eureka” moment and move past the impediments.
For 60 hours, covering two weekends, those electing to enter this program were subjected to long periods of instruction, exercises and the like cut off from the world with bathroom breaks spaced hours apart. About 250 at a time were gathered in hotel ball rooms to take this rigorous course of instruction.
Some coming out of this said it improved their lives. Others felt that they had been trapped and abused for 60 hours. Not everyone go “IT.”

Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard, The 70’s Guru of Self Help

Times, change and what the public wants does as well. The audience for intensive self-improvement workshops like EST were not what they had been. 1984 marked the last one.
Flash forward a few decades and self-improvement and motivational speakers are back, but in different forms. Riding this wave, or rather helping to reshape it for this century, Winfrey has taken some of what has been before, but wrapped in a far more user friendly package.
She has also added another dimension that was not so prominent in EST. The consumption of goods and services were not added to the mix.
Comments on line from those attending Winfrey’s traveling workshops made specific note of the consumerism involved. Tents and wares were sold outside at the venues where she was appearing. Bags, mobile phone cases and assorted items were sold boldly bearing Winfrey’s logo. The intimacy of a 250 person hotel ball room had been replaced with 18,000 seat arenas. Higher consciousness did not mean you could not shop for a new car.
The base starting price for entering was $ 99.00, and if you wanted the opportunity to actually get close to the media magnate, you will need $ 1,000.00 to do so.
Interestingly enough, EST still lives on in The Landmark Forum. Their 40 hour workshop will set you back $ 500.00 (circa 2009).
What Winfrey and Erhard share is telling. Both have been fiscally successful, Winfrey obviously much more so than Erhard ever was, both have charismatic personalities, both can influence large groups of people and the most important both are firm advocates of the “You and only you are responsible for your own happiness” ethos.
It is easy to see why they embrace this philosophy. Winfrey and Erhard are self-made. They emerged from struggles, Winfrey far more so than Erhard. But there is something deeper that they are claiming their programs will do without coming out and directly stating it.
What they are selling beneath the lofty heights of spiritual fulfillment and pseudo-intellectual psychological insights is something far more “earthy.”
“If I can make a lot of money, so can you.”
Certainly more nuanced than any late night television “get rich quick scheme,” the bottom line is very much the same. If you want proof of success, look no further than the person selling the product. If he or she has found the “American Dream,” surely what they profess publicly will be the direct path to glorious riches.
What none of this takes into consideration are such impediments such as mental illness, intellectual capacity, physical illness or any number of socio-economic issues that can halt personal development. Obstacles to human success can be numerous.
Access to higher education is prohibitive, public schools are failing, and jobs that permitted a middle class life style are shrinking. What jobs that are out there are becoming increasingly “part-time.”
Certainly, personal responsibility matters. Choices can be made that permit better outcomes. The reality of America for most Americans is complex, difficult and filled with veritable land mines. Any solution that offers real answers is going to be multifaceted.

 

Complex ideas cannot be reduced to tag lines and hash tags. Direct messages are much easier to sell than more nuanced ones.
The clever crafting of the message is the mark of good salesmanship. Every politician knows this. On the surface, this all may seem harmless. But, there is something very disturbing about people not trained in psychology or psychiatry attempting something as monumental as helping people reach higher levels of potential. In fact, it can be dangerous.
When your only credentials are business success, this is a good endorsement for expertise on everything, particularly something that is associated with psychology.
“Claim Your Power, See Yourself From A Different Perspective, Stop Holding Onto the Past, Look Ahead In A New Direction, Take Your Glory and Run,” are words Winfrey uses.
To have a direct message that is general and broad sweeping can work. The tour was a financial success. But for those who spent thousands they could hardly afford to hear this message, one has to wonder if they really “got” anything out of it. Sure, they saw a celebrity, but did their lives improve because of it? Did their personal problems find resolution?
Entertainment promises a good time. It can provide insight, revelations and introspection. It does not usually promise to improve your life on such a deep level, or provide a path to economic security.
When powerful personalities, star power, charisma and commercialization merge, it is safe to assume that a product will be produced and hopefully a profit made, a hefty one.

 

By Kurt von Behrmann, Writer and Artist currently working on Funding his Go Fund Project, an art exhibition about Bipolar Disorder.

Between Two Poles: A Bipolar Themed Art Exhibition

Horse

Also titled Pferd and Caballo, a horse between the two poles of bipolar

 

“Between Two Poles: A Bipolar Themed Art Exhibition”
Help me make it happen

A few days ago I had composed a document outlining my ideas for this exhibition.

 

The version I first placed on line was a truncated version.

I added much to this today, February 9th at 4: 15 p.m.

 

My GoFund Me Link For Support for this exhibition.

 

This is my Bipolar Story.

 

When I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2013, it was as if someone had just died in the room, me. It was both a surprise and a relief when I realized I had a serious mental illness. The many problems I had experienced over the years made quickly made sense. However, knowledge did not stop the power of this crippling illness.
I tried to commit suicide.
Having support, going to support groups, therapy and medications, none of that was able to prevent me from committing suicide. For me, there was no real use in living. All thoughts were dead ends. The things that mattered so much simple ceased to do so.
Suicide attempts, in my case, lead to my first hospitalization for mental illness. Carried in an ambulance, tired and what empty, I spent an entire day in a waiting room hoping for a hospital bed. There was high demand, but low supply.
The first day was numbing. The second filled with groups. One followed the other. At the tie I did not have insurance. That ensured my stay would be brief. After three days I was released. Although the Psychiatrist was emphatic that I had a serious mental illness and that I needed intensive therapy.
That did not happen. I was released from the hospital, but there was no exit plan. I went from a behavioral health facility right back into “the real world.”
There were many difficult ups and downs having and not being able to afford treatment. I would heal, and then relapse. Drugs that were intended to help had my briefly lose my equilibrium.
Acquiring insurance provided care. But the drugs I were taking simply were not effective. The wonder drug “Lamictal,” was totally infective. Depressions and hypo mania were bound in a restless cycle that had me up and down. My emotions transformed into a violent roller coaster.
When the day started, I might feel optimistic, happy, even filled with bliss. Rapid thoughts accompanied fast thinking. Ideas were flowing so fast I stumbled on my words. At the high point, I was a jester spilling jokes all around me. Nothing could stop me. I was invincible.
The downside was that this euphoria did not last. Within a day or two, it would slide into depression. What goes up, must come down. The trajectory I was on always lead to a fall.
Pain turned into days and weeks of me laying on a sofa unable to do anything. I was falling into immobility. Every day I was suicidal. There were times I wanted to kill myself, but I was literally too exhausted to do it.

The pain of hopeless, depression, anxiety and lethargy are hard to describe. They are powerful but elude any kind of crisp description. When I was at the lowest, everything shut down. I felt pain, but not a physical kind. Nothing hurt, but there was a powerful pain. It was both intense and cold. The very idea of the world had no appeal. Nothing mattered except the depression. I could not pull myself out of it because my entire mind had become this void.
There were tools given to me by therapy. It my worst state they were of no use. The drugs that were supposed to at least alleviate the pain enough to get some kind of grasp of things were not powerful enough. I had contemplated, seriously, ending drugs, therapy and any other support. When I need support the most, there was nothing to grab. There was no substance to anything.
The only thing I had in depression was depression. The grasp of this illness was reaching a point where I started to feel nothing at all. There was only me wanting to end all of this insane jumping from high to low.
As all of this was happening, my identity was drifting away. All of the things that made up me, the artist, the writer, the educator, the politically aware person, everything that made up me was taken away. It was not slow. Depression moves quickly. It leaves nothing untouched.
My life was becoming surreal. There were moments where it felt like a film. I was either starring in it, or removed from the action. Simple events were monumental moments.
Then there were times when I just felt myself pulling so far inward. I was rejecting the world, other people and to some degree myself. It was like drowning and no one was hearing your screams.
Now that I look back, I had often felt like I was screaming, but no one was listening. I was in my own personal hell but no one knew I was in it. I either kept it hidden, or it resulted in some odd behavior on my part.
My life reached a new kind of low when I started cutting myself. I wanted to see if I could endure the pain of slitting my wrists. I am not a person who likes pain, but I was just feeling so much of it lately that I wanted to see how much physical pain I could endure.
I can’t say that I thought of cutting as a deliberate act. The idea to get up and cut myself was not a formed idea. The impulse to do was that. Without a lot of emotion at the time, I was jumped up from my sofa, walked into the kitchen and started.
The first marks were tentative. I really wanted to slit my wrists, but I was not sure if I had the willpower to do that. This was like a test run for the real thing is how I saw my cuts.
I started, slowly and I kept going up my arm cutting a little bit deeper every time. I was totally transfixed by what I was doing. I was drawn to this. There was an addictive side to this. I hated the pain, but I could not stop.
The scars created by the knife fascinated me. I kept cutting. Briefly, they gave me a release. The scars were expressing the intense pain I had no other way to express. The escape those marks offered was short lived.
I would stop, realizing this was not a good idea. Rational thinking intervened. Consciously, I knew I should stop. Emotionally, I felt like I shouldn’t. I broke away to call a support person from my support group. That borrowed time.
I called the warm line, a phone line that offers support for 15 minutes to people in crises who need to talk. I think I actually reached a former cutter. That only borrowed more time.
Self-preservation stepped in. I called a friend of mine and we talked about things other than cutting or bipolar. I had stopped.
That was only for a while. I resumed again. No one knew it until well after the fact.
Much was taking place, but I had reached a point where I wanted to change health care. I was seeing a Nurse Practioner whose healthcare plan was clearly not working. I felt weak, really weak, but I was up when I made my last visit.
My feelings made no sense. I was cutting, then left to see this “buffoon.” I was happy, really really up knowing feel well this was my last visit. My feelings were totally out of sync with everything. I was cutting, and then very happy.
Eventually I did find a “Psychiatrist.” I am really not an advocate of Nurse Practioners at all. I really do not believe they have the medical knowledge to deal with mental illness, at all unless under the strict eye of a Psychiatrist. Even then, I have grave reservations.
Under new care, a new therapist, things started to move forward.
Bipolar can offer you a few days of mania that can jump start your motivation. I was slow moving and tired, but I was making progress in November of last year.
Now it is February of 2015, and I am starting to put the pieces back together. The current combination of medications and therapy seem to be working. I still have bad moments. But, the addictive cutting has ceased.
I can paint. I finished a work in January, and about to complete one this month and I know I am create more innovative pieces.
The only problem is that I do need funds. Between not being able to work or even find work in my state, I have fallen behind with bills.
This is why I am asking for support for my solo exhibition of new art “Between Two Poles, A Bipolar Themed Exhibition.”
Before I became seriously ill in late 2014, I had created a proposal for an exhibition that talks about bipolar disorder from the perspective of an artist with the illness.
The works would be centered around the idea of expressing the euphoric ups and the damaging downs of Bipolar.
The idea for the exhibition came about when I realized how many of my pieces dealt with canvases being divided in half. Works literally had a dark side and a light side. This has been a salient feature of my work for some time.
After looking over my recent creations I began reading Dr. Key Redfield Jamison’s book “Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.” I started to see strong connections between Bipolar and creativity. There is a good case made for it in this book. The unusually high number of artists with this affliction makes a compelling case that bipolar is connected to high levels of artistic achievement.
The list of artists who have suffered from mental illness, depression and bipolar, is extensive. The artistic temperament is a live wire that ignites everything it its path.
There was a study in Sweden, and I cannot recall the details. In this study they examined high achieving student’s psychiatric records. They discovered that a number of them were bipolar.
What I have experienced is that Bipolar can literally send you a million and one ideas at once. It can create wild associations between ideas and visuals. It provides the “fire” that sparks the imagination. When in a hypo manic moment, you get added inspiration and drive. Your sense of purpose is extremely drawn. The only down side is when the depressions hit so hard you cannot move, let alone create a piece of art.
For me, my artistic temperament was fueled by yet another diagnoses, Borderline Personality Disorder. That brought another element into the “mix.” From what I have read thus far, a number of bipolar people also have this personality disorder as well. There is the belief among some in the psychiatric community that Borderline Personality Disorder maybe related, or even on the same spectrum, as Bipolar. This is speculative on my part, but I do feel that there is a connection between the two of some type. I am not a psychiatrist so I can only offer what I have seen, but mood and personality tend to be connected.
Amid all of the anguish and chaos, my proposal for a Bipolar Exhibition was approved by the prestigious Shemer Art Center in Phoenix, Arizona. If all goes well, I will have a show there opening June 25th to August 6th of this year.
The show is really the one thing that has kept me going. Knowing that my identity as an artist is intact and that my work and ideas are taken seriously by a well-respected art institution in Phoenix Arizona is confirmation at a very good time.
I believe my recovery, which is permitting me time to create this document, is in large part the result of this upcoming exhibition. Advance response to the new pieces has been overwhelmingly positive. The content and imagery in the new work is different from anything I have done
A positive sign of my own “renaissance” is that I will have work at a new art center opening this March. The Director invited me to participate. I am very thrilled about this. It will be my first showing of 2015.
This month I also completed a small commission. It was small. But at least it was something. I am grateful for small things. Bad times make you appreciative.
Sadly, I had tried to apply for a grant. Due to my inability to fully function at the time, I had made a mistake and the grant was rejected. This is what Bipolar and Borderline personality can do to you.
I know that if I can get through the next few months, I know I can get back to where I was creatively. I do want to teach again and make art and write
What I need, desperately need, are funds to purchase paints, frames, canvas and the like to continue. Funds are literally spent. I mean zero. So anything you can throw my way will help make this possible.
Whatever you can do, a few dollars, or just spreading the word helps. I would love to see my web site go viral. Links to my web page, looking me up on twitter and facebook, my web site has the links, all of this counts. I would like to go viral.
Aside from me for a moment, Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. It can literally kill you. Awareness is increasing. This is good. Alleviating stigma is still a problem. It prevents people from seeking treatment or even knowing what to look for with regards to mental health.
We tend to ignore mental health. If things in life are not working out as planned, or your are depressed, the assumption has always been that you have a character flaw. If discipline is engaged, your difficulties will vanish. “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps,” and “ Just plow ahead, “ are the standard assumed answers.
Life has never been that simple. There are instances where simply plowing ahead will get you ahead. Not everyone suffers from a mental illness.
But, when you think of suicide, when your behavior becomes erratic, when you moods change for no reason, when your so depressed that suicide seems like an excellent option, it is time to seek professional help.
No one, myself included, wanted to believe I had a problem. I was somewhat functional in the world. I had overcome obstacles as most people do. I had set backs. I buckled down and moved forward. I just assumed everyone becomes suicidal. I assumed everyone becomes depressed for weeks on end. I assumed everyone becomes restless, reckless and takes risks. I assumed a lot.
As long as the bills were paid and nothing terrible happened, I was alright.
I was terribly wrong. If I have ever made a huge mistake in my life it was not seeing the signs. They were painfully obvious for a long time. The moodiness of High School. The suicidal thoughts at a teenager. The frequent bouts of suicidal thoughts off and on over the years. Manic behavior that would keep me up all night and active during the day for weeks on end.
When I went to my first Behavioral Health Facility my first thought was, “these poor people, and thank God that is not me.”
The joke was totally on me. I was just like those people and had been.
No one chooses to be Bipolar. But, if you seek treatment, persist and become your own advocate, you can hope for a positive outcome. Bipolar can do a lot of damage, a lot. But there is hope.
I can tell you that there maybe ups and downs. Everyone is different. For some, recovery comes with medications. In time the pills go from several a day to just one. For some people, that is realistic.
For others, Bipolar means taking care of oneself. For me that means a healthy life style. It means no smoking, no drinking, eliminating certain foods and certainly no drugs other than those prescribed.
I have not been in recovery long enough to know what it means for many people. What I have seen informs me that it does require vigilance.
I do know for certain that not taking psychiatric meds, not altering your lifestyle, or ignoring Bipolar is life threatening. No one gets better without psychiatric meds, therapy and support groups. People may say they do, but I have only seen cases becoming worse, a lot worst.
If you think, even suspect, that you are Bipolar and/or Borderline Personality Disorder, please seek professional help from trained professionals. Talking to friends is great, but that is not enough.
Thank you for reading this document. If any of this helps just one person, I feel very successful in my goals.
I am actively seeking support for what I know will be a unique exhibition. Help me make it happen. I have much to say and this is a subject that demands a public dialogue.
There is are
many myths and misconceptions about mental illness. There are just as many about what constitutes “good mental health.” There needs to be a conversation about Bipolar.

Bill Cosby and The Lack of Black Support

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bill Cosby and the lack of African-American Support
When You Have Struck Women You Have Hit A Rock

By: Kurt von Behrmann

I remember many years ago how it was common knowledge among those in the know of Bill Cosby’s extramarital affairs. This was coming from his contemporaries in Philadelphia. These were people who saw his act and had direct contact with him. I remember those conversations. Not one voice state the contrary.
My memory I had of those words came forward when the recent allegations came up that have quickly eroded a public persona that was decidedly “clean cut.”

Bill Cosby Protestors

Protestors stating their opinion of the once very non controversial comic.

When comic Hannibal Buress openly called out Bill Cosby for raping women, Buress was totally surprised that it would open up allegations that are ten years old. Over a dozen women came forward accusing the hugely successful comedian of sexual assault and/or rape.
The allegations were ugly. They were also detailed.
The stature and source of those coming forward paints a convincing case that Cosby is guilty. While there will more than likely never be a trial to prove guilt or innocence, in the court of public opinion and overwhelming statements already published, Cosby may as well be found guilty.
What is interesting about all of this is a comment made by a news commentator in passing. I cannot recall who or whom, but someone said that Cosby was anticipating support from the African—American community.
That support was not going to be forthcoming.
The reason why he received a vocal round of support stems in part from a stance he took several years ago. It did not sit well with many.
Cosby made it very clear he did not approve of contemporary street fashion and extolled essentially conservative middle class values.
If only young African Americans stopped given their kids African names and having children out of wedlock, things would be better. The hypocrisy of a man who has had a child out of wedlock extolling traditional values was an inconsistency that did not sell well.
The old do as I say not as I do did not serve Cosby well.
While there is merit in hard work and some traditional thinking, to over look the glaring problems that at risk youth face, like indifferent hostile police departments, a flawed criminal justice system, evaporating jobs, poorly performing public schools, at risk neighborhoods and higher education priced into the stratosphere, Cosby’s message of hard work and chastity sounded out of touch with reality, and it was.
Cosby, and he is not alone in his thinking about quick fixes to long running problem. He comes from the old school that believes that “The Troubled Africain—American Community” suffers only from character flaws, sloth and out of control libidos. This particular narrative follows along the lines that if “I” become successful through hard work and sacrifice, so should you.

If I can do it, so can you.
That is the same logic that has powered a million and one pyramid schemes.
Why we have such bad out comes with urban youth, Black, White, Latino and so forth, are shaped by powerful forces. The environment of today is even more brutal than it has ever been. What stability that was once in place in the African—American community has been decimated by the removal of the very things that created solidity before, secure communities.
The sad fact is that when people have an economic opportunity to move ahead, it always entails a move to a more affluent area. The people that provided that community stability and concern move away from the places that need them the most. Each move takes a piece away from a strong community identity.
But there is more than moves due to economic success that undue Black success. The real culprits in Black social mobility are rooted in problems that cannot be solved by a few sound bites that sound good to people in the Midwest.
Having been an educator at a Community College with at risk predominantly Black and Latino youth, I saw the enemy up close. The villains are poor diets, weak family support, no mental or medical help and a total indifference to the fact that we have people in our culture who need a helping hand, not a hand out.
What is needed is not charity, but jobs, economic security, safety and an educational high school system that actually teaches people how to learn, not how to pass one inane test.
Bill Cosby has lived in a life of total affluence for so long that he has fallen into the trap that a lot of people who crawl up into wealth get caught in, and that is removal from working class reality.
Sure, there are people who cannot be helped. That is true of the rich as well. The difference is that they have really slick lawyers, rehab and connections that can clean up their messes. The poor, obviously do not. There are no second chances on the streets.
The vast majority of people want to do something meaningful, earn a living and essentially have the American Dream. That is the reality.
The lack of African—American support for Cosby should surprise no one. People can accept a hero with flaws. But most people cannot accept a hero who may very well be a serial rapist.
Another point that I think noting is that this impacted women. As occasionally misogynistic as our ever evolving society can be, there is something about rape that hits a nerve. When that subject comes up, it hits a core.
There is an old African expression that when you have hit the women, you have hit a rock.
When these allegations came up, the women came up and told their stories. They did not back down. They did not falter.
Bill Cosby hit a rock. He hit a huge one.

American Sniper: A commentary on American Culture

Thursday, January 29, 2015
REEL VERSUS REAL: When cinema becomes reality

American Snipe

American Sniper, an unexpected hit

American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of Chris Kyle’s memoir about his Iraq War service has been an unexpected financial success. It has also become a magnetic for decidedly sharp criticism.
Some have faulted Eastwood for his lack of depth in dealing with the complexity of the subject matter. Others have seen the film as simply a chronicle of one man’s experiences. There are those who have viewed it as thinly veiled pro war propaganda.
When heroism is in short supply, one can at least find solace in the dark comfort of a multiplex.
Eastwood, who has actually held elected office, has made no mystery of his political leanings. Whenever a director becomes closely connected to politics like he has, it should come as no surprise that his work is going to be filtered through a decidedly political lens.
Are Eastwood’s efforts art of art’s sake, or is there an agenda to be found between the reels? The question automatically arises when any artist takes stances on divisive political issues. Given the subject matter here, there is really no way to avoid the question of how much is art and how much is message.
The Iraq War has still left deep wounds in the American Psyche. This is still a nation shaken by domestic and global terrorism. The fears of what is to come next cast a dark shadow.
The intricacies of Middle Eastern politics are a confounding web of ambitions, megalomania, religious fanaticism, economic inequality, opportunism, botched colonialism and extreme shortsightedness. The only reliable truth here is that when Elephants fight, ants are the first causalities.
I have yet to see Eastwood’s latest. Therefore, I am reserving judgment until I actually see his creation. I do not believe in condoning or condemning anything until I have experienced it firsthand.
Images, as well as words, are powerful tools. They are the first things tyrants squash. Censorship has always been the chief arsenal of the intolerant. In our culture of constant visual images and an always on internet, video, images and text do sway public opinion.
What has increasingly happened over time is that the world created in entertainment has become a replacement for reality. The world of carefully constructed images have become American Reality.
The proliferation of media has created a world where we judge beauty by Hollywood images and seek value in how well we stack up to those images. The brave soldier, the femme fatale, the macho man, the seductress, the pimp and the “ ho,” are all archetypes that describe a type, but omit the subtlety of detail. We have constructed an entire reality based on stereotypes that we have accepted as truth. The truth of any of these individuals is far more compelling than a simply drawn construct.
The problem with basing reality on popular entertainment is that the entertainment is not education and education is not entertainment. The two have become merged to the detriment of both.
When Television merged entertainment with news, it is as if this was a prophetic prediction of what would happen next, the blurring of reality.
Now, we all expect to be entertained no matter what we are doing. Taking time to do research, to be introspective, all of those things have been replaced.
Instead of looking at current events, world affairs and the like directly via “actual news” and looking at history form “actually history books,” we have substituted entertainment for reliable information. Entertainment, by definition, is designed to amuse. It is not always suited to be the best vehicle for accurate information, insight or the sometimes ambiguous world for reality where there may only be shades of gray.
This is the kind of problem that Americans have a lot of difficult with, and it is easy to see why.
Films, television shows, even the most insubstantial fluff, offer at the end conclusions. The hero wins. Good triumphs over evil. Hard work pays off in the end. There are always good guys and bad guys. At the end of the reel, the hard working win. Virtue is rewarded. Vice is always punished.
In a cultural zone built on so many absolutes, there is no room for truth. There is space for only confirmation. We are fed a television show reality and we expect our lives to correspond.
In the neat T.V. world, the ideal is a home, two cars, beautiful clothes, endless supplies of adventure and never a dull moment. We are given an American Dream that is simply not attainable. No one has it all. No one ever has.
Even education has been infected with the “Eduotainment’ bug. Classes are expected to make learning “fun.” Learning maybe enjoyable, fulfilling and worthwhile, but it is seldom fun in an entertainment way. Entertainment is passive. You sit back and let the “magic” happen. Learning is proactive. One has to be engaged.
In the blurring of the lines, we are looking at major Hollywood Films about the war to become accurate depictions of it. Sure, fiction can touch upon reality, but fiction is not a substitute for reality.
If you want to comprehend what the Iraq War was all about, you need more than one source of information. Seek out the historians, the politicians, even those who were actually there. Gather your facts from reliable sources, both right and left. When you look at both sides, the truth has a funny way of appearing.
One can criticize film from any number of perspectives. There is always validity in that. But, the big point to keep in mind is that ultimately American Sniper is a big budget Hollywood film designed to entertain. The objective here is to tell a story and have you the viewer walking away happy at the end. There is no stated intention of saying that this is the real war. This is not a documentary.
In the end, big budget films are created to entertain, not necessarily inform.