White Trash, Squaw, Nigger, Untouchable, Kike …

This week on the Just for Laughs 30th Anniversary, host George Stroumbolopoulas and the comedians commented on racism, highlighting that the one group many people, who will not use words such as squaw or nigger these days, have no problem trashing are “white trash.”

“White trash” just don’t live in stereotypical trailer parks; they are anyone who is poor, especially when other people judge them as capable of being and achieving more, especially if they live on some sort of assistance or even on the streets.

But no one is trash because everyone is valuable; the trash is our own thinking that labels people in derogatory ways, making such people feel they are less than what they are … people, who more than most of us, need to feel valued and valuable, RESPECTED so they will find the internal strength to overcome their specific challenges.

We do not know what a person has experienced in their life, though I know from experience and research, that when you don’t value yourself high enough to have good boundaries and to take good care of yourself, others don’t value you either and they will take advantage in many ways, including making one feel bad for not having a high enough RESPECT LEVEL to withstand all the assaults and to live according to their standards.

In my lifetime, I have been called “squaw,” though at the time I was a non-prejudiced teen who believed one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen was a Native American girl in one of my high school classrooms. We did have similarities, though I felt ugly. My long dark hair, aquiline nose, which I later had changed due to an increasing lower and lower RESPECT LEVEL, and skin that tanned deep and dark elicited from some people, especially guys, in my hometown of Wallaceburg, just six miles from the Walpole Island Reserve, the nickname “squaw.” I didn’t realize it was an insult at the time … I even thought it was a complement, but little did I know about the prejudicial malice behind the word. (I’ve since discovered I really do have Native American blood in my veins from my Grandmother’s grandmother … and I couldn’t be more proud …)

The label “white trash” has been with me several times in my life, once verbally, but mostly it has been experienced and felt by people’s judgment and behavior towards me, especially when, to their minds, I have been irresponsible or even reckless. Like Malcolm Gladwell writes about his own experience that inspired him to write Blink, repeatedly I have been mistaken as someone else, in part because I learned to be a chameleon so I would not stand out in some of the places my low RESPECT LEVEL has taken me … so I would be safe.

Like Malcolm, I was even pulled over by the police one day while walking because they were on the lookout for a woman with the length and colour of my hair because I lived in a low-income area where they expected to find her.

Another time, I was accused of shoplifting in a local grocery store because my different behavior in the grocery store made them question what I was doing. I didn’t have much money so I would often walk through the whole store to find the best deals, specials and reduced items, before deciding what I would buy. In hindsight and even foresight, because I often still revert to that way of shopping even when I have enough money to buy what I want, I appreciate they misunderstood my behavior and assumed my behavior was be something it was not. Which is why, at the time, I was shocked and insulted when I was approached by a store clerk after I had left the store and crossed the street. For one thing, I knew after working in retail management myself dealing with shoplifters, he should have stopped me in the parking lot. Second, instead of taking me back into the store’s office, the man asked me to open my bag and purse as soon as we got back in the grocery store … to make a scene in front of all the staff and customers for something I may have done. With only a shred of confidence, I made him take me to the office instead, where I drew in a witness, other than him, who would verify I was falsely accused when I emptied my bags. Walking through those doors again took a great deal of courage, but at the time, other grocery stores were far away and required bus fare or very long walks.

Perhaps again, it was a case of mistaken identity, for I found when I moved to that area where I lived for five years, many people called me an unfamiliar name and look confused when I told them my name. Becoming a chameleon, it turned out, did not save me, but caused me more harm in unexpected ways.

Yes, I have done some things I am not proud of, that I would take back if given a do-over, but guilty until proven innocent is the reality for white trash because assumptions are made. As the saying goes, until we have walked in someone else’s shoes and I’ll add, lived inside their mind and heart, we have no right to judge … nor label so cruelly.

White Trash, Squaw, Nigger, Untouchable, Kike … it matters not the words we say as much as it reveals the fear, prejudice, and even hate in our hearts for those not like us. Still … the words hurt … until our RESPECT LEVELS are raised enough so such cruelty can be walked away from and even forgiven with the knowledge that those throwing such daggers have received daggers themselves … and they are still stuck in their hearts.

Let’s help everyone and ourselves by throwing away the labels and not the people. Let’s agree to raise not ony our RESPECT LEVELS for ourselves and others, but also our COMPASSION LEVELS too.

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Connecting the Dots … with The RESPECT PRINCIPLE
April 28, 2013

Bullying is the Result of Our Global Belief …

It is not enough to help only those being bullied.

Bullies are bullied first, then they bully.

Creating policing and criminal policies to punish will only deepen the anger and outrage so it is manifested, often subversively, in other ways as people grow older.

Need proof? Just look at our world … at the whole world.

Bullying back, forcing more pain and outrage, locking people away is not the answer.

Changing what people experience as children is … because they are the creators or the annihilators of the next generations.

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April 27, 2013

Lifeline … A Short Story to Honor A Friend’s Life

Sometimes, gut-wrenching as it is, you have to cut the lifeline to save your self. Not because you don’t want to help save the other person, but because he or she, in their frantic desperation, gives you no other choice. No matter how hard you may want to reach them or how much you want to knock them unconscious till you can pull them to safety, sometimes neither is no longer an option because you see the tsunami is now on the horizon. In the flash of a split second, you must finally decide: be pulled down together or sever the lifeline in order for one of you to live.

Looking at him, you would never think of him as the drowning type. Solid and strong, he was more like an anchor. Floating adrift at sea, bobbing about, barely keeping my head above water for some time, I grabbed the lifeline attached to his solidness. I needed a rest, and if not a harbor, at least some solidness to ground me on the restless sea. A hand placed on his chest and biceps revealed the solidness of muscles well worked with weights. Long, strong legs carried his solid frame of six foot two and served as the pedestal for his handsome face, contoured with strong angles and pleasing curves that highlighted his quick-to-smile wide engaging grin brightened by his dancing blue eyes. Capping the statue of the man was a lightly curled mop of golden brown hair. David, how fitting a name for a statue.

His energetic swagger revealed awareness of his attracting visual impact, but it was Shakespeare’s eloquent words flowing out of his classic-trained booming voice and his well-honed emotionally painted face that drew people to him like worker bees to the sweetest nectar and honey.

Words: beautiful words, spun a safety net around me, buoyed me up when I felt myself slipping away. They weren’t his words, but Shakespeare would have been proud of his passion and his delivery. Perhaps Shakespeare would have seen past his David’s pain, revealed by his jaded words and actions and let him reign as one of his great performers, but the world David and I lived in would not.

We dated briefly, but time revealed only tethered drifters we would be. As with any new beginning relationship, the first weeks lit up our lives, but soon our rebounding from previous experiences on solid ground, forced us both to let go, convinced this was just another disappointment to flee.

During the following weeks though our paths kept crossing. I would see David riding around on his motorcycle in and around the outskirts of Oshawa though and I felt an attachment still there. He did too, because one day he stopped, offered me a ride and we talked again.

A desperate story revealed a desperate man sinking fast with no lifeline to keep him afloat. Most lines he had severed, so jaded and angry he was with the world. Funding no longer available for his children’s performance company, no acting jobs because his resentment and anger was what people saw most and when it wasn’t, the pay so poor, the work growing less available, and even his fall back, drafting, which he excelled at too, had grown all but obsolete because factories were not only no longer being built but disappearing as businesses withdrew to places overseas or shut down completely.

All this, topped off during the time he was boarding in once what was a fine home, that collapsed in on itself while the owner’s coke addiction and unsavory business dealings were revealed as was the neglect of the mish mash of residents grew leaving them without heat and lights, backed-up plumbing, and crime creeping along the hallways.

He hadn’t told me all of this, of course. I discovered the state of his life when I stopped in to visit him and found him trying to live in the dark, cold, filth and despair of that house. I could not turn away from such need, so I returned his previous gesture and threw him a lifeline

This time the lifeline came in the shape of a three-bedroom apartment I rented for us to share as friends, since for both of us, money was not something that filled our bank accounts and lives either. Both of us had run through the abundance we once had, believing the same work and pay was just around the corner, waiting for us to grab, but when you’re adrift on the sea and not on the shore where most of the green is found, you can wait a long time to before you feel settled again.

David hated Oshawa. He had only moved into his friend’s house the year before after his girlfriend died because the events surrounding her death sunk him so deep into depression and debt. My reason for being there was just to be somewhere. David wanted to return to Toronto where the constant stream of life outside his door soothed him in a way that it repelled me. Not wanting to go, but not ready to be cast adrift again, I acquiesced because I was hopeful. Hopeful because David convinced me my paintings would sell in the city. Hopeful too, because I adapted one of my stories into a play that David hoped would not only return him to not performing, but would lead him to directing in schools. The sale of workshops to an elementary and a high school encouraged us to look up at the horizon again, so we packed up our things, including the third bedroom stuffed with remnants of his performance days; trunks of make-up, costumes, life-size puppet costumes, a clown costume and paraphernalia he refused to let go of because they symbolize the great joy and success they once reaped as the performer he was once and still longed to be.

We finally agreed on a small apartment on the east side of the city, just a few blocks from Lake Ontario, where the city did not squeeze in on me so tightly, yet brought him within ten minutes drive of the city he loved since his move there as a teen. Ten minutes also within the company of his teenage daughter: his one and only child, whose company he had to fight for most of her life. A child conceived without intent on his part, brought not only the joy of having a child, a lifeline he desperately needed to stay afloat, but also the anguish of manipulation brought upon him to support, at great financial and psychological cost to himself, to the point of poverty, the daughter and also the mother, for which great contempt grew and seasoned the relationships of both.

The workshops David directed on my behalf for the two schools were disasters. Residual anger dominated his life and his interactions with most people, though he was often unaware of just how much. The play was written to address bullying in schools by presenting stories of people’s lives to expand and develop the performers and audiences’ empathy and compassion, but David did not get the message as revealed by his direction, or lack of direction, to the students trying to master their performance for their schoolmates. My idea was lauded as one very much needed for students and schools, feedback revealed much work would have to be done, but even then it was unlikely their school board would recommend the two of us and the project be contracted again.

David, I was learning, his ego wounded beyond repair, would never accept responsibility for his negative contribution to events. Reluctantly, I started to acknowledge the pattern I hadn’t wanted to see before; he would always blame others and this time I was the one to blame for the failure.

For several years, tethered to each other by our lifelines, we each tried to put our feet on solid ground again, stumbling awkwardly, both scarred and growing increasingly embittered as doors on land opened and closed or didn’t open at all, sending us adrift again, looking for land hospitable to our needs.

During the next several years, David’s talent upon talent was revealed to me. His natural gifts and talents translated into a number of skills my small town, blue and white-collar mind had never seen before packaged in one person. As well as his performance talents, he could draw, by hand or on a computer, the exacting details of what people would view and read to create something from nothing, be it piping for a factory, the details of a house or the specifications for building an automotive body from scratch. From three-dimensional drawings, he shaped fiberglass and other materials into car bodies and built cars. David took the engines of cars and motorcycles apart to their finest details, and then I watched in amazement as he repaired, with whatever materials were at hand, then rebuilt, and restarted the vehicle, turning the dead engine into motion again.

Little jobs here and there, part-time, now lower paying than before filled the spaces in my life, while I tried to keep my writing and eventually even my painting dreams buried deep inside. Contract work for him, paying much less than before, and my own limiting circumstances motivated him to give his once very successful and lucrative traveling theatre company for school children another try. Unloading trunks, repairing props and life size puppet costumes, rehearsing moves to the recorded words and music, filled my life with new zest. I ignored, or tried to ignore, his verbally violent outbursts, writing them off to his frustration of working with an amateur, but one he admitted by hiring me was a natural. Frustrated too by the change in economy and arts funding, David had to lower price his price and then, the reduced number of bookings to those of previous years in his twenties and thirties, added unnecessary fuel to the fire of his rages, especially when it was discovered during the road trips for performances, that what was once a successful and satisfying venture was also now yet another losing, cruel game.

After trying to return to the many successes of the past, he found he could not go back in the same way, so he took another track, returning to the University of Toronto where he had completed his degree while living in Oshawa.

This time though, his love of words and languages, plus the hope of new opportunities to take his performance art to new countries drew him to study teaching English as a second language. His hopefulness tethered to me, ran like lighting along our cord, sparking me to give in and write a story once again; this time for a local writing contest. Winning a prize then fired me up to finally put to paper so much of what had been rattling around in my mind for years.

David and I both seemed to be gaining ground: me, hopeful as a writer and one day philanthropist, and him as a one day professional teacher, and performer again. Surrounded by people in the city and university, David came back to life. His need for an audience went deeper than just being a performer. He needed an audience to feel alive. I was glad he was finding an outside source, for I was growing weary of having to be his audience on demand.

Thankfully, girlfriends started to arrive on the scene. Again, greatly relieved, it was also quite strange. We had grown quite dependent upon each other to fill the social needs not met outside of our home, but our relationship bound us together because of the mutual need not be feel so alone in the world. In between the times of rage and frustration, we made each other laugh and we kept each other company in a world that kept pushing us off land, setting us adrift over and over again because we didn’t fit into the mold most people wanted us to be.

But when she arrived, I knew I had to leave.

Isabel was from South America. She was one of David’s students: a married one: a beautiful young woman who married a much older man to escape extreme poverty. Since our small apartment living room was still half filled with David’s mechanical and performance tools, the three of us barely fit into the remaining space in our chairs along with the television. Soon she was spending nights, her things finding their way into the kitchen and bathroom cupboards. Squashed between the bathroom and his room, the soundtracks provided by their presence in either were not soundtracks I wanted to hear.

I knew it was time to leave, but I had little to my name and knew not where to go. Faith was not something I had in abundance either, but it was the new lifeline I grabbed on and held for dear life.

Images of an angry husband arriving to reclaim his wife raced through my mind and I didn’t want to be a casualty of that war. Plus, with David now attached to another I was able to justify my leaving, though without letting go of the lifeline completely. What I did not expect after our teary goodbye was the ensuing monumental rage. Phone calls, texts and emails filled with hate assaulted me from across the necessary distance of four hours. After being at the end of physical violence before, I did not want to relive such an experience with David. Threatening police intervention, he finally stopped his psychological and emotional assaults. Arriving one day, he brought the rest of my things and took me out to dinner, telling me he had sent Isabel on her way and he wanted me to move back.

But I had let go of the chain our lifeline had become. I knew to survive myself it was the only thing left to do. If I didn’t, I knew he was strong enough to drag me down with him and I knew he didn’t want to go down alone.

David helped me to accept we cannot help those who do not want to be helped. Perhaps it is harder for a man because we’ve made it harder for a man to ask for help without him being viewed as weak.

When the phone call came from our Toronto neighbors, I was not surprised to hear Isabel discovered David’s cold body in his bed after she crawled frantically through the open window when he did not answer his phone or open the only door.

Greatly saddened by the loss of his brilliance and the tragedy of his life, relief also flooded my being; grateful that finally he would be at peace in a way this life had never granted him. Haunting me for months, I now know he is finally freed from his pain, empowering me to write his story for you. Maybe that was David’s hope all along.

April 24, 2013

From School Halls to Nursing Home Halls … Connecting the Dots

Sarah weeps, no longer silently in her own room, for she has no private room of her own. Her body now confined to the prison of a wheelchair, her home is now in the public halls and rooms of the place she is now supposed to call home. Cries of help and weeping slide down the polished halls, echoing the silent pleas of the many trapped inside bodies and minds no longer wanted outside of the box’s doors.

Jed, a man whose compassion was beaten out of him as a child, scathingly begins a torrent of words he also learned at a young age, throwing them at Sarah like pots of scalding water, his conditioned anger a reflection of the anger poured out onto his young body, mind and heart.

Just like in the schoolyard, the onlookers stare with faces, the other residents’ own memories of what happens to children in schoolyards who speak up the closest to the surface of their minds.

And just like in the schoolyard, the responsible ones scurry in to break up the verbal scuffle to avoid anything worse from happening.

Observing faces fade into the background of Henry’s mind as he wanders the halls, back and forth, back and forth, because that is all there is to do now in such a place.

The usual crowd feeds on the dramas unfolding, the gossip to soon be shared, like their own television show, live before them, while those seeking peace and solace of any kind, try to drown out the noises of so many different kinds of people shoved into small spaces more akin to stables in a barn than homes the places are supposed to be, by sitting close to their televisions to see what they would rather see and hear than what surrounds them.

Caring for the once-little-boy Johnny who refuses to yield to their demands, responsible ones shake their heads and try to soothe, but the boy and the man are determined not to be penned and caged and the battle of wits wages, till reinforcements are brought in and the drugs win for another night.

Tucked away in her mind, Alison prays every moment to be set free from the body she was taught to hate and still does, while Jared, shuffles happily, his mind never one to think beyond the moment. Walter slaps people on the back when someone walks by and Aaron yells hello at every passer by.

Crammed together as they are in the nursing home halls, it is easy to see the children they once were … crammed together in a classroom … a box meant to shape them a certain way … a box designed to cut off, like a piece of putty is when shoved through a square mold, bits deemed hazardous to the group’s health, but when we cut off bits of people to make them what we think and want them to be, the loss is felt and though scars do cover the gaping wounds, the person does not heal nor is ever whole again, especially since these people cannot go home … for this school-like place is their home during their last months and years.

Most of us are wounded in such ways because we have not changed the way we shape our world from childhood onward and the evidence is found not only in our nursing homes but still in our schools and news … shaping the nursing homes of the future in much the same way.

For Sarah, Jed, Henry, Johnny, Alison, Jared, Walter and Aaron whose identities are protected by The Respect Principle but whose stories are very real, one sees them in the nursing home, in the school halls and some on the news where neglect and abuse … Disrespect has taken its toll and exacted the price of their life.

Treating people as objects, teaches people to treat themselves and others as objects to be shaped, at any cost, to what others want them to be … we teach people repetitiously how they are not okay and then wonder why such people think others are not okay. The rest is history, present and if not changed, future too.

Awareness first. Desire for change second. Effort for change third. Success finally fourth. Much more success if more quickly and broadly we unite on changing our world by changing our underground philosophy from Disrespect to Respect …

Connecting the Dots … with The RESPECT PRINCIPLE Developer and Author
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April 22, 2013
715 words

Not Exclusive to Children and Teens, Bullying is Everywhere

To bully means to tease, harass, threaten, dominate … to control and terrorize by manipulation whether verbally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially … through any means a person devises to make others feel as they do.

People who bully, whether through resorting to the bomb attack that rocked the Boston Marathon yesterday or through turning over a desk and destroying a phone in a local school or a sibling hurting another or a boss threatening to fire an employee for standing up for their right to be treated fairly or a landlord intimidating a tenant experiencing financial difficulties or citizens gossiping about a community member or a politician slamming political opponents instead of selling us on what good they can do themselves or a parent devaluing, neglecting or abusing a child or an adult neglecting or abusing its parent, a pedophile abducting a child, people waging a religious war, etc. etc. etc. … reflect their varying RESPECT LEVELS, all below the 50% mark and mostly around the 10% to 35%.

To stop bullying of any kind, the only solution is to help people feel valuable … RESPECTED … for who they are as individuals … to find, develop, and deliver new ways of transforming any bullying behavior, raising RESPECT LEVELS since any other approach is simply reaction to an infection … we may take away the infection, but without clearing up the source, the source will find another way to attack with intent to destroy.

Connecting the Dots … with The RESPECT PRINCIPLE Changes Our World by Changing Our Philosophy

April 16, 2013
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Out of the Mouths of Our Babes …

Unicef’s recent report on childhood well-being reported yesterday on CBC shows Canada in the middle of the pack (17 out of 29) and the United States in the last sector (26 out of 29) when it comes to our children’s well-being. Canada’s standing has not improved since 2007.

Ranking is based on the five broad categories of:

MATERIAL WELL-BEING, Canada 15, United States 26
HEALTH and SAFETY, Canada 27 United States 25
EDUCATION, Canada 14, United States 27
BEHAVIORS and RISK, Canada 16, United States 23
HOUSING and ENVIRONMENT, Canada 11, United States 23

This information extracted from CBC’s April 10, 2013 The National Report on the Internet, with files from Lorenda Redekopp. Visit CBC’s and Unicef’s website for additional information.

Beyond the above numbers though are the “red flags” from our children who responded to questions about their own perception of their state of well-being by saying they feel they are being thwarted in their hopes and dreams, which is why Canada only ranked 24th out of 29 when asked about children’s level of satisfaction.

When we take away hopes and dreams, we take away people’s zest for living. We create resentful people who go through the expected motions and who develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the feelings or hopelessness and resentment … see the youth cannabis stats in the above study … then look at the stats on depression, suicide, run-aways, bullying, abuse, violence … then consider, what we are teaching by example … that a person is not valuable, that hopes and dreams are not valuable, that living is about being who people want you to be and just getting by … collecting and hoarding what you can, giving just enough to assauge your guilt, and then burrowing one’s head to not see what is too painful to recognize … a world filled with disrespect for life.

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Connecting the Dots … with The RESPECT PRINCIPLE
Aprill 11, 2013

“One” Is Not Enough

In a world with over 7 billion people born, helping one person at a time is not enough.

That is why shifting our global “Disrespect Philosophy” to the “Respectful Philosophy” is a must if we say “all life is valuable” but don’t act accordingly.

Connecting the Dots … with The RESPECT PRINCIPLE reveals the big picture of how and why we will all benefit, plus how and why we will each benefit … every one of us all at once.

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Connecting the Dots … with The RESPECT PRINCIPLE Developer, Author, and Speaker
April 10, 2013

Philosophy: A big word with big implications, but in reality …

Wikipedia defines “philosophy as the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. In more casual speech, by extension, “philosophy” can refer to the “most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group.”