Compassion Isn’t Moral

“You don’t believe in God?  Where do you get your morality from then?” Is a question atheists are often asked.  Most of my atheist friends reply along the lines of, “God and the fear of punishment is the only thing keeping you from committed violence?  I do not need God to be moral.”

I agree with my friends, that you do not need God to be moral.  The more important question to me is, without God, why would you want to be moral?

I am a loving person.  This is not to whitewash my many shortcomings.  Certainly, I have done many things which have caused others — including myself — pain.  On balance though, I believe my actions seek to foster love, compassion, and understanding.

At this point, I find the notion that I need morality or should seek to be moral rather offensive.  If I am a good person, it is because I have a good nature.  I want to be sweet for the same sorts of reasons our dogs are sweet.  Because we are loving and happy.

If there is a man or woman out there, who needs an arbitrary external moral system and moral obligations to keep him or her from causing sentient creatures needless pain, then certainly, let us make sure he or she has morality.

If you do need morality, just do not pretend this somehow makes you superior.  If you do not need morality, if you want to live your life as both a theological and a moral atheist, I welcome you.

I want to be around more nice, loving, amoral people.

Next time someone asks “You don’t believe in God?  Where do you get your morality from then?”  I am going to respond, “What in the hell makes you think I have morality?”

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Too Much Weakness

Many of my liberal friends seem to worship weakness.  Maybe they are more Christian than they realize?  Is not the 99% Movement a lot like the sort of grassroots movement that Jesus Christ might have organized?  Gather up all of the weak, convince them that the only reason that they are weaker than the strong, is because they have moral superiority over the strong.

Then again, I see a lot of my liberal friends point out that if Jesus was alive today, he would be considered too liberal by Republicans.  So perhaps I am just late in realizing something, both liberals and conservatives are proud to worship weakness in the United States.

They focus on different aspects of weakness.  Liberals fear rich and strong human beings.  Conservatives fear God and death.

Let me be clear about something, I am not calling 99% of Americans weak.  I am just rejecting the dichotomy that some want to impose.  I am also not trying to demonize those who need help or ask for help.  I am after all, a quite proud liberal.

Why am I a liberal?  Because I think that the more we help others, the stronger we are proving ourselves to be.  Investing in others and allowing others to invest in us is all about strength in my view.  It is all about having compassion for each other and positive goals for ourselves as individuals and as a society.  I want to increase taxation on the rich, because I think they are strong enough for it.  I do not want to punish them.  I want to increase services for the poor, because I think such services are investments in people with a lot of potential.  I do not see a person who has lived through homelessness or poverty as weak.

I have known too many people who have gone through the worst forms of abuse and poverty to say that they are weak.

I have also wanted to find solutions to problems and understand this amazing world we live in too much to ever be convinced by simple solutions.  The simplest solution for any problem that I have ever known involves finding a villain.

I do not want to make my liberal friends into a collective villain right now.  I want to do the best sort of battle with them, a battle that is fierce and respectful.  I want to empower.

The 1% is not the cause of our problems.  If it was, I would be very scared.  External threats are the worse.  How can we control what is outside of ourselves?

Introspection is really the solution in my view.  I want to see how I can change and how we can change to overcome whatever obstacles we have.

This does not mean I think the 100% or any percent should blame themselves.  Regardless of if you have done everything wrong or nothing wrong, self-blame helps nothing in the long term.

Rather, we need to look what we can do to help chart a more positive future.

This is by the way, the sort of advice we often give to those we love.  If your loving parents were homophobic and they are starting to realize they were wrong, I imagine you do not try to make them feel bad.  You do not say, “Mom, Dad, you are evil.”  You do something much more powerful, you offer understanding.

This is not so easily done when it comes to people we do not actually know though.  Why?  Because we forget they are human beings?  I wish!  It is because we enjoy having villains and actively want to forget that they are human beings.  It is just not so easy to do when it comes to people we know.  It is a sort of xenophobia of the soul.  The chance to pronounce someone with no connection to us a villain is too good an opportunity to pass up.

I am not suggesting wealth worship.  That is silliness.  There is a lot more to a person than if she is rich or poor.  Also, if someone is rich or poor in your view, has a lot more to do with your own economic state than it does with theirs.  I venture to say, that if you are reading this online, you are rich to more people than you are poor.

If someone makes a lot of money, they should pay more taxes than those who are relatively poorer.  I strongly support progressive taxation.  I strongly support regulation and egalitarianism.  I already mentioned my support of more social services.  No one in America should be homeless, malnourished, without healthcare, or unable to access higher education because of financial reasons.

I am all for doing battle with those who oppose these principles.  If you think this means just doing battle with those who are richer than you, you are silly.  It will involve doing battle also with a lot of people who happen to be poorer than you.  Stupidity finds its ways into all levels of the economic spectrum.

Since I have been implying and am now stating that Republican economical ideas are stupid, I am sure this post will leave everyone annoyed with me.

Almost everyone.  I think I am okay with that though.  I hunger for the exception that I know lives out there.  I know she is much rarer than 1% of anything, and that makes her much more valuable.

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I Let Things Die

I let things die.  When I do not see a clear path forward or fear humiliation in a possible defeat, I come to a standstill.  It is the only way of coping I have ever perfected.

Almost every single familial relationship I ever had has disintegrated into nothing.  Many of the most important ones, before I turned the age of eighteen.  I refused to show my weakness.  It is not that I am above forgiveness, it is that I am above fighting for something I think I might lose anyways.

If I think I might be a couple minutes late to class, I do not show up.  If I might not get the job, I do not apply.  If I am not going to be able to get the physique I want, I just binge eat and think about achieving something else.

I am letting you die.  I feel the panic coming on, that I imagine most people feel during these situations.  Just as quickly, I feel it being shut off by a malignant resignation.  I feel myself calming down.  The crisis is not averted, but it is suppressed.  I am unable to do anything other than go back to thinking about politics.  You are unable to do anything either.  Right before the resignation set in, I noticed how sunken in your eyes are.

If you look back over your life, I think you will find I was there for you, for most of it.  You always threw up a lot.  I cleaned it up, I put you on specialized diets.  I did everything I thought I should or could.  You were strong and resilient then.  I saw a path to victory.

A few years ago, not long after Stella died, you began losing weight.  You were constantly hungry.  I feared you had cancer and were doomed to die just like Stella did.  I was a bit slow to act.  I knew how it ended for Stella.  The resignation was already coming over me.  Somehow, I fought it enough, and we got you in to see the doctor.  It was not cancer.  You just had a thyroid problem.  We put you on medication.

You responded wonderfully.  You were the fat guy again that you had always been.  It was great.  Then when it was time to refill your medication, that was pricey, but still doable, they wanted to run the exact same tests over again.  So we did.  Your levels came back fine, we got some more medicine.  Then they wanted to do it again.  I knew it was going to end up being more money than I could afford.  I finissed them, got them to give you refills without the tests.  They would only go along with that for so long.  If I would not pay for you to get more tests, you would not get your medicine.

So you went without, until I was able to find a nonprofit to take you to.  They were much less expensive, but still not cheap.  The tests added up, especially when I was not getting many hours at work.  There were gaps here and there.  Nothing major.

Then you started losing weight again.  We upped your dose.  Your new doctor gave gave you a long supply.  The last month or two, you had been losing weight.  I knew we would probably have to up your dose again when we checked your blood.

T you ran out, and I did not have money to have your blood checked.  So you went off your medication, and you continued to lose weight.  I knew this was a problem, but in the past when you were off for a week or two, it was not that big of a deal.  I did not worry about it.  I put the fact that you were off of medication out of my mind because there was nothing I could do about it.

I did briefly entertain going to the doctor and saying that I had no money and needed to get your levels checked.  I could appeal to her and our personal relationship.  I could convince her that I would pay her back if she provided the services upfront.

I thought this might work, but I also knew it might not.  So I decided just to wait for a more sure thing.  I would get money soon and then we could pay for all of your tests and get you taken care of.  Until then, there was no point in worrying.

Please understand, I knew this was all wrong.  I am just telling you how I rationalized it.  I do not want you to believe any of this, because I did not entirely believe any of this.  I was letting you die.

Once we got you tested and the results came back the doctor called, frantic.  “His levels are through the roof!”
“Well he has been off of the meds for about two weeks.  I did not have money for his medication, but even before that he was losing weight again.  I got him in as soon as I could.”

“Patrick, never do that again.  I will be so mad if you do.  I would have given you medication and done the tests and you could have paid me whenever you got the money.”

I told her I understood and in the future I would do that.  I told her that other than you losing weight, you seemed to be doing well.

Here is where I really fooled myself.  For a brief moment, I thought you were doing fine.  Somehow I convinced myself that another crisis had been averted.  I got you your drugs just in the nick of time, and I would be able to smooth this one out and pretend like nothing ever happened, just like I always have before.

Once I started getting your medicine into you, you just started throwing up more.  I do not think you have eaten in a couple days.  You throw up so much.  You are tripping now, when you try to walk.

I thought about texting the doctor right now.  Letting her know you are not doing well.  Then I thought “what can she do now?”  So I will call first thing in the morning.

I am scared she is going to realize that you are in worse shape than I let on before.  I am thinking of explaining to her, that I did not realize what bad shape you were in.  I thought you were just losing weight.  I did not realize you would stop eating, even when food is offered to you.  I did not see how sunken in your eyes are.

I am rubbing your bony body, yelling at myself.  I have let you die, and I am thinking more about what the doctor will think of me.

You.  I have been in love with you for a long time now.  You are so beautiful.  You are just a cat, and Merrick, you are so much more than that.

You are a strong, pissy creature.  You never take shit from anyone.  Now though, you are so much weaker than that.

When I was little, I wished for a fucked up world.  I wanted enemies I could battle and overcome, just like I thought members of my family did.

Only in adulthood have I wanted a more perfect world, one that we do not have to fix.  I think people want a perfect world, when they lose faith in the characters of this story to battle the imperfections.

I am imperfect.  I have holes and voids in me.  I know how to spin narratives in which I make others think I have made progress.  I forget to let them know that I let you die.

    I so sorry.  I love you so much.  I do not know if you are in pain or if you are scared.  I do not know if rubbing you hurts you.  I do not know what the fuck I am doing.

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Mexican or Un-American

There was a family of evil, vengeful chameleons. Two of the most evil chameleons went on to breed with each other and see to it that the ensuing generations continued this incestuous trend. Their descendants could claim to be a distinct representation of either of the two original ancestors, while still having the characteristics of both. This made real confusion and perceived knowledge very easy for those who can only be enlightened by what they were taught before they began puberty. I am mythologizing a simple problem which owes its survival to the complexity of human psychology. I am mythologizing it for a very practical purpose. If I started this argument of mine by saying that the concepts of nationality and ethnicity are often impediments to our understanding of ourselves and others, it would be hard to convince the reader to continue on to the the second sentence.
I was once having a conversation with a Chinese-American friend of mine. His blood is Chinese, apparently. He does not know his family tree, except that his parents lived in China and consider themselves Chinese. I explained that his family may not have been in China for very many generations or considered themselves Chinese. If it turned out that five generations before settling in China his ancestors had come from Japan, what would that do? “It would make me Japanese.”
The real conversation was much longer. After asking him to suppose his family came from Japan five generations ago, I emphasized that since then, his family had lost any cultural connection to Japan. They had learned Chinese, assimilated to Chinese culture and utterly forgotten that they had ancestors from Japan. Certainly this would not make them any less Chinese now, right? Well, as you see, it apparently would.
Our very American conception ethnicity and nationality views both as inherited, as going back to our “ancestral roots.” Of course, we as a species originated in Africa. A consistent application of this logic would render us all African American. People readily assent to this and then just as quickly dismiss it as a joke, as opposed to fact and say “but my family really comes from (nation or region here).”
What they mean when they talk about what country they come from, is that they are of Mexican blood, French blood, Nigerian blood and so on. These national bloods are fictions though. You cannot assume that any two people who happen to be in Mexico or happen to consider themselves Mexicans are genetically more closely related to each other than either one might be to someone who does not consider themselves Mexican. For instance, over the years, Mexico has had immigration from European nations such as Spain, Portugal, France and the United Kingdom, as well as the continents of Africa and Asia. Add this to the the indigenous peoples who already lived in what is now considered Mexico and you have a mishmash of families with very different family trees going back quite a few generations (of course, we all eventually are related to each other). What makes them all Mexican then if there is no single Mexican blood? Well the fact that they are citizens of Mexico and consider themselves Mexican. In other words, exactly what makes both Barack Obama and George W. Bush equally American. Though it is hard to convince many Americans that there is nothing genetic about ethnicity or nationality, they readily assent that there is nothing genetic about being American. There is something special about being American. Our nationality alone seems to surpass the limitations of all other nationalities.
The hegemonic discourse in the United States says that we are all different. Quite ironic, eh? In order to be the idealistic and accepting nation that our national mythology describes as, we must be incredibly diverse and tolerant. The best way to make sure we are all diverse and tolerant is to say that we are all different and other. We become American by accepting this essential difference, not by losing it via acculturation. Since this is part of what makes us unique, a “nation of immigrants” we have to assume that the case is quite different for other nations. Other nations cannot be credited as being made up of immigrants. Two English people share the same family tree, because if one of them actually emigrated from France and the other emigrated from India, it would take away what we think makes us uniquely American. This is very similar to well-meaning Americans saying that are grateful to live in America, because they love democracy. Which is kind of like saying they love living in America, because countryside is important to them.
I used to be Mexican when I was younger. Granted, I was American, but in the cool sense of being an immigrant, who knew I was accepted despite this. Even better, I was an immigrant despite the fact that I, my parents and my grandparents, along with a couple of my great-grandparents were all born in the United States. I considered myself Mexican because that is what I was told I was. I assumed that I had Mexican culture and inclinations. I had light skin, could not speak Spanish, and did not have much more exposure to Americanized Mexican food than any of the white kids I knew who frequented Mexican restaurants. In the eyes of some, this made my Mexican membership rather tenuous. Their considering themselves more Mexican, simply entrenched me in the conviction that I was Mexican. It made my nationality that much more important to me. After all, if I was not Mexican, what was I?
It took many years for me to become comfortable with the notion that I had Mexican ancestors but am not myself Mexican. This does not mean I turned my back on my culture or am ashamed of it. It simply means that I was not content to allow my fellow Americans to foist a nationality on me that began to feel more and more arbitrary. I never really was Mexican, I just used to be slightly more of an uncritical American when I called myself Mexican.
Yet, I have plenty of friends who feel a real attachment to nations they have never actually seen. Am I now telling them that they must give up their national identity? Not at all. We need to begin defining national identity by how the person chooses to identify herself, not based on her family tree, or the few generations of that tree we have bothered to look at. Someone who is born in America to Ethiopian parents, may grow up to feel a very strong attachment to the nation of her parents. If this attachment leads her to call herself Ethiopian, then she is indeed Ethiopian.
There should be no criteria for nationality or ethnicity other than the personal criteria we set for ourselves. An ethnicity simply refers to a smaller group within a larger group. This is why Mormons are often looked at as an ethnicity. Other groups of people may also grow to have an ethnic identity, regardless of if they have nationality or race in common. What makes someone feel that they are punks or Spaniards is variable. If someone does not feel an ethnic attachment to any group, then that person is by definition assimilated. If one is a fully assimilated American, their nationality is American. Just American. Not _______-American.

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Waking Thoughts

I do not know why I am depressed today. I am just so used to feeling depressed, staying in bed feels like the thing to do. So I put the blankets over my head and listen to my cats running back and forth on top of me, living their lives. I want to cry because I have given up on life and have no idea why.
I want to win my battle against insomnia. At the same time, going to the doctor about it scares me. Part of me knows that even when I get a full night of sleep, I still cannot get out of bed in the morning. There is something about waking up which my body rejects.
I am smart. It is hard for me to find anyone who can intellectually challenge me. What I have learned from most other people is how to dumb down what I say. This sounds cruel, I know. The part that gets me, is that despite this, I am a complete and utter academic failure.
When I think about my family, I want to cry. Consciously, I want to cry. I will it. Yet, inside of me, there is nothing. My body feels like it has nothing to cry about. That scares me. I know there has to be something inside of there, that can be squeezed until it has to open up, if it wants to or not. I do not know where that is. So instead I apply indiscriminate pressure, like chemotherapy. I attack everything about myself, hoping that some aspect of me reveals itself as the illusive enemy. That something jumps out like an evil clown and admits it was causing the trouble all along. Perhaps for no reason at all, just the sheer thrill.
Some little voice inside of myself that wanted to prove it was real and not just a figment of my imagination, by showing that it could work against all of my interests. If it was known, I could laugh about this. If I found it, I could deal with it. I cannot, and frankly, I am too tired to look much more.
So instead, I arbitrarily pick reasons for my depression. Usually it is my family or poor body image. More recently, I have started to throw financial woes into the mix. Nothing makes me cry though.
Sometimes I wish Luther would be cruel to me. So cruel that I have no choice but to cry. I need something to relieve the pressure. This numbness isolates me.
Do I have a disease? Do I feel sorry for myself too much? Maybe I am just too lazy.
My cat Romulus sneezes in my face. He seems shocked by the explosion that happened in front of him for a few moments. Then he begins to rub his face against mine. He owns nothing and experiences everything. He does not know why I am depressed today. If I am not going to get out of bed, he is going to lay beside me.

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No Apologies

Recognizing the complexity of the dysfunctional people we have been forced to love and hate simultaneously is not an apology.  It is simply a recognition that those who endure pain are victims… even if they were unable to shoulder that pain themselves and inflicted it on others, including ourselves.

I do not doubt that there are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Eminem and his music.  The criticisms in this link do not represent any of them though.  Eminem was not apologizing to his mother.   He was recognizing that his mother did the best she could to raise him.  Unfortunately she came up short.  He has had and I am sure he does still have, real anger because of that.  That being said, it is natural to recognize the fragility of those who have victimized us if we reflect on it long enough.  I do not think anyone harms others, especially children, out of a position of strength.

Eminem’s song, headlights is very powerful to me.  I can relate to it.  It brings back memories of my mom, aunts and grandma.  It very poetically represents a similar arch in my views of them all.

In the past, I have had much more vitriol towards many of them.  I do not apologize for that for one moment.  I also do not believe that they are fully capable of healing and becoming healthy individuals.  For that reason, I choose to stay away from them.  I will never have a relationship with my mom.  A divorce occurred, and it was a permanent one.

That being said, I do not feel the need to direct hatred or animosity towards her anymore.  I wish her the best.  I hope she gets the love that she deserves, even if it will not ever be from me.

The link itself refers to Eminem “apologizing” to his mother.  Idiot comments from the public said things to the effect that Eminem has cashed out on wrongfully bashing his mother and only now feels bad.

What shallowness.  Eminem as an artist is simply reflecting on a different aspect of his relationship with his mother.  It is certainly not the exact same as mine, but it is still something I relate to.

When I read the reckless comments, I think back to the people who judged me for not talking to my mom.  It was usually because they had loving mothers, and could not imagine that I was a victim of a mother who did not know how to love, as opposed to a victimizer myself.

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The Other As Migraine

My entire brain feels like a clenched muscle that cannot relax. When this happens, my only instinct is to be alone, to hide. Unfortunately, this feeling only comes over me when I am around other people. I like people and interacting, but I can become overstimulated easily. When this happens, and I see other people talking and laughing, I become jealous and hurt. They are all laughing and enjoying each other. At the same time, my primary fear is that if they see me, they will want to include me.

Today, when I ordered my lunch, I saw people I know and like. They are amazing people. I simply could not fathom the idea of having to spend my break with them though. It makes me feel horrible about myself. Instead of eating with them, I left the cafeteria and ate my garden burger and french fries, alone, outside in the rain, behind a column. The column partially protected me from the rain. More importantly, it meant that if someone I knew walked by, they would not see me.

I scarfed down my food, then walked hurriedly through the rain back to the library, to relative safety. Then I had to go back to work, in the tutoring center inside of the library. As soon as I walked in, people who like me, and who I like, started talking to me. “Why are they trying to hurt me?” is the though that appeared in my head. I laughed when I countered and told myself that they are actually just trying to be friendly. I understood the absurdity of thinking they were trying to hurt me, just because they wanted to know about my Spring Break. It is not a thought I could shake though.

When I successfully isolate myself from people, I become lonely and sad. I feel rejected by those I love. I wonder why I cannot build the meaningful connections with others that I want so badly. Yet, I want them on my terms. I want to talk one on one with people. When I see someone I like, I want that person to myself. Is it because I am possessive or irrational? Maybe. I suppose the answer to that rests on whether or not you think the excruciating pain which comes over me and the manic desire to find a quiet place when I am in crowds of people suffices as an adequate explanation or not.


Tonight when I got home, I pulled into my parking stall and my neighbor pulled into his only a few seconds after. I had already begun opening the door when he pulled in. I was scared that if I was not able to get to my apartment fast enough, he would start talking to me when he got out of his truck first.

So I decided I should wait him out. I closed the door and stared at my phone, so that he could not trick me into making eye contact. It occurred to me that he might try opening my door to talk to me – since we do not know each other at all, I now doubt that there would be any likelihood of this actually happening – so I locked the doors.

After several minutes I was still in the car and so was he. I began to identify with my neighbor. I could not think of any other reason why he would be in his car other than that he was also trying to avoid conversation. I was thinking about how much he was trying to avoid the guy in the white pontiac with the Obama sticker. That guy looks like a talker, better to just stay in the truck until he leaves.

I laughed. We were having a battle of introverts. Finally, I found someone who could spend time with me on my own terms.

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