Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The middle path: Why balance is the hardest to achieve

I have found inspiration in the vigorous discussions that have sprung up from my previous blog and the writings of others. This is a good thing even if we vociferously disagree that we are talking rather than trying to shout each other down. Yet I see the growing cancer of intolerance, disinformation, and excessive hyperbole within the general discourse. It to me is the strongest proof of the growth of tribalism, which I have written on the topic previously, in the United States today.

The issue that I am taking up in this post is the often utter lack of context when we discuss a political, social, or religious issue today. I see the rise of meme's, tweets, and other aspects of social media as tools that are being grossly misused by all of us. Rather than permitting facts as we can research and verify for ourselves we are serving up more "soundbites" that make us feel good about striking a blow for "our" side, whatever side that might be.

I can personally attest to the need for our data to be accurate, factual, and as devoid of bias as possible. Given both my training as an Intelligence Analyst and student of human psychology empiricism isn't just a good idea, it is sacrosanct as without the information is useless. The goal of your research is to provide useful and usable data for analysis and then dissemination to a larger group. It is NOT to allow you to cherry-pick the facts you want to present or ignore those facts that modify your desired end state.

Given the divisive nature of our recent turn in our national politics and rise of what to many are disturbing parallels given the actions of the Trump Administration and Nazi Germany.   The fact that such comparisons made regularly are disturbing yet so are the actions by the Trump Administration to draw such ire from concerned citizens. Rumor and innuendo seem to be propelling headlong into our information stream.  Blindly parroting the rumor and innuendo is counter-productive to the imperative need for factual information that informs us to move as our intelligence and conscience would guide us.

Something to keep in mind, amidst the sound and fury, be mindful of where and what your data comes from if someone else does the research for you.  We must be intellectually honest and hold our integrity dearly in the face of such temptations to fight with our hearts. Our emotions are powerful tools to help us, but unchecked can do far more harm than good to ourselves and others. Outrage at what is perceived injustice, racism, and a host of other ills is justified whenever we find it.

Before we take to the streets and the Internet, let's stop for a moment and gather facts. Groups that have long experienced discrimination have shown us that being armed with factually truthful information is both transformational and infinitely powerful, History provides numerous examples of this such as our revolution against Great Britain. If you separate the propaganda from both sides, you will see that the colonials who fought to break away sought to decide for themselves rather than be told by others, how to rule themselves.

Thus I again sound my refrain of "Stop, listen, research, gather facts, recognize bias both in yourself and your data" before you act. As for me personally, I find it disturbing the amount of concern with our current political and social climate for a lot of reasons. I will fight for those freedoms I have fought for on behalf of all Americans till it is my time to depart the Midgard.



Monday, January 23, 2017

The justification for violence against those who hate???

During the events of the inauguration a known white-supremacist, also someone who openly admires the politics of Nazi's, was struck while on camera. I quickly came to see many people who I respect celebrating this act of, in their words "poetic justice", violence. Their reasons for justification of this glee was he was a Nazi and thus unworthy of any sympathy. I will admit that while it was satisfying to see his arrogance breached and for a moment he experienced an awareness that likely eludes him daily otherwise. There are consequences for this action now immortalized via the internet.

I have made no attempt to hide my mistrust of this violence and its potential long-term effects upon the very groups that are the subject of the hideous and vile claptrap that is peddled by the white-supremacy movement be they Nazis or otherwise. I have first hand seen the horrifying results of such beliefs that violence is always justifiable against those who are different for any reason. I have seen marketplaces filled with women and children bombed simply to make a political point. Thus while the individual may have gotten his comeuppance, the one who struck him did not strike a blow for justice in any form.

A World War was fought with the deaths of millions, so much death that the actual human toll is still unfathomable today. With the end of that war the world was ushered in to the nuclear age, promising death on a species scale of annihilation. Thus it is through the lens of history that I see the dangers of violence in kind to the hate spewed by other men. This is not to say that you don't prepare for the worst of their ignorance to cause violence to be used against you and yours. Yet as one who has seen what happens with such thoughts, the human toll is very real when bombs, bullets, and hate are fueled by a desire for revenge being masqueraded as justice.

Violence is a tool that I understand must be employed at times to defend one's self or others lest they be a victim(s) of that violence themselves. Still I cannot state enough why it is and should always be the court of last resort in the face of hate, even when they call for such violence against yourself or others. I am not tolerant of the speech of hate and will oppose it in any form because of my study of history as well as what I have seen it do in real life to innocent people. Yet my first resort is to entrench myself and others against the temptation to become that which we loathe, thus surrendering our moral justification for the use of surgically applied violence when absolutely necessary.

This is not to say to be kind to those who would subjugate or enslave you or any other human being. Only that we must understand fully the consequences of using violent means, however justified, against others. There is a heavy price to be paid for this responsibility and one that as of my experience continues to be paid long after the guns have fallen silent. I live with those images and emotions of being part of such every waking or sleeping moment of my life.

Thus I counsel all of humanity to passionately oppose hate and those who preach it in any fashion, do not be silent or complicit in their oppression. Please be mindful that while in our opposition we do not become that which we fight, this is the greatest trial of the warrior to fight without corruption of the heart and our very souls.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

An Oath I Swore to My Country and why you should swear it as well..

On July 11, 1991, I found myself inside the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Military Entrance Recruit Processing Station or (MEPS) in a room with about 25 others. I swore the following oath...


I, Jared Michael Royka, to hereby solemnly swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic. To obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me. And to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, so help me God.

Now given our 45th President who was sworn in on January 20, 2017, I am not saying you swear allegiance to Donald J. Trump personally but that we are in service to the nation, her people, and their way of life. That the office of the President of the United States is ultimately as I am bound by that same oath. It is our sacred honor and duty to hold him and ourselves to that oath even when it counters our self-interest.

My oath did not come with an expiration date nor should any oath we swear for it is a reflection of what we hold sacred and honor most about ourselves, our people, and our beloved nation. I call upon all of us to either swear or renew our oaths to support, uphold, and defend our Constitution as well as our ideals that gave birth to this nation. We as a nation have often failed more than we have succeeded but that is where our greatest strength lies, we despite failures continue to move forward to the future.

Let us leave no one behind in that march to our future. All  Americans are valuable and necessary to our nation even those we would otherwise shun or ignore. Yes even those who espouse hate and spew venom against their fellow Americans, we will lead by example and answer hate with love, violence with peace, and ignorance with the light of knowledge. Growth and change are constant but always painful in some way, I believe that we are more than capable of this and so much more.

Our nation requires informed and active citizens, if you wish to change things become involved in every single aspect of our government from local all the way through to national level issues. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH  and always VERIFY your sources never trust anything that is presented to you by anyone else, remember they have an agenda and it may not be yours. Call your elected officials, hold them accountable, and never give up an inch of ground because its hard.

Support groups and organizations that help do these very things as well for they can magnify our efforts to uphold and defend our Constitution against those foreign and domestic enemies. Do not give in to complacency or brutality given as a response to your efforts to uphold your oaths. I challenge all of us to renew our oaths to our nation, our people, and our way of life. We can do it and I will be right beside you.

I will hold our government accountable, I will educate and inform myself about the issues facing our nation and act vigorously on them. I challenge everyone to do the same with the caveat of remember to love each other when we want most to hate or denigrate one another.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fear and Predjudice in America

     Today I sit in my comfortable and unafraid in my home, I am not in any danger outside of a really messy diaper today. Yet I have watched the growing storm of protest and counter protest occurring just outside my walls both literally and figuratively Social media has become a battleground and many of us are still confused as to what happened to our country to have fallen so far. I have no answers and according to some I should just sit down and shut up because I am not a marginalized person.

    How do I as a white male whom by all appearances who is so blandly "normal" as to make vanilla seem spicy and exciting act? Well folks its confession time to the larger world, I am not the bland individual that I have seemingly been so successful in masquerading as to the larger world. Lets start with one of my personally "sarcasm" favorite topics, religion. I am NOT christian, in point of fact, I am a heathen to be technically correct. I worship and follow the Norse Gods, yes those Norse Gods  and no not the ones from the comic books either.

    During my first combat tour in Iraq, I found myself praying to my "perceived" identification as "Christian"  to help me make sense of the insanity I had found myself in daily there. Yet no small voice came, nothing happened I felt hollow and empty. I went to my Chaplain and described what was happening to me, he spoke to me gently saying "You are having a crisis of faith." This was even more disturbing and frightening to me as I felt adrift when I needed my faith the most.

   I made it home and eventually was stationed at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona in 2004. For the next hear or so I watched myself try to reintegrate into a "normal" life of a stateside soldier. 2005 was an eventful year for me as I found my first marriage beyond anyone's ability to fix. Thus I joined yet another statistical grouping in America, those marriages that end in divorce. So yet another blow came to my identity and faith that had already been shaken to its core. 

   Mutual friends of mine asked me if I would attend a pagan group with them and finally I said yes. It was largely to get myself out of my doldrums and into interactions with other human beings. The first moment I walked into the grove, I hadn't been sleeping well due to stress and nightmares for a while, I felt a peace I had never felt before. While the ceremony went on and I kept silent as I watched and listened to the goings on, I felt something whisper to me and I looked up to see a Raven fly overhead, the voice continued to speak inside my mind.

    It was that day I swore upon the oath stone that I had been chosen by my patron God, Odin. This may seem silly to you but it is what I felt and saw that day. I have never looked back since. Yet this is not the only place I break with convention or what is expected of me as a white male in America. In that same time period post divorce I had found myself directing a local branch of what was then the Camarilla Fan Club in Sierra Vista, AZ.

   In 2005 we had our International Conclave Convention or ICC in Phoenix, AZ. That year also saw a major hurricane hit the United States so in order to help inspire our domain to give as much as possible to charity, I made a wager. I wagered that the could not raise a thousand dollars or more to donate to the Red Cross in support of their relief efforts. I lost my wager as they raised over 1,200 dollars for that organization.
 
   My payment for that loss was to appear in public at opening ceremonies at the convention in full drag. At the time there were several coordinators, all males, who were making the same statements as I yet I was the only one to show up in full drag and even role-played that night as a female character to cement my honoring the wager. Ask anyone that knows me I don't go in for half measures nor  do I hold back in keeping my word.

    I spent weeks learning how to walk in heels as a woman walks, yes I spent hours learning how to swing my hips. I went shopping for the full kit, including women's undergarments, ladies you have my respect and I too want to beat the bastard that invented the underwire bra to death because that shit pinches like hell.I even did a few practice runs as well prior to the event, risking my security clearance and job to honor my wagers. 

    Here is a pic of me at that event;


 
      I went to that event, armed out of acknowledgement of the dangers I could potentially find myself in due to my appearance as woman but clearly a man underneath. So I can understand why Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual, and Transgendered people could be afraid of Trump and those who voted him into office. I researched my role and completely got into character and for a few moments I saw into a world that I still only barely scratched the surface of. Yet when I took off the dress and make up I had not changed, I was still employed and enjoyed the benefits of being white and male in the worlds eyes.  

   That single event by no means makes me any kind of expert on those groups or issues that they face daily. I will never know what it is like to be a Muslim in this country or to be Black and yet still treated as some kind of second class citizen simply because of my skin color. So I can only stand along side them and other groups that are fearful for valid reasons. To say that they don't have at right or a reason is to be a hypocrite of monumental proportions.  

    Yet I am about to break silence upon something that at this point I feel as though I have no choice. I am bisexual and I have slept with at least one man in my lifetime. Who and why is no one's business and that I will NOT ever share to anyone. This is my first open and public declaration of such and thus I recognize that many will be angered and hurt especially my extended family who did not know this about me.

   It pains me to see anyone marginalized and disenfranchised for a simply difference of faith, race, or sexual identification (gender as well as sexuality).  I have sought to live my life honorably and faithfully adhering to a code that was taught to me by my parents. To be honest, forthright, and treat everyone equally based upon their character alone. To that end I will raise my children whom I have been blessed with the same way I was raised. 

   I will stand in defense of my fellow human beings to be who they are as they are without limitations other than they do no harm to themselves or others. I am no one special or unique in who I am, I am simply human like the rest of you. Yet know this, I have yet began to fight for what I believe in and I believe in the inherent goodness of all humankind. I believe in the promise of our nation as dedicated to the inalienable rights  of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." I believe and honor the ones who have come before me and fought for those same things.

   I am not afraid, I am not cowed, and I will not be silenced by ignorance or hatred ever. I stand with everyone who desires to be free to choose for themselves a life that is their choosing. I accept responsibility for my obligations as a human being and citizen of the United States, I ask you to answer that calling every day and do not hide yourselves. I love you all and stand with you against those things that would deny us our hard won freedoms. 

I believe...do you?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A few minutes of your time...can change the world

     The year was 1863, the place Gettysburg, Pennsylvania  where a gathering was going to take place to consecrate the grounds there as a memorial cemetery. President Abraham Lincon was invited at the last minute to speak, he wasn't even originally scheduled to attend. The reason for his invitation was due to the inability of a famous orator who was to speak that day. The "Gettysburg Address" as it is known was written on the way up from Washington DC and was roughly 11 minutes in length. It is considered to be one of the greatest speeches ever given and certainly one that has relevance today.

     "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the idea that all men were created equal" This is the first line of the speech, and we see here that Lincon spoke to the roots of why the United States came to be. While the language could be interpreted to mean "white males" Lincon talked about "men" as to say humanity. Equality of opportunity is the equality of which he spoke and did so with great eloquence.

    The next few lines of his speech expound further upon his initial point as follows. "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this." Lincon lays out the reason for why he's speaking and the purpose of his words. 

    The election of 2016 was vicious and divisive in its entirety, leaving deep scars upon the psyche of our nation. Here in 1863, the United States was in the midst of a greater danger of lost entirely and due to differences in our beliefs as we see today. I am not suggesting that we will face a second American Civil War but that we now see that that struggle for freedom still goes on even today. American's have never shirked their duty to fight for the ideals that founded this nation or to even die for those beliefs. However, it is this author's opinion that we have forgotten to live for our beliefs, martyrdom is not the way forward for our people.

    The final paragraph of the address then challenges us as a people and a nation to renew that will to live for our country, its ideals, and most of all to honor those who have sacrificed so much for us. Please read below.

 "But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion" -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

   Lincon challenged the nation on that day in 1863 over a hundred and fifty-four years ago.  We have elected Donald Trump, yet many feel as though they in the loss of Hillary Clinton, were cheated. Before this President-Elect Trump refused to comment if he would accept the results if he had lost the election. This result disturbed many people, this author included, as such his conduct appeared unpresidential if not outright dangerous. While this nation has endured many trials and tribulations our next four years and beyond will be more so. 
     
We are called upon to stand together to move our country forward, working for that "rebirth of freedom." It is incumbent upon each citizen of the United States of America to become educated in the duties and responsibilities of being a citizen of our Federal Republic. Do not rest on your laurels waiting for someone to show you the way or to do it for you. America does not need or want such people in her borders. Freedom requires hard work and sacrifice, and it is each of us that must do this daily.
    
Freedom is precious but like life itself, it must be cared for daily and lovingly maintained regardless of the cost. So in this, I say clearly and loudly "I will stand for the rights of all citizens regardless of race, creed, color, or religion to live as they so choose within the laws of our nation." Furthermore I will stand in defense of all human beings for the rights inherent as a member of the human race regardless of where or how they came to be. I ask and humbly beseech the rest of my countrymen to dedicate themselves to the same.

 In short a few minutes of your time really can change the world...

  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Questions, Answers, and Truth...why they matter.

   Waking up this morning was simply another day for me. I woke up in a  house with running water, food to eat, and I was safe in the knowledge that the most fearful part of my day would be changing diapers. As I comforted my twins, both are quite ill, this morning my mind does as it is often wont to do, wanders. My thoughts over the past few days have ranged from anger, disappointment, hopefulness, and much more.  I have watched my social media pages abound with friends who are terrified of what may happen to them in the incoming Presidential Administration.

   I have also watched first hand as friends and family belittle and dismiss those fears as "whining" about losing an election. Worse I have seen media figures and pundits alike attempt to explain how Donald Trump won the election, with some on either side of the political spectrum casually disparaging or outright insulting anyone who disagrees with them. My background from a former life is as an Intelligence Analyst, so my brain has been literally on fire as I try to make sense of all that happens and I am still attempting to gather data.

   I am a white male and thus often feel as though I am an outsider in my homeland. I have felt this way for most of my life, never quite fitting in with the norm since I can remember. I am bombarded daily with various snippets of sound or images that leave me feeling even more lost within myself. Images such as a banner on a news site claiming "White men are responsible for 90 of reported rapes" or a commentary from a non-white individual about how "White people are all racists and want to oppress others." I recognize these as hyperbolic generalizations used to grab one's attention to the actual questions asked by the commentators.

  It can be hard to see that because of factors that I had no choice over how I to bear some responsibility for the actions of others who look similar to me. I will not say that I do not have racist thoughts or sometimes make judgments based on factors that are rooted in a visible or perceived difference from me. Even among people who look like me, I feel as though I don't belong so what does that mean?

  Do I deserve to feel the guilt and shame cast upon me by people who bear the same skin color as I do, even though I don't feel like a part of most of them? A term I have found very useful in attempting to understand myself and how I fit into the world that doesn't ever quite seem to fit me is cognitive dissonance.  This cognitive dissonance is what appears to place me at odds with the world around me and other individuals in it.

   Human beings are social animals, and it is here that the basis of our shared responsibilities to each other begin.  Oppression of one group humanity will have secondary and tertiary effects upon the larger population as it ripples outward. So racial injustice or social inequalities to what we as human beings need to thrive and prosper affects all of us eventually. One of the strongest impulses of humanity is to secure resources designed to ensure the survival of our progeny, biologically we reproduce and then strive to acquire what they need to grow and do the same.

  Thus it is the social constructs that we create to share on a larger scale than simply a single family unit, that we find our greatest source of conflict as human beings. This drive for resources impels us to act in our most primitive natures as selfish or at least in obvious self-interest above others around us. Human society as it grew into larger and larger groups saw the need for a common foundation for sharing resources and roles within the community.

  As these societies grew and expanded into a size large enough to have to go further and further afield for securing what it needed to survive. Human beings came into contact with other humans who were the same biologically yet seems very different; barriers such as language, cultural norms, and other structures made understanding and acceptance nigh impossible.  This led to the actualization our impulse to fear anything that is different or unknown as a threat to our survival thus provoking an aggressive response.

  There is a biological root to our divisive nature yet we fail often to see that ultimately we are all biologically the same. Even socially there are commonalities to be found such as the need for protection of children. So why does racism occur? How does it negatively affect society as a whole especially the group that is the oppressor? It can be distilled into a simple concept that conflict without benefit to the whole of society, drains needed resources and energies that could be used to better all into entrenching and attempting to over come barriers that are created by that conflict.

 This process can be applied to just about any human conflict and you will see a similar result. Conflict over resources or the power to secure and maintain those resources at the expense of an other group hurts the whole of society due to wasted resources and efforts better applied elsewhere. So how does this deal with our current social anxiety within the United States due to the election of Donald Trump? This event and my explanation of how to understand the base issues gives us a plan to go forward.

   Do not allow yourselves to be divided into tribal or  sub-groupings, understand that what effects others will eventually affect you. Seek knowledge of differing points of view especially those in oppositions to yours. Critically assess those differences with an understanding of your own biases. Confront and overcome those biases and do not accept them from others either. What we can accomplish as a species is nothing short of amazing when we get beyond those barriers that we have created for each other. This is what I will fight for daily and what I shall teach my children.
  

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Call to Serve on Veteran's Day and Everyday

    Good morning America,

    I hope you slept well or at least rested enough to function as a human being. I wanted to take today to discuss a topic that now more than ever is relevant to our daily lives. Aftershocks of the election and the reality to many who fear for themselves or others still ripple across our hearts and minds today. Today is Veteran's Day yet like most holiday's that denote Military Service or honoring our war dead, it will be simply a day off for many American's.

    We as a nation after the first World War, this day was known as Armistice Day as today is the day the first World War was ended. Yet like all things Armistice  Day changed into something else as our nation grew and moved ever forward. Military service to one's nation is a calling yet many come to this calling out of reasons that are as diverse as we are as a people. My own reason for choosing to serve was as complex as I am as a person, I joined because I was the son of a Vietnam Veteran, the grandson of a Veteran of both World War II and Korea, because I believed in the documents and beliefs that led to the founding of our imperfectly beautiful nation.

    Less than one percent of our nation's young men and women have served in our most recent conflicts. Let that sink in for a moment we place our nation's security and sovereignty in not even a full percentage point of American's who are willing to serve. Our nation and its people have a tradition of service to each other and to the world at large. Study our history and along with our darker selves, you will find stories of selfless sacrifice to serve others needs before our own. What makes us do this as a people? What drives our hearts and souls to commit to the larger whole? How do "We the People" find the strength of will to serve like this?

   These are not rhetorical questions but ones we should ask ourselves daily as we are the beneficiaries of those sacrifices. How many of us can think of how hard our parents worked to care for us or at least some person who gave a damn about us? When is the last time we went without so others could have something, however, small that was theirs alone? When have we as a people come together and stand against injustice, intolerance, and ignorance? How do we continue forward with honor and dignity for our fellow citizens and even those who are not?

   Today I call upon you, my fellow citizens to serve without reward or recognition of your service as so many have before you. I call upon you to think of others before yourself, to stand in defense of those who cannot defend themselves. I call upon you to defy those who abuse and denigrate their fellow American's and humanity for not being "like them." A life of service is NEVER wasted nor is it useless to try. That is the language of the weak and cowardly who speak such that one person "can't do much" or "why try?"

   Find a way to be of service to others, do a random act of kindness each day to a random stranger. Look for opportunities in your local communities to take a stand against bigotry, intolerance, and hate. Educate yourself and others as to the rights and responsibilities that are inherent as a citizen of our beloved Federal Republic.  We have a calling to serve the needs of others because in doing so we serve ourselves and our future generations.

   Don't let so few of us sacrifice so much without your contribution, let us renew our faith in the goodness found within the promise of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." We stand on the shoulders of giants who have bled for us and continue to do so to this day. Find it within yourself to look outwards against what is wrong or unjust, act vigorously but tempering that vigor with civility and humility. This not a call to crusade but a call to serve as so few of us have both living and dead.

   I will close with this thought,  in the face of confusion and terror do not falter nor let your heart quail in fear, stand boldly and firmly against the darkness around you and say "No you move..."