I hit the lottery when I came into this world.
Not only was I alive, healthy, and born in America, but I found myself with a magnificent capacity for compassion. I also lucked out with Caucasian parents who were well educated, made a decent living, and possessed good values.
White males like me, for some stupid reason, have been given a privileged status in our society—a delusion propagated by ... white males. “Privilege” should be reserved for the human being, who, in its essence, is kind and caring. Humans have a magnified capacity to evaluate our feelings and the freedom to decide how we will behave—making human consciousness a precious gift.
What we do with it—that’s another story.
I may not be a woman, but I like it when things are fair. I believe every woman deserves respect, equal pay, the power of choice, and freedom from any form of sexual harassment. I cheer in support every time a woman triumphs or has the courage to speak up for diversity. It’s about time more women share our leadership, despite the ravings of the insecure.
That’s just fair—and fair is right.
I’m not an African American but I believe black lives matter. I believe all lives matter. I don’t care if you’re black, brown, yellow, red, or purple, if your blood runs red and is pumped by a heart like mine, we are the same at our core. Who of us had a say as to the family we were born into?
Equality is everybody’s birthright!
I’m not an immigrant, but I have compassion for those fleeing danger, trying to protect their families, begging for help from their more fortunate neighbors. Yes, we need a sensible immigration system, but how hard is it to care? Unless you’re a pure-blooded Native American, you come from an immigrant family. Think about it—if this country didn’t take a chance on your ancestors, you wouldn’t be a US citizen.
Why shouldn’t today’s immigrants deserve this opportunity?
I’m not gay, but I support the LGBTQ community. Who gave “conventional” folks the right to decide how others should live or who they have the right to marry?
We all should be able to celebrate our love.
I’m not a Muslim. In fact I was raised in a Jewish household, but I don’t see Muslims as the enemy. Sure, there is a radical element in this world, but the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace-loving, goodhearted, hardworking citizens. It’s not like there aren’t radicals in every religion. How many white Christian males have committed mass shootings?
Does that mean all Christians are dangerous?
I’m not poor. I’m not rich either, but I’ve lived a comfortable life. That doesn’t mean I can’t feel compassion for the single parent struggling with three jobs to put food on the table or the homeless man seeking a safe place to bed down for the night. That could be any of us—disadvantaged in the blink of an eye—whether we choose to believe it or not.
So the question is this: How hard can it possibly be to care?
It’s not about who we are or who they are or what our religion or political affiliation is—it’s simply about caring!
It’s about being a human being!
These values aren't new to me. The heartfelt adventures in my '60s book Groovin' will attest to this. Available on Amazon and Audible.
This blog was inspired by a twitter tweet.
Today, I listened to some soothing music, which I often do. My old body has gotten, in the words of a friend, “a bit rickety” as I age, so I like to put on a beat and move to it. I typically run or dance on a mini-trampoline to work out the kinks.
As I exercised, I started thinking about the ideas people hold on to.
It’s difficult not to have opinions about almost everything around us, based on both our life history and what we’ve been taught. At the same time, we need to be careful because those beliefs can limit us, keeping us from enjoying new experiences and meeting new people. I’m sure we’ve all felt the pain of being misjudged when someone makes an off-base assumption about our intentions or about the type of person we are.
That applies to many of the opinions people have had about hippies. If you’ve read my book Groovin’ or some of my blogs, you know I was immersed in that scene back in the sixties. The conventional thinking then was that hippies never worked or bathed, were unpatriotic and always stoned, and had perpetual sex.
That’s still the common perception.
Some hippies might have been like that, but not the ones I hung out with. My friends were hard-working free thinkers who appreciated good hygiene, got stoned occasionally or not at all, loved their country enough to protest injustice, and, even with the sexual revolution, were discerning about who they jumped into bed with.
The hippie movement had much more diversity than most people realize.
For example, I listen to a variety of music, but you’d probably be surprised to learn which type I preferred in the sixties and still do today. Acid rock was the favored music among my peers, and I liked rock and roll just fine. But what I really grooved on was country music. I was attracted to its simplicity, even though I was a city boy who rarely heard country tunes when I was young—except for maybe in Western movies.
My appreciation for country began in my early twenties as I drove long distances listening to the AM radio in “Evergreen,” my old pickup truck. I’m not talking about country rock but rather the original sappy storytelling type of tune, filled with raw emotion and plain, understandable lyrics.
I even know the exact moment it happened. In 1970, on a very cold, drizzly Thanksgiving Day in the high Sierras, my friends Sam and Lil got five of us ripped on acid, stuffed us into their VW bus, and drove off into the woods on a dirt logging road. One of my friends spent the afternoon trying in vain to get soggy wood to burn. Sam opened the door to his bus and put a cassette into the tape deck. I slipped inside to warm up and found myself listening to Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By Your Man” in her velvety voice—and I fell in love.
I know what you’re thinking. Sexist pig! Yeah, the lyrics of that song are sort of rank, but that wasn’t what grabbed me. I fell in love with the music, the voice, and, most of all, the singer’s love blasting out of those primitive speakers. True, the lyrics of many old-time country songs can be comical but most contain some truth.
I even delighted in Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee,” which seriously trashed my hippie-hood. The first time I heard it, I laughed out loud. The music was good and the lyrics were clever. What was there not to like?
Music evokes feelings that touch us, just as the beat moves us. This is true whether we like rock and roll, classical, blues, jazz, hip-hop, rap, or other sounds.
I tend to listen to country when I need to be introspective—it’s everybody’s love and heartache, everybody’s loss and longing, but it’s also everybody’s joy and pride. The feelings of a human being whittled down to their bare essence. That’s why they were hit songs.
The emotions haven’t changed. We still long for a carefree world filled with down-home, friendly folks enjoying being alive. Hopefully we can learn to embrace that dream without focusing on differences—without excluding anyone.
I’m definitely not trying to sell you on country music. I realize it’s an acquired taste. But I am attempting to illustrate how we don’t have to be limited by the opinions of others. Even an old hippie weaned on rock and roll and civil rights protests can become a country freak.
If we resist putting people in a box, we might be pleasantly surprised.
As I sway to a country song, I remember who I was at a simpler time in my life, and it helps me get in touch with my authentic self. We all have a rhythm, and there’s music to match it. I urge you to take time from your busy life to indulge in your favorite tunes—the ones that help you forget the world’s problems and connect with your heart.
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