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Willy Wonka for President

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“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to do it. Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it.” Those lyrics from the song Pure Imagination written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly were running through my head this morning. I’m sure it’s a direct result of what is occurring in our nation politically and my assertion that we can choose to see good in the world rather than bad.

There is a definite divide among the human beings on our planet. Put 100 humans in a room and you’ll get 100 different opinions. But where do those opinions come from? In many cases it’s where we were reared, how we were reared, our imprinting and our psychological make-up. But is it more than that?

Despite everything that’s been said by the Americans who are following the different candidates I always look for one thing; positivity. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything is bad, and to lash out at people who don’t feel the way we do. But that is certainly not the formula for curing anything. What would happen if each of us actually listened to each other and we came at issues from a positive angle rather than negative?

This year I’ve chosen to listen. And surprisingly, each candidate has expressed things that I agree with. Yes, even Donald Trump has said things that rang true to me. I don’t think he’s a good choice for our presidency, but I do agree that corruption must be addressed. Honestly, when I watch him speak I have a lot of empathy for him. His insecurity is such that he needs to be liked, loved even. At his rallies when surrounded by those who worship him, his ego shines through and shouts of joy are heard when he spews his authoritarian rhetoric. But when he’s in a room with a diverse set of people, his ego is on the defensive because he isn’t being fed by followers. It’s sad to see.

No, I’m not about to say I saw this coming. But it doesn’t surprise me at all that in 2016 we have a presidential race that has be debased to the level of a reality television show. The candidates went there, the news outlets went there and the voters went there. Why did this happen now? Perhaps it’s because Americans and perhaps human beings in general don’t know what to believe in any longer.

This is what I believe in.

 I believe in equality.

Human beings of every color, sex, creed, size and sexual orientation deserve to be treated equally.

 I believe in hope.

Fear breeds despair, hate, greed, distrust, anger, worry, paranoia, envy and instigates rash decisions.

 I believe in positivity.

It isn’t weak to imagine a planet where love dominates. It isn’t weak to see human beings who are different than us as beautiful creations. It isn’t weak to know silver linings exist in the darkest clouds.

 I believe in love.

Hatred, fueled by fear, is the most detrimental human emotion. It is a cancer that erodes the very fabric of the human soul. Love of one’s self, others and the world is the only treatment to this disease of the troubled soul.

 I believe in a better world, with better people.

I will never start a revolution but I can change me. I will never attempt to attain public office but I will continue to attempt to attain internal peace. I will never make every American happy but I will be happy. I will never make everyone love me but I will make a concerted effort to love everyone I meet. My mind wants me to be hurt, offended and angered by what I see and hear the candidates do and say. But instead I’m focusing on my attention on the media outlets that repeat the sensationalized sound bites over and over. I’m also concentrating on the segment of humans who are pummeled with that rhetoric over and over. It is there the soul searching needs to begin. We human beings are all divine creations who will one day reach that point where we promote love instead of hate and a better world will emerge.

I believe in never agreeing with everyone all the time.

Diversity is the soul of civilization. I would never expect anyone to be like me. It’s true I don’t understand why some human beings feel the way they do about certain issues, but that’s the beautiful thing about the human condition. We are all born the same way, but our childhoods, our imprinting, our environments, our history are all different. That creates different views on issues we all feel passionate about. What’s important to me may not be important to you and vice versa. But what we all need do is embrace those differences and highlight the things we have in common. But we must do it with love.

 I believe in God.

This belief, this trust, this way of life is the nourishment that feeds my life’s journey. It’s not a religious commitment with laws and rules. It’s not a political tool used to sway people to live the way I do, it’s the engine that runs my soul.

I share my core beliefs because I refuse to allow the nasty, hurtful, hateful, fear-mongering political rhetoric to seep into my soul. The truth is I love each and everyone one of the human beings currently running for presidential nominations. I have tremendous empathy for each and every one of them. Each of them wants so badly to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the right thing. Because of that the democrat and republican candidates will attack each other, peddle hatred, fuel the fire of distrust and activate the id, ego and super ego of the American public. Despite all of that we will persevere if we look inward.

See good everywhere, in all things and in all people. That’s the way to change the world,”there nothing to it.”.

Bullying

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There is an onslaught of media attention on bullying.  This is my story.

 

 

You tell someone they are a loser long enough and they begin to believe it.  A harmless comment from a mother or father, friend or family member, stabs and leaves wounds, that untended can fester and infect the soul.

My mother always told me I was different.  My father didn’t want me to be different.  My siblings were indifferent.  Being the youngest in the family I never felt so alone.  Why couldn’t I be like everyone else?

When I was really young my best friend was Mike.  I guess we were 8 or 9 years old.  Mike is now a successful attorney with children of his own.  When we were younger all the kids liked Mike.  He was funny and knew how to get all the attention he needed.  And quite frankly I’m not even sure why he wanted me as his friend because I was nowhere near like him.

FEMALE VOICE:  You kids get back inside, recess is over!

Mrs. Collins, my 7th grade teacher.  She liked me.  She never liked Mike, thought he was a smartass.

He was.

I was meek and understated and Mrs. Collins liked that.  Kids didn’t.  It seems that when you’re popular with teachers, you’re unpopular with students.  Perhaps that’s when it all started.

VARIOUS VOICES:  Teachers pet!  Suck it up!  Schmoozer!

Why are you all looking at me that way?  That’s what they said!  O.K.  I admit the kids didn’t really say schmoozer when I was young but I always thought that name was more original.  I’m not sure at what point being a schmoozer became a hindrance instead of a help but I’m thinking it was when I started playing little league.

VARIOUS VOICES:  Get him off the field!  Why is he still in the game?  Put Ernie in!

Ernie.  That was a popular kid.  Good athlete too.  And when it came to game time I knew he should always be playing.  But whenever our team would be up 10 runs or more, they’d put us in.  Us.  2nd string.  I actually should have been 3rd string or not on the team at all.  I was a horrible ball player.  I was terrified.  I was afraid I’d strike out every time I got up to bat.  I was afraid a ball would be hit to me and I’d miss it.  And God forbid they’d put me in to pitch which happened once in awhile.  And the only reason the coach put me in was my mom raised such a fuss.  She even threatened to have him thrown out because he was chewing tobacco in front of us kids.  Believe me.  I got picked on a lot because my Mom got involved with my little league team.  I didn’t want to play ball but it made my dad happy.

YOUNG GIRL:  Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you.

That was my mom’s favorite quote.  And I will say that even as a young man I agreed with it on the surface.  I believe in that motto, even back when I was a young kid.

I guess early on I could almost handle having horrible things said to me on a daily basis.  As I’d walk down the hall in high school…someone would knock my books out of my arms, trip me, put ‘kick me’ signs on my back, and slyly, quietly call me gay, mo, fag, loser, or queer.  I tried to let the words roll off my back as my mom would put it.  But my God, four, five six years of this abuse really started to take a toll.

WOMAN:  Mr. Smith, Paul is a gentle young man who doesn’t believe in fighting back.  But these horrible boys who are treating him this way must be punished.

MAN:  What exactly would you like me to do Mrs. Glodfelter?  They say nothing happened.  Now It’s more than likely that Paul is telling the truth but it’s his word against theirs.  And they haven’t physically harmed him in any way.

My mom again with my high school principal.  She always thought she was helping by coming into school and taking matters into your own hands.  But in reality, it made things worse.

MAN:  You’re such a Mama’s boy!

I guess looking back…I really was.  But was that a bad thing?  Here I was a freshman, non-athlete, with very few friends.  My teachers loved me.  The students didn’t understand me.  Well perhaps some did but I didn’t know that then.

Quick poll.  You’ve read my story for a few moments now.  How many of you had the thought, God this guy should just get over it.  Or perhaps, this guy thinks HE had it bad, at least he didn’t get harassed so much that affected his life that much.

Well it is true that there really isn’t much action in my bullying tale.  But ask yourself this.
Does a young person have to be hit, physically threatened or attacked to create some sort of awareness nowadays?

I was tripped, laughed at, smacked in the back of the head too many times to mention, had my locker set up so many times that I started not even using it.  Hurtful words.  Years and years and years of insanely hurtful words.  And if I was better at ignoring it, the damage was done.  I was a marked  young man.  Now people don’t have to say anything.  They just have to look at me…through me.  Snickers. Hurtful, demeaning, under your breath laughter as I’d walk by.  It didn’t matter what I did.  They didn’t understand me…so they tried to hurt me.  And it hurt.   All I was trying to do was be myself!

JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM YOU WHY DOES THAT MAKE THEM A LOSER?  YOU’RE THE LOSER!

I never ever, ever, ever said those words to anybody in high school.  I’m not sure why.
I never stood up for myself.  Stand…up…for…myself.

Maybe standing up for myself was as simple as staying the course…continuing to live my life… always doing what I felt was right despite the fact that it was out of the norm and wasn’t the popular thing to do.  There were only 5 guys in our entire high school chorus.  Five!  And in a school with about 400 guys I’m pretty confident there were more male students who could sing.  Perhaps they didn’t join because it wasn’t cool.  That’s so sad.

I did have my redemption though.  My senior year I was cast as the lead in my high school production of Godspell.  I was J.C.  And it was a great experience.  After seeing a rehearsal, my high school principal asked us to do a performance for the student body.  I was terrified.  But we did it.  And after the performance I remember walking out into the hallway after the show and one of the high school football players who had bullied me for years came up to me and said, “Hey you were really good.  I kind of see why you do this stuff.”

At that point in my life, I was redeemed.  All of a sudden it didn’t matter that I was different.  And for many years that experience fueled me.  Foolish.  Foolish.  Foolish.

First of all….why did this bully’s approval mean anything to me?  I write this today as a 47-year old adult.  And it still baffles me.  You’d think after years of abuse, when he walked up to tell me I was good I should have just spit in his face.  But his accolades made me feel good and that really ticks me off.

20 years later I see my main bully at my high school class reunion.  I’m not sure why I went but honestly, not everyone in high school was mean.  And for me, what once was a skinny, six foot two, one hundred and fifty pound young man was now a stocky, six foot two 225 pound man with a 7 inch ponytail and a leather jacket.  He didn’t even recognize me until he looked at my name tag.  All he could say was,

MAN:  Paul Glodfelter?  Holy shit man, you got big.
Followed moments later by,

MAN:  Hey man… I was kind of an asshole in high school.  Sorry about that.

No apologies needed.  Really.  No apologies needed.   I told him it was good seeing him and that was that.

My thirty year class reunion is this year and if they have one, I’m thinking about going.  I’m not sure I’ll see Bob there even if I do go.  He’s no longer my bully.  For that matter neither are any of the other people who abused me in high school.  They are now just, people I went to high school with.  And I am still on stage acting, singing and doing my thing.  Synopsis of my story?

I was bullied.  But what does it all mean?  What causes someone to bully another human being in the first place?

The truth is…I have a lot of empathy for Bob my bully.  He hurt me.  He really hurt me.  I’m here well over 30 years later and I can still recall those painful moments.  But I always think, what made him do all those things?  If I was raised to follow my heart and that everything is possible, perhaps he was taught to fit in, work hard and always try to outdo the other guy.  Acceptance versus Competition.  Uniqueness versus Conformity.  I just don’t know.

There are still people who hate.  There are still people who loathe themselves so much that the only way they can make themselves feel better is by abusing others.  And that’s sad.  But I don’t have to be that way, and I will not.  I forgive Bob and everyone who picked on, bullied and abused me through my life.  And that forgiveness makes me free.  Free to be me.