Please Hear What I’m Not Saying–Poem by Charles C. Finn

Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
Masks that I’m afraid to take off
And none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that is second nature to me,
but don’t be fooled,
for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me,
within as well as without,
that confidence is my game and coolness my game,
that the water’s calm and I’m in command
and that I need no one,
but don’t believe me.

My surfaced may be smooth but
my surface is my mask,
ever varying and ever concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don’t want anyone to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That’s why I crate a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated façade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation,
my only hope, and I know it.
That is, if it is followed by acceptance,
if it is followed by love.
It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself
from my own self-built prison walls
from the barriers that I so painstakingly erect.
It’s the only thing that will assure me of what I can’t assure myself,
that I’m really worth something.
But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to. I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I’m afraid that down deep I’m nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game
With a façade of assurance without
And a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of Masks,
And my life becomes a front.
I tell you everything that’s really nothing
and nothing of what’s everything,
of what’s crying within me.
So when I’m going through my routine
don’t be fooled by what I’m saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,
what I’d like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can’t say.

I don’t like hiding.
I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you’ve got to help me.
You’ve got to hold out your hand
even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe from my eyes
the blank stare of the living dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you rally care,
my heart begins to grow wings–
very small wings,
but wings.

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breath life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
How you can become a creator–an honest-to-God creator–
of the person who is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from the shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
If you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man,
often I’m irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I’m told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to break down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

© 2012 Charles C. Finn
Used with permission and appreciation.

Civil Discourse

Most of us could lead America into peace and prosperity if others would just cooperate.  Be reasonable.  Do it my way.

Since folks often fail to appreciate our wisdom, most of us adopt comic Jerry Stiller’s strategy for a harmonious marriage.  Anne Meara, Jerry’s wife, “is not hard to live with.  You just put up with her.”  Unreasonable and contrary as people sometimes seem, most times we “just put up with” them.

One alternative is Civil Discourse.  Cameral bodies maintain Civil Discourse under Parliamentary rules.  Courts of law ensure plaintiffs’, prosecutors’, and defendants’ arguments are heard without interruption.

American University’s School of Public Affairs says of Civil Discourse, “One of the most important educational, political, and social issues is how best to have a civil conversation in a democratic society.  Our past, present and future depend on this essential process: citizens gather, listen to each other, debate, make up their minds and determine a course of action.

“Polarization of opinions, coupled with the speed and access of the digital age have made it difficult to keep our conversations civil in America today.  From shouting matches, to opinionated blog posts, to rhetoric-filled debates, we are confronted everyday with uncivil conversation.”

For the Center to Radical Right, Civil Discourse is anathema.  Faced with a counter argument, they “win” by shouting-down, demeaning, and insulting others. If all else fails, they shut you off.  When I opined that Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem may be seen not as disrespect, but respectful exercise of his right to free speech, Friend Ron un-Friended me.  Learning I don’t like Donald Trump and like Joe Biden, a cousin assured me that deceased relatives “were rolling in their graves.”  Haven’t heard much more from him.  When an adult daughter spoke up to express a Liberal opinion, her gun-totin’ dad held out his hand, “Don’t say anything!  You’ll get me upset!”

Today, as indicated above, a stringent cohort of Caucasian, nominally “Christian,” American men —Appearance to the contrary, sorry ladies—is determined to impose their beliefs and prejudices on the rest of us.  Prominent in their agenda are unrestricted ownership and use of firearms and hatred of non-traditional, sexual identity and orientation.  As I write, Republican state legislators work to disenfranchise the poor and folks of color, who tend to vote for Democrats.

The View From In Here

When I’m not here are you?

When I’m not present, does the world continue?  Or, do things take form and function only at my pleasure?  If I’m not there, does the Amazon plunge over cliffs and glide past cut-banks, does a Raven rasp in a Sitka spruce, does a tornado rip across Oklahoma City, do waves kiss Waikiki, does Sun bake the Gobi Desert?  Do people haggle, laugh, make love, and kill in my absence?  When I sleep, does the Universe exist?

The classic conundrum: If a Douglas Fir falls in the Mt Hood National Forest and I’m not there to hear, does it make a sound?  The pragmatic answer: A falling tree vibrates air molecules, impacting tympanic membranes in my ear, sending electrical nerve impulses to the auditory part of my brain, I “hear”!  The larger question: Do the tree, the Mt Hood National Forest, the Cascade Mountains, North America, Earth, Sun, Moon, the Universe exist when I don’t see and hear?  Or is it all a potential, waiting to collapse as sound and shape at my pleasure?

In physicist Dr. Fred Allen Wolfe’s Taking The Quantum Leap, I learned my grandiose notion has philosophic and scientific support.  It even has a name, “Solipsism.”  The hypothesis that I can only know my experience.  Nothing “outside” may be assumed as “real.”     

Of course, folks far smarter than I have long since recognized the central and crucial role of an “observer” in what is observed.  Robert C. Crease and Charles C. Mann’s The Second Creation; Albert Einstein’s Relativity, “The Special and General Theory.  A clear explanation that anyone can understand”; Paul Cavies and John Gribbin’s The Matter Myth; and Stephen W. Hawking’s A Brief History of Time From the Big Bang to Black Holes seem to point in a Solipsist direction.  Quarks, bugs, trees, cities, continents, Earth, Sun, and Supernova, even you my friend, materialize at my discretion!  I create Reality!

Doing Time

Most prison inmates “do time,” a few are “Lifers.”  Both have more-or-less definite release dates.  We are all lifers.  What to do ‘til we’re released? 

In The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck gives Tom Joad an answer, “Look, Ma, stop your worryin’.  I’m a-gonna tell you somepin about bein’ in the pen.  You can’t go thinkin’ when you’re gonna be out.  You’d go nuts.  You got to think about that day, an’ the nex’ day, about the ball game Sat’dy.  That’s what you got to do.  Ol’ timers does that.  A new young fella gets buttin’ his head on the cell door.  He’s thinkin’ how long its’s gonna be.  Whyn’t you do that?  Jus’ take ever’ day.”  Looking back over eighty-four years, I appreciate Tom’s wisdom.  “Jus’ take ever’ day” at a time.

How do Americans “do time”?  For the majority it is work, entertainment, recreation.  For all it is relationship. 

From young adulthood to our fifth or sixth decade, the average American, does much of her or his time in a “job,” in busy-ness.  Those lucky enough to “retire” lose this copout.  After thirty plus years as a Civil Engineer, friend Kim discovered there are, “a lot of hours too fill in a day.”  Retiring after thirty-plus years as a Professional Land Surveyor, I felt like the hapless Coyote in a “Road Runner” cartoon, realizing he’s raced off a cliff, staring down wide-eyed into a canyon.  Luckily, Diane recommended William Bridges’s Transitions.  I learned I was not alone, I’d survive.  Retirement is a new job.  Getting the hang of it takes time.

For most Americans doing time, entertainment is huge!  We are the most entertained citizens since Rome’s Colosseum.*  From Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, “entertain, to hold the attention of; interest; divert; amuse.”  For billions-of-dollars, professional and college baseball, basketball, football and soccer captivate hundreds-of-millions.  High school sports and Little Leagues keep “Soccer Moms” running and Dads coaching.  Disneyland, Disneyworld, Legoland, SeaWorld, Universal Studios and a thousand “theme parks” entertain hundreds-of-millions.  The Internet, Facebook and Social Media capture the attention of billions.  TV, i-phones, i-pads, laptops, and desktops bring us real-time events from around the globe.

Recreation offers every-day, individual or group outlets for doing time.  Webster again, “recreate, to restore, refresh, crate anew  .  .  .  recreation, refresh in body or mind, as after work, by some form of play, amusement, or relaxation.”  When not at work or entertained, we walk, hike, run, bowl, swim, golf, camp, fish, hunt, ski, make or find a thousand other diversions.

Finally, we all share the reason for doing time, why work, entertainment and recreation are worth the effort, Relationship!  Webster, “relate, to bring back  .  .  .  Relation  .  .  .  connection or mode of connection.”  Perhaps secretly, each of us know that without other people, working, being entertained, and recreation are meaningless.  Doing time is about relationship.  About People!  About Love! 


*Afterthought: Could American’s current thirst for entertainment link to concomitant spikes in homelessness, hunger, vandalism, murders, mass shootings, xenophobia, homophobia, domestic abuse and misogyny?  Is America following Rome’s path to collapse? 

Don and Liz

Wednesday, May 12, House Republican voted to boot Liz Chaney from their number three leadership position.  From TV news and the internet, I gather this rebuff was triggered by Cheney’s repeated assertions Donald J. Trump did not win America’s 2020 Presidential election.  The incontrovertible fact is, Joe Biden was duly elected America’s forty-sixth President!  Virtually all the Representatives voting to oust Cheney know this.  So, why be seen as irrational or fools?

I understand maybe half of Republicans, thirty percent of Americans, swallow Trump’s bogus claim of election fraud.  Apparently, in paying lip service to the former President, Senators and Representatives hope to snag these votes in the future.  In my view, if Liz’s insurrection does or does not get traction, folks who continue supporting Donald’s “Big Steal” lie will be sucked down in his inevitable death spiral.

Pluralistic government demands more than one robust political party.  America needs intelligent, sane Republicans.  They are here.

CBS News found that a fifth of Republicans oppose Liz’s removal.  Republican Representatives Ken Buck, Jamie Herrera Butler, Anthony Gonzales, John Katko, Adam Kitzinger, Peter Meijer, Dan Newhouse, Tom Rice, Fred Upton and David Valadao joined Liz in voting to impeach Trump.  Republican Senators Richard M. Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Patrick J. Toome voted to impeach.  More than 100 Republicans, including former officeholders, have signed a “A Call For American Renewal,” imploring the Republican Party, “to rededicate itself to founding ideals—or else hasten the creation of an alternative.”

Charles Sykes’s How the Right Lost Its Mind, which I have not read, appears to addresses the current Republican party’s dilemma.  According to an online synopsis, Sykes asks, “How did a movement that was defined by its beliefs in limited government, individual liberty, free markets, traditional values, and civility find itself embracing bigotry, political intransigence, demagoguery, and outright falsehood?”  An online Kirkus Review answers: “Sometime in the last decade,” writes Sykes, “conservative commentator Matt Drudge began linking to a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.  By doing so, he broke down the wall that separated the full-blown cranks from the mainstream conservative media, injecting a toxic worldview into the Right’s bloodstream. The conservative movement never recovered.”


I’m not worried that Trumpsters will commandeer America’s government.  They can’t.  They’re outnumbered.  Do the math.  The plurality of non-Aryan, non-Christian, non-Conservative Americans can only increase.  

Nevertheless, a handful of hardcore Republicans remain convinced that white-skinned, “Christian,” men inherit a right to rule America!  Their words to the rest of us, “Bootstrap yourself up!  Every man for himself!”  But, biology, culture and social strictures make the “equal opportunity” premise behind this challenge unrealistic and unfair.  We are endowed with gifts and handicaps.  Then environment kicks us around, bigtime!

I was born during the Great Depression.  Daddy had a small farm in northeastern Utah.  When President Roosevelt brought Rural Electrification to the Uinta Basin, Daddy dug holes for power poles, strung cable, wired houses and picked up rudiments of electricity.  When construction finished, he was hired to manage the Moon Lake Electric Association.  Friday April 13, 1945 the Hanna, Utah, store lost power.  Late in the day, Daddy raced—I’m told always raced.—to Hanna, climbed a power pole, contacted a 7,200-kilovolt line and died.  Ten days after my eighth birthday.

With a Teaching Certificate from Brigham Young University, Mama moved to Altonah, Utah, and taught school.  They married.  She stopped teaching. Sister Judy and I came along.  After Daddy died, we moved to Salt Lake, then Ferron, Mama’s hometown, where she again began teaching.  For seven drudgerous summers, starting at fifty cents a day, I was Uncle Grant’s “hired man.”

I share this brief biography to emphasize how lucky I am!  I grew up among decent, honest, hardworking people.

Life’s a crapshoot!  Born and raised in East L.A., The Hamptons, South Side Chicago or Miami Beach I’d be a product of that environment. For better or worse, physically or mentally handicapped, New York slum or Beverly Hills, physically or sexually abused, LSGBT who would I be?  Not who I am.

For most of us, Silver Spoon in the mouth or a boot in the ass, the white male supremacy, “Bootstrap yourself up!  Every man for himself!” charge is unfair, unrealistic and absurd!

What Happened?

Not many decades back, who imagined that American families would live in their cars, that for millions, home would be a nylon tent beside a freeway fence or plastic tarp on a city street?  In the World’s wealthiest country, who could have believed tens-of-thousand would push their worldly belongings in shopping carts, sleep on sidewalks in a filthy blankets and stand in Depression-Era soup lines?  Who would have conceived that millions of children’s sole source of food would be school, that demand would overwhelm Food Banks? 

Who could have believed that men whose grandparents sacrificed, suffered, and died to save America from Hitler’s tyranny, would wave swastikas, chant “Jews will not replace us!” and salute “Heil Hitler!”  In their wildest nightmares, who fantasized a President of the United States calling Racists, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Oath Keepers and Proud Boys—Not proud men!—“very fine people”?  Who would believe that President would call his Minions to Washington and order them to assault our Capitol, attempting to stop Congresses Constitutionally mandated certification of the States’ Electors?  And, when the insurrection failed, tell his seditionists, “We love you.”?

Who could have imagined American TV news leading with daily gunfire and a monthly massacre?  That Portland, Oregon, would become a combat zone where, trapped in a culture barring them from productive education, occupation and opportunity, young black men would act out their rage by killing their cohorts?  Who envisioned, in the dark of night, under cover of “Black Lives Matter,” mindless white “Anarchists” would smash windows and set fire to private and public property.  

And Drugs!  Seven decades back in my farm hamlet, medicine was aspirin or Anacin for headache, baking soda for heartburn and Ex-Lax for constipation.  Cuts and scrapes got Mercurochrome, Merthiolate or iodine that stung like hell.  Apart from a half dozen chronic cases, for the rest of us Dr. Turman wrote, and Darrell the Druggist compounded, maybe one prescription in five or ten years.  Now I swallow seven prescribed potions and seven supplements daily.  Decades back, drug commercials were unheard of.  Today Big Pharma spend hundreds-of-millions on ads to rake in billions in profits.  A half-a-century back, who would have believed multi-billion-dollar Cartels would service American’s “Drug” addiction?  

After Ronald Reagan’s “Trickle Down Economics,” the crack between Millionaires, Billionaires, and the rest of us became a chasm!  Despite inevitable handicaps from life’s onset, in a country founded on equality of opportunity and responsibility, who envisioned our Middle Class paying the taxes while a President and other Billionaires and Corporations pay none?  Where pressured to get re-elected would compel members of Congress to accept Big Dollar payoffs for Big Dollar favors. 

Referring to rotting fish, Shakespeare’s Marcellus smelled, “Something  .  .  .   rotten  .  .  .  in Denmark.”  That the favored five percent control over ninety percent of America’s—the World’s?—wealth, stinks!  Where did we go wrong?  Can we fix it?

What happened to America?

Please share!

Playing Soldier

In penning “all men are created equal,” it seems fair to say that, given their culture, our Founding Fathers had Caucasian, perhaps more specifically Anglo-Saxon, men in mind.  Over the two-and-a-half centuries since, their Constitution and twenty-seven amendments make clear that, despite the crapshoot of congenital, physical, mental, experiential, sexual, religious, and ethnic issues, the laws and privileges of United States citizenship apply to all Americans!

From the dawn of humankind, however, ethnic, religious, usually male-dominated, enclaves have viewed themselves as superior.  In the last century, Hitler’s Nazis exterminated Jews and other non-Arians.  Mousseline’s Fascists imposed totalitarian government, authoritarian rule, and crushed political opposition.  “Fascist” from “fasces,” a bundle or rods wrapped with a ribbon, holding an ax head, symbol of the Roman Empire’s “magistrates,” holders of the law.  Wikipedia calls Fascism a “far right, authoritarian ultranationalism.”  Since the mid-twentieth century Mao Zedong’s Communism has exercised an ironfisted hold on China.

In our homeland, between Reconstruction and Civil Rights the Ku Klux Klan lynched thousands of Black people.  Today, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys—not Proud Men?—some who like playing soldier, challenge the notion of ethnic, religious, sex and sexual orientation equality.  These folks appear to share the belief that, within the Democratic party, a nefarious “Deep State” plots to take away Americans’ freedoms.

From the onset of WWII, exactly half of America’s fourteen Presidents were Democrats, half Republicans.  Over three-quarters of a century, which freedoms did our seven Democrat Presidents take or attempt to take away: Speech, Owning and Bearing Arms, Religion, Illegal Searches and Seizures, Assembly, Peaceful Protest, Free Press?  Who has even suggested such an action? 

Today, the only freedom I see under attack is, knowing that a plurality of the poor and non-white vote for Democrats, Republicans plot to disenfranchise America’s underdogs.