Our society has been traumatized by police killings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near St. Paul, Minnesota and by a shooting rampage in Dallas that killed 5 and wounded 9 others. Hundreds have been arrested in protests that followed the police killings and several police officers have been hurt when objects were thrown at them.

The first incident happened on July 5 in Baton Rouge. Two white police officers were videoed shooting Alton Sterling, a black man, several times at point blank range after he had been tackled by officers.

In Minnesota, on July 6, a Latino police officer fatally shot Philando Castile, also black, multiple times during a traffic stop.

On July 7, Micah Xavier Johnson, shot fourteen people from a sniper position. Two were civilians and 12 officers. 4 Dallas Police Department officers died as well as and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer.

Johnson, who is black, said he wanted to kill white people and especially police officers in response to the police killings of the previous two days. After a standoff, he was killed by an explosive charge delivered by a robot.

Further investigation revealed that he had been training and making preparations for a mass killing for a long time and had been influenced by black militant groups although he disavowed membership in any organization or group.

Although we may feel powerless in the face of these tragedies that come one right after the other, we always have a measure of freedom with respect to choosing our attitude, intention, and behavior with respect to these events.

I want to argue that how we respond to these searing moments of societal discord makes all the difference in how the future will unfold for us as a society and as a civilization.

It is apparent that in our country, and to a lesser and greater degree throughout the world, we are facing unprecedented challenges and that people have responded to this constellation with fear, upset, anger, and distrust of government and authorities of all stripes.

Although this crisis of disaffection and discontent that we face has many roots, one key element is the pace of change happening around us. The comfort zone of what is familiar is being obliterated at a frightening pace. We can’t count on the future being like the past and so we are unable to predict with any confidence what is going to happen even months ahead.

As Yogi Berra might have said: “It’s hard to predict the future because it hasn’t happened yet.”

As individuals, when we face uncertainty, our unconscious minds often generate worst case scenarios as a kind of preparation where the unknown means disaster. This survival motivated fear may have served us well in our earlier history as a species but it is still with us today. So the uncertainty of the challenges we face creates a collective sense of anxiety and fear that is part of the background mood of our world.

The unhappiness we feel is proportional to the discrepancy between our reality and our expectations based on what we know to be possible.

With our amazing technology we should be able to create a world where everyone has all of their basic needs met, where there is universal health care, access to higher education and an opportunity to pursue our life dreams without having to indenture ourselves to jobs that are not fulfilling just to avoid falling completely through the cracks of economic necessity.

We’re living in a time of increasing economic disparity between the richest and the rest of us to a degree that has not happened in our country since just before the Great Depression.

Minority groups and especially the black community are also subjected to racial disparity in law enforcement. The Black Lives Matter movement is a Civil Right Movement that has the aim of moving towards justice on these issues.

The racial tensions that have come into play in this latest spate of violence are important issues and they rest on top of other stresses in our society.

Both black and white have died in this recent outbreak and this underscores the common cause that we need to rally around in order to have a just and safe society that works for everyone.

The unhappiness that we feel about our society generates an undertow of negativity. If we internalize this, we feel guilt and shame. If it gets externalized, then it goes to blame. In blaming we are vulnerable to projecting our personal shadows onto some other group we identify as different from ourselves. Blame can easily morph into hate and hate can lead to moral insanity.

Micah Johnson is the very archetype of moral insanity where someone engages in horrific acts that, although not psychotic per se, yet take humans into a dark abyss of empathic blindness and moral insensitivity.

We hope that Johnson is some rare aberration of human nature. Yet we are all subject to temporary moral insanity ourselves. In our rush to express ourselves, we can totally lose sight of the impact we have on others.

The Black Lives Matter Movement has legitimate grievances that need to be expressed and peaceful protest can be one avenue. Yet they and any other protest oriented group needs to be wary of going to a place where they hate the haters and act out this hate. Hate is an equal opportunity employer.

There was a protest by two white supremacist groups in Sacramento, California on June 26. A left-wing counter protest was organized against them and a riot ensued. Ten people were hospitalized. The supremacist groups were the Traditional Workers Party and Golden State Skinheads and the left-wing groups were ANTIFA (Anti-Fascist Action) Sacramento and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary).

I imagine we’ll see protests against Donald Trump in the coming campaign season and there may well be more violence there.

Hopelessness and despair about our society are our true adversaries. From the perspective that nothing we do is going to make any difference anyway, there may be motivation to burn down everything in sight since at least we could gain the secondary benefit of emotional release and getting our aggressions out.

The way forward for our civilization is evolution not revolution. Evolution is already happening on a daily basis and the progress we’ve made is truly stunning in just the last few years.

The cold war is over, there is no longer any prospect of war between big nation states, apartheid has ended in South Africa, there is peace in Northern Ireland, we’ve elected and re-elected a black president, we opened the military to both gays and transgender people, gay marriage is the law in every state, and we’ll soon have our first female president.

Because of our communication technologies, whatever injustice happens in our country and the world is rapidly transmitted in often graphic image form for all to see. Whether we like it or not, we’re all part of an increasing integrated global society.

What we do in one part of our country quickly affects everyone everywhere. This gives us the opportunity to grow our moral and spiritual intelligence through education, information, and example.

One down side is that news has become a big commercial entertainment enterprise and we’re subjected to the emotional amplification of drama on a daily basis. We can’t escape knowing what is happening in the world for very long.

What we do with this information is key to whether or not our society will growth and reach its potential where everyone can thrive or whether we devolve into a failed civilization of ongoing dystopia.

It’s important for us to grieve and feel the pain of our loss when we hear of the shooting deaths like what we’ve been through in the first days of July. But then we need to dust ourselves off and refocus our attention and our action on what kind of world we want to have.

We could have mandatory police body cameras for example, universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and a reform of racially biased sentencing laws.

The Dallas Police Force, the target of Johnson’s moral insanity, had already instituted police reforms that dramatically reduced the number of complaints about police actions. This can happen in other cities.

Whatever positive thing we do, even the smallest act of kindness or consideration to another human, will move our society forward. We not a hopeless, broken, or defective civilization. We are just a rapidly evolving one. We need to keep the big picture in view even as we go through these breakdowns where what needs to be healed comes to our awareness.

It’s a big error in perspective to judge how viable and functional our society is on the actions of those living out the worst aspects of their human nature. Who we are as a people is a measure of how resilient we can be when we are forced to confront the darkest aspects of our potential.

Right now in our country, the forces that would embrace progressive change and those that want to regress to the past and arrest cultural transformation seem to be almost evenly balanced.

Every progressive movement is met with a regressive backlash that tries to reverse it. For example, President Obama’s health care initiative, which made health care available to millions of new people, was met with a fierce resistance and was partly the cause of big political losses in the House and Senate in the midterm elections for the Democratic Party.

The result is the movement towards a more just and equitable society where everyone can thrive is going to be a spiral progress with steps forward and then steps back or no steps at all for a while. In the long run though, the momentum towards a more progressive and just society cannot be stopped.

The reason for this is that our technologically enhanced world with its easily accessible communication resources means that people are growing in intellectual, spiritual, and moral intelligence. People are becoming more tolerant of diversity and less accepting of moral outrage and injustice.

It’s important to keep refocusing back to the kind of world we really want when the one that we currently have presents us with heartbreak and tragedy. Our perceived sense of reality turns out to be directly related to what we give our attention to.

We need to maintain a positive attitude about our society as it is to move it forward and resist the temptation to uncritically accept what the fear merchants are selling. Trump’s book Crippled America is one example of this.

If we take on the worst case scenarios about our country, then extreme measures seem appropriate. Then someone like Trump, the autocrat, or Bernie, the socialist, seems to be just who we need.

But we don’t need desperate measures to change our civilization. Change is on the way, in any case, and our role is to adapt to it one small step at a time and shape this change in a positive and progressive direction.

The trend towards economic globalization, for example, is not going to stop. Any country that resorts to isolationism will suffer immediate economic downturn as the British experienced after their vote to leave the European Union. They were the fifth largest economy in the world one day and sixth the day after the vote.

The most pressuring danger our civilization faces is in environment degradation through man-made driven climate change. However, we’re not going to be able to meet this challenge until we are able to address issues of political, economic, and social injustice. It’s hard to think globally when you are unhappy locally.

I’m hopeful we can mature as a species to where our sense of justice extends to empathy for the other living things on the earth and our effect on them. But it’s not a given that will happen.

We must do what we can to get our own house in order and move towards a more just society in our own country, and then our attention has a chance to focus on more global and environmental concerns.

In the last few days, we have faced tragedy as a nation. How will we respond? May this extremity be our opportunity to find unity and common purpose.

Just as every individual has the capacity for both love and violence, so every civilization has the potential to flourish and flower and reach its greater potential or just fall apart and disappear.

The events of June 12, 2016 leave us in a state of shock and grief. 49 died plus the shooter and 53 were injured in a hate crime and terrorist attack against a LGBTQ community.

As we struggle to make sense of these tragic events, we look for something positive that can yet emerge from this horror. What can we do to make a better world? How can this extremity be our opportunity?

We want to put our efforts into aligning ourselves with the evolving positive story of our society so that the worst case outcomes like Orlando can be averted. But what difference can one individual make? What difference can I make?

We change the world through one act of love and kindness at a time. Making the world a better place is an inside job. If we don’t do what we can to make a difference, then we have the world we deserve.

We need more than love and kindness. We also need acts of diversity and political sensitivity.

We will need collective as well as individual action. But what we do as individuals is the foundation of lasting and effective change. All the issues that we see in the world are reflections of what is happening within our own souls.

As we learn more about the shooter, Omar Mateen, the personal nature of the crisis of transformation in our civilization is underlined. It turns out that Mateen had been going to the Pulse nightclub for years, had a profile on gay dating apps, and had come on sexually to other men. He fit in somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum.

It is reasonable to conclude that his murderous rampage was motivated by self-hatred and inability to accept the nonheterosexual aspects of his own personality. Although he claimed to be being inspired by ISIS, he also said he was seeking revenge for Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah elements. The latter are at war with ISIS.

My reading is that his self-declared terrorist mindset was a rationalization to act out homicidal and suicidal impulses that had been present for a long time.

Our opportunity in this terrible time comes when we can see how Omar, the mass murderer, is a reflection of ourselves. Granted, he is a worst case scenario of a negative role model. Yet, he is still human, and in his confusion, hostility, and desperation, we can see some resemblance to our own challenges.

To change the world through one act of love and kindness at a time, it is imperative that we also make ourselves the recipient of this grace. This is self-compassion.

My personal frontier of self-compassion is an ongoing exercise in self-forgiveness. Although I try to do the right thing and the loving and sensitive thing, I don’t always succeed. I have made spectacular mistakes in my life. Every one of them was a great learning. In reflection, I can see that I was in the perfect lesson.

The turning point is seeing my face plants as incidents where correction is needed, improvement is needed, growth is needed. And, not to hold the things I would do differently as evidence of how I am cracked at the core, defective, unworthy, and unlovable.

Everything I do is part of my path of personal and spiritual transformation, and I have to embrace the inevitable spiral nature of the progress that comes. Sometimes I have to go down before I can go up.

Diversity sensitivity is essential to living in a harmonious world and it applies to the self as well. I am identified with the parts of me that are competent and strong and other aspects where I am awkward and unskillful get put into the shadow and sometimes disowned. For example, I struggle to make a balance between my spiritual nature and the rest of me.

It’s difficult to be kind and loving towards others if you are desperately unhappy with yourself. A healthier, happier you creates a better world.

I find that if I hold to the intention to be a unified field that there is an opening to joy and celebration in my life. The input of my lower self is important because I often lose sight of what I need and want in my philosophical and spiritual preoccupations.

If I can hold a counsel with my inner child and other aspects of the lower self, they can school me in short order about where my bliss got lost and how it can be restored.

Political sensitivity is essential to moving ourselves and the world in a positive direction. Politics matters.

I will have more to say about the political implications of the Orlando massacre in the next blog.

But we can also look at political sensitivity as an individual responsibility. I see this as an obligation to reach discernment about what is credible, true, and real and what is not. Reality discernment is a political act. Our beliefs condition our perceptions which determine what we accept as reality. Then our choices flow from what we take to be real.

To move towards this better world that we all want, we have to learn to right size the fears that come along with our catastrophic age. Uncertainty, anxiety, and apprehension are our companions in this 21st century experience because the future is no longer predictable based on past experience.

We all having some version of the Costco experience where what we shopped for last week has been moved to another part of the store and there is usually no one around to ask where our favorite item landed in this vast complex.

Fear and love are incompatible emotions. We need good strategies for fear management.

In this respect, what I have found helps me is to focus my attention on current challenges and not to try to anticipate the future too far in advance. I try to find the balance between being doing due diligence by anticipating my needs in the next moment and being fully in the present.

I can include the future present in this because it’s the very next thing that is coming up. But it’s important to avoid trying to solve future problems with current information when the actual challenges of that future won’t be known until we get there. It’s not helpful to look at the future from the standpoint of what we imagine these challenges to be.

Everything that we think, feel, and do affects everyone and this each-affects-all reality becomes more apparent with every passing day. As we learn to live with less fear and more love, we’re feeding the collective field good energies.

Let this tragic moment be the turning point in my life where I have more love and less fear.

Where love is, all is well and all will be well.

Humpty Trumpty sat on his wall.
Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.
All of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men
Couldn’t put the GOP back together again.

We are living in very interesting times indeed. The question we need to wrestle with is whether this is really a curse as the traditional Chinese saying would have it or whether we are in fact in the perfect political lesson for our age.

The harsh facts are that Donald Trump has driven out all of his competitors and is now the last man standing in the Republican primary race of 2016. He will be the GOP nominee.

I don’t know of anyone who predicted that Trump would actually win the nomination. Both the scientific evidence based prognosticators like Nate Silver and more intuitive types like myself got it wrong. Moreover, we got it wrong more than once.

Trump was able to win the nomination by getting the support of just 40% of the Republican electorate. With sixteen other candidates competing for the nomination, the vote got split in all of the contests and the Trump faction emerged with a winning plurality.

The GOP establishment is partly to blame for how this election cycle unfolded. They changed the format of the primary elections for 2016 to give a front runner a better chance of winning the nomination quickly so they could pivot to the general election and not get bogged down in endless debates and contested primaries.

They saw in 2012 how candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum hung in the process much longer than they would have otherwise because they had the support of some rich patrons who could fund a super PAC for them.

With Trump now the standard bearer of the GOP, the ideological unity of the Republican Party has been shattered to pieces. Many prominent Republicans are now not only not endorsing Trump but actually disavowing him and saying they will not vote for him.

A new standard of political double speak is coming to prominence as Republican Senate candidates want to continue to be identified with the party but not the nominee. So Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire says she supports the nominee of the party but will not endorse him.

Various disaffected Republicans are trying to organize a third party candidate with the fantasy goal of forcing the election into the House of Representatives. But it’s going to be too little too late for a third party.

Moreover, no one really wants to take on the role of being a spoiler candidate just to spite someone else. There is no political integrity in that.

I imagine they are trying to create some incentive for unhappy Republicans to go to the polls in November in order to save the Senate from flipping to the Democrats. A write-in campaign will be their last resort.

According to the Pew Research Center, the Republican share of the electorate is 25%. 44% are independents and 31% Democrats. The best case scenario for the Republicans electorate is 41% counting all the Republicans plus those leading Republican. The leaning Democratic share is 49%.

Without a unified party, the Republicans don’t have much of a chance in the general election. They traditionally count on a unified Republican electorate plus appeal to independents and some Democrats.

The big lesson of the 2012 election for president for the Republicans was the need to expand their demographic appeal. With Trump as candidate, though, it goes in the other direction in a dramatic way.

With Clinton as the Democratic nominee, we could count on Trump doing his usual thing of denigration of the opposition through personal attacks. This is going to have a misogynistic slant to it. Already Trump has said that Clinton is playing the woman card and that’s all she has going for her.

The nonwhite vote in 2016 will make up about 31% of the electorate and Trump isn’t going to win a lot of these voters. Women make up 52% of the voters and, if he alienates them, he’s got absolutely no chance to win.

In the Republican primary contest, Trump excelled at demagoguery and reality TV type theatrics while avoiding talking about policy for the most part. That won’t fly in the general election. Here truly it will become clear to all that the emperor has no clothes. Trump has no coherent policies.

When Trump does put forward some policy, banning all Muslims from entering the country, for example, there are those who believe that this is all for show and that it’s just something he’s saying to get attention and keep himself in the media spotlight.

The reality, however, is that Trump lives from a world view dominated by conspiracy theories. The conspiracy media figure, Alex Jones, is his hero.

For example, this is his view of climate change: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

With such unprecedented liabilities, we need some explanation for how Trump got to be the representative of one of the two major political parties in our country with at least some possibility of being elected president.

Because of the rapid pace of change in many aspects of our lives, our country and the entire world is going through an existential crisis. It’s a crisis of identity, meaning and values.

The best response to existential crisis is to embrace change and transformation. The least function responses are to act out against others, against ourselves, and to go for restoration of some fantasized past. Trumpism embodies all three of these dysfunctional reactions to change.

The slogan “Make America Great Again” needs no explanation as a move towards restoration. The xenophobic and nativist strains of Trump’s politics focuses attention on who is perceived to be different and other and helps distract from having to take responsibility for adapting to change. We can then blame our problems on immigrants or the Chinese.

What we are seeing in the current version of the Republican Party is also an example of acting out against oneself. The corrupt and traditional ways of the Republican Party are then the problem. So the perception is that we need some anti-politician who can burn it down and build it back again in a better form.

The presidential election cycle of 2016 is a great opportunity to make a stand for a new way of being in our country and in the world. Trump’s candidacy serves us by bringing to full awareness the road we don’t want to walk down. He is the ultimate negative role model. It’s really a clash between two paradigms.

It’s a choice between a paradigm of tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and justice and a paradigm of white identity resentment politics of diversity insensitivity and intolerance.

On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. With U.S. involvement, it marked the day when Germany and Japan could no longer win the war.

In the aftermath of the December 2nd San Bernardino terrorist shootings that left 14 dead and 22 injured, on December 7, 2015, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

This statement ended whatever marginal chances Trump had to become the Republican nominee. It was his Pearl Harbor moment.

But, wait. Trump had said a lot of outrageous things in the past months and his polls numbers have just gone up.

True to form, Trump has enjoyed a poll surge which put him at an unprecedented 41% in one recent Monmouth pole.

Even though he is the clear front runner in the polls, his failure to win the nomination is assured.

My reading is that Trump’s inevitable fall will see Ted Cruz emerge as the GOP presidential candidate for 2016. I do not see anything that will reverse Ben Carson’s decline. Once you take Trump and Carson out of the picture, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are the strongest candidates left.

Of the top four candidates, Rubio is the one most favored by the Republican political establishment and the most electable versus Clinton. However, the perception that he is part of the establishment is a disadvantage in the current mood of the Republican electorate.

He offers no compelling narrative and is best known in the Senate for missing votes and being part of an effort to pass an immigration reform bill. Cruz helped write the legislation which included a provision that provided for a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.

Although he later repudiated his own bill, it has been difficult for him to distance himself from the perception that he is in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Whatever is thought to be amnesty is anathema to the Republican base.

Cruz is going to consolidate support after winning Iowa. Then he will have momentum and the push will be on to rally GOP support for the Anyone-But-Trump candidate. Trump is not going to disappear. He will win his share of the primary vote but he will not get to 50% in the delegate count.

Were Trump to win and become the new face of the Republican brand, not only would the Republicans suffer a tremendous defeat in the presidential election, they would also be in big trouble in the Senate and House races.

They cannot win the presidency with Cruz either, but at least they have a better shot in the Senate and the House.

Cruz is very much the social conservative that Trump is not and that will be a disadvantage in the general election. Moreover, he is every bit as hawkish on the war with ISIS. In a foreign policy address Cruz said this: “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark but we are going to find out.”

This seems to advocates a bombing campaign which makes no effort to avoid civilian deaths and also implies the use of nuclear weapons. Cruz’s militarism is then another aspect which makes him less appealing to the general electorate.

Ted Cruz can muster a coalition of older white Christians in the general election but that is not going to take him to 270 electoral votes.

What then makes Cruz an acceptable candidate for the GOP and Trump an unacceptable one?

What Trump has proposed is government sanctioned religious profiling. If there is any one principle which is sacred in American democracy, it is the principle of religious liberty. Disregarding this value is an emotionally activating element that resonates across the whole political spectrum.

In response to Trump’s call, former Vice-President Dick Cheney said this: “I think this whole notion that somehow we can say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

Moreover, Trump’s call to ban Muslims feeds directly into what ISIS is trying to promote, a narrative of Islam versus the West. He is putting us at greater risk and making the terrorism threat worse. He has become a great recruiting asset for ISIS.

Trump has doubled down on his anti-Muslim stance by calling for killing the families of terrorists. This puts him on the same moral footing as the terrorists.

It is inconceivable how we can make any progress at all in dealing with the complex challenges of the Middle East with a president who is perceived to be as anti-Muslim as Trump is perceived to be. He would be an unprecedented disaster for U.S. foreign policy.

Trump’s call on a ban on Muslims is clearly unconstitutional, impractical, bigoted, and discriminatory. Unless you take into account the reality show attention getting rhetorical intent, it would seem to be a political absurdity.

When someone’s line of reasoning ends up in an absurd conclusion, this focuses attention on the premises that lead to the unacceptable end. When you start looking critically at the basis for his comments, his standing as a serious candidate quickly degrades.

For example, one stable of Trump’s campaign is his argument that what is holding us back from achieving our national goals is political correctness. He is then an advocate of the virtue of political incorrectness.

What he is really saying is that we should be more fearful and suspicious of our neighbors, less tolerant of anyone who opinion is different from ours, and erect literal and administrative walls to keep out foreigners of all kinds.

The term “politically correct” has been co-opted by conservative think tanks to be a weapon in the culture wars as conservatives try to resist the liberalization of American and world culture.

In one of its original meanings, it referred to the attempt to enforce ideological orthodoxy among Marxists. It was used as an admonishment for anyone who had any idea which was thought to deviate from the official party line as in “you’re not being very politically correct here, comrade.”

Today the term “politically incorrect” has taken on the meaning of saying or doing something that is offensive to an ethnic or demographic group. Racist, sexist and homophobic comments would all apply here.

The advocates of politically incorrectness would like us to believe that they are champions of radical honesty and truth speaking because they say what other are thinking but are afraid to say. If people feelings are hurt, it is not their problem.

However, this ignores the power that language has to be an instrument of domination and disempowerment. The person who deliberately uses politically incorrect speech is trying to create some kind of power differential when they are one up and the other is one down.

One example of such speech I recall from my days growing up in Southwest Virginia was the term “poor white trash.” This term was used as a way to marginalize and basically dehumanize financially disadvantaged white people. It was a way of speaking that makes you feel superior to others and justifies any sort of injustice you might want to inflict on them.

It is a short step from the advocacy of politically incorrectness to bigotry, xenophobia, and discrimination.

It is time to retire the term “political correctness” and find an alternative which can avoid the connotation that the focus on treating people with dignity, respect, fairness, and justice needs some kind of corrective to avoid infringing individual freedom and liberty. I recommend the term “diversity sensitivity.”

When you use a slur against any ethic or demographic group, it is not ignoring some arbitrary and artificial standard of politeness or etiquette. It is showing insensitivity to a group of people that you perceive to be different than yourself. When we consider people from understanding and tolerance, then we are also much more likely to treat them with fairness and justice as well.

Trump, Carson and Rubio all spoke about the dangers of political correctness in the last GOP debate. In fairness to them, they are not advocating the use of racist, sexist or homophobic slurs as we normally encounter them. However, the term “radical Islamic terrorism” that Cruz says we should use is a diversity insensitive term.

It is insensitive because it blurs the distinction between Islam and terrorism. It fuels Islamophobia.

Should we call Dylann Roof’s murder of 9 people at a Charleston, South Carolina Church with the intent to create a race war “white Christian terrorism” or Robert Dear’s killing of 3 people at Planned Parenthood? Christianity does not advocate violence you might say. Although the Ku Klux Klan members are all Christians, the Ku Klux Klan is not Christianity. So too, ISIS is not Islam.

When I say that the premises behind Trump’s outrageous statements do not stand up to any sort of critical inquiry, by no stretch of the imagination am I claiming that his current sizeable plurality of followers in the GOP are critical thinkers that are going to be swayed by rational arguments or even common sense.

Trump’s followers have a kind of cult mentality. They may rationalize their support by saying such things as Trump is not corruptible because he does not need any one else’s money to run for office, or that Trump is the strong, tough guy we need to restore America’s respect in the world. It is clear though that Trump’s appeal is emotional rather than rational.

He is the master demagogue using various rhetorical devices to appeal as directly as possible to the emotions, especially to the fear and anger of his base. His positions are all provocations of one kind or another and the reasons he gives for them are often based on distortions and outrageous lies.

Trump’s candidacy is a vehicle for the expression of the rage and frustration that the GOP electorate feels with respect to what they perceive is happening in the country, what is happening in the government, and what is happening in their own party.

But this does not mean that, at the end of the day, at the July GOP Convention, the majority of delegates are going to happily jump aboard what is in effect the GOP suicide Trump bandwagon.

We may think that we live in a world where people live in their own isolated reality bubbles so that what is true in general never filters through to the public at large. But people do not have to think and reflect in order to be influenced by a consensus that comes through the collective field.

So the growing awareness of the true nature of the lies, distortions and provocations that are the basis of Trump’s campaign will in the long run keep him from the nomination. He will not get more than 30% of the vote.

Popularity in the polls does not translate neatly into delegates for the convention. Many of Trump’s supporters, in particular the blue collar, less educated group, do not have a history of voting in Republican primaries. His outrageous positions mean that he is not going to get endorsements from any other political figures. He will get zero support from established Republicans.

Lastly, Trump is not the leader of a group of dedicated and committed political professionals. He is a one man band. His circle of closest advisors are all pretty much all within his own head. He does not have the organization to make a go of a long campaign.

Nor, in my reading, does he have the will or the stamina to work hard enough to achieve the goal. What has happens so far fits neatly within his larger purpose to garner attention to his brand and enjoy free media attention.

He is loath to spend his own fortune on campaign ads and he eschews super PACs. It is fun for him as long as he does not have to work too hard at it and it does not take away too much attention from his other interests.

He is ambivalent about being president because it is very hard for him to conceive of not having direct control of his business interests which he would have to do if elected.

More high profile domestic terrorist attacks between now and the GOP convention might change what I see to be the trajectory of history. But, my reading is that we are not going to have any attacks like San Bernardino where more than 10 people are killed between now and the election next November.

The Trump phenomenon helps put the focus on what needs to be healed in American politics and throughout the world. This is ethnic identity politics that see diversity insensitivity as a virtue.

If we are going to survive the adolescence of our species, we need to understand that our welfare and well-being is tied up with the welfare and well-being of all other people on earth. Unless we are committed to a world in which everyone thrives, we are going to be working against our own long term interests.

On Friday, November 13th, 2015, there were six separate coordinated attacks in Paris by three teams of terrorists wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles. So far 130 people have died from the attacks and 351 more were injured. 7 of the attackers died in the assault.

On November 18th, more members of the terrorist cell were cornered in an apartment building in a Paris suburb. 8 were captured and three were killed including the person who was believed to be the organizer and leader of the group, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud fought with ISIS in Syria before returning to France.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack as well as two other mass casualty terrorism incidents that happened around the same time as the Paris attacks. Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed into the Sinai Peninsula on October 31 from a bomb that had been smuggled on board. 217 passengers and 7 crew members died.

Two suicide bombers killed 43 people in Beirut, Lebanon on November 12th. A Shia neighborhood was targeted. 239 more were injured.

It would seem that ISIS is implementing a strategy of dramatically increasing the impact they can make with a campaign of international terrorism.

Will they come here next? Is it really safe to allow Syrian refugees to come to this country? What additional steps will the threatened nations of the world take to counter the threat of ISIS?

These terrorism incidents have sent a shock wave around the globe. Our postmodern world with its evolving communication technology is fast becoming one unified field where anything that happens anywhere affects everyone everywhere. There is now a lot of fear in this space.

To the extent that we want to be part of a spiritually intelligent response to this crisis, it’s incumbent upon us to see if we can discern the difference between irrational fear and the realistic threats we face.

This is something that all of us have to deal with on an individual basis in our personal lives in any case. An increase in uncertainty is our modern experience.

With increased uncertainty, the unconscious will often generate fear scenarios of worst case possibilities. Then what’s remotely possible seems like an actual threat we have to guard against. Without a realistic threat assessment, we run the risk of taking actions which actually make us less safe.

Obama has proposed taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees. To be accepted into the United States, each one of these individuals will have to undergo a vetting process that takes 18 to 24 months to complete.

It’s unreasonable to assume that violent militants are going to use this route to get into the United States that involves a close scrutiny by government officials when they have other easier ways to get into the country such as student visas or coming as tourists with European passports.

Moreover, there is almost no evidence of a refugee terrorist connection. According to the Migration Policy Institute of Washington, since 9/11 there have been 784,000 refugees admitted into the United States. Only 3 have been arrested for terrorism related charges.

The House just voted on a bill that would make it practically impossible for Syrian refugees to come here. A better idea being considered is to limit visas for anyone who has traveled to Syria or Iraq within five years.

There is currently no law which restricts people on a terrorism watch list from buying guns.

If we turn away the refugees, we’ll be repeating a regrettable chapter from our past when the United States turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939 because of fear that they would be Communists.

The irrational refugee phobia plays right into the ISIS ideological narrative of a war between Muslims and everyone else.

If by a mass casualty event we mean one which results in 100 total casualties or more, my intuitive reading is that we’re not going to see a mass casualty event in the United States any time soon, for at least ten years or more.

We don’t have the open border policy that Europe has that makes it easy to go from one country in Europe to another without having to stop at a border control check point. We haven’t had that many people go from the United States to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS that could return from the war there to harm us.

Currently, in our own country, our security forces have the upper hand on anyone who wants to plan a sophisticated attack.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be low casualty attacks by single individuals. We’ve had these before and we’ll have them again. But, my reading is that we won’t see anything on the scale of 9/11.

My intuition is that the ISIS group is taking on this new strategy because they are desperate. They want to provoke the West into overreacting and sending large numbers of European and American combat troops into Iraq and Syria. This sets the stage for the final battle between their perverted version of Islam and the West that is part of their apocalyptic fantasy.

They hope this will spur an influx of people to their cause.

They are running out of resources relative to their vision of what want to accomplish in establishing their caliphate. They’ve used up the money they looted from Iraq banks in the cities they took over, they’re running out of antiquities to sell, their oil production industry is being systematically destroyed, and they are in danger of running out of soldiers.

They count on recruitment from foreign countries to maintain the numbers to sustain the fiction of being a conquering army and to administer the areas they currently control.

Isis’s new strategy of international terrorism though is going to blow up in their faces. Europe is going to be safer now that France has had its 9/11 just as the United States is safer from terrorism after ours.

Russia and the United States along with other states are working together on a diplomatic initiative to end the Syrian Civil War. This will mean kicking Assad to the curb. Then every nation with a stake in Syria can fight ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Now there is a new movement of cooperation between nations to counter the ISIS threat. France has invoked Article 5 of the NATO Charter that requires every nation in NATO to help when one is attacked.

I don’t see recent events leading to a ground force of NATO and American troops in large numbers. There will be an intensification of the current efforts against ISIS and most of these will not be very visible or dramatic. But, in the long run, it will be effective, and ISIS, at least as a caliphate holding large areas of territory in Syria and Iraq, will cease to exist.

Assuming that an end to the Syrian Civil War can be achieved and there is no commitment of large numbers of Western ground forces, an effective war of attrition against ISIS can be sustained. My reading is that the demise of ISIS as a geographic entity will take about three years from the present time.

It’s important to counter ISIS militarily. If we make them look like losers on the battlefield, the aura of being an effective Muslim fighting force will fade away and their recruitment of foreign fighters will not be able to keep pace with their battlefield losses.

But military solutions are never going to be enough to defeat the appeal of their ideology. To reach this goal, we are going to need to continue to use the restraint we have in military operations that try to limit civilian causalities. It will be counterproductive to think that going to more total war will make us safer in the long run.

Terrorism and religious extremism is going to be with us for decades to come because it’s a dysfunctional reaction to the increasing rate of change in our civilization and the stress this puts on our institutions and on our habitual way of life.

The only long term solution to the problem of terrorism is to create a more just world where people feel empowered and where they feel they have a chance for a better life without having to burn down the neighborhood.

One thing you and I can do to move us towards this post terrorism future is to watch what we’re feeding the unified field of the world. When we feel fear about anything, question that emotion.

We need to ask ourselves is there a real threat here? What is the most intelligent response I can make to this disturbance I’m currently experiencing? Is there a deeper concern that I need to look at that the activating event has stimulated within me?

When you come from a place of kindness, tolerance, and acceptance of yourself and others, you’re putting good medicine into the field. Whatever we can do to heal ourselves will help heal the world.

At approximately 1.24 pm on Saturday, September 12, a fire started in a shed near a rural home in Cobb. Fed by very high winds and high temperatures, the fire raged out of control. By 6.30 pm, it had scorched 10,000 acres. By Sunday 50,000 acres were burned. By the 23nd of September, the fire had burned over 76,000 acres and was still only 80% contained.

Approximately 1900 structures have been destroyed by the latest count. This makes the Valley Fire the third worse fire in California history as measured by the total number of structures lost.

Almost all of the buildings at the Harbin Hot Springs Resort were reduced to rubble. A couple of dome structures on the top of the hill survived as did some bathrooms that had metal roofs.

The people at Harbin and the people in the surroundings communities had very little time to evacuate so many people lost almost all of their possessions along with their homes and immediate livelihoods. Fortunately, only 4 deaths have been attributed to the fire so far.

Since I have been going to the workshops of the Human Awareness Institute at Harbin Hot Springs for 31 years, I know many of the people affected by the fire who worked there or lived nearby.

The Stan Dale Conference Center that was the Northern California home venue for the HAI workshops for all these years is completely destroyed.

How can we deal with such loss and maintain our emotional center?

I think the most important thing is not to obsessively focus on loss as loss but to pivot our attention as soon as we can to what we want to create from this point forward.

It’s important to allow ourselves to grieve and feel the sadness. But then celebrate life. Choose love, choose empowerment.

I find empowerment in the circumstances of my life by taking on the premise that I’m always in the perfect lesson. When I’m caught up in an unfortunate and unwelcome situation, I look for lessons and I always find them.

The first lesson I find in the pain of the Valley Fire is a new understanding of the Buddhist teaching that all form is ephemeral and impermanent. Everything that is structure is in the process of change and evolution. We’re caught up in cycles of creation and destruction. This, of course, includes our physical bodies as well.

I’m reminded of the importance of appreciating and celebrating the things I love and what I love to do while they are still available to me. The time to express and cherish what I’m passionate about is now, not some time in the future that I think is more convenient.

Although the buildings of the Harbin Hot Springs Resort are gone, Harbin has not been destroyed. The springs have not gone away, nor have the pools that contained the water. The destruction of the infrastructure of Harbin Hot Springs is also ephemeral and impermanent.

As Stan Dale was fond of saying: “All endings automatically equal new beginnings.” The end of Harbin as we knew it is the beginning of a new Harbin that will be rise up from the ashes of the old.

My forecast is that Harbin will be fully open for business by January, 2017. It will take more time to replace all the buildings destroyed, but there is also the opportunity to redesign Harbin from the ground up.

If you feel like you’ve lost your personal sanctuary, at least for the time being, this opens up a possibility to find other sanctuaries.

The second lesson that I take from the Valley Fire is about climate change. Destructive climate change is not something theoretical that may happen decades in the future. It’s here now. California has not been this dry in 500 years and human activity sourced climate change is to blame.

The empowerment I take from this perspective is a wake-up call to get my personal career act together so I can be more influential in spreading the awareness of our planetary peril.

We must do what we can to educate others who want to take refuge in climate change skepticism and denial. We’ve all got to do what we can to mobilize our civilization to take action before critical thresholds of climate change make our planet much less livable for ourselves and all other species.

The third lesson of the fire is about meaning. Form and structure is transitory but there is a sense in which meaning is always conserved. Sentient life is always evolving towards its higher possibility.

This means in practical terms that there is as much meaning after the catastrophe as there was before. We just have to search it out.

Harbin is never going to be same as it was nor are the lives of the people who were burned out of their homes or had their work lives drastically affected. But there is at least as much meaning available after this terrible and unfortunate event as there was before. The loss of what was before creates an opening for new meaning to manifest.

So a new Harbin Hot Springs Resort has the opportunity to redesign itself and correct some things that didn’t work in the old version. Individuals can rebuild homes or find new places to live. The sudden end of one work opportunity opens doors to new ones that may not have ever been considered before.

A less dramatic aspect of this same lesson comes into play whenever we lose something we really like or depend on. This forces us to find a replacement. More often than not, the thing we get to replace the old is an improvement in function or quality.

A fourth lesson is about service. There is a real opening here to improve the quality of your life by helping others who are in need. Embrace grief, celebrate life, choose love, choose empowerment.

If you know someone who was affected by the fire, reach out to that person and offer whatever help you can. Let them know that they are not alone. If you have the means, contribute to the funds for the survivors of the fire.

We live in a very interesting time in human history and in the history of our country. Our society and the very foundations of our civilization are undergoing rapid change fueled in no small part by an explosion in information technology and other technological advances. The well-being of each nation state is integrally tied up with what happens in other parts of the world. We could be on the cusp of living in a world where illness, poverty, starvation, and war are all fading into history as we take on a more responsible stewardship for the vulnerable ecology of our planet.

Sadly we’re not there yet and how things will unfold in the future is very uncertain. What happens in the United States is very critical in this historical drama because our missteps can result in tremendous setbacks for the entire world as illustrated by the economic turmoil of 2008.

Political outcomes in this country make a tremendous difference. The last Republican president brought us the Great Recession and the Iraq War and its disastrous consequences including the rise of the Islamic State. With Obama as president, we’ve had economic growth and relative stability and some better foreign affairs outcomes as witnessed by the Iran diplomatic initiative as an alternative to war.

Of course, the President of the United States is not solely responsible for economic or foreign affairs outcomes, but how they respond the challenges that we face going forward can make the difference with regard to whether we end up in a positive or negative tipping point.

Now we’re in a new presidential election cycle and there is no incumbent running. On the Democratic side, only two candidates have a chance to win: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The tremendous enthusiasm and overflow crowds that Sanders attract is a real surprise. Bernie is a democratic socialist and his message is a populist appeal to economic and political justice that addresses issues of wealth inequity and undue political influence of big money interests.

There is an element of the corruption of our present society that he points up. This is a plutocratic distortion where the interests of the wealthiest are protected at the expense of everyone else. This trend was exacerbated by the Citizens United Supreme Court case which allows individuals to contribute unlimited amounts of money to Political Action Committees that advocate for candidates that support their interests.

The winner of the Democratic nomination is going to have to tap into this unhappiness about how our society is rigged in favor of the wealthy. My reading is that Clinton is going to win easily.

Sanders doesn’t have sufficient credible standing with minority voters compared to Clinton. Moreover, at age 73, he looks old. He doesn’t fit our image of a strong and vigorous president.

When we look at the primary contest in all of the states, Clinton has a clear advantage in funding and from having an experienced political team already in place.

On the Republican side, we see an unprecedented number of major candidates running for the nomination of their party: 17 in all. These include a business man, Donald Trump; a business woman, Carly Fiorina; and a retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson. In addition, there are 4 sitting Senators and 1 former Senator: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Rich Santorum and 4 sitting and 5 former governors: Scott Walker, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Rich Perry, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore.

There are a lot of reasons why so many people are running for the Republican nomination this year. There is no incumbent this year and the highest office is much more winnable than when running against an incumbent president.

This year the Republicans don’t have a clear front runner or someone who is the consensus choice of their party the way Clinton seems to be for the Democrats.

The political duopoly of two parties that we have in the United States has historically meant that very seldom does one party win the Presidency in three successive elections. Harry Truman after Roosevelt and George Herbert Walker Bush after Reagan are the exceptions since WWII. So the Republicans feel this is their big chance to win the White House.

With Citizens United, a candidate only needs a couple of super wealthy donors to be financially viable and sustain their campaign. Underdog candidates feel they have a chance to hang in the process long enough to capture the imagination of the electorate.

We have to ask ourselves why anyone wants to run for president. The answer is usually because they want to have power and influence. They also want to imprint the country with their own ideas of how things should be.

On the spectrum from narcissism to idealism, I think the balance is tipped a bit on the narcissism side for this cycle especially on the Republican side. Bernie Sanders stands out as someone who has more idealistic focus than others. I give Clinton some credibility in this respect as well.

Running for president, even if you have virtually no chance to win the nomination, can still be a ticket to a better book deal, speaking fee, or Fox channel gig. It’s a chance to be relevant and capitalize on this time in the media spotlight.

Also, you could be picked for vice-president or given a choice spot in the government of the next president. Finishing number two or three is not without its perks and rewards.

If Trump were not running, the big three in the Republican field would be Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio. Ohio Governor John Kasich has the best chance to come out of obscurity to be the nominee.

Kasich is the person who has the best chance of beating Clinton in 2016. He’s got a 55 percent approval rating in his own state so he could claim a positive track record of executive accomplishment. He would probably carry Ohio in a general election and that might be the deciding state.

The problem with Kasich is that he expanded Medicaid in his state as part of the Obamacare option where the federal government helps pay for Medicaid. That’s a fatal flaw in a year where alignment with right wing positions trumps electability.

Jeb has by the far the most money and is the favorite of the establishment wing of the party. His establishment ties work for him but are also a liability. It’s too easy for Republican primary voters to perceive him as more of the same establishment political initiative that failed in 2012.

Moreover, Jeb is gaffe prone and is sort of boring as a candidate. He would be a retread of the George W. Bush presidency and, although there may be some Bush nostalgia in the Republican Party, this doesn’t translate to the general electorate very well so his electability is not something that can be taken for granted.

Marco Rubio is an attractive and personable candidate but lacks substance. His time in the Senate has not resulted in any positive outcome associated with his personal effort. He is a likely choice for vice-president as the eventual nominee will want to capitalize on his Cuban ethnic background.

My prediction is that Scott Walker will emerge as the Republican nominee. He will be proclaimed as the new Reagan as a super conservative who can win the general election. Walker is very socially conservative and will appeal to those in the party who champion these issues. Also, he’s a genuine Tea Party fiscal conservative and can claim to have reduced the size and impact of government interference in his state.

Walker has only a high school education, does not come from wealth and privilege, and has an anti-intellectual attitude. His father was a Baptist minister. All of these aspects should appeal to working class voters.

Of course, when you look at the record of his impact in Wisconsin on the economic front, it’s pretty much a horror story. Falling median income levels and lethargic job growth have lead to a shrinking middle class in Wisconsin since he became governor.

Walker has pioneering the stripping of union rights and the reduction of funding for education. Wisconsin now spends more on prisons than it does on public universities.

Seen through the filter of Tea Party mentality though, many of these results are accomplishments rather than disqualifying outcomes.

Walker is a very capable and shrewd politician. In his political career he’s won 10 elections in a row. He can give the impression of being a reasonable man even when he’s got an extreme agenda.

Also, and not least in importance, he’s got the backing of the Koch brothers, the sixth richest people in the world with a combined net worth of $86 billion dollars.

Donald Trump, however, is currently leading and even lapping the field with a support level more than twice that of the nearest competitor. My reading is that Trump’s popularity is a bubble that will burst once we get closer to actually counting any votes. The romance with the Trump candidacy is somewhat similar to the feelings people when they first meet someone they are attracted to. The tendency is to project ideal qualities onto this person and be blind to their shortcomings.

However, once the romance phase ends, you have to deal with day to day reality and then issues of compatibility have to been taken into account. In case of the Trump candidacy, this moment of reckoning will happen when he has to define policy positions and outline his plans for addressing the real issues we face as a country. How will he deal with climate change, for example?

Donald Trump is an actor playing himself in a reality show called the Republican Presidential Primary Race. One sense in which our culture is askew is highlighted by the fact that Fox News media organization is sponsoring him in a reality television segment called a debate. This is after Fox News set up the rules for who could participate in this show limiting the cast to 10 characters and relegating the other 7 main candidates to a warmup act.

Politics has always been a diversion and even seen as a kind of sport. But, it’s still sad to see that the only other choice we have in who can be president is going to be partly decided by who is best at a game that is rigged to support the bottom line of a right-wing media empire.

My forecast on the debate is that it’s going to be underwhelming and not live up to its hype. The other candidates are going to ignore Trump as much as they can and he is going be somewhat out of character by trying to seem like a reasonable person and refraining from personal attacks.

This debate is not Trump’s Waterloo though. He’ll continue to be strong for a few months until the public gets bored with his act. There is really no substance to his campaign.

Why Trump has shot to the top of the primary field requires some explanation. His poll numbers actually spiked after he demonized Mexican immigrants and denigrated Senator John McCain’s war service record.

This is unprecedented in recent political history. Trump is gaining traction by violating norms of political correctness. This is seen as a virtue because it gives him the appearance of someone who speaks his mind and as someone who is not being manipulated by political consultants like a merchandized product. He is one person running who is not a professional politician. Thus, there is a hope that maybe he can change the way things have always been done.

Also, Trump outrageous statements give voice to what some in the political extreme of the Republican base believe but are afraid to say. He comes across as a spokesperson for those who are in extreme reaction to the liberalization of our culture.

This liberalization is blamed on the left wing elite and left wing media. In reality, it’s part of the increased pace of evolution of attitudes and social norms in our country and in the world as a whole fueled in no small part by the democratization of media through social media like Twitter and Facebook.

Trump’s credibility is his persona as a successful business man. “I am very rich,” he boasts. He claims his personal wealth means he doesn’t need outside money to run for president and so is not going to be obligated to donors and lobbyists after he wins the election.

His economic message is a kind of plutocratic populism. The answer to the issue of middle class wage stagnation, for example, is just to make everyone rich. He can run the country successfully just as he has run his companies.

His populism appeal draws on the same sense than the electorate as a whole share that there are profound disturbances in our society that need remedies. Only from the standpoint of the extreme political right wing base, this disturbance is sourced in government interference.

Trump is Mr. Blusterful and this aggressive style appeals to people who see themselves surrounded by sinister forces defined as any group that is not like them.

Trump’s appeal is very limited if you look at the general electorate. In the most generous reading of his poll numbers, he’s got no more than 25% support of the Republican electorate.

If you count Republican partisans and those who lean Republican as 40% of voters, this is still only 10% of the whole. He would be anathema to more than 50% of the general voting population.

Trump is not going to run as a third party candidate. He can’t afford it.

In spite of his boosts of how he could easily self-fund a campaign for president, he is actually a puny billionaire. According to the Forbes list, he only ranks as number 405 in the world and counting duplicate rankings where two or more people have the same rank because of the same wealth level, this means there may well be 500 people in the world who are richer than Trump.

Conservative purity rather than pragmatic electability is going to dominate the Republican primary season this cycle and Trump’s prominence only pushes things more in this direction.


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