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You and I are not qualified to determine the value of anyone else’s life or death.

What that means is:

You don’t know whether anybody else is suffering so much that it would be a mercy for them to die.

You don’t know whether it would be wrong for someone to die and leave five kids behind.

You do not know which life requires superhuman intervention, and which life is at the end of its allotted time.

You don’t know!

I know you think you do. You think that you know because you work so very hard to imagine yourself in someone else’s place. You think you know how you’d feel if you were in the same place.

You can’t know!

It is not possible for you to know how you’d feel, what you’d think, what you’d want, what you’d do or what you wouldn’t do.

In the first place, you don’t know yourself or the workings of the universe well enough to accurately predict how you would react if you were faced with any situation outside your own previous experience. You could only guess. And since you couldn’t actually *know*, you’d have to base your guesses on the opinions of others, books, movies, discussions, a lifetime of your own imaginings combined with the reports of other people’s opinions, guesses, and a very few examples of other people’s experiences.

In the second place, if you were suddenly plunked down in someone else’s life, you couldn’t know what you’d do because you wouldn’t be yourself anymore, would you? Why, you wouldn’t even have the benefit of *their* life experiences.

We are flying completely blind when we presume to know what’s best for anyone but ourselves. And, frankly, if you’re honest, you have to admit that you have occasionally been very wrong about what was best for you.

Once you’ve gotten this far in your assessment of your qualifications to act as an omniscient judge for anyone else’s life, you’re going to come up against something that you may not have ever considered before: Are you able to accurately prophesy the future of everyone and everything in the universe?

Not even ascended masters and reincarnated gods/saviours have the foresight to infallibly prophesy the future, so why would you think you have that ability?

Even Christians, those who study the life of He Who was (alleged to be) the incarnation of the omnipotent and omniscient Creator, will tell you that Jesus couldn’t predict the future!

Look at any book of collected wisdom, any book of religion or philosophy, and it will tell you some variation of the following:

Lean not to your own understanding

There is a way which seems right to a man but…

To thine *own* self be true

Yep, that’s two from the Bible and one from Will Shakespeare. You can search high and low, every minute of your life, and you will not find anything spoken or written that suggests any individual human knows everything. We don’t. We can’t. Believe it or not, there’s too much to know, and we are one in our spirits – not in our brains nor in our minds. We cannot know anyone’s experience but our own.

We can make genuinely well-intentioned guesses. But those are mere stumbles in the hazy mirror of our own minds.

You do not KNOW that it’s *time* for grandpa to “go be with Jesus.”

You do not KNOW that baby’s life will not be “worth living.”

You do not KNOW that killing a million Iraqis, Germans, Jews or Romans will make the world a safer place for humans.

You do not KNOW that removing all humans from earth will make it a better place for earthworms.

And finally, the one that wrenches my heart, and possibly yours too. Not one of us can actually know when it’s time for any one of us to die. How much less can any one of us know when it’s time for someone, on whose love we depend, to move on to another plane of existence?

Over ten year ago I knew a man who had fought valiantly for years against the heart disease that caused him such limitation and suffering. He reached the point in his life where he decided that he wanted to lay down his battle armour, and go someplace where he didn’t have to struggle daily to be the husband, the father and the grandfather.

I remember telling his granddaughter, “But you mustn’t allow him to give up. You must explain to him.”

Dear God, was I ever so callous, so unfeeling, so ignorant? Yes, I was.

Fortunately, his wife, his daughter, and his three granddaughters loved him enough to respect his wishes. They contacted hospice and he suffered as little as pharmaceuticals make possible. They cared for him, at home, in ways that I had not imagined.

When his groin turned black because his kidneys had shut down, they fought on for his comfort, as he fought to let go of all that he had had here on this planet.

Thanks to the love, the care, the sacrifices of those five women, thanks to their respect for his wishes, he was able to leave the body that he had come to view as an insurmountable stumbling block to his continued life with them.

As we sat around the table after his funeral, toasting him with bottles of Guinness, (his favorite) everyone told a story about GrandDan. A memory would be shared – and we’d lift our bottles in his honor. When I went last, I told of studying up on the Rape of Nanking, because GrandDan had been there. I expressed my gratitude for him risking his young life to free the oppressed captives. I’d only known him a few years, but I knew his life had counted for a lot in this world.

One of GrandDan’s great grandsons was born profoundly disabled. At age six he weighed 13 pounds. When he died, not that many years later, nobody had any way of knowing if he considered his life to have been worth living or well lived. But his smile, below his bright red hair, could light up all the Christmas trees in the world. And when he didn’t like something, there was no way to pretend you didn’t know what Stephen wanted! I was around him enough to see that his life too had counted for a lot in the world.

We just don’t KNOW what’s right for anyone else. But, I promise you, that to deny any human the opportunity to stay or to go is not love. It’s not honoring their unique place in this world, even if we can’t see clearly what their place is. Stephen had the right to stay here as long as he wanted. GrandDan had the right to leave when he wanted to go.

For any of us to hold onto another human, or push another human away, when it goes against their wishes, is foul, irresponsible, disrespectful, and the ultimate in greed and selfishness.

If there’s a universal perfect time for any of us to be born, to live, or to die, we humans have no way of determining the precise timing. I am not condoning suicide or assisted suicide, that’s another topic for another day. But, when universe has provided a path for another human to come, to go, or to stay, not a single one of us, no matter our professional expertise or good intentions, has any right to interfere.

By clutching tightly, by holding on for (our own) dear life, we deny one of God’s creations their eternal right to LIVE, whether here on earth with us, or in the eternal paradise of their belief and choosing.

Not every creature is afraid to die. Not every creature is afraid to live. Ask. Just ask.

Then listen for the answer.

The message in this video resonates with me. I got the link to it in one of the comments here. I recommend Les Visible’s blogs. Links to them are in the sidebar.

If you aren’t thinking about these things, start now. The unexamined life isn’t worth suiciding over, but it’s a far cry from the beauty, truth, love and peace that universe has waited billions of years for us to reclaim.

I won’t go into my rant about the evils of today’s science, how it has been co-opted and turned into just another fundamentalist religion. I will say this:

As long as what’s passing for science today is a predominantly male area, we are going to see the continuation of all the sicknesses on this planet that we see today.

Consider the (male dominated) institutions of science, war and commerce. Think of the (male dominated) institutions of religion, government and law. These few institutions, top heavy with male control, are but the tip of an iceberg of delusion which has raised itself above humanity for thousands of years.

The delusion of hierarchical control structures is only a delusion, not a universal law of inevitable functioning. It’s simply a lie that men and women have told each other for so long that we’ve forgotten it has no basis in reality.

The time is ripe to break the chains of global delusion. Only when we restore the balance of our eternal natures, only when we resume our responsibilities as co-creators of our lives, can all creatures on earth live in harmony with the universe which awaits our return.

Sisters, WE are the missing link. Yes, the revolution is that simple.

Un-Bush & Uber-Bush

When I left my first husband…

No, THAT’s not where we’re going, but work with me.

Remember how much you loved your first puppy…then he pooped on your bed…and you had to clean it up? But, were you mature enough to recognize that YOU were the one with the unrealistic expectations…or did you blame your disappointment on the dog? First husbands are sorta like first puppies.

The idea that followed me around for a year after I left my first marriage, with the gut-churning pain of food poisoning, was that this honyock had made a lie out of my entire life. I had BELIEVED his every golden lie. Or, if I hadn’t exactly BELIEVED, I had certainly given him the benefit of the doubt. I had rationalized, turned a blind eye, reassessed my priorities, adjusted my value system to compensate for the tidal waves of cognitive dissonance, developed eye twitches and internalized a rage so towering that for the first year of single-hood I had obsessive thoughts of electronic machines going haywire, exploding and killing my daughter and me. Yeah, I felt betrayed.

Five years later I started going to a therapy group for abused women. Yeah, marriage number two wasn’t so great either. It turns out that DIFFERENT is NOT the same thing as BETTER. Write that down if you’ve never heard it before. We’ll be using that idea later.

In addition to the group therapy, I also went to a private therapist. The greatest help from all the therapy turned out to be the day the therapist handed me some print-outs and asked me to take them home and read them, to see if they sounded like anyone I knew. They were about sociopaths.

Nope, they didn’t ring any bells. Not then anyway.

The thing about therapy is that we kind of expect instant results and that’s probably not what we’re going to get. Therapy may not pay off for a long time. We may not “get it” for a long time. Years. Maybe five. Maybe ten. If we work real hard at feeling not responsible for ourselves and our lives, we may never “get it.” We may keep on trashing our lives, and the lives of everyone around us.

Or, if we get miserable enough, we may have an epiphany…or a string of epiphanies. But, we CAN change our dysfunctional ways, eventually, maybe not before we’ve destroyed another generation or two. But seeds of sanity and reason will eventually send up sprouts, then buds, and, if we live long enough, if we keep even the tiniest door open in our minds, we may someday see a seed turn into a full grown plant with tasty fruit on it. At which point, we become wise old farts passing down great wisdom to our great-grandchildren.

*long deep sigh*

So, what does that have to do with “The Un-Bush”? And who is “The Uber-Bush”?

Don’t play coy with me! You know full well that Obama is the Un-Bush. Let’s count the ways Obama is NOT Bush.

He’s not white. He’s half-white.

He’s not “old.” He’s a Baby Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964.)

He’s not a Republican. He’s a Democrat (the other “official” American political party.)

He’s not a war-monger. He’s a war-prolonger.

He’s not in bed with business. He bails out business.

He’s not a cowboy in the Old West. He’s an dude in the Old West.

He’s not a power-grabber. He’s a Czar appointer.

He’s not a torturer. He ignores torture.

He’s not a vote overrider. He ignores voters.

He’s not indifferent to health care. He controls health care.

He’s not an outsourcer. He’s an influxer.

Let’s stop listing now. I think the list is long enough for us to be able to determine that Obama is, indeed, NOT Bush.

Obama is the Un-Bush.

Obama is DIFFERENT from Bush.

Obama is NOT BETTER than Bush. Obama is a CHANGE from Bush. America hoped for eight years to CHANGE Bush to something DIFFERENT, and they’ve done so.

Now, go find that piece of paper where you wrote down “DIFFERENT is not the same thing as BETTER.”

You see, sometimes we humans can suffer from something so much that we begin to think, “THIS thing needs to be CHANGed to a DIFFERENT thing!”

It’s a common mistake that we’ve all made at least once. We usually make that particular mistake a number of times in our lives before we figure out that it is NOT CHANGE that we need. It requires a certain number of failures before we finally figure out that CHANGE is not the operative word in improving our lives.

The word we need to focus on is IMPROVE or BETTER. We don’t just want something bad CHANGEd. Anything bad can be CHANGEd for something WORSE. Anything bad can be CHANGEd to something of the SAME quality, BUT DIFFERENT. It was never our intention to change Bush into something simply DIFFERENT. We wanted him changed into something BETTER.

But, when the Pied Piper of CHANGE came along and began playing his tune about CHANGE, we forgot to use our thinking skills. We liked the word CHANGE. We liked the upbeat, hopeful tune of his music. We liked all the ways he SAID he was DIFFERENT from Bush.

Eventually we focused on his repeated chorus of CHANGE, CHANGE, CHANGE, and forgot everything we knew about how real life works. We liked the fairy tale tune he played for us, and we began to believe him when he said that CHANGE equaled HOPE. We HOPEd he was right. And we voted for him. And he became our CHANGE.

Now we resent him. Just like we resented the cute, wiggly, little puppy who pooped on our bed. Just like I resented my first husband. No matter how many people hand us print-outs about sociopaths, or psychopaths, or fascists, or wolves in sheep’s clothing, we refuse to see that we were not really children following the Pied Piper’s tune. We were not ignorant. We were not helpless.

We don’t want to feel like we participated fully in our own beguilement. We don’t want to feel like doofusses who were easy to fool. We don’t like to think that we got flim-flammed. We don’t want to put ourselves on the same “level” as the uneducated citizens of a banana republic who voted in a corporate-backed puppet of a dictator.

We don’t want to think that our lives were so bad, so oppressive, so frightening, that we suspended all we knew about the world, and suckered for the oldest political lie in the history of politics – that ANY CHANGE MUST be an IMPROVEment.

We were looking for the Un-Bush; what we got was the Uber-Bush.

We made a mistake. We don’t need more time to think about it. We don’t need to give Uber-Bush more time to morph into Un-Bush. He’s already the Un-Bush! He has already given us all the CHANGE we asked for, because that’s all we asked of him: that he be DIFFERENT.

So, what can we do?

The first step is to recognize that we made a mistake. The most important thing to do is the second step: We must completely forgive ourselves for making a political mistake. We aren’t the first country to make a political mistake. We won’t be the last. We must start right now planning how we will avoid making the same mistake in 2012. Remember that DIFFERENT is NOT BETTER!

The Republicans gave us Bush. The Democrats gave us Uber-Bush.

Please don’t try to drag Obama and 300+ million Americans into couples therapy. It won’t work. Bushes and Obamas (like sociopaths) have no reason to change. Politicians (like sociopaths) never have a reason to change. They (like sociopaths) can always find someone (or a group) who will accept them just they way they are, so they have no reason to change to please you. They can just go get jobs as well-paid corporate officers, and wield all the power they need in that arena.

Yes, it will be painful for you, but you want your life IMPROVEd. They (like sociopaths) will thrive wherever they are because there are always more inexperienced people to adore them. If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, feel free to ask a therapist who specializes in couples therapy. Politicians and ex-spouses do just fine with fresh inexperienced partners. You just go on and make a BETTER choice next time.

There are over 300 million disgruntled citizens in America alone who will be right by your side as you begin to make the CHANGEs necessary to IMPROVE life for yourself. We all want IMPROVEd lives.

Just don’t forget that it was the reigning political parties in YOUR country who dragged you down into your present misery. CHANGE your political parties to IMPROVEd, BETTER, DIFFERENT political parties.

Or you could CHANGE your political parties to no political parties at all. Some people experience a failed marriage (or three) and choose not to ever get married again. You could choose not to have any particular political affiliation, couldn’t you?

After all, there is a reason the first few days of a newly elected leader’s first term in office are called “the honeymoon.”

George Ure of UrbanSurvival pointed out a new Dog Poet vid today (5-21-10.)

Mr Ure also has the new National Dream Center up and running. The idea is that we share our significant dreams which are then collected into the DreamBase database. The National Dream Center Blog is here.

Since every single one of us is a part of the universal collective unconscious, who knows what prophetic goodness may come to us in our dreams. If it’s half as interesting as what the HalfPastHuman web bots glean from our internet brain droppings, it should be interesting indeed.

You’ll need to register to post a dream, but all they need for registration is a username and valid email address so it’s quick and painless. After that, you can rate others’ dreams as well as post your own, and we’re all free to browse them. Check them out.

While clicking links at the National Dream Center I wandered into the WordPress support center, which led me to a new-to-me blog called Grateful Lost. As Universe would serendipitously have it, the blog’s owner, riverbrooks, has a new post (5-21-10) about Kanellos, the Dog Poet/Greek Riot Dog.

In addition to pics of Kanellos, there are some great old newspaper pics of the Greeks standing up for freedom, and information about how their protests have contributed to a lot of the good things we take for granted today, like a 40 hour work week.

It also mentions how the Danes have stood up for human rights and the good things they’ve gained because of it, specifically mentioning Christiana, which Universe had serendipitously introduced me to last night on PBS.

It’s a teeny tiny world on the internet, and everywhere else in the universe, isn’t it?

Check out Grateful Lost, it’s good stuff, and it has a picture of riverbrooks beloved, Cozmo!

Going All Klingon

I’ve been reading more stuff about bypass surgery. I can’t have minimally invasive surgery unless I go to Cleveland, which my insurance will never pay for. I told my husband we could just go to Cleveland on a vacation and go to whatever hospital my surgeon says the guy doing minimally invasive is practicing at. Not that my insurance would pay for all of it, but they couldn’t refuse to pay anything. My husband has no enthusiasm for this idea, but he’s not the diabetic trying to work out a good chance of of healing.

I also can’t have off machine surgery. So that ups my chance of more strokes. Chances of neurological and cognitive problems from cardiac bypass surgery – for anyone – are way higher than I realized.

And I haven’t even decided I want to have the surgery.

Well, I already have six stents for blockages. The surgeon is expecting to do four bypasses. I’m already pretty cognitively impaired, but the number ten (10) keeps floating around my head.

How did these alien concepts, creep into my life? I don’t see the logical progression that we hear about in the media. My cholesterol tests were peachy until three years ago, until after the first heart attack. Then my cholesterol had gotten peachy again sometime before I had the third heart attack. I don’t know why. The only things I’d changed were that I stared eating organic and taking supplements.

In my unscientific view I think this means that cholesterol tests aren’t infallible predictors of strokes or heart attacks. And, based on me alone, I think certain supplements might improve the results of cholesterol tests, without necessarily reducing the probability of heart attacks or strokes.

Traditional medicine says we all should be taking statins to lower our cholesterol. Medical studies don’t actually back that up, but I quit taking them because of the side effects. They were so severe that I determined in July of 2008 that I didn’t want my life prolonged to live it the way it was then. My life did improve after I decided not to continue tormenting my body with the cholesterol lowering medications that were first prescribed for me in February of 2007. Of course I had another heart attack, and three more blockages, a year later – 2008. Which means that a year’s worth of statins didn’t lower my cholesterol – OR – keep me from having another heart attack. Apparently, statins aren’t a magic bullet.

Am I writing this clearly enough for you to understand that you’d be really silly to think taking statins will provide you with an invisible shield against heart attacks and strokes? I urge you to do your own (complete with confusing, conflicting opinions of “experts”) research about statins. I find it rather odd that, after the third heart attack, not one of the “experts” in my health care life has suggested I might like to take them again. Maybe that’s because I have such peachy cholesterol tests since I quit taking them? *shrug*

Here’s the thing that nobody talks about. What’s your life like? There’s a perception among the young, inexperienced and healthy that all that needs to be considered is are you alive, or are you dead. It seems like it’s straightforward. Life is a yes and death is a no. Sounds like a no brainer.

The truth is that each of us has a very personal standard of what we consider to be a life worth living. We’re all willing to pay different “prices” to stay alive. To someone healthier, my life now might seem intolerable. It isn’t. From January of 2007 to July of 2008, when I was taking statins, my life was a nightmare that I wanted out of almost any way short of suicide.

Since July of 2008, when I stopped the statins, I’ve been able to work out a truce between my physical limitations, and my personal awareness of what a better life had once been like. This life now is pretty sucky, but I’m not mentally suffering because of that truce, and the physical suffering could be a lot worse, is a lot worse for a lot of people.

Bypass surgery now would entail the risk of more permanent pain and a decline in cognitive and physical functioning, but I’d be alive. Would it be alive in a way that would be tolerable to me? Because of previous damage to my lungs, heart and nervous system I face a somewhat higher risk of my body being damaged by the surgery than some other people. But, make no mistake, anyone facing bypass surgery faces some pretty grim risks of debilitating damage. The decision is: Possible reduction in quality of life in exchange for any life at all.

I might get a month (or hours) or at most three years of more pain, less lung function and worse physical handicaps. That’s the gamble. On the other hand, if all goes well, and it certainly could, I might get seven to ten more years in no worse condition that I am in now, except for the natural declines caused by the aging process and expected progression in current disease processes. Obviously, if such an outcome – several more years like today – “could” be guaranteed, there really would be an fairly enthusiastic, “Yeah, let’s go for it,” from me.

And that brings us to my next hurdle – the lung function test I have to have Monday. If my lungs are too damaged, nobody will do heart bypass surgery on me. Almost five years ago my lungs functioned like those of a 108 year old. Do they consider 108 year old lungs good candidates for heart surgery? I can’t answer that. Has my lung function improved in the last five years? My symptoms and the problems I have are certainly worse. I don’t know. I’ll just have to wait until Monday to find out.

It’s one thing to know that you might not like the results of a surgery. It’s quite another thing to know that you’ll be denied the surgery because you have no chance of a good outcome. One leaves the choice up to you. The other takes all choice out of your hands.

Right now I’m experiencing the same left arm pain I started having in January, before the heart attack in February. Does that mean that another heart attack is imminent? If so, would it be likely to be “the big one?” I have no way of knowing the answers to those questions.

On May 5, 2010, I spent a harrowing hour and a half with my cardiologist. He didn’t want to let me out of his sight and control. On May 13, 2010 my husband and I spent two hours with my surgeon. At the end I said, “Is this like buying a car; do I get to think about it overnight?” He replied quickly, “Of course you do! I’d be happy for you to take a week to make up your mind.”

I’m sure there are people who are in worse shape than I am, who face higher risks than I do, who give it serious consideration and decide not to buy the car. I even have a semi-fuzzy idea of what would make me decide that. Right now, I’m leaning toward praying for the best and going for it.

But, it might not be my decision to make. That’s a hard thing for me to face – that God might allow some other human to decide whether, or how soon, I could die.

And I simply must allow the decision about what’s best for me, and for my husband, to be made by God. I’m in too much pain, too unhappy, and too scared to know what the very best thing that could happen in our lives would be.

If you’re a Believer, if you think that there’s some force in the universe capable and desirous of working for the good of all living creatures, please ask It/Her/Him to do whatever is necessary for me to fulfill my perfect destiny, and for those who’ve played a part in my life, whether they love me or not, to fulfill theirs.

It feels odd to ask a bunch of strangers to help me, like putting a note in a bottle then sending it into the ocean. The strong, confident, mature, self-actualized woman is still there. She’s just taking a baby step into the infinity of humanity’s heart and mind. Someday she’s gonna take a big step into that; we’ll all do it someday.

Today’s a good day to live or die.

May 15, 2010

Time Monks & Dog Poet

If you keep up with the ALTA reports from the Time Monks at HalfPastHuman, and who doesn’t, you’ll be glad to hear that we now have word on the identity of the Dog Poet. George Ure, of urbansurvival.com, reported today that he and Clif High, of halfpasthuman.com, had a conversation Sunday wherein they determined that Kanellos (real name Loukanikos-sausage) fits the parameters of the Dog Poet international revolution meme.

We’ve been waiting two years for the Dog Poet to show up and I, for one, am pleased to see that he appears, from pics and vids, to be the very sort of dog anyone would follow gladly into the pitched battle to rid ourselves of the shackles of slavery with which our Evil Overlords have burdened us, lo these many ages.

Okay, maybe it’s just me – he looks like a reincarnation of our beloved Bubba Duke who died in the fire with our children. Still, you gotta admit he does look like he holds his own at the Greek protests, riots, whatever you call what the people are doing over there to show how fond the Greeks are of the IMF, and their own economically reduced lives.

Am I the only one who’s noticed that since the financial SHTF in Greece the citizens there feel so FREE to protest? I don’t know if that’s because Greece is the country that gave the world the concept of democracy, or if it’s because Greece doesn’t have a Patriot Act with which to terrorize its citizens into docile, ovine acceptance of onerous economic burdens.

Speaking of onerous economic burdens on the citizens of the US, I’ve been reading that in addition to bailing out our own Evil Financial Overlords, we’re now considering the opportunity to prop up/bail out/underwrite/whatever the Euro. We can’t pay off the US debt and save our own dollar, but we can save the Euro? Am I the only one who’s noticed…?

Never mind, Kanellos, you keep modeling canine freedom to a watching world of sheep and people. And, should you someday retire from your position on the front lines of the planetary revolution meme, (as did the previous Kanellos) there will come another free dog to be the next Kanellos, to remind us all of what is possible when enough of us lie down quietly and patiently in front of a line of jackbooted thugs enforcing the will of the minority. (See Kanellos practicing this revolutionary tactic on his Facebook page. Think Gandhi. Think Tiananmen Square. Think Rachel Corrie. Think early Christian martyrs.)

Make no mistake, Kanellos is opening the minds of the world’s people to the possibility of living as a free street dog. And it’s starting to look pretty good to the terrified, the oppressed, the unwanted, the useless eaters, the unemployed, the sick, the hungry, the overtaxed, and all the other huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Long live the Dog Poet!

UrbanSurvival

HalfPastHuman

Dog Poet on Facebook

Dog Poet on YouTube-ThisWeekInFascism

Dog Poet on YouTube-sknik29

Human Dog Poet at Smoking Mirrors-Les Visible

YouTube Archived Time Monks Interviews-WebBotProject

May 10, 2010

I watched the movie The Perez Family for the umpteenth time yesterday. If you’ve never seen it, I recommend it. It’s from 1995 and tells the commonplace and cliched story of American immigrants. Why should you watch it? Well, I first fell in love with it because of the music, and bought the soundtrack back in the nineties. But that’s me. It’s Hollywood at its, not necessarily best, but most American.

When I say it’s about American immigrants what I technically mean is Cuban immigrants – Marielitas to be more specific.

There’s Dottie Perez who cuts sugar cane and wants something better, including John Wayne.

There’s Juan Raul Perez who’s been imprisoned for 20 years, and wants to reunite with his wife and daughter.

Juan Raul’s wife, Carmela, raised their daughter, Theresa, in Florida, and waited to be joined by her husband.

There’s Papi Perez whose story we don’t learn, except that he climbs to the top of every pole and tree he comes across, preferably naked, and becomes Juan Raul’s untamed father.

Eventually, an orphaned, grifter-in-training joins the Perez family assembled by Dottie’s dreams of American life.

Carmela’s smothering, American businessman brother, Angel Diaz, and his girlfriend, the flamboyant, one-named, love-and-family-true-believer, singer Flavia, provide the universal extended family that knows no race, creed, or national origin.

And we mustn’t forget the policeman who floats into Carmela’s life, and changes it for the better.

It’s a funny, sad, desperate, and sometimes silly and tragic, look at the American Dream.

As I listened to the music and watched the dancers at the Cubano festival, where Flavia had planned a happy, American-movie ending for the biological Perez family, I felt that same American pride in my chest that I feel when the Star Spangled Banner is played, and I wondered why. I’d seen the movie several times and knew that Dottie’s heart would be broken, Carmela’s and the policeman’s hearts would be broken, Juan’s dreams of love would be shattered.

Still, I felt that patriotic feeling while watching the latino dancers whirl in ways that I never have, dancing to latin music that I’ve never publicly danced to – and I wondered why this “alien” culture made me feel so strongly that familiar prideful feeling of “I’m really lucky to be an American.”

Suddenly I got it. I got why I loved this movie. I got why the music lifted my heart.

These were MY people! This was MY music. This was my dance. I realized that this small pocket of Cuban culture on America’s shores IS mine! It’s who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. It’s what I feel. It’s what I think. It’s what I dream. It’s an essential component of my blood, of my DNA. I AM Latina, in the same measure that I’m English, Danish, Irish, Scottish, Native American, Welsh and Norwegian.

I’m as Latina as I am Anglo Saxon, Scandinavian, Cherokee, Celtic, Heinz 57, mongrel, global, melted, diversified and American. When the mariachis pierce my ears, when the sitars vibrate my blood, when the drums regulate my heart, when the fiddles tickle my feet; whether the dancers shuffle, stomp, leap, whirl, sway or dip – my American body says, “Ahh, indigenous music, my people’s music, I must dance with my people.”

You know you’re really capable of loving everybody everywhere. You share your desire for freedom and peace and happy families and parties with everyone all over the world.

Wherever you may be, wherever you came from, wherever you’re going, don’t let “them” steal your joy. Today is Cinco de Mayo so let’s celebrate!