Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blighted Christmas

This year give the truth.

My family, 1952

This year Americans are confronting a melting economy, the massing of troops within our own borders, aimed at us. We are losing our homes to foreclosure and the Chinese are coming over with the faux dollars issued by the FED to buy them up. The shock waves of reality are hitting even those who normally lose themselves in football.

This Christmas give the only thing that can make a difference. America was founded on truths, truths that those in power have endlessly tried to suppress. Those truths show us what happened so we can take action. They don't want that. Our First Amendment has its roots in the common law principle that no one has a right to use their power to suppress the truth. The Zenger Case, heard in New York in 1735 was in the minds of the Founders when the subject was debated. John Peter Zenger was a publisher who printed the truth about the corrupt Royal Governor of New York. He was jailed. Eight months later a jury, exercising their right to determine the validity of law and pass on the facts, freed him.

Know the truth. The Truth will set your mind free to act on the facts.

Christmas, and our futures and those of our children and their children, have been blighted through lies that allow the abuse of power. When you see the monumental scale on which this has been perpetrated you understand. You see what must be done.

While we focus on the stories of just a few the reality is that nearly all of us have been harmed by the grasping deceit and abuse of power by corporations and their partners in government. Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, made himself wealthy by abusing the trust of ordinary people. Credited as the father of PR, he said,

"If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway", he said. In order to promote sales of bacon, for example, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat heavy breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as a heavy breakfast.

Bernays also drew upon his uncle Sigmund's psychoanalytic ideas for the benefit of commerce in order to promote, by indirection, commodities as diverse as cigarettes, soap and books.”

Bernays is responsible for many of the ills of our century and for promoting the ugly assertion, now reaching its full fruition, that in contradiction to the founding principles of our right to the truth that it is proper for government and those whose profits depend on government, for instance corporations, to lie to us.

Bernays bears responsibility for a mind boggling number of manipulations of opinion, including the perception that smoking among women was a strike for freedom.

In the 1920s, working for the American Tobacco Company, he sent a group of young models to march in the New York City parade. He then told the press that a group of women's rights marchers would light "Torches of Freedom". On his signal, the models lit Lucky Strike cigarettes in front of the eager photographers. The New York Times (1 April 1929) printed: "Group of Girls Puff at Cigarettes as a Gesture of 'Freedom'". This helped to break the taboo against women smoking in public.”

The most prevalent correlation between heart attacks in people in early middle age is that of their mothers having smoked during pregnancy. My mother smoked. Of her five children I am the oldest yet living. Earlier this year my brother, who had suffered a heart attack and brain hemorrhage, died after four years of hardship. He was stricken with aphasia, unable to see, speak, or care for himself in his late 50s. My sister Carol died at 36 of a heart attack in 1974. My sister Anne died of a heart attack after suffering brain death in 1994. My younger brother had a triple bypass in his early 40s. I have had two heart attacks.

Carol was the mother of a young son. She had bucked the glass ceiling to achieve success in the corporate world in the 50s and 60s. What else might she had accomplished for herself and those she loved?

Anne was a mathematician, an early programmer who ran a successful business. She had two children but will never know her grandchildren, or they her. She was a force for good in her community.

Charles was a systems analyst in the Governor's Office in California. He had been decorated many times while serving in Vietnam. He went on to a law degree and then to serve his state, trying to stem the ever rising costs that have destroyed the financial integrity of California. His wife and two children lost him far too early and, believe me, they miss his fey sense of humor, his abiding care, and his courage.

Every day I live with the fact I may die before I am able to ensure the continuing care of a disabled son. My younger brother lives with the uncertainty his condition brings to his own family. Our mother smoked all of her life, thanks to Bernays manipulation. If she had known, if smoking had not been misrepresented to her and her generation, that is a choice she would not have made. We are not going to sue, but we will be heard. Smoking and profiting from false advertising is only one relatively minor issue. But consider what it cost our one family.

Lies and deception kill as they enrich the worst among us. Worse, they destroy our ability to see what is is true so that we can invest our lives in what will sustain us and bring joy to ourselves, our families and our larger communities. I miss my siblings every day, no matter how long it has been and will until the day I die.

This is just one family, one set of deaths. Multiply that at least a million times. My siblings were all good, decent people, people who loved their families and supported themselves honestly and transparently.

Bernays lived a profitable life at a cost to all of us that is is yet to be calculated. But the cost of corporate greed and government corruption that directly enables that greed must be understood, calculated, and an accountability exacted from those who profited. And he was only one man. Multiply that by the number of attorneys, politicians, and corporate greedy who view Bernays techniques and entirely justified.

Think about what corporate greed has cost you. Then go to Blight Christmas and tell your story, let those who harmed you know what they did. If we are to change the world we need to begin with our own truth. Know the truth. Be heard, and we can change the future for all of us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Giving Love

Christmas is coming and with the joy most of us experience the stress of not having finished our buying. This year most of us are also suffering through the pangs of not having enough money to buy the gifts that would we would normally give.

Across the country people are reexamining the choices they would have made and finding a wealth of possibilities that change their relationships with each other in unexpected ways. Instead of giving from the wallet they are giving from their hearts.

This trend made me smile, recalling to mind the gifts that have stayed with me over the years, many of them from my children. Small objects made by hand with the finger prints will visible; the plates from preschool with their artwork; the small things remind us of days past. The best gifts keeps giving. My daughter, Dawn, gave me a packet of coupons one year. Those memories still make me smile today. I should have Xeroxed them, looking back. I was tempted to keep them but Dawn insisted THEY BE USED, after all, she had worked hard thinking up the contents of each coupon. So I used them, every single one. My favorite was the coupon that promised her room would be cleaned, that once, without argument and to my entire satisfaction. Wow.

Dawn, now very much grown and married and firmly committed to saving the world through going green, went through some interesting times when she was entering her teens. The state of her room was an ongoing issue for the entire family. Our house cleaner eventually told me she was afraid to enter and I had to agree that she had reason.

Dawn's room was accessible only up a narrow staircase, over the garage. It had its own bathroom, with tub and separate shower. It was roomy and had a lovely view of the back yard where various interesting events took place over the years we lived there. The aging Walnut Trees nodded through long, sun warmed summers. When we moved in the room, very private and inaccessible, had a new and crisply clean light blue carpet on the floor. The walls were a creamy white. The bathroom sparkled. As time went on these things changed. At first I tried reminding her. Then I began sending her off on short trips and cleaning it myself. Dawn objected to my invasion of her 'private space.' My pleas did not avail. Nothing kept it fit for human habitation.

A pot pie disappeared there to be found six months later compressed into a flat, green patty in Dawn's bed. Dawn had searched all over the house, complaining someone had stolen it. The cat's viewed her room as a place to relieve themselves since they determined, correctly, no one would notice. I acquired bright yellow hazardous waste tape which I put up, a not so gentle hint. Dawn ignored it. She liked her room just as it was with a foot of waste on the floor and a bathroom that would make any reasonable being blanch. The smell could be intense.

As you can imagine, it was a point of conflict between us and also a cause for humor and horror from her siblings who generally had far more tidy habits.

That was why the gift she gave me that Christmas still makes me smile. The coupon was hand made with an edging of holly and berries. It came with others, one for breakfast in bed, another for any chore I chose. But that one was the best.

I do not recall how many garbage bags it took to clean her room when I finally used the coupon. She took care of it all her self on that occasion But the pile was monumental. Looking back over these many years, and knowing that now she is an impeccable house keeper for herself and her husband and their family of cats, still makes me smile. Dawn knew what would make me happy. She proved she was entirely competent to deliver. She was a woman of her word.

This kind of gift showed she knew what would make me happy. Receiving that small sheaf of coupons had surprised me, telling me I was visible as a person and not just as a mother. I do not recall any other present I received that year. But I remember the coupons and that gift links to another gift she did not know she was giving me. I used to have a lot of keys which lived on a copper ring heavy enough to be used as a minor weapon. Dawn once said that the sound of those keys jingling let her know she was safe, Mom was on her way.

Gifts can come consciously, as something we intend to give. They can also come straight from the heart to warm us long afterwards without our even knowing.

At this time in our Nation's history we are all reaching out for what lasts, sustains us, warms the heart and makes life worthwhile. We will forget most of the things we get this Christmas. But some gifts we will remember forever. The best gifts last a lifetime and never wear out, break, or lose their power to move us. When we use our knowledge of others to show them we really know them, see them, understand what we can do to bring them happiness, we are giving greenly, now and to last.

Today Dawn lives in El Cerrito and has a lovely website dedicated to her passion for growing locally called Garden2table. Growing her own food locally has become another form for giving green, connecting her to those around her. As we move from this year to 2009 growing and giving will become ever more central to our lives. As individuals, as members of families and communities, we need to see each other, care, and ensure no one is forgotten. The moments that nourish us spiritually build love, and that is always a good thing,

Ms. Pillsbury-Foster is the author of the book,“A Star for Christmas,” which warm-heartedly explores an enduring family tradition founded on her memories of James Dean. The book, published by Ship Stone Press, is available online at and is this year’s “must have” Christmas treasure.