College Education Did Not Make Me Who I Am

A college education is designed to provide you with a specific knowledge-set so that you may enter a specified field of employment. The classes that are added on — the Humanities, the English, the Math, the Sciences — are not placed there to up your tuition costs (though it may seem like that from time to time). Those are there to round out your education with knowledge in fields outside your area. In that manner, you become a more educated individual with a specialized knowledge-set (your major and minor if you have one). The idea is that college gives you a better understanding of the things around you. What it doesn’t do is make you smarter than everyone else. Nor does it indoctrinate you to become a political leftist. But it might get you to be a touch more compassionate to your fellow human beings.

See, I work at a two-year college. I hold three degrees. A Bachelor’s of Computer Sciences with a specialization in Database Management (BCS). I hold two Master’s degrees. My first degree was a Master’s in Management of Information Systems with a specialization in Information Security (MMIS). My second is a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA). Through the knowledge I gained from these degrees, I work with Database Systems to retrieve information for others at the college. My MBA provides me with information to understand work processes that I need to navigate to gather information. I have over thirty years working in some capacity in Information Technology. I have worked nearly every single job that one can think of related to computers from Help Desk to Server Administration to Vice President of Technology. Sounds impressive, eh? Well, it is not.

See, my degrees opened doors in my field that would otherwise have been closed to me. I managed to climb the corporate ladder through a series of promotions and moving from job to job. One thing was for sure, I am not upper management. I like doing the work myself. But that is getting off the point. #IRideTangentsTheSameWayIDriveMyTruck

What my degrees did not give me was an understanding of the world around me. My Druidry studies through OBOD have helped me see connectivity better. Books from authors like Joanna van der Hoeven, Cat Treadwell, Nimue Brown, Shauna Aura Knight, and a host of others have helped me to understand that connectivity. I read. I watch documentaries. I parse the information on my own, and find my own understanding of the material. Yes, this means that I read the opposite side of an issue, so that I may understand that point of view as well. That’s not indoctrination, that’s how one learns. That’s how one understands or I should say, how I learn and understand.

My education – from college, from my Druidry studies, from reading the viewpoints of others – makes me no better than anyone else. Every human being has worth within our society. Even those who denigrate another for simply educating themselves in a manner that the denigration chooses to mock. A recent meme on Facebook asked the following question:

If Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan were all drowning, and you only had time to save one of them: what type of sandwich would you make?

I have seen this same meme with Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi fit into the scenario instead. My education – through college, Druidry, and reading – has helped to shore up a single moral value that I have: be compassionate to others. That includes people I disagree with. In the scenario, I would try my best to save all three. Because I believe that is the correct and moral thing to do.

I am not above these people. They are people, just like I am. It matters not what their education level is. It matters not what part of the political spectrum that they belong to. It matters that I am there and can provide assistance that may save their lives. And to further move that in the area of connectivity, I would do the same to try and save a drowning animal as well. My moral compass extends there as well.

Yesterday, I quietly watched as reports came in from city after city where women were marching in protest against Donnie (#NotMyPresident). Women with their spouses and significant others. With their children. With their friends. With complete strangers. They all came out and voiced their discontent with Donnie and his stated policies from the campaign trail. Added to that was the manner in which he described women as nothing more than blow-up sex toys that were there for his self gratification. As well as cuts to health issues that women have fought so long to get. I proudly watched as FB friends and my fellow co-workers made their way to those marches and added their voices to the crowds.

I also watched as people who voted for Donnie stated inaccurate, and spiteful statements concerning those that marched. People who profess to the world through their Facebook profiles and memes that they are devout Christians. Followers of Jesus ben Joseph. Supposedly adherents to the teachings of the Christ. Jesus ben Joseph would never have made commentary on the employment status of the individuals in the march. If the teachings of the Christ are to be believed as being historically accurate, He would have been standing within the nearest march to Him, decrying the loss of humanity by an uppr 1% of the economic base of this country. He would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those at Standing Rock, fighting to preserve lands from the corporate greed. He would also have been there, standing in front of the businesses that had windows smashed in by angry protesters, reminding those that did the damages that such actions prove nothing to the world about their cause. Except to turn those on the fence away from their cause. He certainly would be (and should be) ashamed of the hateful commentary left by those who profess to be striving to be more Christ-like.

However, if I have to point out – I am just as human as anyone else. I have made similar comments in the past about people that I cannot find enough connection to be compassionate towards. But I try. And my collegiate education did not get me to this point in my understanding of the world me. Nor did my Druidry studies. Nor did all my experience in the work force. Nor did all the authors that I read, and the topics that I tackle in my daily reading. All of that had a hand to getting me to understanding my connectivity to the world around me. But it was me who came to that conclusion. On my own. With my own thoughts. Through my own desire to be helpful and compassionate to others where I can. Extremely introverted, overly studious me. Education didn’t indoctrinate me towards this position. Druidry did not brainwash me to be the person that I am. Being extremely poor in my late twenties and early thirties didn’t get me to champion the underdogs of the world. No, all of that is me, and me alone. I came to those conclusions on my own.

And through all of that, I remember one other thing. No matter what anyone says about me, no matter how much I am denigrated and ridiculed for what I believe – even by my own DNA relations – how I approach my relationship with the rest of the world matters most to me. Family has a different meaning to me. Genetic code merely means we are related. True family does not necessarily make you related to me. True family runs far deeper than that.

I can only humbly hope that all of this makes sense to you, the reader of this blog post. But if it doesn’t, and you still believe me to be indoctrinated by education, and that I hate you and your way of life because you have it better than me – or that I am un-American for refusing to add the title of “President” to Donnie’s name — that’s ok. If I happen upon you and your car stuck in a snow-filled ditch, even if I am late to work, I’ll stop and offer to pull you back out. Because that’s how human beings should react to one another – with compassion for those who have need.

*photo by John Beckett

The Gun Control v. Gun Rights Iceberg: There Is a Lot More than Meets the Eye

Yesterday, Friday, there were two more shootings on college campuses here in the United States. Added to all of that, President Obama made a visit to the Oregon Community College where a similar sequence of events took place. Predictably, the talk of gun control versus Second Amendment rights quickly followed in the wake of these incidents and the President’s visit. As a collective society, we lash out for answers when tragedy strikes. We see the symptoms, we lash on to fixing these issues. We create more problems by doing so.

We only need to look back at the knee-jerk reaction the United States Congress had in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11/01. The Congress sought stricter controls on travel, limitations of privacy – all in the name of trying to stop terrorism. The after-thought of just what the strangely named “Patriot Act” is well documented. Here, we have a handful of tragedies that have happened again. We look to Congress to “fix” the issue. But are we sure we are fixing the right issues through more controls over gun ownership?

Before I continue too far, let me add some qualifiers about where I am in all of this “debate”. I am not a gun owner. Unless forced to do so, I doubt I will ever become a gun owner. I know how to shoot several types of projectile weaponry. The United States military saw to that during my eight years with them. Those eight years are long in the rear-view mirror of my life, and yet will always be an integral part of who I am. I have two staves and a sword in my home – and am quite proficient in their usage. So, before you start calling me a gun-rights advocate or a gun-control crazy – remember where my past, present, and future lay in this arena.

So, is it necessary to limit our collective societal right to gun ownership to try and solve a series of college campus shootings? Are we going to place the blame on the ability to obtain the gun, or on the individual that utilized the gun? Are we, as a collective society, going to avoid the larger issues of responsible gun ownership, affordable and available mental health for all in our country – for the sake of the limitation of rights? Looking back to the aftermath of 9/11/01 and the easy installment of the Patriot Act and other related pieces of legislation – my assumption can only be “yes”. Essentially, we – as a people – have chosen to let our government decide such issues – with little or no input from the citizenry.

Considering that our governmental body that is charged with creating legislation and laws to deal with such wide-arching societal issues such as gun control, retains more attention to how an issue should be voted on by the amount that some Special Interest Group can drop into the collection cup at the door…I am not confident that our individual rights as citizens are all that important. Furthermore, our governmental system has, in the past, stated that corporations have the same rights as people – providing even greater power to the lobbyist agendas that flow through the halls of Congress like sewage headed out to sea.

There is an answer to the ease in which we obtain guns through licensed dealers. Some of it is already in place. Background checks, waiting periods, etc. All provide a manner to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who should not have access to them. Some gun dealers provide classes on how to handle, maintain, and store a gun. In some states, this is a mandatory requirement to obtain prior to purchasing a gun. But not every state has that requirement.

And on and on and on….

All of that addresses the ownership and maintenance of having a gun. But it still lacks addressing another fundamental issue within our individual States, here in the United States – Nine Hells, even throughout the world: ¬†individual compassion for our fellow humans (among others). And this is something that cannot be mandated or legislated. This requires changing our collective mindset. We are a “me” “me” society. Worried about what we get, how our smaller groups of “us” are doing — shunning others because they are not “us”. Its far easier to pull the trigger when the person on the other side of the barrel is considered to be “less” than we are. Been there. Its a very easy training tool for military campaigns. Unfortunately, in our collective world society — we have a mentality of “us v. them”. And when we view “them” as being less than we are – we find it far easier to pull the trigger of a gun, and send a small lead projectile towards them to accomplish untold damage.

In my Druidry studies, I was taught the Druid’s Prayer….

Grant, O God, Thy protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of God.

God and all goodness.

Protection. Strength. Understanding. Knowledge. Synthesized together, compassion. Compassion for one another. Compassion to resolve differences without the use of violence as a first solution. That we should care enough about our fellow human beings, our fellow plants, animals, and fellow travelers on this planet — to try and understand how our actions have repercussions for others.

Ok….some of you that are reading this are figuring me to be a “love and light” type of Pagan. Some peace-loving hippy freak. Go ahead. Believe whatever you want. Add whatever label you want to me – that does not matter one bit. Regardless of what someone else may say, I am a Pagan. I am on a Path of Druidry. I seek connection and experience from the environment around me. In the end, when wrapped all together – it makes me, Tommy. I honestly don’t have the solution to the entire gun issue, but I am aware of the problem to realize that it is complex, involves more than just a gun control versus gun rights issue, and that current discussed measures are only going to treat the symptom of the issue – not the issue itself. Where things go from here, I have no idea. I can only hold out hope that we, as a collective society, try to find a way to discuss the underlying issues rather than just treating the symptoms and consider things to be “better.”