Don’t Let the Light Go Out

Don’t Let the Light Go Out
by Carl Josehart

When the children of Israel were lost
wandering in the desert
God appeared to them
a pillar of smoke by day
a pillar of fire by night
a guide to them
a reminder to them
they were not alone

Dear God
I have been feeling lost
feeling alone
surrounded by danger
feeling afraid
missing the familiar
comfort and safety
of home
Don’t let the light go out

After the flood
destroyed the earth
God set a rainbow in the sky
a symbol
a covenant
to never again
destroy the earth

Recently it seems the rains
have come again
floods threaten the world
show me the rainbow
remind me of your promise
Don’t let the light go out

God called to Moses
from within a burning bush
surounded by flames
Mosed beheld with wonder
he realized he stood on holy ground
Moses cried out
an answer to the call
“Here I am!”

In a world ablaze with
and confusion
we join the cry
“Here we are”
Don’t let the light go out!

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Out, Out Damn Spot

Out Damn Spot
by Carl Josehart

Out, out damn spot
the weary laundress mumbles
to no one present to hear
wrinkled hands scraped raw from scrubbing
blood too stubborn a stain
falls like rain
in this endless war

The uniforms must be clean
demands the decorated well pressed General
creased and starched
to recycle
with another clean
blond kid
too young to buy liquor
who should be wrecking his father’s car
and skipping lectures at an
Iowa college
Studying agriculture

Out, out damn spot
when will we reach the day
when weapons lie and rust
buried beneath a demilitarized zone
covered with dust
or beaten to plowshares
to pry life from parched land
should it be unreasonable
to make war unthinkable
and waging it treasonable

Out, out damn spot
wiping sweat from her brow with a feeble hand
mutters the weary laundress
to no one there to hear

via Daily Prompt: Clean

Some Dreams Die Young

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

– Robert M. Hutchins

Some Dreams Die Young
by Carl Josehart

Not all dreams last forever
They don’t all start with, “once upon a time,”
And end with, “happily ever after”

Some are like children we nurture and they grow
Others fill us with hope; nourish future promise
When they mature bring happiness; that much we know

Some dreams are familiar, comfortable; like a favorite song often sung
There are dreams that stay with us, age with us
And there are some dreams that die young.


by Carl Josehart

When enemies attack
and our brothers and sister are in danger
Let our legacy be courage

When the world cries out in pain and anguish
sorrow threatening to overcome hope
Let our legacy be compassion and comfort

When passions flare and cry out for blood
threatening the fabric of society
Let our legacy be justice

When our faith falters
and God seems distant
Let our legacy be prayer

When the world is lost in darkness
and we stumble to find direction
Let our legacy be the light of courage, compassion, justice and prayer


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Unopposed Estrogen

by Carl Josehart

Unopposed estrogen
causes cancer says the medical student
with a twinkle in her eye
she is mimicking her
white testosterone teacher
looking through the eye of his penis
seeing only emptiness in her fertile womb

Unopposed estrogen
is a cancer on society
screams the white testosterone senator
he wants to legislate and regulate who may ovulate
he believes opposition is a favor to the
disenfranchised to build character
and poverty a punishment for unwed love

Unopposed estrogen
is a cancer attacking family values
preaches the white testosterone minister
he fears sex without guilt
legs without stockings
children without marriage
and love without rules

Unopposed estrogen
fights the tyranny of
untitrated testosterone
pulsing through penile pedagogy
erect with self-confidence

Unopposed estrogen
laughs at testosterone’s pretensions
delights in its reproductive potential
giddy with unfettered possibilities
able to fly beyond boundaries
arbitrarily imposed
suddenly exposed
and summarily deposed

Unopposed estrogen
hugs itself
in each other’s arms
wraps itself
in its own loving embrace
sees itself in the mirror
of each other’s face
waterfalls of power unleashed
born of estrogen unopposed

I Choose Words

I Choose Words

by Carl Josehart

A few days ago while checking the news online I saw CNN run the headline “Alt-right leader questions if Jews are people.” Later I watched a clip of Richard Spencer shouting, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” while saluting more than 200 attendees gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute; a group that describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”

As I started to take in what was happening I found myself gripped with nausea while my chest constricted to the point where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. These images touched a dark place deep within me – a place created by growing up hearing the stories of Holocaust survivors, watching movies taken by the Nazis to document with pride what they had done and being taught to, “Never Forget” and to keep my passport close at hand at all times.

Since the election I have found myself often feeling vulnerable and afraid. Every day it seems there are more and more examples of violence and intimidation against Muslims, Jews, lgbtq and people of color being perpetrated in the name of patriotism and national pride. But these recent events brought the anxiety and fear to a new level. It triggered a primal fear so intense that I began considering buying a gun for protection.

Living in Texas having access to a gun purchase would be relatively easy and I have many friends who are responsible gun owners so in my new state of mind it seemed within the realm of possibility. As I started to think about it seriously, I began to think about what type of gun I would want. I soon realized that I didn’t know anything about guns and that I would have to start researching what would be the best type for me. Not knowing how to fire a gun, I realized I would need to take lessons to learn how to safely handle a gun. I would need to invest time in cleaning it and going to the range for practice. Then I started to think about where I would keep it so that it would be near enough to be of use in an emergency but stowed safely away so that no one could be inured accidentally. An internet search for, “safest gun” led to an interesting mix of articles from the NRA about the virtues of owning a gun for personal protection and a series of articles about stun guns and tasers – what the difference was – and the relative values and downsides of each. My internet search continued with inquiries about gun safes for the home and secure compartments for my car.

Then I started to begin to imagine various violent and threatening scenarios I could find myself in and how I would react – would I fire my gun, would I shoot to kill and how would cope with the emotional aftermath. Under what circumstances would I consider shooing in self-defense to be a reasonable and ethical choice?

From there I started to think about how much time and energy this potential purchase was beginning to take up in my life and realized that the thoughts of owning this powerful weapon weren’t making me feel safer – in fact, quite the opposite, I was feeling more anxious.

Taking a few deep breaths to calm myself down I settled into a comfortable seated position for a few minutes of calming meditation. Gently shrugging my shoulders to release some of the tension my gaze landed on my college diplomas – a Bachelors degree in psychology and a Masters Degree in Social Work and suddenly I realized that I had made my choice long ago – words would be my weapons.

So, I choose to arm myself with the skill to communicate, I choose to invest in finding a writing coach, I choose to start a blog to foster dialogue, I choose to seek out and amplify the voices of those who are not being heard and for those that are vulnerable, I choose to invest my money in organizations that advance the causes I care about – I choose words.

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America – We are in an Abusive Relationship: Time to Make a Safety Plan

– Carl Josehart

I’ve never been afraid to be an American – until now.

I have been angry, disappointed and disgusted but never afraid. But now, every day there are dangerous signals and as much as I want to be comforted and reassured I have learned that it is important not to deny reality.

Earlier in my career I worked as a psychotherapist and counseled individuals who were victims of domestic violence. Not everyone I counseled in an abusive relationship was ready to leave; many felt that their partner would change and were reluctant to give up on the relationship. It was not my role to make a judgment about whether this choice was right or wrong but it was my role to help each person be safe. I would help the victim develop a safety plan – we would talk about what defined unsafe behavior, we planned ahead where s/he would go and how they would get there. We would make sure that they packed essentials – medications, money – anything that would cause them to delay or be reluctant to leave because of fear of leaving it behind and get those items to a safe location. If there were children, minors or others under their care we would talk about how they would be taken to safety and who could be trusted to help accomplish this in an emergency. The clinical approach to working with clients who were still hoping for the best i.e., change – was to also prepare for the worst.

As I look at the current situation in my country I have come to believe that the behaviors being exhibited by the incoming Administration can be understood in the context of an abusive relationship and this model can serve a useful way to objectively measure the amount of threat/danger that exists.

So what are the dangerous behaviors to look out for?

Isolation – abusers isolate their victims from friends, family and social support. This keeps the victim in a vulnerable state and increases dependence on the abuser. President Elect Trump’s “America First” philosophy is a political form of isolationism. Examples of this abound from the wall that he wants to build along the Mexico border to his declarations that he may not honor NATO treaties and intends to renegotiate established trade agreements.

Control of Information – abusers limit contact with the outside world and unbiased information. Threatening to sue the media or lock-up protestors is an attempt to limit any information that may run counter to the views of those in power is an example of controlling the information we receive.

Hyper criticality – Talking about the media as corrupt and incompetent and overstating the value of instinct and intuition over intelligence and education is a way of undermining the arguments of scientists, scholars and experts and encouraging people instead to act based on instinctual fears and urges as well as to discount rational arguments from traditionally respected sources of information. When you hear President Elect Trump say that he knows more than the generals or that judges are biased because of the national origin or their families or that the elections are rigged this is a tactic to undermine the impact of rational opposition from respected sources.

Hyper vigilance – Keeps track of what you are doing all the time and criticizes you for little things. Ask yourself, why would the President Elect of the free world care if an actor spoke his mind following a play – squelching even the smallest criticism eliminates environmental cues that the behavior of the abuser is not normal. This is why the founders of our country believed so strongly in the freedom of speech. Regularly being exposed to differing opinions makes us stronger, not weaker and forces us to regularly reexamine our belief system which is fundamental to healthy relationships and to a healthy democracies.

Insincere repentance/false apologies and promises of change – immediately after an abusive outburst the abuser will often promise to change, by gifts or show remorse and promise that it won’t happen again. Every time the media defines an action of Donald Trump as an offering to reach out or to change it is important to evaluate whether there is evidence that the underlying abusive behaviors are changing or is it part of a cycle of abuse.

Using violence as intimidation – victims of abuse often describe feeling like they are “walking on eggshells” afraid of the next outburst. Fear interferes with our ability to concentrate and weigh our options rationally and realistically and makes us more cautious and risk avoidant. This is part of the reason that victims are often stuck and unable to leave even during periods of relative calm.

Creating an enemy/ viewing others as a threat/Blaming others as the source of problems – abusers blame the abuse of the behavior of the victim to deflect responsibility for their abuse. “If you would only… then I wouldn’t have to…” Victims then become preoccupied with the faulty notion that their behavior causes the abuse rather than focusing on the abuser’s responsibility. Blaming Muslims or threatening to build a wall is simply a way of justifying abusive behavior. It is a false claim that the abuser wouldn’t have to behave this way if others weren’t at fault.

Belittling and demeaning the victim – Telling the victim that he or she is ugly or unintelligent undermines the victim’s sense of self-worth and impedes his/her ability to believe that others will be willing to help. We have seen President Elect Trump mock a disabled reporter and call women that accused him of sexual assault fat and ugly.

Use libel and sedition laws to squelch protest – President Elect Trump and his supporters have threatened to sue the media for criticizing him and to charge protestors with treason. His campaign rallies often included chants of ‘lock her up” referring to his rival in the election, Secretary Clinton.

Hypersensitivity: An abusive person is easily insulted and claims that his/her feelings are “hurt” when really s/he are very mad. The abusive person will “rant and rave” about the injustice of things that have happened – things that are really just part of living such as being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being told some behavior is annoying or being asked to help with chores.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Many people are confused by their abuser’s “sudden” changes in mood – they may think the abuser has some special mental problem because one minute the abuser is nice but the next minute s/he is exploding. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who abuse their partners and these behaviors are related to other characteristics such as hypersensitivity.

Just as we all have relationships with friends, family, and intimate partners we are also in relationship with our government and the society in which we live. Just as we develop norms of behavior in our personal relationships that help maintain a sense of order, security and comfort – society creates these norms to maintain order, security and comfort. Laws govern many of these societal norms; others are established by mutual assent. For example, we have laws against stealing and murder but things like how close we sit to a stranger, who enters a door first when we arrive at the same time, who gets the remaining seat on a crowded bus – are not controlled by law but by common assent to a generally accepted standard of behavior. Civil society depends on following both sets of laws and norms.

Another relevant piece of information I learned from my work as a psychotherapist is that denying or ignoring malignant behavior breeds psychopathology. If a family member is an abuser and others collude to normalize the behavior and pretend everything is OK then other dangerous symptoms often emerge – substance abuse or other self-injurious behaviors.

A common question that comes up as we look back in history at instances where segments of populations have been targeted for discrimination is why didn’t people see the signs, why didn’t they leave? Part of the answer lies in the psychological state caused by the abuse.

Severe abuse can often foster a sense of helplessness in the victim. The victim is at risk of eventually becoming psychologically paralyzed; failing to seek help and becoming more passive as they begin to believe they are powerless to change the circumstances in which they find themselves. When the victim does contact a help source, they often are very tentative about receiving help and are likely to return to the batterer despite advice or opportunity to leave. The vulnerability and indecisiveness prolongs the violence and may contribute to its intensification. At its most severe, a victim may come to believe that s/he deserves the abuse.

There is also the reality of the fact that moving to a new place, even under the best of circumstances, is just plain hard – economically and emotionally. Ten years ago, my husband and I decided to relocate from Chicago to Houston to accept a career opportunity. We moved of our own free will, with an exceptional career opportunity waiting for us, we had financial resources, spoke the language, understood the currency and were welcomed by the community on arrival. We were also able to bring all of our belongings with us – not only the essentials of daily living but also all of the items that held sentimental and emotional value. It was still the hardest thing I have ever done. When I think about refugees fleeing persecution, I cannot even begin to understand the emotional toll they face. Leaving behind family, friends, careers and communities. Moving to places where the language and customs may be unfamiliar and facing economic uncertainty – literally having to start all over.

The other piece of the puzzle has to do with a common predisposition to underestimate danger and overestimate our ability to control the outcome of events. Americans, as a society at large, generally place a higher value on individualism, and the belief that hard work leads to success. Stated another way, we tend as a group to have a higher sense of our own personal agency (or sense of ability to control the world and the events around us) compared to some cultures that have a more fatalistic or external sense of control. In addition, all groups see the world through an ethnocentric point of view. Ethnocentrism is the evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of are own culture. Simply put it means that we believe that what seems normal to us we assume to be right and we over-estimate the extent to which others see the world our way. This leads to a sense of over-confidence that we will be welcome in other countries and can lead to a miscalculation about the how much time we have to get away safely. But history and current behavior teaches us that when refugees flee – countries around the world put caps on immigration and even turn refugees around and send them back into harm’s way.

I have come to the conclusion after watching and assessing the signs and symptoms of behavior that have been present and escalating throughout the Presidential campaign and election that it is rational and reasonable to develop a safety plan for myself and my family. While I plan to stay and fight for the country I love, I also feel it is reasonable to determine under what circumstances it would be better to leave and to know how and where I would go, how I would get there, and how I would help the ones I love and care for get to safety as well.

Likely, many of you are thinking that I am over-reacting and that I am behaving irrationally. I will leave you with the words R.D. Laing, a famous Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively about mental illness. Dr. Laing famously said “Insanity — a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.”