The January 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Religious Witness with Homeless People

Memorial for Homeless Deaths in East Bay

Remember Rosa Parks: Justice in Public Transit

Justice is Pushed to Back of Bus

Big Brother Watches the Poor

Homeless Woman Works to Survive

Let Justice Roll: Raise the Miserly Minimum Wage

Richmond Courts Unfair to Poor

War Profiteer Parties Hearty

Poets Against the War Machine

Poems for the Poorman

Poems in Spirit of St. Francis

Songs of Our Shared Humanity

Psychotic Breaks

How to Deal with Pain and Fear


November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005





Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

How I Deal with Pain and Fear

Chronic pain and fear are logical outcomes of being a sane person with a conscience in today's absurdly violent society.

by Jack Bragen

I do not intend to glorify my history of misfortune and make it seem like a James Dean movie. The hardships I have experienced have hurt, and I have been scared; yet I have often put on a front of bravery, and then bragged about it later after surviving the situation. This attitude has not served me well.

There is nothing to brag about in having a history of being picked on, assaulted, or otherwise harmed by various people. I have survived these situations, and I have survived my illness. I have picked myself back up, and have continued on. I have retained a percentage of my resilience.

I would have been better off with a little less trauma. Much of the trauma, I have brought on myself. Much of it is internally generated, or magnified tremendously out of proportion by my paranoid illness. You don't go through years of misfortune and come out of it without some problems left over. What pain I feel is probably much more than someone else would feel in the same circumstances. The pain I show is probably a lot less than someone else.

Then, we have the world going to war. Suddenly, it is not safe to turn on the television, for fear that there will be extreme violence on every channel. It is not safe to open the newspaper, for fear that there will be extreme violence on every page. There exists also the need to do something about it. You can't just sit by and do nothing to try to stop this war. You can't refuse to participate in the solution to the other problems.

I deal with chronic pain and fear that does not go away. I conclude that I am fortunate. If I felt good, it might mean that there were something wrong with me, when, in fact, things are not good. I conclude that this fear and pain are an instinct that has a message that I need to hear.

The hidden message in pain is optimism. If there were nothing to lose, there would be no point in feeling any pain. Pain is here to preserve us so that we are here in the future. Fear is the same thing. Someone who has no fear or pain in them could possibly have no merit in them, or no future in them. The fact that people all over are scared is a healthy sign. When everyone stops being scared, watch out.

I could attempt to numb this pain through more medication, or through mental gymnastics that I have invented, or through illicit substances, or through sleep. I am better off enduring this pain, and hearing the message that it is sending me, and heeding its warnings, and continuing on with my path, despite this pain.

Anatomy of a Bully

The bully wants you to think it's your fault that you are being assaulted. The bully wants you to think you do not have the right to fight back.

by Jack Bragen

The bully wants you to think you are alone. The bully wants you to think it's your fault that you are being assaulted. The bully wants you to think you do not have the right to fight back. The bully insists that you are afraid of him.

The bully seeks to isolate you from assistance from the outside world. He will attempt to prevent you from reporting his actions. He needs to silence you.

The bully can never be seen as the bully he is. Accurate portrayals of who he is are not allowed. Accurate portrayals of what he does are not allowed. The bully needs to control your words. The bully needs to control your feelings. The bully needs to control your thoughts.

The bully takes as much as you let him take from you. The bully takes though the leverage of your fear. The bully uses your fear as a weapon against you.

The bully thinks you are as foolish as he is. You are not. You have available to you myriad strategies for dealing with the bully. One of them is running. Another is exposing the bully to the world for everyone to see. Another is the use of cleverness and strategy.

Violence should not be used to fight the bully. It seems there is unfailingly a better alternative than violence in a given situation. The most important thing is, in the process of fighting bullies, never become the thing you are fighting. This is very hard not to do.

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