TRUMP: THE NEW NORMAL…HE AIN’T

Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington DC
Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington DC

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Donald Trump has won the White House.

He’s played by the rules, bending them, pushing them to extremes, avoiding them, and dissing them, but playing by them nonetheless, so at least for now (now being the next four years) he is our president. And with all the branches of government under Republican control he is most certain to believe that he is free to do whatever he chooses to do.

He may be right. We must make sure that he isn’t.

He is my president, but I didn’t vote for him and I abhor the lack of principles for which he stands. By myself I have no power to stop him, but by sticking to the principles of malice towards none and justice for all, I believe that he can be curbed.

People of good will, DO SOMETHING, anything, no matter how small to advance the cause that you care about. Justice is what we call love for all, so work towards overcoming injustice in some way. And it isn’t simply about the direct human condition, there are issues of justice that involve the environment, the earth,  or any attention to the natural world which in its complexity impacts the lives of all of us on this planet.

Be intentional, and do something more than you’ve done before, and make it in the interest of something greater than or beyond yourself. And it cannot be just a one-off event.

Commit yourself to full time engagement in advancing your chosen cause. If enough of us take this step wherever we are a movement or movements will coalesce that will protect an advance our cause even in what seems certain to be difficult times ahead.

The corollary to this effort is that we must not to sink to playing by any standard less than the ideals embodied in the golden rule. There has been a tendency to forget this on the part of progressives disheartened by the results of the elections. We must resist this temptation or risk becoming a caricature of those principles we oppose.

This is not going to be easy. We face difficult times. The rights of the working-class, poor, middle-class, people of color, women et. al. are going to be under a level of assault unknown to recent generations.

However, this is not the time to despair or disappear. Martin Luther King said it well and we must keep it in mind, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.’

It’s All Over But The Voting

I’ve stopped watching the debates. Yes there’s still some drama left to be wrung from the candidates but the outcome seems obvious. For the Republicans it’ll be the reign of Machiavelli v the Dem’s optimistic (in small letters) hope.

Yes this is the view through my ‘progressive’ prism. From here the only question left before the vote in November is how much wealth will be transferred to the 1% owners of corporate media in the advertising orgy to come as the campaign rolls on.

Trump is the presumptive GOP’s candidate, and in the unlikely event it’s another, their agenda will be as disingenuous regarding the interests of the middle class, not to mention the poor which no one has bothered to mention for the last two election cycles. In no particular order the Republicans views on the issues making the headlines are virtually indistinguishable.

Immigration: They are are all against comprehensive immigration reform, except for Kasich, though he joins in the call for border control, which is their watchword of the day, with building a ‘beeyootiful’ wall the ultimate solution to the problem. Never mind that just like the anti-voting rights agenda where they’ve been obsessed, since the Obama presidency, with solving a problem that doesn’t exist, illegal immigration has been on a downward trend in recent years and is currently at a statistical trickle. If there are those that do not seek whole scale deportation of the undocumented they’re not in favor of a path to citizenship either. Regardless of the candidate, addressing the real issues of the undocumented immigrants’ value to our economy, their humanitarian needs, and the long term issues of poverty and violence in the countries from which most of these immigrants are fleeing are off the table as long as the current group of Republicans in Congress hold sway over the legislative agenda.

National Security: In varying degrees their solutions are to turn up the anti-Muslim rhetoric and fan the flames of hate and fear. Not all are as direct as Trump but their solutions in essence are the same; baton down the hatches at home, increase the military response and go on the attack abroad.

This is a complex problem and I don’t pretend to have answers but there are lessons from history that point to the comprehensive nature of any strategy needed to reach a long term solution. There is a legitimate need for an effective cooperative military strategy, but such a strategy must reflect our core national values, otherwise the terrorists will have already won. I have nothing but abhorrence for their violent tactics but in order to defeat them we must understand clearly what motivates them, and stop relying on convenient platitudes such as ‘they hate our way of life. More often they couldn’t care less about us. It’s a power struggle between our cultures and what they hate is that we are in their countries and they’re losing control to us over their way of life, and they want us to leave them alone.

This is not to suggest I agree with them; sometimes yes, but not always, especially on basic issues of human rights particularly to minorities and women. But they’re humans not animals and if we treat them as such we will never be able to exemplify the difference in our values and and counter the narrative they use to attract their followers. When for short term goals we dismiss values such as justice under law and resort to unrestrained violence of torture, it gives the terrorists a platform from which to undermine our moral claims in the eyes of their potential recruits. And make no mistake, this is a war over the moral core of our cultures. In addition to military and police actions we must address the conditions of corruption, poor governance, education and poverty that create the milieu from which acceptance of their vile use of violence and hate arise. We must be willing to listen and learn as well as to attack and impose. There are times when our military might is needed but as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars show, winning the peace is more difficult than winning the war.

The Economy: The GOP recently began giving lip service to the problem of inequality of wealth, yet their solutions are all variations on an old and discredited theme; trickle down economics. Cut taxes for the wealthy so that they’ll create jobs for the many. Throw the needy off entitlement programs that only increase the deficit, while tax loopholes remain for the wealthy, and ‘yuuge‘ transfer payments take place for wealthy corporations in the defense industry, energy sector, agribusiness, foreign aid, and manufacturing. Their austerity scalpel is prepared to slice away only at the weakest and most marginalized sectors of the social fabric.

Health Care: GOP candidates are uniformly dead set on blowing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to smithereens without any credible plan to replace it. Health care for their constituents is not a right but rather another commodity to be left to the forces of the market without any check on the greed of the drug and insurance companies, and the corporate healthcare providers despite their history of gouging the market with massively overpriced medicine and services and leaving nearly 40 million Americans without access to comprehensive healthcare prior to the passage of the ACA.

Climate Change: The most serious problem facing humanity but it doesn’t exist in the parallel universe of the Republican Party.

This is the unfortunate state of affairs in the divide between conservatives and progressives. Never mind the current rhetoric of prejudice and scapegoatism that overwhelmingly comes from the right and which has become a real threat to the stability and health of our democratic process. If there’s any substantive change in the position of any GOP candidate I’d be happy to reconsider my position, but in light of the above, I’m ready to vote right now, not so much for those on the left, as against everything coming from the right.

The Spirit of a New Election Year

One of the blessings to the cyclical rhythm of life is the opportunity to start over again. It is present in the seasons of nature, and in the offer of forgiveness and redemption in our religious heritage. And the beginning of a new year is an opportune time to reflect on where we are individually and corporately on the path to becoming better than we have been.

Better for present purpose is being further along the path to creating a just society. Our ability to achieve this is directly related to our ability to feel connected to the other; to see ourselves in the other and recognize either through faith in the divine or our own reason that safeguarding the other’s welfare is the best safeguard of our own welfare.

One whose needs are satisfied is far less likely to threaten our own needs.

In a recent documentary on Paul Simon’s making of the Graceland album with the South African group, Black Mombaza, Simon defied an international boycott of apartheid South Africa and traveled there to record the album. He was blithely unaware of the situation on the ground in South Africa and when he was advised that the black liberationists were opposed to his efforts, ignored their opposition on the grounds that their attitude infringed on his artistic freedom. The South African black musicians who collaborated with him were vilified. Even today 27 years later, many of the liberationists remain deeply disappointed with them.

Ironically, the acclaim of the album raised the profile of the genius of South African musical talent, and did more to galvanize worldwide attention and opposition to apartheid than almost anything else at the time.

The spirit of the anti-apartheid sanctions was to benefit the oppressed people of South Africa. The breaking of the letter of the sanctions turned out to be more in keeping with their spirit than abiding by them.

This illustrates how often we forget that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter, and that we must be careful as we make choices in our personal and corporate lives that we remain true to the spirit rather than to rigid adherence to the letter of the law.

This precedent exists in Christ’s teachings. On one occasion he picked corn and fed his disciples on the Sabbath and was accused by the authorities of breaking the law against working on God’s holy day. In response he observed that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The spirit of the law was intended for the benefit of the people’s welfare.

In this election year many of our political debates suffer the same failing. Issues from war and peace, to immigration, income inequality, racism, and gun violence all risk suffering  this flawed analysis as the populist cheerleaders forget the original spirit of our democratic experiment, to form a more perfect union with justice for all.  

This is the spirit to which we as a nation must be dedicated. The beginning of this New Year is a perfect time to push the reset button on trying to live it.

JE SUIS CHARLIE

Charlie Hebdo rallies across France

I stand with the people of France.

I stand with all people who advocate for justice. Justice, someone once said, is what love looks like in practice for all people, and I believe it is the only way to peace for us all.

The terror attacks this week in France are shocking; perhaps no more so than other acts of terror that have taken place in other cities, or the reprehensible violence which occurs in the many wars, in places such as Syria, Iraq, Palestine or Afghanistan, or even the annual loss of 30,000 plus lives from gun violence on the streets of the United States, but nonetheless, they are shocking.

But what is different this time is the character of the response. The groundswell of the response across the spectrum of French society, and beyond to the broad swath of humanity has been remarkable for all the right reasons. It is not simply the universal condemnation, but more important, the strength of the demonstration that we as a people will not be afraid, and we will not be divided. There is a tidal wave of energy to include, to tolerate, and even to accept.

Charlie Hebdo rallies across France

The millions unified in the streets is a forceful affirmation that we overcome evil with good. The enlightened path of our cultural traditions all teach that evil is overcome not by resisting it, which usually excuses us doing more evil, but by doing justice, and bringing everyone into community.

There is no question that there are many different and even contrary agendas present. To some this is about freedom of speech, or freedom of the press, democracy, shared values, or our way of life. Some are simply political, or opportunistic. I do not think it matters.

These acts of violence were wrong, however provocative or offensive the cartoons may have been to some. This most basic human right must transcend all humanity. The taking of life may be excusable but it is never justifiable. And this time the people of France got that right.

Citizens carrying a banner which reads, "We're all French today" take part in a Hundreds of thousands of French citizens solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris

The world is more crowded and grows smaller every day. It is our destiny to become more multi-cultural. This is a good thing. Our evolutionary experience makes us afraid of change, keeps us tribal, and afraid of the other. But life is change. Our very bodies are changing at the cellular level.  Not to change is to die.

The problem of religious extremism is complex. Religious conflicts are rarely ever really about religion. Their root cause, as with most conflicts, is injustice. Injustice is the engine that drives these conflicts, religion is simply one of the high octane fuels used.

We keep responding with more security, and greater violence. These alone have only spawned more conflict, less security and less freedom. Standing in solidarity with the marchers in Paris will not solve this crisis, but it is an important, and often overlooked first step to finding a solution.

The values of tolerance, respect, peace, and love are the guiding principles that will heal our divisions, and this will occur when we demonstrate justice with an inclusive and collective voice. Je Suis Charlie is a good place to begin.

New Voter Restrictions Discouraging Votes in Several States

Washington DC – Election Day voting was beset with problems impacting voters in minority communities across the country reported the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Election Protection (Coalition) from Washington, DC. “These are the most unfair and confusing election procedures in the last 50 years … and come as no surprise in the first election since the U.S. Supreme Court case in Shelby County v Holder,” said Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s premier human rights commission. “In a massive manipulation (since Shelby) to make it harder to vote 14 states have made changes to their voting laws, and (the Coalition) has no idea on how many counties have done so.”

http://gbmnews.com/wp/archives/12784  for complete article

A CHANGING GOD

Between Heaven & Earth
Between Heaven & Earth

‘God never changes’ is one of the religious mantras I find troubling. So often it is a prelude to a rigid interpretation and understanding of God.

I’ve been in the south recently where I began a search for a church home. I encountered several congregations who called themselves bible based to indicate they only follow rules set out in the bible.

One church in Miami, even claimed to be a New Testament bible based church. One bizarre result is that no musical instrument is used in worship because there’s no account of any being used in the New Testament. In Ft Lauderdale another pastor, while proclaiming the love of God, provided a laundry list of people, from Roman Catholics to atheists who were not going to heaven.

I understand the need for security in an insecure and uncontrollable world where death is inevitable. I understand the need for and the good that religion has done and can do. I believe that God never changes but it’s my belief, and it includes what I believe God is and therefore what it is that doesn’t change.

Modern life is confronting a paradox unparalleled in human history. Our technology is drawing us closer together at the same time that it is pushing us farther apart.

We are all now connected in a global economy and on social networks that have no borders. However, instead of the electronic media of the past that was limited, reasonably similar, and provided thoughtful editing, today we link overwhelmingly only with those who are similar to us, and the opportunities to engage with the diversity of human experience are diminishing.

The existential quest of human experience is to see ourselves in the other person.

This is the basis of our humanity. The purpose of all religions is to guide us in bridging our instinctive self centeredness and experience this spiritual birthright. This is the essence of the golden rule and loving our neighbor as our self.

God is a concept too awesome to reduce to human proof. The ancients wouldn’t even speak the name. Our individual concepts based commonly on sacred but human sources are by definition less than the whole, limited to the sources or experiences we incorporate in them.

The most fundamental concept of God, which Christians learn from Jesus, is that our Creator is love. We are not the only culture, in human history to believe this. This is the source of that spiritual birthright, and it has been available to every human from the beginning of time.

However, our understanding of the nature of God’s love should change as we grow in understanding it more fully. Not to change is not to grow.

While I have faith in what I know, the depth of my faith is in my unknown.

It is in the humility of my doubt that my humanity is born. It allows me to see in my fellow human another of the ever changing faces of God’s love.

GAZA, EBOLA, IMMIGRATION: BETTER KIND THAN RIGHT

The world is a wondrous place made ugly by selfishness and greed. These are the real threats to our security and it is the responsibility of each of us to fight back with love, mercy and justice.

A television commentator observed recently that humans are the only specie that has to constantly relearn what it means to be themselves, i.e. human.

Our history is one of each generation relearning what it means to identify with the other as himself, or seeing the other as equally human. The history of race in America is an example of this failure.

To counter this we all have a responsibility to share the wisdom of our experiences, open to the potential of learning as well as teaching, and it doesn’t matter if it’s been said before.

The current acrimony in our public spaces blots out any consensus of a common humanity. This may be more perception than reality. But in this age of instant access, controlled by corporate immorality, the extremes have greater motivation and are noisier, and there is real danger of perception becoming the only reality.

This is evident in every hot button issue. From the hostility towards the children caught in the immigration purgatory, to the vitriolic fear surrounding caring for 2 citizens who’ve contracted the Ebola virus, and the disproportionate killing of children taking place in Gaza in the name of security, to name a few.

The majority of mankind lay claim to belief in a God. Whatever one’s attitude on the subject, human history has distilled the core of this belief system down to one central principle, do unto others as you would they do unto you or love your neighbor as yourself.

This mirrors our social evolution which shows  our fragile existence hinges on our ability to understand that our fate is inextricably woven together, no matter how insulated we feel from one another.

One is repeatedly confounded by those of all religious persuasions, wrapped in allegiance to a God of love, who are always ready to choose war over justice, cannot see the love of their own children in the eyes of another frightened child, and who choose fear over mercy for fellow Christians spreading their faith. One national spokesperson even asked why were they working in the “diseased cesspools of Africa”. Glib statements may reinforce needy egos, but anything that dehumanizes one dehumanizes all.

Love and mercy are not cheap.  Turning the other cheek requires accepting the risk of getting hit in order to end the cycle of violence. If the choice is between being right and being kind, it is better to be kind.

This may seem Pollyannaish, but if we begin in small ways to affirm our humanity it will carry over to the larger issues. The ability of good to transform evil remains our best hope, not doing the same or greater evil.  So, haltingly or otherwise let’s live it as best we can.children_on_border