Sunday, December 25, 2005

... and so this is Christmas...?

Thursday in the mall… Christmas shopping with my other and his son… I often buy lots of small boxes of chocolate for friends and family… small, delicious treats they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves but I know they enjoy… I’m waiting at the kiosk. They have three people working, all young. The young man is helping his friend. They are exchanging tales and the sales person is cajoling his friend into trying a particular piece of candy. It is a slow and lazy exchange. One young lady is waiting on someone on the other side, and the third sales person is in front of me organizing chocolates in the display case. She looks up. My other and his son are standing several feet away. She spots the son, a very attractive young man. She makes a bee-line for him. She has to walk around me to get to them. She asks them if they need help. My other motions toward me. The young lady looks disappointed. She walks back by me and begins again to arrange things in the display case. Someone else walks up and she waits on them. By this time the other young lady is free. She too arranges things in the case. I stalk away, surprisingly angry and strangely hurt. No chocolates this year.

Then we go to a store where they sell videos and dvds. The wait is long. The young lady who finally checks us out looks up after we pay and says with great sarcasm the line I’m sure they’ve been ordered to utter… “Have an enchanted evening…” “You too…” was my sad response.

Looking out over the humanity that fills the mall; the clinging couples, the packs of teens, the floating solitares, friends arm in arm, crying babies and beleaguered parents and grandparents struggling with packages and the transport of their young – all of us consuming as an act of celebration, I’m wondering about the meaning of Christmas.

Friday, the grocery store… We have people coming into town and so we brave the crush of shopping carts and people. For breakfasts and dinners we search for what will make our Christmas like a Rockwell scene. Did you get cream? bread? sugar? What else do we need? More babies and parents, and older people who use their carts as walkers as they move down the aisles alone… how many are far from family?... We stand in line, another line, to check out. $160 is the cost of a small feast for six.

Then home… we walk in the door and his son stands there… reaching out to take bags from us. “They’ve had a wreck… (a heartbeat)… but they’re ok.”


“They’ve had a wreck but they’re ok. They flipped the car twice. It’s totaled but they’re ok. A few cuts and bruises, but they’re ok.”

“You’re kidding, you’re lying.” (A response from a childhood Christmas when I awoke and was told our house had burned down. The same incredulousness.)

“No, No… they’ve had a wreck… but they’re ok.”

Phone calls, phone calls… “Go to the hospital.” “No we won’t go.” “Back to Alabama?” “No… we’ll come on to Cleveland…” “Are you sure?” “If we change our minds, we’ll let you know.”

Christmas Eve, another day of shopping, my other and I are trying to find the gaps we need to fill with gifts and to decide which gifts need to fill those gaps. We try to be efficient and thoughtful all at once. I eye with welled up emotions the chocolates. (Still no chocolate for friends. My pride won’t let me.) We finally struggle home. Done or not, we have to get ready. Not completely sure if they’re coming… my other’s two other children; another son and a daughter, his former and now her other too. The day is long and tense. Lots of getting on nerves. Reports from the road confirm that they are in fact heading toward Cleveland, now packed tight into his former’s other’s car. Near midnight they arrive.

All the fears finally fall away as we see them face to face and they are whole. The work that kept hands and minds busy has done its job and suddenly things seem reordered. The girl at the chocolate kiosk doesn’t matter. The money doesn’t matter. The fact that all those gaps weren’t completely filled doesn’t matter. They’re here and they’re whole. A second’s worth of difference and our world would have changed and instead of waiting to open presents we might have waited in the hall of a hospital. (I am glad to see them all including my other’s former and her other too.)

A re-ordering of the universe… a setting into place the value of things…

Thursday, December 22, 2005

what remains...

To deny humanity beauty is to deny the human soul...

what remains is a hard and bitter shell,

unfit for habitation.

Peace be with us.

Monday, December 12, 2005

oh my God!

Even Bush admits that 30,000-- yes I said 30,000 civilians have died in Iraq!

We lost approximately 3,000 on 9/11.


Friday, December 09, 2005

my best blog award...

There are these blog awards... I'd rather give my own.

I want to give my best blog award to "Words Light Fires" -- you'll find the link under "blogs" -- It is concise, well written and Jeanette and Marie like the Beatles... What could be better? They also maintain great links (including some to videos) that you should check out. Give it a visit if you get a chance...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

random things said in dreams...

“It’s not a direct question, ‘Did I love her?’ Looking back on things, remembering things that I said or did, I must have loved her – it’s the only way I would have said or done those things… but the truth is mutable, time and memory changes it… Sitting here now I can’t imagine that I ever loved her.”

“Your parents, like most parents, did the best that they could. They did the only the thing that they knew how. There were no conscious decisions about what was good or bad… there was just doing, reacting. Would they have changed things if they had known what harm they were doing? Certainly, without a doubt… they would never have wanted to cause such harm to their children. It’s the same for me… if I could go back and change things, I would, but I can’t. It is the source of greatest regret for me.
“So try not to blame them, they did the best that they knew how.”

“Let go of grieving. It does no good.”


Good night John.


Do I think that the Bush Administration has mis-led the American people? Per Encarta’s World English Dictionary definitions 1 & 3… yes… we’ve been misled. If we grant that number 1 may have occurred without conscious knowledge, nevertheless number 3 still stands unmitigated.

Misled – past participle of mislead; past tense of mislead

mis·lead vt
1. to cause somebody to make a mistake or form a false opinion or belief, either by employing deliberate deception or by supplying incorrect information
2. to be responsible for making somebody, especially somebody younger, do wrong or adopt bad habits
3. to lead somebody in a wrong direction

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.


I cannot believe that it's been 25 years... It seems like only yesterday I woke up and I heard the news... We need more people like John today... voices, voices, we need a clarity of voices that remind us of what we truly value.

my position...

No matter who was or was not for the war in Iraq… Democrat or Republican… I never was. I remember the correlations drawn between Iraq and 9/11 in the months leading up to the war. I didn’t buy into them. I didn’t believe that Iraq was a real and imminent threat. I thought that going to war with Iraq was a mistake. I felt that we should finish the war in Afghanistan and then help to rebuild that country with the Christian generosity our leader would seemingly embrace.

And I was not alone. There were others who felt as I did and as I do now. There were others who protested and cried out against the prospect. I remember in the early weeks of March 2003 hoping that something would stop what then seemed inevitable.

I do not support the war. I support the people, soldiers and civilians who are caught up in it. It was a grave error that has wasted lives. Lives American and Iraqi – not numbers, every number is just a place holder for a life, for a person – with family and friends and a future. “I’m sorry for your loss.” Like it’s a car accident rather than ritualized fratricide. It is absolutely an abomination that we participate in killing while we play games of religious rhetoric.

The long and the short of it – I don’t care what Kerry (or anyone else) says unless he moves to LEAD us in some reasonable way out of this morass.

It is not for me a subject of light or academic debate (and there are many other such subjects I feel likewise about.) I do not wish to engage in tit for tat debate. I write to express in the clearest fashion I can manage those matters that concern me most. I undertake this to preserve my friends and vent my frustrations with our failed leadership. I am not interested in defending the comments or actions of others unless I take them on as mine to defend.

I am a liberal – a raging, radical liberal – and it is not an epithet that I am ashamed of…

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

i ramble sometimes...

If you’re in Cleveland, there’s a pretty nice show up right now. Cool, clean and fairly elegant.

2220 Superior Viaduct
Cleveland, OH 44113


The name of the show is Multiplicity and it’s up through Jan. 6, 2006.

Danielle Julian Norton’s delicately lit rice boats are the nicest, most poignant part of the show. It’s success as a piece is assured by the curling tethers of monofilament that mark the loss of one of its vessels. The missing vessel’s place in the air armada remains unfilled – a void.

It’s strange – I’m an artist and I love art but very little of it really moves me. --- I said this to my students recently and they asked me why, if so much of it leaves me flat, do I dedicate my life to it… I had to tell them that it is a statement of faith. To believe in art is to believe that there is something beyond the grinding practicality of this day to day life. It is an expression of a belief in a reality that consists of something other than hard surfaces, a turned gilder, and an end without remorse.

Fate is an illusion created by history and video tape. When the nineteen screwed their courage to some unknowable sticking place and crashed into those hard surfaces, they exploded into the ashes of an un-accounted number of lives… a rose is a rose is a rose… instant replay… the image of that moment was repeated over and over again… repeating it, like Gertrude’s rose, made it real, somehow comprehensible… It also seemed to make it possible to hold back that moment through the watching… but rather than staying that execution it writes it down as fate.

Fate is created in an instant.

And here we are… our future, and our fate, was written in a response to a response and now we are playing it out…

Was it just yesterday that eleven American soldiers and thousands of “others” were taken…

Who do we grieve for? Our own? And what about those “nameless” others? Those who know their names – how do they grieve? Let us humanize one another…

reading list...

The following makes for interesting reading…

(cut & paste again...)

Iraq disarmament crisis timeline 1997-2000

Iraq disarmament crisis timeline 2001-2003

MEET THE PRESS - Transcript for Sept. 14
Sunday, September 14, 2003 GUEST: Dick Cheney, vice president
Tim Russert, moderator

For Immediate Release
From the Office of the Vice President
Dated October 10, 2003
“Remarks by the Vice President to the Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C.”
9:25 A.M. EDT, March 20, 2003


Jimmy Carter
Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis
NPR story and interviews relating to Carter’s book:

Leo Braudy, Ph.D.
From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity
Publisher: Vintage
Excerpt (although not the excerpt I would have chosen) and Amazon link

** If links don’t work, please cut and paste. Thanks.

PS – Dear Senator Kerry, I saw you on "Face the Nation" and it occurred to me that you may not have noticed that many people do not have the depth of knowledge that is required to tease out your various arguments. Most people are not academics or highly trained intellectuals. Most people come from working-class backgrounds and have direct and common sense. Speak accordingly. It is not that the average American is incapable of understanding the complexities of your points, it is that they require a language more like their own.

PS PS – Also, try not to give in to the temptations of adopting that which is not your own in order to accommodate those that you imagine

Sunday, November 27, 2005

cut & paste...

If all else fails... cut and paste...
Cheney on Murtha
On Cheney
BBC story on CIA Prisons
Washington Post story CIA Prisons

the list grows long...

Who are we? The rhetoric of Christianity dominates our national politics yet what values define our national character? What do we value? Our children? All children equally? Is that reflected in the education we provide for our nation’s children regardless of the affluence of their neighborhoods?

Is it life we value? Do we value life? How do we express that? How do we honor the loses of 9/11 and the those soldiers who, in full faith of the rightness of the cause, have gone willing to Iraq and Afghanistan? And how do we honor the innocent?

What values define our national character?

I do believe that we need to examine closely what brought us into this war. Yes, Bush and Cheney misled the American people by continually juxtaposing 9/11 with Iraq and yes, the members of Congress too often cared more for their political lives than the lives that might be lost in such an undertaking.

And we as a people, what did we want or value that we were led this way; that we chose leaders that would take us to this place? How do we move forward now? Let us look more closely at what it is that we should do and consider through that looking what it is that we value and how that should inform the choices that we make. Let us choose our future leaders with a mind to what it is we truly value. Let us hold the leaders we have now and ourselves accountable for our grave mistakes.

The list for grieving grows ever longer… someone tell me,…what would Jesus do?

Let us demand that the media take on the task our founders set for them… Let us examine, closely, where we are and how we got here.


Cheney on Murtha

On Cheney

BBC story on CIA Prisons

Washington Post story CIA Prisons

Friday, November 11, 2005

Can we go to the tapes please…

I think Mr. Rove may be back at work. There’s currently spin coming out of the White House that utilizes many of the diversionary tactics of the past. The line being sold is that the current critics of Bush’s rationale leading up to the Iraq War are undertaking revisionist history. The Bush administration asserts that many of his critics also believed that Saddam was attempting to acquire “Weapons of Mass Destruction” or possibly already had such weapons.

This is the White House’s frequently used tactic of juxtaposing seemingly related information to generate a conclusion that seems logical but in fact does not hold up under close scrutiny.

Yes, many world leaders, French, German and even U.S. leaders such as Clinton included, believed that Saddam possessed chemical and biological weapons… however… that does not mean that they believed that the threat was significant enough to warrant a war. Many felt that Saddam was adequately contained and that the international community’s goals in regard to Iraq could be attained through peaceful means. Also, the fact that many world leaders believed that Saddam possessed such weapons does not mean that they also felt that those weapons were a real threat to the United States or that Iraq was a base for terrorists activities (which now, as a result of Iraqi border breakdown, it is). Additionally this does not change the fact that the Bush Administration manipulated intelligence to support its war agenda. The continued references to 9/11, the use of discredited evidence of Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, and the repeated assurances from administration officials, such as Cheney, that there would be a quick resolution to a war in Iraq, are all instances of manipulation, if not of intelligence then of the American people. The Bush Administration incited fear among the Americans in order to advance its own agenda.

We act as if we have no memory and no record of what led up to the war. We act as if it’s a “they said, we said,” situation that’s all a matter of opinion. We have the video. We have the interviews and the speeches and even a record of the arguments made opposing the war.

What I think we need is a review of the tapes. Let’s look at what was said and how it was said. I think Cheney’s interviews will be particularly interesting. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if all the news organizations stopped feeding us the canned crap they normally feed us and actually undertook such a review… hey maybe even during primetime. (Why should Dateline have all the fun?)

If Clinton was impeached for lying about sex… you get the drill… Of course congress needs to take a hard look at its own fortitude and political will…

Whether you agree with me or not, let the news outlets know what YOU want from them. Email them. You usually have to go their websites but it’s a small thing that we can do. Ask them to review what was said instead of just quoting the current rhetoric.

et. al.

(My thoughts on the reasons for the War in Iraq are outlined in the archived post from Friday, August 19, 2005, entitled:
Bush and the Reasons for the War in Iraq)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

NPR Larry Wilkerson interview...

Excerpted Nov. 10, 2005


Ex-Powell Staffer Discusses Cheney Role in Iraq War

November 3, 2005 · Steve Inskeep talks with Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, about the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney's office over Iraq war policy. Wilkerson claims the vice president and others bypassed the rest of the government to control key decisions.

Interview with Larry Wilkerson

Friday, November 04, 2005

Martin Luther King, jr - "I've Been to the Mountain Top"

This speech has had more of an effect on me than any other I can remember...

MLK I’ve Been to the Mountain Top,

Excerpted from on Nov. 4, 2005

The last few paragraphs of MLK's last speech:

Now, it doesn't matter, now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!


American Rhetoric is a fascinating site. Sometimes my links don't work so if this one doesn't I recommend you past it in manually and check it out.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Parks and Boromir explained...

Andy asked… “What’s the connection between Boromir and Rosa Parks? Can you make that more clear for people?” (paraphrased).

Rosa Parks remained seated, not for fame or glory, not because it was easy, but because it was the right thing to do. There was no real reason for her to believe that anyone would give a damn about what she was fighting for. I have heard it argued, as if to lessen the credit due to her, that she was not an accidental warrior, but an activist well aware of what she was undertaking - as if this somehow means she wasn’t as strong as we thought. On that bus she refused to give her seat to a white man in a city, in a society, in which less resistance on the part of African Americans had resulted in fatal consequences. Without real reasons for hope that things would change… (the ring of power still on the hand of the oppressor…) “she sat down and stood up” for civil rights.

I have the kind of respect for Ms. Parks that I have for Martin Luther King, jr. King continued to struggle for what he believed was right despite threats and in the midst of violence. He knew his life was in danger for the things he espoused. If you listen to his last speech, it is unimaginable that he didn’t know his death was imminent. He was flesh and blood, flawed as we all are, yet he struggled without any assurance that the situation could truly change.

These days, the ends seem to justify the means… and what are the ends that justify these means? Even among high school and college students there is often a wink and a nod to things like cheating. It is the sum of our lives, the moments when we think no one’s looking that the “content of our character” is laid down. We pull for the figures in books and in films that “do the right thing”… Harry is our hero; Aragorn our king… but in the day to day struggle… do we fulfill those virtues we pretend to embrace?

Parks and King were like Boromir… they fought on in the face of hopelessness… yet, unlike Boromir, a construction of the ideal realm, their hearts beat faster with the fear that they faced. The danger was not imagined.

(I wonder for myself what my life will stand for…) A life lived well, with an awake mind and a passionate heart, that is the greatest kind of art. The sum of our lives together make the world that we live in…

What is right is rarely easy. By what standard will we judge what we commit ourselves to?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

just wondering...

Someone asked me what the last death toll was for Katrina:

approximately 1,281

How are things in Florida after Wilma?

In the Islamic world community, what would it do for us to really reach out to Pakistan?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wilma and Ben

To the people in Cancun, in Florida, in Pakistan and in Iraq… may dark times come again no more… (Hang in there Ben… I hope you make it home soon.)

A ring of power & a strange tribute to Ms. Rosa Parks…

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One ring to
bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.”

Tolkien’s most interesting character, whether presented through film or in print, is Boromir. All of his other characters have their place… they have either fallen or they persevere. Of those that have resisted, they are somehow prepared. Aragorn has spent a lifetime, spurred on by fear, proving that his mettle is more than his ancestors. Gandalf is a shaman, a priest, with eyes that see beyond the physical realm. The elves are ethereal creatures, with a perspective made possible by a luxury of time. The hobbits are bred to comfort, not glory or power.

Boromir, however, was born and reared to seek power through brutish force. In a household that distains the high-mindedness of Faramir, Boromir was trained as a man of action, one who understands the world through physicality and not well suited to philosophical musings. He is the least equipped, and perhaps the most likely to succumb to the pull of the ring.

Yet Boromir struggles to maintain his pledge and his allegiance to his traveling companions. Only very slowly does it take hold of him… and then, as we all do, he slips. His fall is what makes him the most human of Tolkien’s characters, yet in the aftermath of that fall, when, as far as he can possibly see, every promise of the future or success is lost, he struggles to regain his footing. As far as he knows they will all die there, unknown in the forest, the ring on the hand of their enemy – everything lost, but even without hope, he continues the struggle…

The best of us fight on, even without hope, simply because the cause is just…

This is what art does for us…it articulates these ideals… our hopes for… our dreams for…

And for myself… I hope I will be able to stand and deliver… to do what is not easy.

Here’s to your courage Ms. Rosa Parks… I wish Alabama had been kinder to you, but I’m glad you weren’t afraid.


My favorite artist… one of the greatest artists working today…

Mel Chin

Friday, October 21, 2005

what were we talking about?...

Soooo…. When are we going to see those telethons for earthquake relief? Anybody heard anything? Where’s the big push? What’s the deal?


I had an interesting conversation with a young man the other day. Let me begin by saying, he is a sweet beautiful intelligent young man. He had recently engaged in a conversation with an young African American woman. He is white. She was telling him about her local community’s response to racism and how there seemed almost a desire for segregation among her friends and family as an option to dealing with racist whites. (I’m paraphrasing of course).

The point is, he was amazed to find out that racism was still such an issue. He said this quite compassionately… but until she had discussed the issue, he had assumed that we were all moving in a “good” direction. He had assumed that the hard work had been done.

I think often there is this disconnect. If things are fine for me they must be fine for everyone. Our style driven culture cultivates this… It’s all about the surface… We’re not bad people, we’re just too often oblivious.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Military Recruitment in the High Schools….

The following is from an email I received from Lyz Bly, a Cleveland area writer and gallery director of BK Smith Gallery… (only slightly abridged and appearing with her permission)…

Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues,

…an article … appeared in last week's edition of the Lakewood Sun Post. My son Gabe and I were interviewed by editor Brian Horn after we sent a letter to the superintendent of Lakewood City Schools asking that Gabe's name be removed from a military recruitment list that is being generated at almost all public schools across the country. Gabe and I will also appear on Channel 8 FOX News (Cleveland) discussing this important issue (according the the reporter, there is an "80% chance the story will air tonight" -- Tuesday, Oct. 18 -- at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.).

As part of the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" "education" policy, all schools that receive federal funding *must* submit students' personal information (including names, addresses, email addresses, cell phone numbers, race/ethnicity, social security numbers, extracurricular activities, and areas of study) to the Pentagon. The Pentagon is compiling an illegal database of 30 million 16-25 year-olds (young men *and* young women). Schools that do not submit this information lose their federal funding. To learn more, visit, where you can print a letter to your school's superintendent, print flyers, and learn how to subvert this clandestinely created system of information gathering, which will ultimately make military recruiters jobs much easier -- and it could be used if the draft is reinstated.

Please make the teenagers and parents of friends and family aware that they the only way their/their children's names will be removed from this list is if they send a letter requesting that their school administrator remove them from the list. Details are described in the attached article, at the "leave my child alone" web site, and will be explained (to some degree -- who knows how much of the interview will be edited!) on the channel 8 news interview.

Thanks for spreading the word re. this important issue.


but I play one on TV... :election reform

Based on what criteria do we elect leaders? -- Your religion is the same as mine? You speak the same “language” that I do? You seem like someone I would like to have dinner with maybe?

It’s funny, we are very proud that we’re a democracy; one person, one vote… but it is strange, isn’t it, that the founders didn’t establish a democracy? With appointment of John Roberts and the nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court, there has been a great deal of conversation concerning Constitutional Originalism (vs. judicial activism). Miers and Roberts are both touted as Originalists and it seems difficult to argue with anyone who is committed to upholding the Constitution as it was originally drafted…

Yet it seems that very early on we strayed from the original intent of the Constitution. Within the context of contemporary elections there is a great deal of debate having to do with the continued relevance of the electoral college and the manner in which votes themselves are counted. If we are a democracy shouldn’t we have a system that is truly based on one vote, one person? Yes, but, we are not a democracy, nor did our founders intend us to be… We are a republic.

Our founders understood that it would be best for citizens, rather than to vote directly for a candidate, to vote for people they knew and trusted to select the president. The idea seems to have been that the country was too large, even then, for individual citizens to know a candidate well enough to make an informed, not emotional, choice. A reality that is even more relevant today with the introduction of mass media into the process.

I fear we too often elect candidates based on the character they play on television rather than for their real life qualifications.

The counting of votes also reflects a different kind of thinking concerning the very nature of the country. The state by state vote reflects an understanding of the nation as a collection of smaller, yet sovereign states. It is a system designed to protect the political power of states with smaller populations and weaker economies. It was established to ensure that larger states did not exploit or “rule over” their weaker neighbors.

It seems disingenuous to prattle on about Constitutional Originalism when we’ve moved so far away from the intent of our founders in terms of how we envision the nation. It would be an interesting experiment to allow our system of elections to function as it was originally intended; but then, different sorts of machines would have to be constructed to build the road to power.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pakistan… South American… and then so many other places…

No wonder Siddhartha took the road to enlightenment. All of attachment is the flower of grief. Everywhere these days it seems there is suffering. Innocent people cannot escape the vagaries of life…

How does the world make any sense right now? I guess it never really does, just sometimes we don’t see quite so clearly behind the curtain.


Happy Birthday John. You are so missed...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

a personal note...

I have kind and wonderful friends. Kisses to you all and remember this blog is meant to save you all from my continual ravings...

can you hear him now?

There's an insteresting documentary series coming down the pike:

The BBC Two series, "Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace" will be broadcast on Mondays from 10 October at 2100 BST.

A thing of great frustration to me is the monolithic nature of U.S. news sources. Try this experiment, take a week to compare your favorite national news programs, evening or morning. Spend a few days channel surfing between them so you can see what stories are being covered... often at the same time.

A friend told me that the similarity of their content extends from their dependence on the Associated Press for information. Probably not a conspiracy... but more likely the result of what is easy.

Who's speaking please?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

the math...

Always the comment is “Why don’t you just… buy a new car, buy new clothes, join a gym, get your bike fixed…? It won’t cost that much…”

On the “Today” show Katie Couric or Ann Curry say things like, “Wow, what a cute little bag (shoes, dress, etc.) and this is really inexpensive, isn’t it… Just $50,…$60,… a $100. Wow, what a great deal… and now to the news… Katrina revealed a side of American culture that we don’t often think about, the millions of Americans living below the poverty level. Why were Americans so shocked by the numbers of the poor revealed by Katrina and why didn’t officials have a plan to deal with the situation?”

Because the eyes of America are the media Katie. The television is the mirror through which we see ourselves. The poor don’t buy hummers. Their whites aren’t as white as the mothers’ in the ads and their homes don’t look like hers. The constant mantra of the television… “if you want to exist, own these things.”

The hidden poor are right here on the train. They’re walking down the street. We pass them everyday. We are them under different circumstances. Their camouflage is daylight and our contempt and fear.

Healthcare: I know from experience the math on that – even with insurance. “Go to the free clinics, get screened, get treatment… don’t worry about the cost for right now.” Yeah, Yeah, Yeah… The calls on the phone from creditors, the letters… if you’re sick you can’t work… other bills in addition to medical accrue… Collectors cold and trained to dispassion often don’t care that you just got out of the hospital… they’ve heard all the sob stories before and you shouldn’t have over extended yourself in this way to begin with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been humiliated by someone I was trying to pay…* (and Bush signs legislation making it more difficult to declare bankruptcy while he make statements that assure us too many are abusing the privilege because they just don’t want to pay…)

Then there’s the edging guilt that fills in with anger - You don’t have a right to this care if you don’t have the money. There’s the feeling that you’re slipping in under false pretenses. Yes I’ll sign this paper that says I’m responsible for the debt incurred just please just save my life. (A side effect of Katrina… lots of illnesses that wouldn’t have been detected until it was “too late” are being treated by volunteer medical staff.) So you get to the point that you don’t go to the doctor until you have to because it seems like no matter how free it is there’s still a bill you know you can’t pay.

Katrina took the lives of too many of the poor… Here in the land of plenty how many of the poor die from undetected, untreated illness?

(* In 1996 I was diagnosed with cancer. I had insurance but was otherwise living from paycheck to paycheck. I had just become divorced. The delicate financial house of cards came tumbling down and I am only now making a dent in many of my debts from that time. I never declared bankruptcy but I know many who have.)


I had a strange dream about two nights ago. I was talking to Jesus. He was a thin, tall young man in jeans. He had shoulder length black hair and black eyes. We were some place that had an aura of pale blue and white. It seemed like a hall. It didn’t seem at all remarkable to be having a conversation with Jesus. He handed me a fogged-over mirror about the size of my hand. In the condensation on the mirro, he had traced a face with his finger. He said, “Hold it up so I can see myself… I can’t see myself unless you reflect me back.” In my dream I wondered if this was the same thing as when vampire can’t see themselves.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Dear Sisyphus,

You seem to catch my drift...

Monday, October 03, 2005

the train...

I’ve been riding the train in lately. I look around and I see folks with their children, their groceries, their lives. On days it rains, we all get soaked. There is a Herculean effort to move self and possessions from place to place. Here is one of those points of segregation… looking out the window at the cars, cars that offer access to the land of plenty.

To be poor is to be ground upon. It is a struggle, and there is contempt.

The worst sort of prejudice is the prejudice that is so embedded we don’t know it’s there. It’s the default assumption… It is the assumption… It is thinking that we know yet not knowing… It becomes a filter and we see the world through it. When I live your life only then can I understand. I wonder if this was what Jesus was about really… maybe he understood that only by giving up profit, by sharing until each has as much as the other, only then can we understand the burdens of that “other.” Jesus didn’t advocate the halfway measure… Until we live that other life we cannot know its meaning.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ok, Ok, Rita...

It is a fatiguing thing to wait for this next storm. It is unbelievable. Let it disperse. Let it go away.

May cold air and water sweep in and take it away.

Thinking of you. Praying for you.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


The diaspora of Gulf Coast residents is difficult to comprehend. On television interviews with evacuees often focus on those that say about their relocations… “It’s wonderful here. I’m planning to stay.” I wonder though about those longing for home. A month, six months, a year or years from now, when maybe they can go home… will the same plane or bus be waiting to take them? How will they afford to relocate again… will those agencies be there to, again, help them get on their feet?

A friend of mine here took some offense, and understandably so, when he learned that some of the evacuees seemed to have refused the offer to relocate here extended to them by the city of Cleveland. It is hard though to leave all you’ve ever known and live in a place distant and strange where even the language seems different, especially when you consider how difficult it may be for them to find a way home.

And back home… what of the culture? What will be changing? Do we grieve the losses or celebrate the opportunities? Will the poor be pushed out by developers with more money and clout who see the chance to do what they do, “develop”? Or will the city be left to poverty, marked forever as a place of infamy in which the poor and the elderly were left behind? Is there another alternative? One that brings home the wanderers and provides for them as well? What will become of those ravaged places?


My next post may not deal with Katrina… I, like so many others, feel the need to turn my attention to other matters… but these people and these places will be on my mind and from time to time I will return to them as a subject…

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Political Spin of Katrina

The Bush Administration has taken us into a war under false pretenses. Our resources have been stretched to a limit that seems to have complicated our ability to respond to domesticate crisis and a simple examination of current conditions throw into sharp contrast the current government’s failings.

People have died and may still be dying waiting for help in the aftermath of Katrina. Many rural areas of Mississippi and Louisiana have yet to receive significant aid. In the meantime a plethora of officials, local, state, and national play the “blame game” that the Administration says should be avoided at all costs. The Administration itself is treading political water, strategizing to remain viable. A stream of its operatives have headed south to reassure those effected by Katrina that everything’s going to be alright. The situation, an absolute failure in planning for a storm whose consequences were completely predictable, is uncomfortably reminiscent of the Administration’s failure to plan for “post-war” Iraq.

Where does the buck stop? Who accepts responsibility? The endless spinning, the desire of officials to survive politically at any cost while bodies still wait to be collected is an obscenity committed against the victims of this disaster. When do the needs of the people come before political expediency?

Do we need an independent council to investigate? We’d better do something to figure out what the hell went wrong and then we really need to fix it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Great Kindnessess...

There are great kindnesses there, in the ruins left in Katrina's wake...

Monday, September 05, 2005

New Orleans Exile -- Abram's Blog

You will notice a new link. It is a link to the blog of a friend of a friend of a friend... I've never met him but his writing is pretty interesting. He works with young people helping them write. He lives in the 9th ward in N.O. For those of you who don't know N.O., The 9th ward is one of the city's poorer districts...

It's a great blog, well written. I hope you'll check it out.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What did I expect... Katrina...

What did I expect?

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Chuck tracked the path of Katrina on the internet and then later we went up stairs to watch the Weather Channel on Andy and Laura’s TV. We talked about how they were going to get the poor out. We wondered why the military wasn’t doing an airlift…

Again on Monday, and through the week, we made the trek upstairs to check the news on CNN, MSNBC, and any other news outlet we could find. The BBC seemed to have a particular take on things. (We always check the BBC on news…)

At the end of Monday I expected to see troops on the ground and massive super human efforts to evacuate the stranded and bring aid to those in New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulf Port, Mobile and the hundreds of small rural towns scattered through the region. I thought I would see what America is best at… The first couple of days I was surprised to see so little of the morning news programs dedicated to the situation on the coast. The nation seemed slow to turn its face south… but I was sure that very quickly the situation would be made to improve…

I heard about the looting and the violence… I didn’t hear so much about what I knew was also going on, people in private boats, of their own volition, rescuing one another… people caring for strangers…

The number of dead are unknown… but the devastation and loss of life certainly rivals that of 9/11, and already the nation’s attention begins to wane. Generous, yes, so far with money… but I keep thinking, “Where is the grief of the nation? Where is the respect for these people suffering? Was this how it was after 9/11?”

My heart is breaking for people and places that I love… finally grateful for the aid that is coming to them, but wondering what the next months will bring. Don’t ask me why I’m sad and angry… I am grieving.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Give Them Shelter... Katrina, the Gulf Coast and Image

This week I was going to write on politics and art… but instead I have another, more pressing topic disgorge upon…

This morning I was in a meeting. The devastation along the Gulf Coast became the topic. Someone said: “Can you believe that people would loot under conditions like that? People are dying. Don’t they have any humanity? Where are the lines?”

I replied, “New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in the country. It is one of the most violent. It’s been on the edge for along time and this has pushed it over. Many people there depend on tourism and service jobs and they can’t make a living wage because the people higher up the food chain think it will make the place too expensive to visit… and then after 9/11 their economy took a major hit…”

D. said, “The images they’re focusing on are vilifying the black population. You’re not hearing, in the same kind of way, about the folks risking their own lives to save others. Why aren’t they talking about the private boats that have come in to rescue people?”

Then Dr. O. , “Poverty dehumanizes. How do we expect people to act. We live in a culture of capitalism where everybody gets theirs. We value profit by any means. These people are just using the means available to them.”

(all paraphrased of course…)

I keep thinking… Why is it taking so long to get water to these people? Why, if after 9/11 we put all these systems in place to respond to a crisis at a moments notice, is it taking so long to get organized? Where were those buses before the storm? We could see it coming… the storm was massive. Too many of the people who stayed behind did so because they had no means of leaving. Why aren’t there trucks and trucks of U.S. troops on the ground right now with fresh water and ready to eat meals?

And what, after all, do we expect of people living in poverty and left to face a disaster of such magnitude without means of escape or the resources to cope?

We live in a culture where surface is too often valued over substance and the American Dream has become a reality show.

We live in a country that does not value the children of its poor enough to imbue them with promise. We live in a country that values quantity over quality, new over old, and we value too little those ideals we say are important to us… We live in a country of the extreme makeovers and Paris Hilton… In our culture to have, to own lots of things, makes you a person worthy of position and prestige… yet the means to garner these things are limited to those with the capital to acquire them; limited as well by capital is the access to healthcare, education, transportation, and decent housing. Is it surprising that in a country where we fail to see… where the impoverished are made to understand that they are without value… that the status of things would be acquired by any means necessary? There is only so long a person can live without standing in their culture. The emptied value of the self must be replaced by the value of objects.

As Mel says, “It’s a great country, for some.”

Relief Organizations and Donation Info

• Red Cross: 1-800-HELP-NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or 1-800-220-4095 (TDD Operator)

• Episcopal Relief & Development 1-800-334-7626

• United Methodist Committee on Relief

• Salvation Army 1-800-SAL-ARMY

• Catholic Charities 1-800-919-9338

• Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

• Second Harvest Food Bank

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I'm sitting here in Cleveland and I'm waiting to hear news, real news about what's happened in the south... I'm a southerner and my family and many of my friends are there... Everybody seems to be ok, just no power or gasoline... It's raining here now. They say it's what's left of Katrina... this water that falls softly on us now, yesterday changed the lives of too many people...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

To the City of New Orleans,

We love you. We're thinking of you... All our prayers are with you. May the dawn find you well.

New Posts...

It's fall and my schedule always gets busy this time of year so my posts will undoubtedly be less frequent. I'm hoping though to do at least one a week, probably on Sundays...

On American Patriotism...

David asked me why “Traveling to Casablanca…”

In the film, Casablanca is a fictional place, therefore a place of the mind… it is a weigh-station, a point of transition on the journey to a hoped for freedom…


Politics is about the exchange of power, whether that exchange is granted willingly or through force. Everyday we play political “games.” We make deals in even our most intimate relationships. Very rarely can we enter into a conversation without these exchanges taking place… When I speak… if you listen, then you relinquish power for a moment. I do the same when I choose to listen to you.

To whom will we give power, and from whom will we take it? What is to be gained or lost? It is this exchange which forms the basis of the social contract. The “social contract” exists in theory for some, but in the United States it is an explicit contract. The People’s right to dissolve and/or to establish such a contract was first instituted by the Declaration of Independence and it is in this document that the ideals of our national character were first put forward.

As school children in Government classes we studied this document but perhaps without absorbing its true meaning and the responsibility it places on us as citizens:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security…

This eloquent document remains strikingly relevant. It has implications for U.S. affairs both domestic and foreign. Civil rights are laid bare—the pursuit of happiness, not for some, but for all, as simple as that. The question of “nation building” as a foreign policy “… it is the right of the people (any people)… to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

And just as striking as the relevance of these phrases is that, in this time of flags, we find written between this document’s lines, just what it means to be a patriot. We are given to understand that to be an American patriot is to assist in the perfection and ensure the continuation of the political experiment Lincoln called a “… government of the people, by the people, for the people…” Our founders understood what was required to guard against despotism and the misuse of power. They carefully articulated the mechanisms to do this in the Constitution and its amending Bill of Rights. Imbedded in these rights are the responsibilities of citizenship… an outline of the requirements for the stewardship of our liberty.

The exercise of these rights and their ability to function as a check on the power of government presupposes an educated and well-informed population. A free citizenry is an informed citizenry with the capacity to critically evaluate that information. Patriotism requires the active pursuit of knowledge, a willing awareness of the doings of one’s government and an objective analysis of governmental policies as they relate to the ideals set forth by our founders.

A very real part of our ability to maintain freedom is the critique of government. A government existing without dissent is despotism. It is undoubtedly with this understanding that Article III of the Bill of Rights was written…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

As citizens we must hold ourselves accountable… We must ensure that our sources of information are objective and thorough and yet the “news” we listen to is too often cluttered with the sensational and the superficial. It is sanitized for our protection. We do not know, and few ask, how many in addition to our own, have died in this war in Iraq… We digest the sound bite; the easily remembered string of words that is a response to the questions we cannot answer… but Who are we as a people, and what is it that we will stand for? We consume, we consume, we consume, we tear down and build again and spew forth and worry about how to pay for it all… We tie education to property taxes and those professions that most guard our future security, those of educator and care giver, are our least valued and most underpaid. We are tittering on the edge…

We are a kind and generous people living in a country founded on great principles … but we have been misled by those that would make us hard and intolerant… We have lost the rebellion of our founders and have been diverted on our path toward realizing the possibilities of the great experiment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson

Is it possible that any person other than Pat Robertson could more fully embody the dangers of Fundamentalist Christianity?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Revolution has Begun

A revolution is in order, one that replaces the current culture of consumption and profit-taking. What is valued… what constitutes a life worth living, must be adjusted. From buildings to people, we tear down and destroy to suit our momentary whims. How can we feel secure in a world without continuity; without concern for our fellows. It is a big picture… The short term, the pragmatic decision is not always (is rarely) the right decision.

Let us fight the good fight…

Determine to preserve… Make war with your pocket-book… Don’t support companies whose practices you disagree with. Support sustainable culture…

If you really want to fight terrorism… cut fuel consumption.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Why does he keep saying that?!

Bush keeps tying the war in Iraq to 9/11...

The U.S. congress brought impeachment proceedings against Clinton for sex... How much more obscene is this? At least be honest about why our soldiers and countless Iraqis are dying...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bush and the Reasons for the War in Iraq

The U.S. goal for Iraq, which is, by anyone’s assessment, to establish a democratic, western-style state, that, rather than acting as a breeding ground for terrorists, is a secure ally… is a goal that cannot possibly be met in the near term. What is currently being established in Iraq appears, fearfully enough, to be a state that, on some level, will be heavily influenced by Iran and fundamentalist Islam.

George W. Bush believed that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction.

Of course he did… everyone believed it. Probably because Hussein wanted other countries to believe it… Undoubtedly Hussein thought that such a notion would provide a deterrent against invasion. The flaw here is not in what Bush believed or didn’t believe (whether or not he lied about WMDs), but what he chose to do with that perceived information. Other world leaders chose to deal with that perception in a very different manner. Europe, for instance, was willing to follow a path of containment… A path President Clinton had followed as well.

Bush’s “lie” was not in whether he believed that Hussein was a ruthless despot who had victimized his own people… He did not “lie” about Hussein’s desire to obtain Weapons… The lie was in how this perception was presented to the American people and the rhetoric leading up to the war that consistently, and unrelentingly, coupled Hussein’s name with the attacks of 9/11.

The lie was also in why we were going to war. It was not because Hussein presented a direct threat, but because Iraq seemed, based on the intelligence provided by Chalabi (and others), ready to overthrow Hussein, welcoming of an American presence and modernized to a degree that would make it sympathetic to Western interests. Iraq was a prime piece of real-estate that, if an ally, could provide a base for the U.S. to operate in the Middle East.

Bush didn’t present these reasons for going to war because the ideas were too complicated, he thought, for the American people to understand. Bush is a firm believer in the sound-bite. He believes in speaking to the American people on a seventh grade level in an accent that suggests a working class background and in invoking language reminiscent of Baptist sermons. (How on earth did such a working-class Texan come from a father who didn’t know what a scanner in a grocery store was or how to eat a tamale and whose family has a long Northeastern history? Why doesn’t anyone else in his family share George W.’s accent?)

Bush is guilty not so much of lying to the American public as he is of a catastrophic failure in judgment. He was naïve about the political situation in Iraq before the start of the war. He didn’t understand, and did not take the time to find out, that Iraq was, and is, a factionalized country and that it was this factionalism that allowed Hussein to maintain power. There was no unified resistance to Hussein.

The Bush administration seems equally naïve about what is currently driving the struggle between radical Islam and the West. Underlying terrorism is a conflict in ideologies. Our failure to examine what motivates a terrorist is the very thing that renders our efforts against terrorism only partially effective. Why are these people willing to die in order to kill those who they see as the enemy? Is it a reaction to globalization; to the gangrene like spread of Western music, video games, movies and perceived values; to our desire to spread our “way of life”… Does the American image really reflect America? Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Grand Theft Auto… is this who we are?

And what about the image of Christianity? Does the politicizing of religion and the rhetoric that goes along with it… does that help or hurt our cause? (Does it do Christianity any great good or reflect accurately its tenets?)

How do we reconcile the violence and intolerance of our own culture, as well as the aims of capitalism/consumerism with the values we profess to uphold?

Bush believes in his rightness. He believes that he hasn’t made any mistakes… He leveraged the loss of the lives on 9/11 to promote an ill-conceived war in Iraq. He doesn’t question the course of his actions, but I think maybe we should…

Let us do what is difficult…let us be leaders in peace…

Friday, August 12, 2005

ways of life...

Ok, does anyone remember when George W. Bush said that global warming was based on shaky science? Does anyone still believe that?

We seemed to have slipped into blissful ignorance. Ignore it and it will go away… Bush’s reason for not going along with the Kyoto, it will harm the U.S. economy. Can the road we’re on lead to anything but economic and environmental disaster? What will our economy look like when we’ve destroyed the environment?

CNN report on Bush’s position on the Kyoto Treaty…

BBC report on U.S. gas consumption…

What would happen if we each adopted one or two practices to reduce energy consumption? Instead of taking on the whole thing individually, we could each do those things we’re comfortable with…

Energy saving bulbs…
Take public transportation once a week, twice a month…
Perhaps walk to work…
Take two days a week and turn down the air conditioner (the heat)…

Pressure our government to adopt the Kyoto Protocol…

When do we accept responsibility? When do we lead?

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Of interest…

Fresh Air: Terry Gross’s interview with Rusty Sachs, a Vietnam veteran who participated in the anti-war protests that also included John Kerry. Sachs is one of the vets featured in the 1971 documentary Winter Soldier that dealt with these protests and which is being re-released.

Winter Soldier site

It was terribly frustrating during the last presidential election to hear John Kerry vilified for condemning U.S. Vietnam War atrocities during 1970s’ war protests. His critics acted as if he had been unpatriotic to speak out and implicit in their criticisms was the fiction that such atrocities never occurred. I respect John Kerry for his courage in the 70s. I am disappointed that Kerry stayed on the defensive during the elections and didn’t have the same balls he had as a younger man. Of course, in retrospect, it’s easy to say he made a mistake by distancing himself from his earlier anti-war activities… He was trying to get elected afterall…

What I find most disturbing, however, is our ability to forget: 300 years of slavery, a policy of genocide against the American indigenous peoples, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and (in light of the war in Iraq) Vietnam… Is it unpatriotic to hope we will uphold those ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” that we claim as our own? If we allow ourselves to believe it is wrong to hold our government to a higher standard through our speech and our actions then we will never be the people we hope to be…

My Lai massacre…

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Iraq... a culture of life?

In 2003 I spent time knocking on doors for “” My instructions were to ask people who they were voting for… (A waste of time if you ask me. I should have been asking them to vote FOR Kerry.) Those who told me they were voting for Bush invariably said it was because he was a Christian. Many went on to tell me they hoped “Roe v. Wade” would be overturned. The edge that allowed Bush to reach beyond the Republican base was “Christianity.”

A culture of life…


Whenever I hear the latest casualty reports,… whenever I wonder how many Iraqi civilians have died… I think about Cheney and the seemingly endless interviews he gave leading up to this war. Does anyone remember how smugly he assured us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Who remembers his relentless linking of Iraq to 9/11…

Bush and Cheney thought the Iraqi people would welcome us with open arms… A simple plan… if we could set up a modern, stable, democratic, U.S. friendly state in the middle-east, then the U.S. would have a base to operate from and it would be easier to stabilize the area. A happy extra would be the possibility of breaking OPEC’s control of oil prices. The administration made no plans for a post-invasion Iraq… choosing to believe expatriates such as Ahmed Chalabi, now Iraq’s interim minister for oil and a deputy prime minister, who assured them the Iraqi people would be so grateful to be relieved of Hussein they would gladly support the U.S. invasion… a short war, no need for a post war plan. Much of the U.S. pre-war intelligence on Iraq came from Chalabi. (– a quick look at his resume should have given us a clue how dependable he was.)

The problem, of course, is that we are now embroiled in an ongoing conflict which has not only distracted us from the real “war on terror,” it has served as a rallying point for those that would vilify us. A country that was previously dominated by an egomaniacal dictator, is currently destabilized, with fluid borders and American and British soldiers providing ready targets for the zealots of Islamist fundamentalism.

And now, can we really leave that we’ve created a haven for terrorists? Can we, in all good conscience, leave? Is there an answer to this? (I think I’ve finally decided that leaving is the only option.)

The only way we can win the war on terror is by being the “good guys.” When will we turn our attention to the problems of the world… If we take the high road… If we had rehabilitated Afghanistan… If we attacked genocide wherever we find it… If we follow a course of generosity and true leadership… How can we be vilified?

Imagine a culture that protects (existing) life.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Politics of Jesus... aka: scary rant

Politicized Christianity is a very real and powerful tool that operates within the machinery of contemporary U.S. power struggles. It is a movement that is frequently acknowledged by pundits and taken advantage of by politicians. Yet very rarely is this “Christian” agenda publicly scrutinized to determine how closely it reflects what it purports to represent, the teachings of Jesus. In an odd sort of way it has become the elephant in the living-room. It’s there. Everyone knows it’s there. Yet, probably as the result of a cultural hypersensitivity to religion, Christian issues are rarely directly evaluated. The only question posed involves determining whether a given issue is or is not part of the accepted Christian agenda. Since Christian faith is the determining factor for how many Americans will vote, then perhaps current issues should be considered directly in relation to the teachings of Jesus. It would seem that an important question for Christian voters to consider would be, based on his words as recorded in the New Testament, what stance can it be safely assumed that Jesus would take in relation to any specific issue? Of course the question ultimately arises, is it even possible to argue that Jesus would support direct political involvement?

In terms of the fundamental question of direct political involvement, it is interesting to note that there seems to be no place in the Bible where Jesus calls on the government to act in a particular way. He never asks the government to enact laws to change behavior. He seems, in fact, to support freewill and Jesus, rather than legislating behavior, calls for individual/personal change and a concern for how people act toward one another. When He speaks of government, He does so as a true outsider. He is in no way a part of an earthly power structure nor does He seek a position within that structure and, alternatively, He does not seem to advocate that His followers seek such positions. His statements, concerning worldly government, are generally along the lines of those found in Matthew 18, verses 25 through 27, and Matthew 22, verses 17 through 21; in which He tells Peter that tribute (tax) is collected from those that are “strangers” to the “King(s)”, and not from the “children” of the “King(s)”. He asks Peter, are not the children of the King free? He goes on to say “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” What we get from this is that the children of God are strangers to the earthly Kings, but not to the Heavenly Ruler, and they are free in that they are the children of this greater King. Consequently the children of God owe nothing of real value to the earthly Kings. The value of the money used to pay taxes comes from the authority of the worldly government that issues it, in this case Caesar. Its value does not come from God and is therefore not a thing of God. This has interesting implications for Christians concerned with taxes, and the distribution of resources.

Assuming that Jesus would support direct political involvement, there often seems to be an inconsistency present in much of current American Christian Politics, an inconsistency emphasized in the preceding citations. Somehow the ideals of a market-based society have become intertwined with what is considered a Christian agenda. The “bottom-line” is seen as being as important as the right or wrong of many social issues. The lines between economic conservatism, political conservatism, and capitalism have become increasingly blurred. Voters, whether Christian or otherwise, will often vote based on their “pocket-books”. Frequently the same political platform that is “Pro-life” will oppose certain environmental or health care initiatives on the grounds that the cost will be too great.

Over and over again in His teachings, Jesus admonishes His followers not to trust in worldly riches (Mark 10, verses 17 through 27), not to value too much the wealth of the world, for it is fleeting. He directly tells one follower to sell everything he has and give it to the poor, in order to receive eternal life – such an act could not be described as economically conservative. If Jesus can be said to have a political agenda then it is based on the need to care for the poor. No where does he say this more clearly than in Matthew 25, verses 34 through 40; where essentially He tells His followers that anything they have done for the poor (the “least”), they have also done for Him and it will be remembered. If this approach is to be applied to a larger political agenda; where would statements like this put Jesus on issues such as Universal Health Care or Social Security?

If we are to look at homosexuality or other questions of lifestyle – not to debate the rightness or wrongness of these choices – but to discuss how tolerant we should be of those who might make these choices, what did Jesus say that applies? Matthew 7, verses 1 through 4: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” In Mark 10, verses 26 and 27; when asked who can be saved? Jesus replies, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” This suggests that human beings are incapable of being sin-free and as a result are unable to “save themselves.” According to the teachings of Jesus, it is only through God’s forgiveness and tolerance that humans are capable of being “saved.” If we want to be forgiven – to be accepted by God – then Jesus would suggest that we had better forgive and accept as we would have God forgive and accept us (Mark 11, verses 25 through 26). In Jesus’ teachings no distinction is made between the severity of types of sin – merely an acknowledgement of the inherent sinful nature of all humans; an admonishment to try to do better and above all to take care of one another. In other words, it seems that Jesus would have us not be so concerned with the sins of others, but with our own sins and our treatment of our fellows.

And what would the Prince of Peace say about Pre-emptive war? How would He feel about our invasion of Iraq? Luke 6, verses 27 through 38 says, in part, “… Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away they cloak forbid not to take they coat also…” And when Jesus was being taken by the Romans, he said to Peter (Matthew 26, verse 52), “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” What sort of foreign policy does this offer?

No one, of course, should be persuaded by these tentative examinations of current issues but it suggests that religion has too often been used to promote political ends. If Christianity is to be used as the source of authority for any political agenda, then this is a relevant and necessary public debate. We need to ask ourselves what can we do to foster an environment in which this sort of discourse might move forward unencumbered and with a place for all voices – Christian and otherwise. Are not pluralism, tolerance, and an open forum for debate, among the central principals on which the United States was founded? If we are true patriots, then these are the ideals we should strive to attain.

* All Biblical references taken from the King James Version of the New Testament.

Monday, August 08, 2005


There is a space between the Romantic and Pragmatic in which it is possible to live a life that is worthy of the human soul.

Television, movies, entertainment; something to think about so we don’t have to think; I wonder how did we get here? How did it happen that a few hold power and the many don’t question? Looking back on history it seems it has always been so – those in power have always benefited from the unwillingness of the many to look beneath the surface. The powerful have always benefited from those who find comfort in a leader who will tell them that the course they follow is right, justified and good. As long as the masses do not suffer overly much, as long as those that benefit can put out of mind the “others” that might be repressed, as long as there is something to think about that is not too dark and that does not disturb too much the tranquility, then power remains where it is.

How can it be wrong if so many others believe as I do?

I wonder how many leaders have invoked the name of their god or the fates to justify their actions. "We are called to… We have a divine task before us…" When do we question?

What would society look like if it aspired to some higher ideal? To care for – to preserve – to value the lives and accomplishments of even the most humble; shouldn’t that be our goal? How can anyone argue that we have a democracy when the legal system, the health system, the educational system works most effectively for those possessing wealth? Who has access to power? How rare and determined must a poor person be to rise up in the ranks – to gain education, to be elected? At what point will we question this status quo?