Friday, December 16, 2016

Are you not entertained?

I have come to believe that of all the Christian principles “Judge not” might just be second only to “Love one another.”

Rather than divide, let us reconcile. Rather than let pundits tell us what to think, let us do the real work of patriots and educate ourselves on the matters at hand. Let us let go of popularity contests and our fantasies about one another and talk about issues and reasons. Let us be faithful to our principles and to one another.

We are intoxicated on the opiate of the public drama. “Are you not entertained?” Saturday Night Live got it right in that regard. The Gladiator quote is spot on. The Flavian Amphitheater (aka: the Roman Colosseum) provided free entertainment for the Roman public, a distraction from daily hardships. Our contemporary public/political theater likewise distracts us. As if we were at a football or basketball game, we seem primarily concerned with “our side.” We hurl sound bites and trash talk our opponents and in general fail to consider the real issues at hand. As part of this we make sweeping generalizations about groups of people. We imagine who they are in the most unsavory terms. Conservatives, Liberals, intellectual elites, “white working class”, People of Color, Blacks, Hispanics … fantasies of an arch type of each in which we believe so deeply we cannot remember the individuals we personally know.

Instead of giving into the drug of public drama – let us for a moment imagine truthfully the kind of world we want to live in, personally and then in terms of our communities. What does that world look like and how does it come into being? I personally long for a society that cares more for people, that is more accepting, that is more respectful and compassionate. I long for a world in which fear is consoled and compassion is a greater virtue than profiteering.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Jesus, religion, wealth and politics ...

I find the rancor in the world today so deeply distressing.

I hear people who would identify as Christians saying horrific things about their “enemies”.

I do not wish to judge but I do think that for Christians meditating on Jesus's teachings and early Christian practices would be a worthy guide.

Whether with the “news” and its pundits or on religious matters, I think too often we let others think for us rather than studying, researching and meditating on these things for ourselves.

Jesus was Jewish.

As I understand it, study and interpretation of religious texts are an important component of that religious practice, an intellectual component of a religious practice. This is true in the history of Christianity as well, thinkers like Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine and Martin Luther have modeled lives of thinking and pious Christianity. We have free will for a reason. (From a Christian standpoint: How can you do the will of God if you're compelled to do it? Doesn't it have to be a free choice of us to truly to do the will of God?)

No matter your beliefs – to be the best we can be, to consider the good for humanity – It is essential we meditate on those things we say we believe and not to do so cynically. It’s vitally important that we not say we believe something and then toss it aside for “practical” concerns.

Mark 8:36
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

I want to be careful to not misrepresent myself and I have many nuanced beliefs that would exclude me from the wider definitions of Christianity but the core of these teachings are the foundation of my own beliefs. So I offer these things to my friends that are Christian – not as a volley in debate or warfare but as points of hope.

On welfare and wealth –
Luke 18:18-29

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Acts 2:45
45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, …

On the rancor of our current public discourse -

Matthew 5:43-44

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

On how to deal with bullying –

Luke 6:28-30

28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

On taxes –

Mark 12:13-17

13And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denariusd and let me look at it.” 16And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

On the economic fear –

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

with love and thanks to Hillary Rodham Clinton

Image from

Dear Hillary,

You deserve better than this …

You haven’t been treated fairly.

I want to thank you though for standing up and having courage.

You understand how politics works. You know that as a woman the scrutiny is that much more intense, that all you do and say is amplified and distorted. You have worked tirelessly to achieve your political ends, ends that a review of the history tells me that I largely support, and to do that you’ve had to negotiate the landmines of a public media dominated by the likes of Roger Ailes and a public that demands to be fed drama at every turn. It’s a public that won’t do the work of a real comparative study between politicians to get at the reality of who you are. It’s a public largely incapable of a nuanced conversation about issues or policies, unwilling to do the homework that you’ve so selflessly done for us.

It’s not fair – so unfair - but thank you. You are my candidate. I have had your experiences on the micro-scale of my life and I, a middle-aged woman, am INSPIRED BY YOU. Your courage and your dignity, your steely commitment to the course – thank you. I watched you in those debates and we of the oh-so-not-cool demographic of middle-aged/older womanhood have benefited from your example. I’m sorry so many others couldn’t see how radical you really are – the audacity of being a grownup.

I hope that after you take some time that you’ll stay with us a bit longer and continue to work and speak out for the things that matter. Please don’t walk away from leadership just because so many weren’t ready.

If I were you – well I couldn’t be you – but if I were in your place my pain would be so deep I couldn’t move but I want you to know – that despite what the loudest voices in the room might scream, there are those of us who are so grateful for your work and feel great love for you.

Thank you for having more courage than I could ever imagine.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why I'm a liberal ...

I’m a liberal because of my spiritual beliefs.

I don’t usually talk about this. Like my father before me, I want to be careful that I don’t become a hypocrite by presenting myself as something I’m not. I belong to many communities where I’m not sure the nuances of my beliefs will always be apparent and I fear being classified. I am, to the point, very uncomfortable expressing these things. At this moment, however, in the hopes of furthering understanding, it seems appropriate to share.

I believe very deeply in the divine. I believe that the natural and the “supernatural” are one and the same. I believe that life is the presence of the divine. I believe that to look into the face of others is to see the face of God.

I have studied the teachings of many religious leaders. I am from Alabama and I was raised as a Christian and my dad and I spent many long nights talking about the bible. The teachings of Jesus were held up to me as the truth. Jesus was, in my mind, a philosopher and a social activist. From the turning over of the tables of the money changers to the “giving unto Caesar” or the eye of the needle or the loaves and the fishes or the giving of coats and cloaks and even unto his death, - love your enemies - Jesus, as the bible describes him, was about asking us to see, to feel, our common humanity.

These ideas of love and mutual care are ideas that at every turn of my spiritual quest I have found reaffirmed as the truth. While I fall short (so short) – these are ideals to which I aspire.

Jimmy Carter is a hero of mine. I have many, but in terms of politicians, he’s stayed true to his principles. Unfortunately, I don’t think we were ready to follow where he was trying to lead us.

I hope that as a nation we will reject nastiness. I hope we will lift up all of our citizens. I hope we will open our hearts and see the grief of others. I hope that we will work to ease the suffering of this world and to truly embrace and value all of humanity. I hope that as a people we come to understand the fleeting nature of life and that we become more generous with one another.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Political Monsters

Donald Trump is awful, just awful.

He “speaks his mind” and gives voice to the repressed hate and fear too many of us contain.

He uses disdain for political correctness as an excuse for a lack of empathy and straight up cruelty.

Name-calling, ridicule, saying what suits his purpose rather than what may be true: his ultimate interest is not in the welfare of our nation but for his own ego. He lashes out to satisfy this ego without concern for the collateral damage (and I don’t give a shit what you think his “true” motives are).

He’s on us.

He is a product of a political system that we the people have allowed to become entertainment.

He is what we asked for, what we demanded. We stitched him together out of the putrid remains of our ideals. He is our Frankenstein’s monster.

We talk endlessly of the failures of our politicians but very rarely of our own.

They pander and we consume. Our political system is rife with a cynicism that produces politicians who say what they must in order to placate – and we punish them if they don’t. The misrepresentations that garnered public support for the Iraq war are exactly a result of this. The Neo-cons who envisioned that war saw it as the path to establishing democracy in the Middle-East, growing our own Western-style government in the region and ensuring a long-term ally for ourselves… But of course they knew that the American people couldn’t digest such a nuanced argument. Our anti-intellectual culture has made a real public discourse impossible. So the war was never vetted on its actual goals and the American people followed where the sound bites led – and we’re still following.

Trump should have been dismissed even before he called John McCain a Loser. The Republican establishment enabled him out of fear. No principled ideology gave them the courage to stand up and resist. Instead they busied themselves with turning Hillary Clinton into a super villain (rather than the very real human that she is). The possibility of a debate based on policies and leadership is well beyond of reach. (The Democrats are little better by the way.)

Whatever happens with this election – we the people need to take a hard look at our duty as citizens and the principles we say we believe in. They can’t just be sound bites and we can’t just be passive viewers of the reality show that is politics. At the minimum we must take up the burden of critical thinking and through our votes demand that our leaders do likewise. We must turn our attentions to the ideas of the candidate as opposed to the entertainment value they possess (and whether or not we like them). We must be more critical, yet more forgiving. We must elect people rather than personalities. The alternative is an ever more surreal future populated by an increasing number of demagogues the likes of Trump.

Patriotism means that we are willing to do the work of being a citizen.

Trump and his ilk will not go away just because they lose. We the people are the only ones who can change the future course of our nation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Our Sacred Duty ...

Image Source - America's Library - Original Draft of Declaration of Independence

As citizens – as patriots – we have the obligation to be educated and informed: to come to our civic responsibilities with seriousness, with our homework done and in a thoughtful manner. We’ve allowed our political process to take on the most despicable aspects of a sporting rivalry. Too often we don’t think, we just scream our team’s name and talk trash about the “other side.” The problem with this is that it’s the kind of thing that leads to the horrors of history. If we vilify and dehumanize one another then we run the risk of repeating those histories. We create an environment where people feel justified in participating in the Kristallnacht, the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing or the attacks in Dallas or Orlando.

Bear with me –

We’re responsible. We allow and propagate shaming and hate baiting.

If we don’t want body shaming or people derided because of how they look, then we can’t participate in that. If we say we believe in religious freedom then that means for everyone. If we want our candidate or our ideas considered on their merits – then we have to do the work.
If we ridicule Trump for his appearance we perpetuate this practice.

If we accuse Obama of being a secret Muslim, …

If we deride someone through memes or ugly pictures – we perpetuate that practice. I’ve seen terrible pictures of Melania, Michelle, Hillary and Donald.

If we demonize, if we vilify, if we use foul terms to refer to one another, if we engage in name calling and lose sight of our mutual humanity, we perpetuate, cultivate this kind of culture. When we lose sight of our individual humanity, when we demonize groups and refuse to engage in the harder work of taking us each on the content of our characters (King) – then we lose our empathy. Empathy is what holds us back from violence. Empathy knits us together and cultivates caring. Let us try to imagine into one another and understand where we are coming from.

I beg you to take a pledge to not participate in hate baiting – to be a bit more forgiving, a bit more kind …

Do the thinking. Discuss what bothers you, your fears, your hopes, how we can together achieve a better world. Do comparative research. Do the work of having real exchanges. Let us privilege a conversation of ideas and policies. Let us take seriously the future of our nation. Let us cultivate the “angels of our better nature.”

Friday, July 08, 2016

From many - One.

The difficulty in talking about racism is that racism is predicated on gross generalizations, sweeping statements and a dehumanizing set of biases. It’s difficult to talk about racism – particularly as a white southerner - because one runs the risk of becoming an apologist or a na├»ve denialist or even worse, slipping into gross generalizations that, even when well-intentioned, turn to an “us vs. them” point of view.

The public space where this conversation should happen, our political sphere, has become a shit show.

The rhetoric of hate, the politics of exclusion and fear mongering have dominated our public discourse.

Money, and we are obsessed with money, Money is speech. Every conversation we have of the public good is underwritten, undercut, by money. As a people we seem so fearful that someone might take something away from us.

Many of us claim to be people of faith. Many of us say we are Christians, Muslims, religious Jews or any number of other religions, and many more say we are committed to the ideals set forth by our founders, and yet, many of us practice an intellectual laziness that undermines everything we say we believe in. Many of us do not question whether or not the positions we take are in keeping with the principles we say we hold. For many of us our biases are so deeply rooted that we cannot muster compassion for our fellow human beings.

What is our responsibility as guardians of the principles we hold? – There is so much cynicism around the things we “say” we believe in. Too often it’s enough to say it or use it as a position from which to condemn others – but to actually practice what we say we believe … This is the hard work that we’re called to do – to put aside our selfish concerns, to look past fear, to hold our nation to the highest examples of those principles.

I get so frustrated when people who claim to hold to these ideals, who claim for instance to be Christian, can justify in their own minds the selfish and meanness that produces the very atmosphere of fear and hate that contributes to the violence we’re seeing now. The great leaders of history were philosophers, they thought deeply about ethics, about how the world should be and if we are to follow any one of them we must do the same.

How to we comfort one another? How to we take care for one another? How do we fulfill our responsibility to the ideals of our nation: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? that we are all created equal? How do we ensure that we are worthy of our inheritance, of those that we say we come after? Love one another - and part of that work is to dwell on what loving means.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Rules for (Political) Discourse ...

I believe the world would be better if we could argue and debate without it turning into mutual loathing. I truly believe that if we could step back and allow ourselves to be moved sometimes –

Well toward this end these are the rules I’ve laid out for myself – and of course I won’t be perfect but I am going to try.

1. Do not betray your ethics. You know it may sound sappy but I believe in all of the love one another stuff. I’m trying. Evaluate what you say and do against that ethic. Try to be a decent human being.
2. Try not to bait people and try not to take the bait.
3. Try to stick to issues – try to lay out positions cleanly, without getting personal.
4. Let people you don’t agree with have room to speak. (I won’t defriend you for differing views but I will for hate speech.)
5. Don’t call people, known or unknown, what my mother would have called “ugly names”.
6. Try to find the overlaps. Seriously – TRY TO FIND THE OVERLAPS.
7. I don’t have to have the last word.
8. Let go of anger – it only closes us off from one another.
9. Work in the garden, read a book, run, walk, watch the sunset – make art – dwell on what you love - see things for what they are.
10. Life – the world – is an aggregate – do your best to make your part of it kind.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Thank you LeBron #Believeland #AllIn

Way to shift the conversation! Props!

With poetry – on the field of play, against expectations – triumphant.
#ALLIN not just for now – All In – a rallying cry – a political philosophy – a future.

LeBron you really are beautiful – you made a believer out of me – you stayed the course – you fucking owned it – and all the while a class act.

We can feel the love you have for this place, it’s infectious. Your faith, your love, your tremendous will from since you were a teenager – in this moment, we get it, we understand it’s all possible, not just today but - everyday.

LeBron – a young man from Akron – a passion of a dream – There are other dreams, beautiful dreams, of fulfilling other destinies, in each of us, each of us to our gifts. #Believeland #Cleveland #AllIn

New York Times LeBron James 2016 NBA Finals

Image source: - Cavaliers

Thursday, June 09, 2016

a starting place - (the reboot)

Dean James Ryan - Havard Education

I spend a lot of time thinking about: who “we” say “we” are and are we really who “we” say we are? I think about how we listen to or how we hear such inspirational speeches as the one posted above. How well do we carry their messages? I wonder, as individuals, what is the slippage between who we present ourselves as and who we really, consistently, are?

How did we get here?
What are and what should be our goals?
How does our reality compare to the things we say we strive for?
What is the nature of justice?
How do we actually address gulfs between us?
How do we cultivate the will to do these things?