POEM: A Ghastly Alchemy

For just
Some
Dam
Weepin’s permit
I protect and serve
Up my enemies
Like
Cold
Turkey
Shoot
Only to rifle
But growing ode
In a ghastly alchemy
Silver bullets turning to lead
Down the wrong path
Instantly poisoned
Hearts and minds
In the cruelest democracy
Community going
For broke
The simplest solution
Drunk
With wons
Britches down
In a flash
A bad moon rising
Eclipsing gumption
In the forced
And bye-ways
Camouflaging knights
And daze
Seeing evil
Through darkness
And narrow sites
Seeing in for red
Aimed for more heat than light
As mirror man
Shutters a mist
The in side out
As awe the rage
For their own
Good
I mean
Bad

Here is yet another poem against gun violence.  When it comes to ballads not bullets, I have plenty of ammunition.  Besides just being cruel, violence is inherently anti-democratic.  There are inescapable conundrums in eliminating, or threatening to eliminate, other people as a form of building community.  Of coarse, many people are willing to sacrifice another than do the hard work of making high ideals manifest.  Even the concept of “self” defense razes issues of human rights, inclusiveness, and the sacredness of life.  There is little doubt that practicing nonviolence takes great discipline and sacrifice.  This is in sharp contrast to the so-called “last-resort” of violence that so lazily creeps up to number one.

At what price do we give up our freedom to practice nonviolence?  The Faustian bargain of violence offers an escape from the rigors of morality and authentic community by claiming, “They made me do it,” a convenient denial of one’s freedom — and another’s!  Of course, the enforcement of might makes right extracts the bulk of the price from others, the opposite of self-discipline and sacrifice.  Creating community is costly, just as destroying community is costly.  The real question is: Who pays the cost and who reaps the benefits (in the case of destruction, of what remains)?  As in the dysfunction of capitalism, where greed and selfishness are raised up as virtues necessary to “progress”, violence is about getting the most benefit for oneself (and one’s kin) at the lowest cost to oneself.  Not surprisingly, when the lowest common denominator is oneself, and greed is a virtue, community, which prospers on the common good, suffers. The fundamental problem is that the destruction of violence extracts a cost from the whole (community) that can only be rationalized in piecemeal, selfish fashion.  Violence is an attempt to shift a cost to others.  This works in part when you force others to experience loss due to your violence, and the cost of this is disproportionately shared by your victims.  However, there is no substitute for your own moral agency.  Your responsibility cannot be “cost shifted” to others (only the effects of your irresponsibility can).  This is the irrevocable loss of moral failings. Morality is simply exercising your freedom in a responsible way.  Saying you don’t have a choice, e.g, “They made me do it,” is a cop out.  Morality isn’t easy; if it was, everybody would be doing it!  In short, wielding lethal weapons is perhaps the worst way to demonstrate personal responsibility.  Guns are the lowest form of community.  Even if guns are the last resort, this is not a resort in which I want to live.

POEM: Eulogizing Fort Hood

Eulogizing Fort Hood

It is not ours to ask
Why those so schooled
In violence
Should act violently
On a vocation so seriously
Taking
Won too many weepings
Lead so quickly
Penetrating human hearts
Our own flesh
Not at home
In alien nation
And returning veterans upon veterans
What doors have been shut
What calm
Might be expected
It is
Not enough
Guns to keep us safe
But arms withheld
Once again

Today were the funeral ceremonies for the victims of the recent Fort Hood shootings.  Such tragedies are probably not well prevented by doing violence better.  Perhaps we should try to do nonviolence better.  Let’s give peace a chance.  Maybe some day we can eulogize Fort Hood.

 

POEM: Owed to Fort Hood Shooting(s)

Owed to Fort Hood Shooting(s)

Welcome to the hood
A fort of freedom
Billed upon violence
Up in arms
With billions in cache
Yet what remains
Unexplained
Bodies of evidence
About faces
Ambushed from deep within
Sow unlike
The enemy without
A projection of force
That no’s know end
United in states
Of con-stir-nation
And the perennial just
Plane crazy
Calling 911
After years
In the making
Veterans in abandonment
The hunters now haunted
By the whores of war
Pawned by kings (and occasional queens)
And all that is rank
Sold on commissions
As common privates beholden
Major embarrassment
Corporal punishment
All under general doody
A mirror lineup of quirks
Cockeyed foibles
And proverbial whoppers
Awe mything the point
Sow full of holes
As we are believed of command
Only hoping
To return
To our census
As children of God
Only to escape
Our brood
In a sense lost forever
Having gone
Owed school
No longer
As easy as ABCD
Coming of age in PTSD
Brain injuring and heart rendering
Equivocating murder and suicide
In such grievous measures
Of military debasement

My heart goes out to all affected by the tragedy at yesterday’s murders and suicide at Fort Hood.  Today, I’ll just let my poem speak for itself.

POEM: Razz Putin: Owed to Ukraine

As things
Go south
And wiled west
Stupefying as some razz Putin
What due we have
Hear
A good ol’ boy
Re-siding in backcountry
Rushin’ cross
Too bear
An unsettling black see
A lynch pin for his sue veneer pogram
A tar-nation
And feather in
His cap
In someone else’s
As I’m-Putin’ vanity
As pass over sanity
Egos wear ever wont
Abounding airs
Occupying armies
A boarder crossing
Mounting manly farces
In along tradition
Of bastards and goose step children
Invading the motherland
Herr outskirts and upskirts
The enemy becoming
Hapless prey
And bereaved to be
On their knees
With horror teeming
As never enough
Given the boot
As importune back ground
Ukraine your neck
In eminent effluence
Its about face
Knowing no boundaries
That final frontier
Where know man
Has gone before
Never just
Covering wons assets
Entire specious over stepping
The acquisitive mine
As nothing conceited
Like some broken
Hysterical record
Never grasping
That which wee
Re-hearse
For in any language
The present tense
Sow surpassing pretense
The dividing lyings
Be tween
Childhood and adult hood
A parent to only a few
The bot and souled
A won for two sail
For those down
Crimea river
Without a paddle
As hope offed spring
Until just
Full groan
Amiss the not-so minor prospect
Of unending descendents
Becoming won

This ode to the Ukraine goes out to all of those harmed by the corruption and violence perpetrated by both Russia and the west.  The people of the Ukraine are being made the pawns of a re-nude cold war, led by Vladimir Putin, who is strangely reminiscent of the wiled west.  May we be won people, not by dividing, but by uniting.

POEM: A Rude Invitation

Violence is an invitation
To more violence
And a rude invitation at that
Such invitations need not be returned
As you might have guest

Violence begets violence.  Means produce ends.  How can we escape this vicious cycle?  Must we accept every invitation offered to us?  Do we possess the freedom to decline an invitation?  Or, does violence rob us of any possibility of responding nonviolently?  There is little question that violence demands a response!  Returning violence for violence seems to be the first responder, but rather than healing only creates more victims and a cascade of crises.  We need to look beyond our first, most base, response.  Otherwise, violence becomes enacted in our lives as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If Gandhi was wrong, and peace is not possible, then war defines both our means and our ends.  I believe peace is possible.  To practice making this a reality I simply rule out violence as a legitimate means.  Once violence is ruled out, then creation begins.  By setting a boundary disallowing violence on my part, I create the conditions where I must find alternatives, creative alternatives.  Many are uncomfortable with such a pacifist practice because they don’t want to sacrifice what might possibly be a legitimate practice of violence.  Though perhaps most importantly, disarming oneself may be way too dangerous too oneself and much too much work for most.  Nonetheless, my experience is that a working assumption of violence as a last resort, is largely a wholesale acceptance of invitations to violence.  As a classic example, the so-called Just War Theory, in practice better resembles the It’s Just a War Theory!  In fact, no nation has ever declared its assent to the just war principles, let alone that they have met them.  The powerful emotional response to violence is too closely linked to a similar, if not more-so, violent response.  Rage is simply too often too difficult to reign back in once violence is chosen.  Nonviolence is the prudent path.  As far as violence goes, which is routinely too far, we shouldn’t even go down that path — don’t even go there!  War, the grossest manifestation of violence on our planet, requires demonizing entire populations and groups of people to be “successfully” waged.  Preying on the epic human weaknesses of xenophobia, parochial patriotism, and unjust gain fuel the engines of war.  Channeling the outrageousness of violence into long-term, creative nonviolent responses strikes me as the way, and the goal, out of unending violence.  Channeling the emotions stirred when confronting outrageous injustices should stir a deep commitment to human rights, as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (of which the United States of America has never ratified).  Such a commitment to universal human rights propels the nonviolent to challenge nations to higher standards than the wholesale violation of human rights that is war.  If we fail at this challenge, and refuse to return the invitations to war, then war will persist, as you will have guest.

POEM: Hope Inflamed

Hope Inflamed

Hope inflamed
That which cannot be
Put out
Will consume every individual
Testing their mettle
Forging in feeleds
Just discovered
From a crucible witch lies unknown
Alloys forever
Stronger than any metal
Purely a loan
No matter
How precious
Our faith
In one
Another
Together
With standing
The fiercest heat
Or the harshest in difference

This poem about hope rests on my trust and faith that together humans will rise to any problem that we can experience in this world.  I like the Amelia Earhart quote, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”  I think that courage, while sometimes rare, is contagious.  I think that once one truly experiences peace and freedom, there is little going back.  I cite the Arab Spring as an example of a quantum leap forward that may be resisted but cannot be defeated.  Human consciousness or awareness is the nexus and seed of all good that springs forth from humankind.  Ignorance is the dark side and enemy of such enlightenment.  Ignorance and denial are powerful forces in human life, but, I believe, that they are less powerful than human mindfulness and the human spirit unleashed.  I see the human spirit as rooted and emanating from a place that is outside, transcendent of worldly power structures.  Further, an enlightened soul does not retreat into some other-worldly place, but engages the powers that be in this world, modeling better ways, those rooted in the deepest realities of human experience and being.  I am impressed by the sheer existential choice of Buddha to remain in the world to help others rather than blow out into nirvana.  This speaks to a state of higher consciousness, transcending self.  Similarly, Jesus did not shy away or retreat from the powers that be.  Jesus put all of his skin in the game, to the point of death, being crucified as an enemy of the Roman state.  Jesus modeled a reality of Pax Christi versus Pax Romana, the difference between shalom and détente, a higher expectation/hope for the state of human existence on this earth.  As Gandhi proclaimed, “Peace is possible” — a revolutionary statement in a world where conventional wisdom is that détente is the highest possible state; or perhaps some dystopia of trying to kill all of your enemies, giving rise to more enemies, resulting in endless war with some perverse patriotism demonizing one another.  I will cast my lot with one another together with standing the fiercest heat or the harshest difference.  What say you?

POEM: Revolutions Violent

Revolutions Violent

Any revolution
That must dispose of enemies
Remains
Mirrorly
A turning
Of the tables
Going round
Not with standing
How grate thou Art
And wore
A game that can only
Play you
Fraught with duel intentions
That two-sided sored
Giving rise to dark knights
In the theaters of life
Gone batty by our blindness
Convinced of our sound mind
Squealing beyond any hearing of just us
Re-lying on eary reflections of reality
A doody-full radar responding to this MASH
Efficiently allowing for corporeal punishment
Beyond the mountaintops
And promised lands
MLKing our hopes
With bullet points
Only outlining
The gravest of matters
In chalk
Where truth lies
And faux canons
Turn on
US

Violence begets violence.  Violent revolutions must declare violence inviolate, seeding the next violent revolution.  What goes around comes around.  Playing God with war ends up in us being played.  Violence and killing demands the denial of another’s sacred worth.  This truth is the first casualty of every war fraught.  The drums of war are beaten with solemn speeches, truth-challenged bullet points, and faux demonization.  The myth of redemptive violence lays the bloody groundwork for violence in all forms, providing the easy cover of necessity — “you made me do it.”  As the theologian Walter Wink puts it, “The myth of redemptive violence is the simplest, laziest, most exciting, uncomplicated, irrational and primitive depiction of evil the world has ever known.”  Unfortunately, these unsound canons always turn on us eventually.  Of course, taking responsibility for our own actions, and our own dark impulses, may be even more difficult than making others pay for our shortcomings with their lives. Yet, as I like to say: peace may cost as much as war, but it is a much better deal!

POEM: Navy Yard Killings

Navy Yard Killings

In these crazy times
Of senseless killings
Nations seek a return
To sensible killings

There are many levels of crazy.  There are perhaps even more levels of crazy when it comes to killing.  I am not surprised at all that mass killings by “crazy” shooters rip the heart out of a nation and its citizenry.  I am more surprised that killings as part of an industry, a solemnly premeditated projection of military power unparalleled in human history, are accepted as routine, “business as usual.”  Even as these crazy shootings rip our hearts out, as a nation we seem stuck in a place where such crazy killings seem to be a new normal.  The most recent mass killings happening at a Navy shipyard juxtapose these two seemingly separate realities with some irony.  Is the convergence of accepting as a new normal, as unavoidable, crazy mass killings within our borders in “civilian” settings somehow related to our longstanding societal acceptance of war and other “extrajudicial” killings.  I suspect that they may be.  Nevertheless, I hope that our experiences as victims of violence helps us develop compassion and empathy for those routinized military situations where we are the perpetrators of violence.  President Obama, in the memorial service for the twelve people murdered at the navy shipyard, quoted the ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus:

“Even in our sleep,
pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart until…
in our despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

May we gain a wisdom through our awful losses, a wisdom that transcends violence.  As the dead continue to speak to us, through our grief, let God’s awful grace remind us that every one of us is loved — by family, friends, neighbors, God — regardless of our status as victim and/or perpetrator.  And may this unconditional love, the awful grace of God, reigning on the just and the unjust, transform us into a peaceful people, at home and abroad.

I dream of the day when the violence of war will be as unacceptable as slavery/human trafficking.  Only when nations lay aside their weapons will the peace where one side fits all become a reality.  God’s awful grace demands it.

FREE POSTER: MLK I Have a Dream, Obama I Have Drone

To celebrate the legacy of peace and justice of Martin Luther King, Jr. this upcoming MLK Day 2013, I have designed this free downloadable poster: “MLK I Have a Dream, Obama I Have Drone”

You can download this free 8-1/2 X 11″ Martin Luther King Poster – “MLK Dream, Obama Drone” here

MLK I Have a Dream Obama I Have a Drone FREE POSTER POEM: A Ghastly Alchemy

This Martin Luther King Jr. design is a little edgier than many of my MLK designs.  However, in meditating upon our upcoming local MLK celebrations in Toledo, Ohio, I recognize that the profound edginess of MLK’s body of work for peace and justice is often turned into some kind of namby-pamby niceness and abstraction of pure intentions.  Of course, this overlooks the hard-core and often very unpopular work that MLK conducted.  I was extremely disappointed, as were so many others, when President Obama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.  While Mr. Obama typically finely targets his fine rhetoric to his audience, his speech to the largely pacifist aficionados of the Nobel Peace Prize was nothing less than crude apologetics for violence.  Unfortunately, Mr. Obama’s rhetoric has been fully incarnated into deadly policy with his escalation of killer drones initiated by Pres. George W. Bush.

I plan on passing out free buttons to participants of our local MLK celebration.  I expect that many people will be a little reluctant at the harsh juxtaposition of Martin Luther King Jr. and his idealistic and famous “I have a dream speech” with President Obama’s droning on with killer strikes, raining death on mostly civilians and often children. Mr. Obama’s killer drone strikes is perhaps this millennium’s best example (so far) of a blatant violation of international law and national sovereignty.

The timely and timeless question: what would MLK do?  Is appropriate especially for MLK Day, and every day in 2013.  What say you?

View Martin Luther King, Jr. designs (available on buttons-pin, T-shirts, stickers, bumper stickers, caps, mugs and more)

Criminal Trespass: Killer Drones OR Protesting Killer Drones?

In order to welcome Vice President Joe Biden to the University of Toledo campus on the morning of October 23, 2012, for a campaign stop, I placed numerous sets of small label stickers saying, “STOP DRONE KILLINGS”, STOP WAR”, “DRONE KILLINGS PERPETUATE TERRORISM” on poles, and several [STOP] WAR stickers on STOP signs in the vicinity of the UT student union where he will be speaking.  An alert UT student, complaining of such grievous offenses, called the authorities.  No, he did not call President Obama or the Defense Department, to complain about drone killings; but rather, he called the campus police.  I was greeted by not one, not two, but three patrol cars.  I could see a certain eagerness in the UT policemen’s eyes; however, I misjudged this at first, as them largely wanting to thank me as a job creator, as I had clearly created so much work for them.  After about a half hour typing stuff into their computer, consulting with their supervisor, and writing stuff down, I was awarded a citation for trespass.  Now, this is the first citation I have received from a prestigious university, so I thought that it may merit going on my resume.  Unfortunately, it is actually only a warning, banning me from all UT campuses, including their medical center.  Apparently, this ban is for life, either of me, the University of Toledo, or the time-space continuum [editor's note: this may actually be better termed "banned for anti-death"].  Further, upon closer inspection, if and when I violate their campus, I will be guilty of a fourth degree misdemeanor.  So, in the end, I failed to even trigger the third degree from the campus cops.  I asked the UT officer if they had any particular protocol or details related to the vice president’s visit.  The answer was “No” — but, hey, the Secret Service sure are sticklers for details, not so much details for sticklers.  Fortunately, the UT campus police did serve up a diet high in irony; which brings us to the question of the day:

STOP Drone Killings SIGN POEM: A Ghastly Alchemy

Is violating the sovereignty of an ally nation, such as Pakistan, who has specifically instructed us not to trespass on their territory with unmanned killer drones, a case of criminal trespass?  Many believe it is!  Nonetheless, what legal actions have United States of America been subject to for such a case of criminal trespass?  That remains fuzzy.  However, what is now entirely clear, is that a citizen of the United States of America who protests the launching of these killer drones by placing small paper stickers on light poles and stop signs constitutes criminal trespass.  Hopefully, someday the rule of law will cover the big-ticket items as well.  Perhaps the real question for the day is: how many everyday people will need to be arrested before the big crooks of this world see justice?  I, for one, intend to find out.

P.S. In case you are keeping score — International War Crimes Tribunal: 0; Littering: 1.

If you are interesting in doing your own stickering, here is a great place to get inexpensive, bulk stickers.