POEM: In Jesting Another Triple Crown

America’s quest for monarchy
Failed again
A triple crown thwarted
The quest for total domination
Foundering
Another cracker jack faux
A for-see-able sir prize
Californian gold transmuted
Into chrome
Bronzed
A tanned hide
Soon forgotten
A hoarse race
A poorer proxy
Of true human feat
Ruled by what is
Less swift
Needing powerful spectacles
To not see
Over and over
Hour consolation prize
Ever settling for the gaming
Of plutocracy
The royal fleecing
Of sheep
Buy domesticated wolves
For equestrian
Riding
To the end of the world
In minutes
Flat
Re-lying on vain hopes
Our ambitions
Running around in circles
An opulent haunt
Of who most dashing
How ever a ware
It is US

The 2014 odds on favorite to with horse racing’s triple crown, California Chrome, finished an unmemorable third place, leaving it’s legacy bronzed and lifeless.

It’s difficult to watch the spectacle of horse racing without at least some class consciousness.  Perhaps this is a good thing.  In this poem, I use the fodder of this most apparent “gentleman’s” sport as an opportunity to expose it’s more seedy underpinnings.  Whether horse racing or NASCAR racing, sport is big business and a necessary distraction from less sporting, and even less gentlemanly, enterprises.

Americans love a winner.  More so, Americans love domination.  For Americans, there is something that resonates with one “competitor” so dominating others that it is scarcely a competition.  This strikes me as something to do with America’s love affair with “exceptionalism,” specifically American exceptionalism.  The shock and awe of being so much superior than any and all other competitors under-girds a dark morality where might makes right and vulnerability is banished from human, or at least American, or at least elite American, experience.  And while not all of US may be playing on the super-achieving Team America, we can all at least root for the home team.  In it’s most blatant form, this is killing all of our enemies, “terrorists,” who would dare challenge, or daresay “compete,” with the American weigh of life.

Since monarchy itself is déclassé, we have to repackage it into the monarchy of plutocrats and the aristocracy of celebrity.  The plutocrats sell us celebrity, and the increasingly hollow American dream of becoming rich ourselves.  Plenty buy such pablum.  Any one of us running head to head or fighting toe to toe with the plutocrats may not even be in a horse race, but together we need not re-lie on singular saviors.

Our salvation rests in the masses standing against the few, the plutocratic oligarchs, and building communities based on egalitarianism, not exceptionalism.  We need less spectating and more participating.  We need less fans and more teammates.  We need less co-opting and more cooperation.  We need less jockeying and more mutual aid.  Let’s make it so.

POEM: Enlightening Reflection

I looked into his eyes
And I could see the devil
More lightly peering
It was eye
A most enlightening reflection
Seeing double

This short poem hopes to shed some light on the concept of psychological projection. Projection strikes me as one of the most profound realities addressed in psychology. Confronting the reality that we regularly see the world more as we are than as the world is itself can provide a powerful tool for increased self-awareness and a practical way of better adjusting to the world around us. Consciously reflecting on how our attitudes, perspectives, and emotional states color our perception and experience of the world can help us move toward a more congruous and harmonious relationship with both the world and our own aspirations. In short, we can become more effective human beings, dealing with reality as it more truly is, from both within and from without. This is nothing short of dealing with the interface between the subjective and the objective.

Reflecting on projection is perhaps the most direct way to sort out what we want to bring into the world as a subjective being and how this actually fits into the world in which we live. Projection is typically employed in the context of dysfunction. This poem addresses the universal human experience of projecting our dark side, evil within us, to people and situations outside of us. This is a universal human coping mechanism for dealing with our own shortcomings and avoiding the hard work required to accept full accountability for our own actions or state of being. This form of denial is perennially popular. I strongly suspect that this bias is simply part of human nature, a de-fault mechanism, if you will. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that we are helpless or powerless over this condition. The point is to adjust, re-balance, ourselves to our environment. The counter-balance to denial is awareness. Conscious awareness may very well be the defining characteristic underlying human potential.

I find the practice of “If you spot it you got it,” as an enlightening game to play to overcome the denial implicit in projecting our dark side outside of us. The game is rather simple. For instance, if you are stuck in the line at the grocery store and you are feeling impatient, instead of focusing on factors outside yourself, such as why the store may not have enough clerks, or how slow the clerks or customers may be, focus on yourself, your inner state of being. By reflecting on your attitude, perspective, and emotional state in any given situation, you may very well discover a better balance within yourself and with the world. For instance, is your impatience the only option? To what degree, and in what way, must this situation “make” you impatient? If your patience is well-deserved, did you earn it through previous choices for which you were responsible? Maybe your life does suck at any given moment, but this is a small-minded, hard-hearted, and lazy non-leap to a conclusion that life itself sucks. Living into a larger perspective can offer solace and even joy in difficult situations. Focusing on yourself is not about victim blaming; it’s about balance and proportionality (perspective). You are, in fact, helpless to change most of the world around you. Of course, focusing on things that you can’t change is the leading cause of insanity! Recognizing and accepting that you can’t change something, or someone, is the precise reason you should stop expending energy on it. What a freedom in being able to take off your to-do list everything you cannot change! Of course, the wisdom to know the difference between what you can and cannot change only comes through experience and practice. Practicing self-awareness in the face of de-fault projection is a front-line tool.

The best news in the world is that you, and every other human being, has the power to make a difference within oneself and the world around us. The is the light side of projection. The influence and difference that we make comes through both conscious and unconscious processes. We inherit a lot in life that is due to no choice of our own — some good, some bad. This is the unconscious, deterministic side of life. If not consciously acted upon, by choosing one thing over another, the inertia of our lives will continue its trajectory — some good, some bad. Of course, denying your very ability to make conscious choices is a denial of your own humanity, and by implication and effect, a denial of the humanity of others. We have a responsibility to ourselves and others to seek increasing consciousness, both self-knowledge and knowledge of the world around us. This is where the light side of projection plays its role. Our conscious choices about how we wish to steer our own lives, given the good and the bad at any given moment, is what we project new into the world. Your conscious choices are your gift, your presence if you will, to yourself and your world. These choices change the world from its inertial, deterministic path. This is where the real you shines! You project yourself into the world. Something that was not present becomes present. The dark side of projection simply accepts the de-fault version of reality, a reality without the benefit of consciousness. This is an unconscious vote for the status quo, reinforcing a reality that is nominally lived, meaning we continue to have experiences, but the higher function of conscious choice, responsibility, is avoided. Response-ability is simple the ability to respond. Not simply as moving when poked with a stick, but deciding or learning to avoid being poked with a stick, or poking others with a stick. More positively put, you can explore and live into your highest dreams and aspirations, owning up to the presence you present to yourself, to others, and the world around you.

When we are in love the whole world is in love. This does not mean that the whole world is in love at that given moment. Factually, this is false, and many will go out of their way to point this out to you, with a stick if necessary. Nonetheless, your experience of love is the rich soil from which you project love into the world, making the world a more loving place. Even if your love is unrecognized or unreturned, the simple fact that you experience love increases the love in the world. Of course, when we experience love, it is hard to control. Love has a life of its own. Perhaps love is life itself. Love projecting itself into the world — a life longing project…

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: We Won’t Be Food Again

I would rather
Be Job
Less than
Renounce
A living wager
And know place to lie
My head
My heart
Made homeless
In loo of
A fast fooled nation
For going
The beast
Wee
Can due
Hitched to number one
Number too
As on the line
For given debts
In place of
Solemn assemblies
And last riots
As wreck we him
For the masses
Left too
Starve
As a full groan man
Eschewing
A distended belly
And infantile grimace
Dis gorging
To which I object
A single finger
And vomiting
A sour second
Relative to the toil it evacuates
As vying a bowel inconsonance
And those who are but in
Fringe benefits over doo
Be rated by privilege takers
Of a hollowed hire power
Pro claim
There is no Black day for employment
The unanswered trump it
As if
Falling flat to some honky
Reveres discrimination
As dark daze per severe
The fecund material bound
Now a mushrooming clerical class
Beaten too
A bully pulp it    
Copious crumbs and the blest whines
Offering salivation
Like no me
Biblically
Throwing the book at me
Showing me the works
As if in some fooled court
Taking out
On me
Sum type
Of contract
Know labor
No food
Nor time travel to
’79 sense
For every dollared earn
Or as a payday loan
Cash here
Slipping through my fingers
Each day
For another till
My dreams standing still
Idoling money changers
On short order
Cooking the books
Serving as sum batterer
Or fry guy
Who is just
Greased
At the end of the day
Pain
You less
Than what
You learned
With respect to
Meat grate people
Seriously toying
“Be the happy meal”
As if
I whir
To halve a cow
And go to town
Drug by sum ferry tale
A bout
Worshipping some magic beings
Stalking skyward
As some giant rumble
To expose my hide
Wont to grind my bones
For their bred
My blood smelt
As iron away
From their golden cuffs
Razing my shackles once again
I will only ax once
As you know not jack
Weather the heavens fall
Either I am
Udderly fed up
Or my last words herd
Eat me
As I will only be
Food once
It’s just
Awe in a daze work

I wrote this poem today, all in a days work!  This poem was triggered by my experience last night at a community meeting, “Faith Conversations on Income Inequality.”  I was somewhat disappointed that of the two hours, less than 15 minutes was conversation.  The meeting was mostly didactic, with two detailed presentations, a short film well documenting the existence of actual poor working people in our very state of Ohio, and a short small group exercise (where some conversation occurred).

The kicker for the evening was after the meeting when conversing with a woman who I had never met proclaimed the disproportionately too-often cited and familiar, “If a person doesn’t work, then they don’t deserve to eat” (see 2 Thessalonians 3:10).  Of course, the key word and concept in this passage is an unwillingness to work.  I might add dignified and humane work.  Either way, it certainly doesn’t apply to people who can’t find work.  Further, in the previous verse, the apostles speaking about their own self-support when visiting the Thessalonians, say, “We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.  This seems to state that they did claim a right to such help (food), but were modeling an additional value of not being a burden on others.  If the apostles accepted help, when they were able to pay their own way, and this caused a burden to another, then they shouldn’t take such a necessary resource from another.  The higher way modeled by the apostles seems more apt as a critique of people unjustly benefiting from paying poverty wages, thus causing a burden to others, than as a critique of food as a human right.  Perhaps a less sophisticated yet more easily understood response to worrying about hungry people getting too much food is Uggghhh!

I had really hoped for an opportunity to share personal experiences and perspectives on faith and poverty, or income inequality.  For better or worse, I’ve thought about such things my whole life.  Still, I am actually eager to learn more, as I continue on my journey.  The story of dealing with poverty seems to me to be full of good news-bad news.  In my case, the bad news is that technically, I have lived in poverty most of the last decade — technically, meaning that my average income has been under the federal poverty guidelines.  The good news is that I am the wealthiest person I know — of course, I don’t get out much!  Such a conundrum has provided much experience and raw material upon which to meditate regarding what is true wealth.

One main point that I believe could help bring a more balanced perspective in our dealing with poverty is this: from a spiritual perspective, we must give equal time to spiritual poverty.  This is perhaps most succinctly captured by Mother Teresa, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”  I see Jesus as quite clearly spelling out the dividing line: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)  And, of course, serving God is inextricably linked with serving our neighbors: ” ‘The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’  ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked.  John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’ ” (Luke 3:9-11)

A corollary of this spiritual view of poverty is that we must not stigmatize the poor, or dishonor God’s special relationship with them.  I half-jokingly put this under the moniker of: “You say poverty like it’s a bad thing!”  A couple of generations ago, Latin American theologians developed the concept of God’s “preferential option for the poor.”  In part, this refers to the special relationship that the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized have with God.  Their vulnerability manifest by oppression in the world creates an openness to God’s way.  This openness fosters a greater intimacy, deeper understanding, and easier access to living in harmony with God’s laws (ultimate reality).  Of course, harmony with God’s laws is counter-cultural to the status quo and the powers that be.  Intriguingly though, the oppressed already stare down the brutal realities of the powers that be every day; so, being counter-cultural is much less of a leap “of faith” than those who benefit from the status quo.  This is perhaps the most simple reason why top down change rarely, if ever, benefits the poor more than the rich.  Thus, the poor are already primed to adopt God’s ways, as the world’s ways sure as hell aren’t working for them.  Jesus is a striking example of acting in accordance with this reality.  Jesus spent the vast majority of his time with the dispossessed, and “regular” folks, the 99% if you will.  In a stroke of spiritual genius, Jesus planted his message among people who were both most open to God’s message and had their material interests aligned to move in a direction parallel to God’s ways, including, of course, justice.  No doubt, Jesus played a prophetic role, in directly confronting the powers that be, whether religious, political, or economic elites.  Such confrontations were likely inevitable.  Even so, Jesus brought an unwavering dignity, intimacy, and authority (street cred) to such encounters.  Jesus did not shy from his fully humanizing ways, even in the face of dehumanizing forces.  This was a palpable measure of how Jesus loved his enemies.  This is God’s ways manifest.  The poor have fewer barriers to accessing such ways. Let’s learn from the poor!

I have lived among affluent people of faith most of my life.  For the affluent, the vast majority of us in the so-called developed world, I am convinced that voluntary poverty and simplicity is the most powerful tool to transform our world, God’s creation, into ways friendly to abundant life.  I have drawn this conclusion from my profound failure to convince rich westerners to truly care about the world’s poorest.  I am a formidable debater, both informed and with heart.  Still, the misery of my failure to convince others with words is exceeded only, and greatly, by the misery of the world’s poorest.  I cannot escape the weight of my experience that the affluence of westerners, including myself, and the material conflicts of interest we are embedded in, is the single most important factor preventing such a conversion.  Better aligning our material interests with the poor, through voluntary poverty and simplicity, can unleash a cascading journey where the soul’s force begins to flow more freely, as water invites gravity to do its work — and the most grave law unbroken, that of love.  This poem of mine alludes to the freedom gained by simple living:

Dining with Kings and Queens
Courtly balls
Knightly duels
And priestly indulgences
You can avoid it all
If only you are happy
Eating beans

Probably the greatest illusion humans face is seeing wealth (and its companions, status and power) as an answer to all of their problems.  Surely, people have material needs, and those needs going unmet is a tragedy.  However, once one’s basic material needs are met, wealth becomes a disability to the individual and a disease to society.  There is a great body of psychological and sociological evidence that increasing wealth makes us less compassionate and less generous.  In short, wealth serves as a wedge between people and God.  Science confirms the truth of not being able to serve two masters.  People can, and do, argue about the role of material scarcity in the problems of poverty — just witness political wranglings about budget-busting social programs in the richest nation the world has ever known.  Nonetheless, there is one pervasive and undeniable fact: there is, and has been for at least centuries, enough physical resources to more than meet the material needs of every human on the planet.  In this light, spiritual poverty is exposed.  We can solve material want; we choose not.  It is not a close call!

Poverty worldwide is endemic.  Billions of people live on $2 per day or less.  Those most likely to be the poorest are women and children — so much for family values.  People of color are also at much greater risk.  Those most likely to go hungry are those who grow food, our farmers.  The only way this can happen is to literally steal food from their hands.  The rich claim a hugely disproportional share of the world’s resources, including the productive labors of billions.  All the wile, pawning sham scarcity as an excuse for their hoarding and ravenous ways.  Gandhi captured it well when asked what he thought of Western civilization.  He responded, “I think it would be a great idea.”  I concur.

With untrammeled globalization, poverty can only be adequately viewed as a global problem.  The causes of poverty cannot be isolated within one country.  We, as a world, are in the same boat — though, undoubtedly, there is an increasing chasm between the accommodations of first and third class.  Debt, just as in biblical times, is used to enslave people.  We are told that the world is in great debt, accepting it as gospel truth.  Yet, to whom exactly are we are in debt?  Pay no attention to the money changers behind the curtain.  Exploitation and robbing of natural resources unjustly enriches the wealthier.  Such profitable cleverness is called business.  Meanwhile, non-prophet organizations stand by impotent to counter this unseemly necessity.  And governments suffer from electile dysfunction. The good news is that the cancerous idol of endless economic “growth” may not destroy creation, with such abundance and ingenuity.  Praise be to God!  If only, God forbid, the dream of a worldwide “middle class” can be averted.  Work.  Buy.  Consume.  Die.

Less poetically put, the “powers that be” work on a global scale.  This juggernaut of globalization reduces humans to economic beings in a consumer culture.  People become means to ends, not being of sacred worth and inherent dignity.  To enforce this state of affairs, wars are waged as “needed.”  These wars, unsurprisingly, do not serve the interests of the dispossessed.  This global reality is rooted in a distinct worldview: poverty is not the problem; poverty is the solution.  While a tsunami of rhetoric speaks of jobs, unemployment serves to lower wages, not just of the unfortunate unskilled, but of skilled labor too.  More unemployment is good for (someone else’s) business.  And if you missed that memo, perhaps the desperation of unemployment and wage slavery has you occupied.  Such desperation can serve as a distraction and thwart a healthy, functioning civil society (see electile dysfunction).

There is an African proverb which says: where there is no wealth there is no poverty.  This ancient wisdom emanates from the experience of humans over many generations and cultures that concentrated wealth creates poverty, that is, depends on poverty. There is a powerful illusion that wealth brings wisdom, that the rich must really know something that we don’t.  Well, if they do, it’s most likely occult or a cult.  I cite the incisive lyrics of “If I were a rich man” from the play, Fiddler on the Roof:

Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you’re rich, they think you really know!

The truth is much simpler, and more stark: the rich need the poor; the poor don’t need the rich.  For those who might cite the droll biblical retort, “the poor will always be with us,” have you pondered this: if you think the poor are hard to get rid of, try the rich!

The diseased worldview of consumerism and capitalism has at least on Achilles’ heel.  This rests on the utter inability to answer a fundamental question in life: how much is enough?  Capitalism thrives on convincing you that you never have enough, you are perpetually lacking something (which we happen to be selling), and by extension: you are lacking.  This turns the Gospel’s worldview upside down.  The good news is that you are enough; God made you that way.  Return to this truth, and capitalism recedes to a perfunctory process describing the nominal exchange of goods — and the goods are actually good!

The meeting on faith conversations about income inequality focused on the United States.  While poverty extends far beyond, and is rooted in, the larger world, the U.S. can serve as an enlightening case study.  The U.S. just recently observed the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty” as declared in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson.  [For poetic versions of lessons learned from the “war on poverty,” see my poems, Hungering for Answers, and War on Poverty]  The “war on poverty” is about the same age as me.  During my lifetime, the U.S. has grown about three times wealthier in material wealth.  Nevertheless, more Americans work, and they work longer hours.  Some gains were made in reducing poverty in the early years.  However, the overall trend since the late 1970’s has been stagnating or declining wages, especially when compared to skyrocketing worker productivity.  Income inequality is higher now in America than in the last hundred years.

For those with biblical commitments, we are long overdue for a Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25).  The year of Jubilee is a Sabbath of Sabbaths.  It prescribed forgiveness of debt every seven years.  In the fiftieth year — after seven cycles of seven years, not only was all debt forgiven, but all slaves were freed and all land returned to its original owners land.  This is the biblical prescription for preventing large concentrations of wealth and persons from being permanently dispossessed from their land and/or forced into servitude through debt.  Let’s make it so!

POEM: Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday

Guess what I herd
It’s Super Bowl™ Sabbath
Quite coincidentally on Sunday
And I’m not sure who’s playing who
Perhaps the Cowboys and Indians
Or the Lions and the Christians
The eternal argument weather
Its just
A little gamey
Or THE GAME
Either weigh
Teeming
It’s all-American
Only more so
Unlike baseball
Hear the greatest fans
Are on the bench
Couching their devotion
In hyperbole
Still
Ever hoping that
The game
Is more interesting
Than the commercials
Praying for a comeback
If only we can just stop ‘em!
The incessant commentary of the retired
Mature men
Alternatingly offensive and defensive
Only sew I’m tolled
And sow I will
Endless possibilities
Each with much deeper rootings

As you might have guessed by this poem, I’m not much of a sports fan.  I don’t necessarily have an inherent problem with sports.  I do see sports obsessions as a big part of the playbook to distract people from the real issues in their life.  As some mild catharsis, this may be fine.  Nonetheless, I suspect that for the millions of Americans who spend time following sports second only to work, this probably doesn’t represent a healthy balance in life. Of course, if people are actually playing sports, I find this much more worthwhile. Unfortunately, we have bred a spectating American culture more than a participatory one. Western civilization may not be able to stand (and may have to settle for sitting on the couch) without living vicariously through celebrities.  I suspect that if alien anthropologists visited America, they would likely conclude that sports and/or making money were the leading religions, outdistancing traditional faiths.

I don’t think that it is an accident that one of the most violent American sports, football, is among the most hotly contested among its fans.  This strikes me as not too far removed from fomenting patriotism in the run up to war when Team America is scheduled to go up against loathsome Team Anybody Else.  Competition is one thing; world domination is another.  For instance, has anyone else wondered why the World Series in baseball only includes U.S.!  Such blind arrogance and American exceptionalism makes the world a more dangerous place to live.

I do love rooting for underdogs, so you can reliably guess which team I’d root for, even if I’m not even aware of the game. So, whether it’s Team Tweedle Dee or Team Tweedle Dumb, you may just find me silently somewhere else…

POEM: State of the Union – Barack Obama

The State of the Union

In come in equality
Barack Hussein Obama
Raising a question
Of will he deliver
His second state
Of the union
Different than the first
Shot from Chicagoland
Now addressing
From 1600 sumpin’
Pennsylvania Avenue
A White House
Supremely courting
Separate but unequal
Early childhood education
Ivy league schooling
Whether constitutionally a lawyer
Or a product of a miscegenation
A black community organizer
A white Harvard lawyer
Finessing Goodwill industries
Racking the Gap™
Lust but always found
His customary locution assured
In custom HeartMarx suits
In trademark blue
Navy blue
Projecting power
No longer caught
In the wrong hoodie
Or his name isn’t Hussein
And what race winning
Between time and money
Soul and intellect
Vulnerability and power
Weather fair skin in the game
Or black ass on the line
Given the can
And the will
The eternal questioning
Lying in the fold
The gap
Between Barack and Obama
In-creasing
And yes
De-spite the rhetoric
We can
And we will

I heard on the news that President Barack Hussein Obama will address income inequality and early childhood education in his state of the union speech today.  Given Obama’s presidency thus far, that’s all the rhetoric I needed to launch this poem.  This poem is a play on the tensions between who we want to be, who we think we can be, how others view us, and what expectations others may have of us.  From many angles, the inescapable tension present in the body politic and the body of Barack Obama is a race question.  For a long time now, I’ve found it puzzling that a biracial person in America is quite universally identified as the minority race.  In America, if you are half black and half white, you are black.  Is being black some type of pollutant that defines someone?  Is this some type of white fear that black is actually stronger than white, posing some inherent threat?  No doubt, culturally, for bi-racial people, it makes sense to identify with one’s minority status, since this defines ones external reality quite pervasively; thus framing to a large degree one’s own experience.  Of course, this is really a cultural question because the genetic foundation for racial differences is as flimsy a foundation in science as profoundly dangerous a reality on society.  Put simply, race is a social construct.  Race is a lazy and prejudicial classification of humans feeding our own biases.  Racism distracts us from the deeper realities of our oneness as a human family.  Racism is a tool to divide and conquer others.  Racism can no more be won than war can be won — it only creates more lost human potential.  I empathize with President Obama who must daily face the many powerful contradictions or tensions in his life and America.  However, I see class trumping racial identity.  I find it a much more coherent view that Obama is a Harvard lawyer than a black community organizer.  His high social and economic class seems a much better explanation for his actions than his racial and ethnic heritage.

Fortunately, my aim in human relations is infinitely higher than merely explaining, or even predicting, human behavior.  We can, and likely will, argue about the extent of human freedom, for any particular individual or “class” of humans.  Still, we are always at least somewhat free.  And it is in this space, whether narrow or wide, that we define our humanity.  This is true for the President of the United States of America, the presumed leader of the “free” world.  This is true for me and you.

If you follow politics at all, you cannot escape that even the most powerful person in the world, presumed to be the President of the good ole USA, is plagues by limits on his freedom, or perhaps more appropriately, his ambitions.  Personally, I revel that lowly me can do things that the President could not fathom; such as living without an alarm clock, or truly taking a week off.  Politics is said to be the art of the possible.  I’d like to think so.  However, it seems that politics is captured much more accurately as being the art of the probable.  The art of the possible is about acting out of an idealism ever-appreciating the stark reality that we can choose to act freely within reality present or looming.  Shrewdness is not well served by fixating on mere probabilities at the expense of our freedom, that defines us as human.

Of course, in this poem, I hope to raise the “race” question to a higher level, not bound by mere particularities, especially racial identity.  Ah, yes, the quest of a poet to tease out eternal themes and universal truths from our particular lives.  In this poem, this is framed as various races: between time and money, soul and intellect, and vulnerability and power.

Still, I am not, nor wish to be, immune from particularities.  I relish in the deliciously punny and serendipitous particularity that Obama wears custom Hartmarx suits.  I have taken the liberty of spelling this brand (probably trademarked!) with my own trademark style: HeartMarx.  The tensions and irony run deep as it can imply a (hidden) heart of Marx for Obama, or the pinnacle of a personal capitalistic brand perhaps too well-suited to speak authentically of income inequality.

May your state of union with reality be harmonious and joyful.

Martin Luther King Day history and reflection

Martin Luther King Day is coming up on January 20, 2014.  MLK Day is celebrated in the U.S. on the third Monday of every January.  The first official celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as a federal holiday in the U.S., was 1986. This upcoming MLK Day will be the 29th annual celebration.  Many younger folk will not remember a time without a MLK Day holiday.  However, much like Dr. King’s long-haul struggles, getting an official King holiday met with strong resistance for a long time.

As told here:

“Congressman John Conyers, an African-American Democrat from Michigan, spearheaded the movement to establish a MLK day. Representative Conyers worked in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and was elected to Congress in 1964, where he championed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Four days after King’s assassination in 1968, Conyers introduced a bill that would make January 15 a federal holiday in King’s honor. But Congress was unmoved by Conyers’ entreaties, and though he kept reviving the bill, it kept failing in Congress.

In 1970, Conyers convinced New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor to commemorate King’s birthday, a move that the city of St. Louis emulated in 1971. Other localities followed, but it was not until the 1980s that Congress acted on Conyers’ bill. By this time, the congressman had enlisted the help of popular singer Stevie Wonder, who released the song “Happy Birthday” for King in 1981, and Conyers had organized marches in support of the holiday-in 1982 and 1983, respectively.

Conyers was finally successful when he reintroduced the bill in 1983. But even in 1983 support was not unanimous. In the House of Representatives, William Dannemeyer, a Republican from California, led the opposition to the bill, arguing that it was too expensive to create a federal holiday and estimating that it would cost the federal government $225 million annually in lost productivity. Reagan’s administration concurred with Dannemeyer’s arguments, but the House passed the bill with a vote of 338 for and 90 against.

When the bill reached the Senate, the arguments opposing the bill were less grounded in economics and more reliant on outright racism. Senator Jesse Helms, a Democrat from North Carolina, held a filibuster against the bill and demanded the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) make public its files on King, asserting that King was a Communist who did not deserve the honor of a holiday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had investigated King throughout the late 1950s and 1960s at the behest of its chief, J. Edgar Hoover, and had even tried intimidation tactics against King, sending the civil rights leader a note in 1965 that suggested he kill himself to avoid embarrassing personal revelations hitting the media.

King, of course, was not a Communist and had broken no federal laws, but by challenging the status quo, King and the Civil Rights Movement discomfited the Washington establishment. Charges of Communism were a popular way to discredit people who dared speak truth to power during the 50s and 60s, and King’s opponents made liberal use of that tactic.

When Helms tried to revive that tactic, Reagan defended him. A reporter asked Reagan about the charge of Communist against King, and Reagan said that Americans would find out in around 35 years, referring to the length of time before any material the FBI gathers on a subject could be released. Reagan later apologized, and a federal judge blocked the release of King’s FBI files.

Conservatives in the Senate tried to change the name of the bill to “National Civil Rights Day” as well, but they failed to do so. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 78 for and 22 against. Reagan capitulated, signing the bill into law.”

It wasn’t until November 2, 1983, that President Reagan signed the bill that made Martin Luther King Day an official federal holiday, to be first celebrated on January 20, 1986.

I have a tradition of attending our local community-wide annual MLK celebration.  In Toledo this event is called a “unity” celebration.  I find the theme of unity somewhat incongruous with the divisive issues that Dr. King boldly and controversially confronted and persistently pursued.  These celebrations seem much closer to “have a nice day” than “get jailed for justice.”  While I consider it a victory to have won official recognition of Dr. King’s life and life’s work in the form of a governmental and nationwide celebration, the institutionalization of Dr. King’s institution-challenging message and life’s work is problematic.  Of course, hard-fought victories can never be permanently institutionalized, but must be fought and re-fought by spirited and compassionate folks across generations.  Institutions tend to be guardians of the past and the status quo.  Fully alive people need to secure the day and the future.  Like they say: activism is the rent you must pay for living on this planet.  Otherwise our lives will face foreclosure.

Of course, MLK Day cannot expect to be immune from the inane, monetizing, unjust powers that be — just like every other holiday (formerly holy day).  You can expect way more people to get excited about businesses selling discounted merchandise of MLK Day, or most any other holiday, than righteous and indignant people overturning the moneychangers’ stranglehold of debt on working people or their insistence to monetize every ideal or spiritual venture.  Every celebration is met with a tsunami of merchandising.  Buy your sweetie something expensive, commensurate with your love — which can’t be bought, but may be sold.  Celebrate dead presidents by spending dead presidents.  Buy some munitions for Independence Day.  Honor veterans by living out the consumers’ creed: Live, Work, Buy, Die.  Thanksgiving has been overrun by the commercialization of Christmas.  Perhaps this is not surprising, since the Christmas season now reaches before Halloween.  Martin Luther King, Jr., quite aptly, is in good company with Jesus.  Yet the eternal question remains: Is MLK Day just a day off?

Martin Luther King Jr Day POEM: In Jesting Another Triple Crown

POEM: Twittering Away – Owed to IPO’d

This poem is in tribute to today’s initial public offering of Twitter:

Twittering Away – Owed to IPO’d

Is there a longing beyond
The public stocks
IPO’d
Buy and buy
The Alpha and Beta of existence
Reduced to 140 characters or less
Hovering around tiny luminaries
Passing flesh and mortar like gas
A lusty err to some backwards throne
The writing on the wall
Its singular accomplishment
Bringing the end nearer the beginning
Posing as prose
Vainly bard
To the twitter’s fear
Like the teeniest scandal
In the wind
Exercising their ABBs
As won voidable six-pack
Dreams taken by whizzes
Raining in banality
Hailing nitwits
Flailing to put sole
Too their brevity
A game of hash tag
With a phony high
Never getting off
What’s beneath them
Trumped up charges
Powering a virtual reality
Their fullish ways
Dealing only
In fractions
Courting daft years
As married to miss demeanors
A puerile of grate value
Not just
For characters shy
Of simply being gross
Twittering away
Your life
In the palm of your hand
Exposing your briefs to the world
The embarrassing lengths
Willing to disclose
In heiring your dirty laundry
To the whirled

This poem is a tribute to a technology infrastructure that serves as a superhighway to the inane.  Of course, I’m slamming it ode school!  I’m surfing the vapids, because this insipid superhighway is littered with abbreviated lives, and perhaps the farthest thing possible from the novel!  Twitter is appropriately named.  Humanity flits about distracted by all but the punyest ventures.  Here is to trading up from private capital to the capitol of privates!  So beat it!  Unsuccessfully littering, your company papers and your loan company are strewn with thousands of public heirs. Congratulations, you’ve graduated from matriculating in class, to a mere one hand out from a classless society.  In the face of such inaneness, I must admit: IPO’d.  Still, I for won, am not buying it.

NOTE: there is a very obscure pun in this poem. ABB is the stock symbol for a robotics company.  I think that they build them with 100% irony — you can rust assured.